pro cycling

Giro d’Italia 2019 Stage 14: seven seconds

Team Moo-vee-star. Moh-vee-star. Mov-ee-star. Call ‘em what you want they’re now, in the mountains, officially lighting up this Giro d’Italia. Mikel Landa one day, Richard Carapaz the next, and with a series of impossibly skinny improbably tanned teammates inbetween, they’re rampant.

Stage thirteen, where Zakharin took the headlines, was just as notable for Landa’s scintillating scrabble up to Ceresole Reale.

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On that day Movistar delivered a tactical blinder. They picked their moments, played their cards, and unleashed their grim-faced mono-browed mountain goat. Landa took back serious time – time lost in the early race time-trials – against Nibali and Roglic.

On stage fourteen, playing the old one-two, it was the turn of Carapaz.

On the big challenge of the day, the scaling of Colle San Carlo, Carapaz danced away up the road. Nibali and Roglic, locked in a battle of wills and unable to see beyond each other, let him go. Or couldn’t follow. Landa, of course, would not chase his teammate, and so sat on wheels and allowed others to do the work.

A day off, of sorts.

A physically demanding epically challenging easy day.

It’s all relative.

Following the climb came a descent, then a valley road, before a gently sustained climb to the finish at Cormayeur. Carapaz stuffed a newspaper down his jersey, helpfully handed by a fan to keep the chills away, and gave it full gas (to coin a cycling cliché).

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During all of this Nibali and Roglic continued to give each other the evil eyes and think up subtle, sideways, witty insults for the post-race interviews. Nibali, you see, feels that Roglic is simply following him and not doing his share of the work. Roglic disagrees. Nibali invited Roglic to come and take a picture of all his cycling photos. Roglic declined.

You get the idea.

And all the while, the team who often deliver confused, complicated, contrary inter-team relationships (from the outside looking in, at least) – Movistar – are delivering their masterclass.

The sub-plot of any Grand Tour regularly includes a Valverde/Quintana/Landa double or triple team leadership with associated ego issues and frustrated ambitions. But without the huge Valverde shaped presence, and Quintana’s mercurial (if peculiarly defensive) shenanigans, life suddenly looks simple for Movistar.

Landa attacks. Carapaz attacks. Amador supports. Carretero snipes. JJ Rojas pulls things along. Mountains are scaled. Time is gained.

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But Richard Carapaz now wears the pink jersey of race leader and the dynamic changes. Seven seconds clear of Roglic and nearly two minutes ahead of Nibali; perhaps Nibali will now focus his mirrored visor and mind games on the Ecuadorian?

Maybe Roglic will invite Carapaz to view his trophy cabinets (one for bike races, the other for ski jumping)?

Or maybe, just maybe, Landa could flip, commit an act of fratricide, and attack his brother-in-arms Carapaz in a frenzied display of jealous ambition. Valverde and Quintana at home, watching on.

Exchanging knowing glances.

Whatever…

This Giro is ON!

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