A bunch sprint without sprinters. A gaggle of GC riders, puncheurs, and chancers (chanceurs?) to the line in Monselice for a random, scruffy finale. Not the finish we’d expected, but a version of it, I guess,
A glance at the parcours pre-stage and you’d have said: “yep, sprint…probably Sagan, maybe Demare, quiet day for the Pink Jersey.”
Because that’s how we watch. We enjoy our knowledge and we are righteous. We must predict the formula and then revel as it plays out as we decreed. We love it when we call it correctly. “OK, we say, I lack either the talent or commitment to be there myself, but I understand what is happening and I see things…I have insight”
It’s the payoff for the thousands of hours and the tell-tale dent in our favourite spot on the settee.Embed from Getty Images
Locals, and those familiar with the racing scene of this region, would have told anyone who’d listen the effect the two climbs of the day would have. Appearing, as they did, after an initial hundred pan-flat kilometres.
The Roccolo, four kilometres in length and tilting up to eighteen and twenty percent, more than enough to boot the sprinters out the back. Elia Viviani and Arnaud Demare went, Peter Sagan held on.
The two chased back just in time for the Calaone; another short, sharp ascent. This time all three went pop, to a greater or lesser extent. From that summit it was sixteen kilometres to the finish.
We had a thinned-out led group of General Classification men, thirty seconds ahead of a group of Sagan and fellow fast finisher Ben Swift, who in turn were thirty seconds ahead of a Demare and Viviani group.
And we’re predicting again.
If the Sagan group catches the led group then Sagan wins. If the Demare group, catches the Sagan group, catches the lead group, then Demare wins. Viviani, whatever the scenario, doesn’t win.Embed from Getty Images
The leaders chose secret option C: the lead group, pulled along in epic, near career-defining fashion by skinny climbers James Knox and Fausto Masnada of Deceunicnk Quickstep (presumably in search of bonus seconds at the line for Pink Jersey Almeida), stayed clear. We had our scruffy sprint. Diego Ulissi of Team UAE, with a bike chuck at the line, took Giro Stage win number eight of his Italo-centric career.
Almeida, in taking second, took the time bonus to eek out a bit more of a lead. The likes of Nibali, Kelderman and Fuglsang close by.
And we, the armchair experts, chalk it off with a “pffsshht…Giro innit!?” and look ahead to the Stage 14 time-trial through Prosecco country.
(Italy flag image: Nicolas Raymond via Flickr)