With fifty kilometres to go, and on the single categorised climb of the stage, Peter Sagan hatched a plan. He asked his teammates ever-so-nicely to set a FURIOUS pace to dispatch the other, less climb-y sprinters, out of the back of the race.
Playing a numbers game, see: the more sprinters lose touch now, mid-stage, the fewer will be present on the run in to the finish at Foligno
Et voila…Sagan wins!
At this point, we can assume, the likes of Dylan Groenewegen, Tim Merlier, and Giacomo Nizzolo were unable to appreciate the sheer beauty of the scenery passing by. Tongues lolling, heart rates rocketing, they were focused solely on the details of their handlebar stems.
Cursing Sagan, his Bora Hansgrohe pals, and their nefarious games.Embed from Getty Images
For those of us not so directly involved it was a beautiful stage.
Rolling from the region of Abruzzo into Umbria, the Roman history (an aqueduct here, an amphitheatre there) was ten-a-penny, and the towns and villages were laid out like paintings across the landscape. You know the stuff.
Beautiful, like Italian beautiful.
Miniscule Aussie Caleb Ewan, of course, had begun this process of whittling sprinters from the main field way back on Stage 8 when, beset by knee pain, he’d whittled himself right off the back of the race, into a team car, and off to the nearest airport.
Now Caleb-free, the race rattled down the descent and into the valley
Bora keept the hammer down and the race LIT! Gasping a little now, but not letting up. Not for them a wistful roll across the landscape and a little gallop into town, this was all in, full gas, TOTAL commitment.
With opponents (Merlier, Dekker, Groenewegen, Nizzolo) soon out of contention, blown away like seeds from a dandelion head, only Viviani, Gaviria, and Cimolai, of those able to challenge Sagan in a sprint, remained in touch at the front of the race.
From there, into our finish town, our man was placed gently by hand with a few hundred metres to go and invited to finish the job:
“There you go Pete,” they said, “we’ve basically killed ourselves for an hour to put you here, so if you could just go ahead and win, that’d be great!”
Sagan, being Sagan, just couldn’t bear to let his mates down.
(Top Image: By Thejoebloggsblog – iPhone, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63823971)