After a rest in Lanciano, Abruzzo, the peloton one again reformed, ready for the second week. Quickly it became apparent that the face of the race had changed irrevocably. Rest day tests for Covid-19 had returned, and in one fell swoop, Steven Kruijswijk of Jumbo-Visma, Michael Matthews of Sunweb were out of the race. Further to this, Jumbo-Visma and Mitchelton-Scott had both pulled their teams from the race, unwilling to expose themselves to the risks of Covid.
CORSA ROSA ROLLS ON - RACE GALLERY
From Sicily to the rest day in Abruzzo, the first 9 stages of the Giro offered frenetic and unstructured racing of a peloton racing towards a finish line that was no longer certain.
And so, the race got underway - and immediately descended into chaos. A huge flurry of attacks eventually saw the likes of Visconti, De Gendt, and Swift go early, only to be bridged by Ganna and Sagan, working together. A relentlessly lumpy route on the cards, it was a capable group to let go.
The power of Ganna and the wile of Sagan shone through, and eventually they pulled away from the group. On the slopes, members of the escape fell back into the peloton led by FDJ, but the strong men held the gap, and widened it, until it came to a duel between Sagan and Swift on the final climb. Pulling away, Sagan got the gap, and with 15km remaining, turned a big gear on the coastal road to a long awaited victory.
Behind, the GC race had flared up. Pello Bilbao from Bahrain McLaren attacked and got himself a gap on the GC group. Stretching it to around a minute at points, it was a strong move, but Almeida wasn't keen on seeing his title challenged, and chased hard, and covered more attacks from Kelderman. Eventually, the group made it to the line, all together after a volatile stage.
Stage 11 was a more settled affair after the previous days madness. Whilst the race came to terms with losing a good number of the GC contenders the previous day, the flat terrain of the stage lended itself to the sprinters. A strong showing at the line from Sagan after the previous days efforts, but once again, Demare took the line with confidence.
Stage 12, and the heavens opened. With low temperatures and tough conditions, the stage looked more like a day at the Classics than a Grand Tour stage. It was a large break going early once more that was the move of the day, and our interest and hopes laid squarely on the shoulders of Ukrainian Mark Padun. As the day progressed, Padun pulled away from the rest of the break with Narvaez from Ineos Grenadiers, whilst the main bunch saw no threat or reason to chase too hard.
With the course cresting hills late on, the duo rode well together, but their gap to the peloton meant they were already considering the head to head sprint with 15km remaining. Unfortunately, fortune robbed the Ukranian of proving himself, and a puncture forced a gap that was irreparable - the Ineos rider took the victory solo, uncontested, and with Padun desolate behind.
With a long road still ahead of the Giro, the results are overshadowed by the greater spectre of Covid-19. Increasing cases threatening the running of the race, noises within teams increasingly point to discord. The question remains - will the Giro make it to Milan, but also, should it?
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