After Stage 6, themes were emerging - Shock withdrawls, French sprint domination, and the Portuguese in Pink. Stage 7's course wasn't designed to upset that status quo - mostly downhill, relatively short at 143km, and broadly an uninspiring Puglian odyssey through Taranto and to Brindisi. Flat and textbook bunch sprint territory.
And so it proved. Arnaud Demare once more wrapped up the sprint, claming it not in his French National Champion's Jersey, but in the Maglia Ciclamino. Whilst the result didn't raise eyebrows, the headlines were brewing on the horizon.
Giovinazzo was woken to the news that the races second biggest name had tested positive for Covid-19. Yorkshireman Simon Yates from Mitchelton Scott had been forced to immediately withdraw from the race. Effectively removing British interest in the GC battle, it was a seismic announcement, and one that brought home the precarious nature of the racing calendar.
All the same - the stage rolled out without Yates, aiming for a summit finish and a test of the remaining GC contenders. Quick off the line, a group got away including time trial specialist Alex Dowsett. Quickly gaining a gap over the two categorized climbs, it was the Brit who rode away from the group, taking an impressive victory. Yet to sign a contract for next season, it was a needed win that asserted his pedigree in the pack.
Back in the main group, the only change in standings came from Wilco Kelderman accelerating off the front to wedge himself in the gap between Almeida in Rosa and Team Bahrain McLaren's Pello Bilbao - pushing the Spaniard into 3rd on GC.
Stage 9 was characterised by another lumpy parcours. Again, a small group tore away from the main pack, with the GC contenders more than content to let some time go out. With the final rise to Roccaraso whittling down the lead group to just two, it was Guerreiro of EF Education First and Castroviejo of Ineos Grenadiers battling in the final kilometre.
Ramping up the power, Castroviejo tried to ride away from the young Portuguese rider, but to no avail. Holding the wheel before getting out of the saddle, Guerreiro leapt ahead of the seasoned rider, leaving him to take in his spray as he crossed the rain strewn finish line.
The reward for making it so far was the Giro's first rest day. Together with our partners at the Lanterne Rouge, we took the opportunity to speak to Pello Bilbao to get his take on the race, and his third position on the General Classification.
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