As the Giro d’Italia enters its second week French climber Romain Bardet may be sitting pretty but is taking nothing for granted on a treacherous route that has already claimed the scalp of three of the supposed front runners. British team Ineos are setting a ferocious pace at key moments with the aim of wearing out any rider having a poor day, and poor days have so far wrecked the chances of 2017 winner Tom Dumoulin, his Dutch compatriot Wilco Kelderman and the 2018 Vuelta champion Simon Yates. Just 17 seconds separate six plausible champions with Richard Carapaz of Ineos and Mikel Landa of Bahrain Victorious the main threats to Bardet’s chances of finally landing a major prize at the age of 31.
“So far so good,” Bardet said on Monday’s rest day ahead of two flat stages, three hilly ones and a single mountain stage on week two, before the mountainous final week. Bardet is fully aware of the old adage that ‘You can’t win a grand tour in one day, but you can lose it with one bad stage’.
“There will be hazards every day this week, you have to keep your wits about you,” said Bardet, who feels Saturday’s short but hilly run from Santena to Turin could prove costly for someone.
“I’ve been through many highs and lows on the grand tours,” said the man who has been runner up on a Tour de France and at a world championships.
“So I don’t get too carried away now, this morning I went for a spin on the bike, had a massage and a nice BBQ,” said the Team DSM leader.
Opportunities for such relaxing moments may be limited over the next two weeks for pure climber Bardet, who was pipped to the line on Sunday’s mountain finish.
A stage win would have seen him join 21 other active riders in having won an individual stage on all three grand tours.
“I came here targeting the overall win, but it would be nice to raise my arms at the finish line somewhere down the line,” said Bardet.
“It’s been a good start, but there’s more than half way still to go.”
Lopez clinging to pink jersey
Giro rookie Juan Pedro Lopez took the overall lead on Mount Etna on stage 4, and while his days in pink are numbered, he admirably clung on to his lead all week.
Lurking in second place is Team UAE’s Joao Almeida at 12 seconds, a strong time-trialist who will be a threat if still in the running going into the potentially decisive final day individual test. Given Team UAE’s record of masterminding two straight wins for Tadej Pogacar on the Tour de France, Almeida must be taken seriously. Bardet is third three seconds back but 2019 Giro winner and Tokyo Olympic champion Carapaz is breathing down his neck with just a second separating them after 10 stages.
“We will keep fighting,” Ineos leader Carapaz told a throng of reporters at the Blockhaus summit.
“Now we look to the second half of the Giro,” he said. That sentiment could be widely reflected, as this Giro has the cycling world on the edge of its seat ahead of week two.
RBA/AFP Photos: Sprint Cycling Agency