If there was any concerns that moving the Giro d’Italia to October, sandwiched
between the Tour and overlapping with the Vuelta, would make Italy’s Grand Tour any less excited or unpredictable, they should have been quashed.
It really started with the unfortunate crash early on from Geraint Thomas. The Welshman looked primed and motivated to challenge for the win, finishing top of the GC favorites in the opening time trail. He essentially redeemed his poor restart form in August, first with a resurgent Tirenno-Adriatico and top five in to kick off the Giro. An errant water bottle in the neutral zone and a dramatic, slow-motion implosion late in the same stage felt a bit like a bad movie.
Ineos Grenadiers shifted gears. After a nightmare Tour that saw them impotent bystanders for much of the race, they rallied in Italian, first with Fillipo Ganna taking his first of three time trial wins, then again with the giant Italian winning in the rain to buoy the squad after Thomas’ retirement. If that wasn’t enough, they’d pick up wins from Navraez, plus a win from Tao Geogehegan Hart to signal what was, even then, a long shot GC threat.
After two weeks in pink, Joao Almeida finally ceded the race lead to Wilco Kelderman, who immediately found himself between a rock and a hard place. Unable to keep pace with Rohan Dennis and Hart on the climbs, his teammate was the first rider to threaten pink. Sunweb and Jai Hindley had to choose, on the fly, which basket to put their eggs in. It drew raised eyebrows at the time, but they gave Hindley the green light to ride for the win, tucked into the wheels of Dennis and Hart on both Stages 18 and 20. On the penultimate stage, it costs Kelderman yellow, but saw Hindley tied with Hart and teeing up a dramatic time trial.
Hindley was a second option, as was Hart. Indeed, even Almeida was a second choice from the injured Remco Evenepoel, and estimated on the same level as teammate Fausto Masnada at the beginning of the Giro. The past three weeks gave us three riders all capable of big things, and the final stage another way to measure all Grand Tours in the future.
Tao would take the win, putting over twenty seconds into Hindley at the first time check, but for Ineos, nothing is for certain until it’s truly over.
With the Vuelta now sitting with two weeks to go, it has a tall task of equaling the quality and competitiveness of what might go down as the closest Grand Tour in history; and the best.