It’s a big commitment trying to follow a cycling Grand Tour. All those stages, finding good coverage, trying to avoid spoilers (such as the news bulletins Google always serves up despite your every attempt to stop it) … why bother, right? Well, I’m here to help. If this year’s Giro d’Italia has passed you by, I’ll catch you up on where we are after 19 stages, and give you the full report of this absolutely pivotal penultimate stage. And I’ll call a spade a spade if anyone seems “not normal.”
2022 Giro d’Italia Stage 20 – Belluno to Marmolada
As I join the action, at an ungodly early hour, the riders are about at the halfway point with a little under 80 kilometers to go, and have just crested the summit of the first major pass, the Passo San Pellegrino (where all sparkling water comes from). There’s a breakaway, of course, with a little under six minutes on the GC group. The main players in the break are Davide Formolo (UAE Team Emirates), Giulio Ciccone (Trek - Segafredo), and (weirdly enough) the giant classics rolleur Mathieu Van Der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), who likes to mix it up in these mountain stages until the laws of physics kick in and he’s jettisoned.
They’re showing a interview from earlier with Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious), who sits third on GC, only 1:05 behind the leader, Richard Carapaz (Ineos Granadiers).
INTERVIEWER: Do you think you have a chance today, of winning this Giro?
LANDA: You know, it’s funny you should ask that … I was wondering exactly the same thing!
INTERVIEWER: God, I must be clairvoyant or something!
LANDA: Yeah, that’s amazing. Okay, let’s do another one. What color am I thinking of right now?
LANDA: Amazing! You’re exactly right! You might actually be a psychic!
INTERVIEWER: Well, I don’t know … I mean, it is the color of the jersey you’re after.
LANDA: Oh, no, actually, I was thinking of Pepto-Bismol. My stomach isn’t feeling so good.
INTERVIEWER: Don’t worry about it. Everyone’s got butterflies today.
(Note: when I record these interviews, if they’re boring, which is most of the time, I’m not above taking certain liberties, up to and including rewriting the transcript completely and putting all types of nonsense words into the racers’ mouths. You’re welcome.)
On the penultimate pass, the Pass Pordoi, Davide Ballerini (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) drills it on the front, presumably working for his teammate Mauri Vansevenant. Neither rider figures in the GC. This group has about fifteen riders.
Here’s Carapaz back in the main bunch, looking fairly relaxed I’d say.
So here’s what you need to know about this Giro. Last year’s winner, Egan Bernal (Ineos Granadiers) did not start due to a terrible crash in training last January. Two of the remaining favorites, Simon Yates (BikeExchange Jayco) and Tom Dumoulin (Team Jumbo-Visma) have dropped out after showing early promise (Yates won the first time trial, and Dumoulin was third). Yates went on to win another stage, but then dropped out citing listlessness. Dumoulin went home because had promised his wife he’d finally clean out the rain gutters or something, I can’t remember. Anyway, it’s the tightest GC in recent memory, with Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) sitting second just three seconds behind Carapaz, and like I said earlier, Landa is in third only 1:05 back. Tomorrow’s stage is a time trial, so nobody wants to head into that without a bigger GC lead—the stress would just be too much to take.
As the second climb begins, Bahrain-Victorious takes the front to wear down Landa, setting up Ineos for the death-blow later. These Bahrain guys aren’t exactly master tacticians.
Now the coverage shifts to former Tour de France champ Bradley Wiggins on the back of a motorbike, offering some real-time insight.
INTERVIEWER: What’s going on out there, Bradley?
WIGGINS: We’re heading up the road and we’re seeing some famous landmarks here.
INTERVIEWER: Anything we’d have heard of?
WIGGINS: Well, I don’t know the names, but I recognize them from when I used to race.
INTERVIEWER: Will these landmarks figure in the finale?
WIGGINS: Probably not, but the motorcycle driver remembers them too. He has driven this course before. We’ve been chatting. He’s a great guy.
INTERVIEWER: Is this commentary supposed to actually help the home viewer understand anything about today’s stage?
WIGGINS: Well, erm, no, but I’m fairly famous, which is sort of the point of these motorbike interviews I suppose.
INTERVIEWER: So we’ll continue to do them, giving you a modest income into middle age.
WIGGINS: Yes, precisely.
Getting back to the action … whoa, it’s this guy again!
He did this same thing yesterday, where he just gaps the others and dangles pointlessly off the front for a long time. I think he’s kind of simple. His directeur sportif is shaking his head thinking, “Poor guy, he just doesn’t get it. Oh well, he’s not hurting anybody.”
Wow, look at this scenery. Pretty breathtaking.
A rider has ridden away from the breakaway. I think it’s Alessandro Covi (UAE Emirates), who has looked pretty good at times during this Giro, but is nowhere nearly as studly as his teammate Davide Formolo, who not only has been a major domestique for various team stars including Tadej Pogacar, but makes the greatest faces ever when he’s suffering. We’ll surely get to see some of those later.
The broadcasters can see riders’ heart rate stats nowadays, and they’re showing the data from Hugh Carthy (EF Education – EasyPost):
Fun fact: my heart rate is about the same right now, because I’ve got COVID! Haha, just kidding … making sure you’re still awake. My heart rate is exactly half of Carthy’s, but if I were climbing the Passo Pordoi mine would be 119 as well … not because I’m fit, but because that’s pretty much my max these days because I’m so old. Haha, kidding again!
Two riders have taken off after Covi: it’s Gijs Leemreize and Sam Oomen of Team Jumbo-Visma.
I don’t know how to pronounce “Gijs” but I sure hope it’s not “jizz.” That would be a hell of a name to take with you through life.
Covi’s motivation here is probably just to win the special prize for the first rider over the Pordoi, because it’s the highest point of this year’s Giro. I think the prize is like a thousand Euros, which is more than enough for the new car stereo Covi has his eye on. The best way to know I’m full of shit here? It’s that nobody buys car stereos anymore, they’re too tightly integrated into the car now. You have to go to the dealer, who nine times out of ten will say, “It’s easier just to buy a new car.” Which, being chumps, we end up doing.
Okay, I misspoke: looks like the TJV duo are off the back of what’s left of the breakaway, which is six riders.
UAE is in a good spot. Either Covi stays away and wins the stage (which I kind of doubt), or he gets caught which sets Formolo up for a counterattack. Formolo will be fairly fresh, of course, since he can’t be expected to help chase his own teammate. These UAE guys can do whatever they want, because their GC rider, João Almeida, withdrew due to COVID. I’m not making that up; as his team’s general manager, Mauro Gianetti, told VeloNews, “It’s true, it’s true. It’s COVID. It’s so shit. He wasn’t feeling so well last night and this morning and we did internal tests. Now we do the PCR but the fast test is positive. He’s out of the race.” I know it sounds like I made that up, but you can read it here. It’s a pity; Almeida was sitting fourth on GC.
Back in the GC group, Bahrain-Victorius (which my online correspondent calls “Bahrain Dopetorious”) stupidly grinds away at the front so Ineos and Bora-Hansgrohe can stay daisy-fresh before destroying Landa. These Bahrain guys probably thing they’re riding like a boss, but they’re riding like a temp.
Covi makes his way through the throngs of tifosi toward the Pordoi summit.
And now he crests the summit, garnering the special prize. He looks super strong and smooth.
Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) sprints for the second place KOM points. There’s no way he can overtake Koen Bouwman (Team Jumbo-Visma), who has the mountains jersey in the bag, unless Bouwman gets COVID or something and can’t race tomorrow … but you never know.
Covi bombs the final descent. He’s got 1:30 and who knows, if he has great legs he might just hold it. But the Marmolada is a beast, averaging something like 7.5% for 14 kilometers, so that gap isn’t insurmountable.
The GC group reaches the summit, with Bahrain-Victorious continuing to shelter Ineos and Bora-Hansgrohe from the wind for no apparent reason. Maybe they’ve been bribed or something?
With 35 kilometers to go, Covi is gradually increasing his lead.
Van der Poel makes his lone way down the mountain, having been shelled almost instantly when the break hit the last climb. I really don’t know why he gets in these breaks. Maybe he’s shy and gets tired of making small talk with the jokers in the peloton. I can respect that.
So … here is my prediction. I’d say on the final climb, at least halfway up, Carapaz will finally launch a definitive attack and get the buffer he needs for the final time trial. Needless to say I’m no fan of Ineos (née Team Sky), those cheating bastards, but at least Carapaz is fun to watch. Unlike Christopher Froome, who would just grind everyone down like a commuter on an e-bike, Carapaz will actually attack, and sometimes unpredictably, as though he were actually acting on instinct. Which, who knows, perhaps his team actually lets him do.
Covi is rocking something of a mullet!
No, it’s not a big flowing dramatic mullet, but look how short the hair is around his ears compared to the back. I just did a Google search on “does Alessandro Covi have a mullet” and, believe it or not, Google came up empty. Scoop! You read it here first!
With 25 kilometers to go, Covi has 2:10. He takes a feed from his team car. I mean, duh—who else would give him a feed? A food truck?
That would be pretty cool, actually, if a food truck pulled up alongside the racers. They could peruse the menu, place their order, and get handed a burrito or something. They must get pretty tired of gels.
Now Van der Poel is caught by the GC group. “Aw, man, what am I gonna say to these guys?” he’s thinking. “I hope nobody wants to talk about my crash in the Olympics. I am so sick of dudes bringing that up.”
Bahrain continues driving tempo in the GC group. Maybe they’re shaming Landa into making a good attack. “How can you not attack after all we’ve done for you?” they could taunt him. Unfortunately, history has shown that Landa always cracks under pressure. I don’t think Bahrain’s medic has anything to treat that.
Ballerini, who’d been dropped from the chase group, flies past them. He might have a shot at catching Covi except that the last 14 kilometers are uphill and he’s shown that climbing isn’t exactly his forté , at least not today.
Covi is on the Marmolada now, with a 2:20 lead. If the chase group can get organized, especially the two Jumbo-Visma riders, and they have the legs, perhaps they can bring him back.
So, to bring you fully up to speed on this chase group, it includes Oomen, Leemreize, Ciccone, Formolo, Ballerini, Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe), Antonio Pedrero (Movistar Team), Thymen Arensman (Team DSM), and Domen Novak (Bahrain-Victorious).
One of the TJV guys is dropped, along with Ballerini.
The GC group is on the final climb now. Wow: Bouwman, the KOM, is dropped. So, perhaps the pace is ramping up (or he’s just fried from crushing it on so many climbs for the last three weeks). It’s odd how large this group still is.
As you can see, Carapaz hasn’t had to do a lick of work today.
The Eurosport commentator (and former champ) Sean Kelly is pretty reticent, so his co-commentator routinely draws him out by suggesting something and then asking Kelly to confirm it. I would like to propose a drinking game: a bunch of guys get together to watch the coverage of a Grand Tour stage, and every time Kelly says “yes,” you have to take a drink. Man, dudes would be clocked by the end!
Whoa, Formolo cracks! I did not see that coming! Look how awful he looks!
Arensman has been on the front a lot. Not bad, for his first Giro!
More guys are being dropped from the break. It’s down to Novak, Pedrero, Arensman, and Ciccone.
Back in the GC group, Guillame Martin (Cofidis) attacks. He’s been doing this throughout the Giro despite being like 20 minutes down. I think he just gets bored or something.
Novak attacks the break!
He doesn’t even look like he’s working. Total poker-face. Meanwhile, Covi is clearly suffering up ahead, shoulders rocking. I won’t bother trying to show that in a photo. I wonder if I could create a GIF to show that? Maybe I’ll have to figure that out for next time.
It’s a 10% grade and Covi has 4 kilometers to go, with a 1:13 lead.
Novak looks kind of stupid, actually.
Stupidity can really help a rider, though. It’s best not to over-think things when you’re climbing.
In the GC group, Ineos finally takes the front, all fresh as daisies. Or perhaps lilies. What’s fresher? I wish I had a botanist on staff.
Immediately, Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgroe) is dropped, which is terrible news for Hindley.
And now former Giro winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana Qazaqstan Team), who sits in fourth overall, is dropped!
The GC group has been whittled down to just five guys. Landa has lost all his idiot teammates. They exhausted themselves setting up Ineos. He will surely never talk to them again. Hell, I wouldn’t.
Pavel Sivakov (Ineos Granadiers) is doing a great job for Carapaz.
Oh no! Things are getting really bad for Nibali! A folding chair has tipped over and could obstruct his path! Fans race to upright it!
And now Hindley totally attacks! Only Carapaz can respond, as Carthy looks like he’s being punched in the stomach!
And what’s this? With extraordinary timing, Kamna has dropped back from the breakaway to help Hindley! He gives him his wheel and just starts laying down the smack!
Look at Carapaz dying on the back there, down in the drops! Bahrain-Victorious should take a master class in tactics from Bora-Hansgrohe! The leaders are now pulling away from Landa!
And at the front of the race, Covi is hanging on to a slender lead! He’s really suffering! He’s sweating so hard, his mullet is plastered to his neck!
Back in the GC trio, Hindley suddenly turns it up, and Carapaz—amazingly—is dropped!
The gap goes out quickly as Kamna pulls off, his job done, and Hindley sets a savage pace! He looks really good … happy, almost!
Freaking crazy! Hindley’s already got over twenty seconds!
And now, Covi is under the 1-KM kite! He’s still got half a minute and will probably pull it off!
There’s a regrouping behind Hindley because Carapaz just isn’t going that well!
Hindley is putting the pussy on the chainwax! Now he overhauls one of the guys from the breakaway and spins him around like a pinwheel! Figuratively speaking!
He’s got like 40 seconds! He looks stoked!
And Covi has got the stage win!
Now scores of young Italian men will be growing mullets!
Hindley continues to drill it, and instead of the standard death-rictus, he’s actually wearing a smile!
Hindley finishes and now the clock starts ticking ... how much did he take out of Carapaz?
Wow, even Landa has dropped Carapaz, and hammers along with Carthy.
They finish the stage and Carapaz isn’t even in sight. Could he actually slip to third on GC today?
Carapaz is a long way back, going backwards, and has been caught by Formolo. It’s a long, agonizing slog to the finish.
Carapaz finishes, finally. He’s clearly destroyed. My online correspondent declares, “He blew big old greasy chunks!”
Nibali finishes, having successfully defended his fourth place on GC. Either he’s sticking his tongue out at Juan Pedro Lopez (Trek-Segafredo) or he has a tasty crumb of something he’s trying to harvest.
The big players always tend to vanish after the finish. So the film crew is interviewing Kamna.
INTERVIEWER: Were you going for the stage win, or were you playing a tactical game for the GC?
KAMNA: Stage win? What are you even talking about?
INTERVIEWER: Well, you got in the break. You could have won a stage.
KAMNA: You’ve gotta be kidding me. We came into today with a guy in second place on GC, three seconds back. What are you talking about, stage win?
INTERVIEWER: It really hurts my feelings when you speak snidely to me.
KAMNA: Oh my god … are you—are you crying?
INTERVIEWER: Don’t worry, it’s not you, it’s not this interview … it’s that my dog died this morning.
KAMNA: Man, now I feel like an asshole.
INTERVIEWER: Ha! I got you! Punked!
Bradley Wiggins makes his way through the crowd to interview Covi, or perhaps Hindley.
INTERVIEWER: Where are we going, Brad?
WIGGINS: I think Hindley went this way.
INTERVIEWER: Do you think he’ll talk to you?
WIGGINS: Of course he will! Why wouldn’t he?
INTERVIEWER: It’s just that for three weeks I’ve followed you around with this camera after every stage, and you’ve never talked to anybody yet.
WIGGINS: Yes, but as I duck and weave through the crowd I offer up little morsels of insight about the stage.
INTERVIEWER: Couldn’t we just sit down and get the tidbits that way? I hate threading through the throng like this.
WIGGINS: Oh, sod off you fucking wanker.
Now Covi makes his way to the interview tent. Just look at that hair sticking down from the front of his cap! It’s really something! It looks like the curb feelers on my college roommate’s parents’ van.
They’re interviewing Sivakov, Carapaz’s super-domestique.
INTERVIEWER: Did Richard say anything after the finish?
SIVAKOV: Yes, he said “Dammit, fuck it all, shit shit shit.”
INTERVIEWER: Do you have that verbatim?
SIVAKOV: Please explain “verbatim.”
INTERVIEWER: You know, word for word.
SIVAKOV: Oh, yes, word for word. It was “Dammit, fuck it all, shit shit shit.” I think it’s got kind of a ring to it. Like, poetry almost. I’ll probably be chanting that from now on, every time I’m upset.
INTERVIEWER: Where did Richard go? Will I get to speak with him?
SIVAKOV: He’s rather upset and not talking to anyone. But I can tell you what he’d say.
INTERVIEWER: What’s that?
SIVAKOV: “Dammit, fuck it all, shit shit shit.”
And now the post-race interview with Covi.
INTERVIEWER: Congratulations, that was a beautiful win.
COVI: Thank you.
INTERVIEWER: You almost won a couple stages in last year’s Giro but couldn’t quite do it.
COVI: Yes, that was hard because I was working all the time for Almeida. This year, because he got COVID, I didn’t have to work for him anymore.
INTERVIEWER: Did you have anything to do with Almeida getting COVID?
COVI: Of course not, that’s absurd.
INTERVIEWER: And yet, your name is practically COVID. You could say he got Covi’d!
COVI: It’s a complete semantic coincidence. And this interview is over.
INTERVIEWER: Wait, wait, I’m sorry! I still need to ask you about your mullet! It looks like you have two mullets, one in the front and one in the back. Can you comment on that?
COVI: What is wrong with you?! It’s all business up front, party in the back! Textbook mullet!
Here is the stage result, all the way down through 15th because if I just showed you the top ten, you wouldn’t see how much time Carapaz lost.
And here’s the new GC:
Now the footage cuts back to Bradley Wiggins, once again on the prowl for interviews.
INTERVIEWER: Where are you taking us, Brad?
WIGGINS: We’re gonna go talk to Nibali, to ask him how it feels to finish his last road stage of a Grand Tour before retiring at the end of the season.
INTERVIEWER: Do you think he’ll talk to you?
WIGGINS: Of course he’ll talk to me, we go way back!
INTERVIEWER: Well then go up to him then! Why are we hanging back here?
WIGGINS: Hold up, he looks kind of busy at the minute.
INTERVIEWER: No he’s not, go up there!
WIGGINS: He’s talking to that old guy right now. I’ll go up in a moment.
INTERVIEWER: Sure you will.
Here’s Covi on the podium. You can tell he’s a young guy because he’s still in the habit of flexing his thighs for the camera. Older guys grow out of that, or maybe they become too lazy.
Here’s Hindley celebrating his maglia rosa. Note that he’s opted for the straight-brimmed baseball cap instead of the traditional cycling cap. Perhaps he thinks the straight brim looks kind of gangsta, but of course he’s completely undermining the effect by being so fresh-faced and sweet looking.
OMG, we’re back to Wiggins. This time he’s given up trying to collar an actual racer and is just talking to his co-commentator, Hannah Walker.
WALKER: Brad, let’s talk about tomorrow’s time trial. Can you mansplain to me how this might play out?
WIGGINS: Well, going into today’s stage I didn’t think Hindley could unseat Carapaz, but he did. So when I say I don’t think Carapaz can take 1:25 out of Hindley tomorrow, I might well be wrong.
WALKER: So are you saying he will, or he won’t?
WIGGINS: Wait … who do you mean by “he”?
WALKER: I’ve kind of lost track myself. There’s a lot going on here, like two commentators kind of interviewing each other, instead of interviewing an athlete.
WIGGINS: Yes exactly Hannah, it’s very meta. Plus, we’re standing here in the middle of the road, on location, when all this could just as easily be done over Zoom.
WALKER: But this is more atmospheric, and you get to wear that cool biker jacket, having been on the moto earlier.
WIGGINS: Yes, and more importantly, these retro sunglasses, practically goggles really, pushed jauntily up on my forehead. We couldn’t exactly pull that off in the studio.
WALKER: Excellent analysis, thank you.
Well, there you have it … probably the most exciting Grand Tour stage I’ve seen in years! Looks like I’ll be tuning in tomorrow for the final time trial, because the race could change hands yet again. True, Carapaz took just six seconds out of Hindley in the first TT, but tomorrow’s is almost twice as long and anything can happen. But I won’t be blogging about it, because time trials are always completely boring and this will be no exception.