Giro d'Italia 2019 – race for pink: Astana attack left Primoz Roglic isolated and Jumbo-Visma exposed

John MacLeary
Primoz Roglic (centre) finishes alongside his main rivals, but may have just exposed a slight sign of weakness on the road to Pinerolo - AFP or licensors

Until the Giro d'Italia concludes in Verona on June 2 we will not know, for sure, who will be taking home with him the maglia rosa.

As with any bike race, the process of discovering who is the strongest – and perhaps cleverest – rider can be a long drawn out affair. Cycling is one of the few sports that can be more interesting to watch when you know the result. It is then that you are able to identify the moments that mould the outcome of the race.

We may have to wait some time to discover if what we saw during Thursday's stage will have any bearing on the final resting place of the leader's pink jersey, but as the peloton hit the lower slopes of the steep Montoso climb we may have been given a preview of what is to follow.

After laying down not one, but two markers in the individual time trials, Primoz Roglic very much put himself into the boxseat for this year's Giro. So far so good, you may say. 

However, by putting so much time into some of his rivals – particularly Miguel Ángel López and Simon Yates who both shipped over three minutes each to the Jumbo-Visma rider – the Slovenian may have made life very difficult for himself.

With seemingly nothing to lose, López and Yates, among others, will now be expected to attack when the road rises high above the cloudline. In fact, they will not only be expected to attack but must do so if they are to salvage anything from their respective races.

While much of the praise on Thursday went to UAE Team Emirates, it was Astana who impressed most with their textbook tactics.

Having deployed Manuele Boaro in the early breakaway, another Astana rider – Jan Hirt – delivered the first softening blow as the bunch edged its way up Montoso before his team-mate López countered. Within moments, all hell broke loose in the group of general classification contenders leaving Roglic isolated. Boaro dropped back from the breakaway to assist López who went on, alongside Movistar's Mikel Landa, to claw back 28sec. Roglic completed the stage largely unaffected.

It will be fascinating, however, to see how Mitchelton-Scott, Bahrain-Merida, Astana and Movistar play things once the race reaches the real mountains during Friday's stage. What will be even more fascinating, though, is how Roglic – who has already lost his main mountain domestique Laurens De Plus – responds to, potentially, wave after wave of attacks from his rivals' teams who may have just spotted a weakness in Jumbo-Visma's armour.

In the frame

Alessandro Di Meo's image here of Vincenzo Nibali captures perfectly the mood and atmosphere of the Giro, a race that courses along the highways of Italy, over its high mountains and through its narrow cobbled streets where the passionate tifosi always come out in great numbers to cheer on the best cyclists in the world. Welcome to Italy, welcome to the Giro.

Vincenzo Nibali rides towards Pinerolo during Thursday's stage Credit:  Alessandro Di Meo/AP

Quote of the day . . .

“I usually work hard for my team-mates and today I had the opportunity to go into the breakaway to try something. Over the last few days, I was happy for my team-mates and their success, and now I can also celebrate the fact that I was also able to take my own win here at the Giro.”
Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Hansgrohe)

Now in his 10th year as a professional, the Italian domestique grabbed his opportunity with both hands on Thursday as the 31 year-old claimed the first win of his career.

Playing the numbers game

The Cycling Podcast: word from the streets

The Giro d’Italia finally burst into life with an aggressive stage that saw the pink jersey swap shoulders, but stay within the same team.

Richard Moore is back at the Giro and joins Lionel Birnie and Daniel Friebe to discuss stage 12, during which they witnessed Slovenian Jan Polanc taking the leader’s jersey from his UAE Team Emirates colleague Valerio Conti. This means that Slovenian riders hold the first two places overall, with Primoz Roglic still in second.

The team discuss a brilliant stage won by the Italian Cesare Benedetti, the subject of Wednesday’s episode of Kilometre 0. They also weigh up the intriguing move by Miguel Ángel López and Mikel Landa, who pinched half a minute from the rest with a move on the day’s big climb.

Who were the winners and losers from the first day of climbing and what are the implications for the race with the Operation Anderlass doping investigation shifting its focus? The team have got it all covered.

  • The Cycling Podcast is supported by Rapha and Science in Sport

The broomwagon . . .

Bradley Wiggins was not impressed over the weekend with Victor Campenaerts – or more to the point his Lotto-Soudal team –following Sunday's time trial into San Marino. You may recall, the new world hour record-holder lost an eternity of time during a shambolic bike change towards the end of the time trial.

Speaking on his podcast for Eurosport, former hour record-holder Wiggins suggested Campenaerts' team was stuck in the 1970s and that if the Belgian was with Ineos he would win more races.

Campenaerts, equally unimpressed with Wiggins, bit back, telling Belgian website sporza.be: "I don't think he saw how we broke the hour record as a team. We broke his f------ hour record, didn't we?"