After getting his season off to a blistering start in the searing heat of Australia, Elia Viviani's performances have cooled off a little recently. It was ironic, then, that it was an Aussie who put the heat on the Italian champion on Saturday in his own back yard.
Though Viviani was magnanimous in defeat, the Deceuninck-Quick Step sprinter will surely now be starting to feel the pressure. Winning a sprint is all about fine margins and on Saturday stage winner Caleb Ewan, 24, appeared wise beyond his years.
Left to his own devices having been delivered to the finishing straight by his Lotto-Soudal team-mates, Ewan used his rivals's lead-out riders in the absence of his own. Viviani in turn, not for the first time this week, ditched his team-mates to instead ride in the wheel of a rival – this time Ewan – whose final kick was, ultimately, too much for him.
But what does it all mean? With Ewan, Pascal Ackermann (25) and Fernando Gaviria (24) having sewn up the sprint stages at this year's Giro – the latter after Viviani had first been relegated – one starts to wonder if life in the fast lane is now purely a young man's game. A win for Viviani, of course, would change the complexion of his race.
However, the clock is ticking.
Following Monday's rest day there will be back-to-back opportunities for the sprinters, though should Viviani miss out again then he will be left with a hill to climb if he is to honour the Italian tricolore with a stage win. The final chance for Viviani et al will come on stage 18, but not before five brutal days in the mountains.
Whether or not Viviani wants to put himself through the sufferance of one of the most brutal weeks of grand tour racing in recent years for a stage win may depend on what happens after the first rest day.
In the frame
After almost six hours of racing on what was the longest stage at this year's race, it all came down to the final stretch of asphalt where the sprinters got to go about their work. And what fine work it was.
Ewan here provides a rare glimpse of the sprinter in full-flight sans eyewear, allowing us to see the determination and desire with which the Lotto-Soudal rider attacked the line in Pesaro. His face tells the whole story. There was only ever going to be one winner.
Quote of the day . . .
“Unfortunately one of the riders at the front was not very concerned about making this breakaway a success and we got caught. Anyway, I will try again”
Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo)
The Italian maglia azzurra may have stopped short of full-blown polemica, but the leader of the mountains classification did not mince his words when talking about his failed breakway.
Playing the numbers game
#Giro@JensenJuul's data from the first two hours of racing. The Dane has done a few turns to help keep the break in check. To compare, his team leader Yates has averaged 120W so far.— Velon CC (@VelonCC) 18 May 2019
Avg Speed: 40.2 km/h
Max Speed: 58.3 km/h
Avg Power: 160W
Max Power: 830W
Avg Cadence: 87 rpm pic.twitter.com/8yPaV4OlhB
The Cycling Podcast: word from the streets
The Giro’s longest day took it northbound for 239km from Tortoreto Lido on the Adriatic coast to Pesaro in the Marche region. Another sprint-finish saw Caleb Ewan of Lotto-Soudal claim his first stage win of the race and Valerio Conti hold onto his pink jersey after an uneventful day as far as the general classification was concerned, despite yet more inclement weather.
With Lionel still away at his football match, Daniel calls in the former Leopard-Trek team boss Brian Nygaard to review the action both on Saturday and in the race’s first week – and to preview what’s to come.
Conveniently, stage nine honours one of both Brian and Daniel’s passions away from cycling, as this year’s wine stage. More to the point as far as Roglic, Yates et al. are concerned, the 34.8km time-trial should see the first major shake-up of the general classification in this year’s Giro.
We hear from Yates, his team boss Matt “Look” White, some of the men responsible for supporting Roglic’s challenge and time trial ace Victor Campenaerts.
- The Cycling Podcast is supported by Rapha and Science in Sport
The broomwagon . . .
While Valerio Conti may be only considered the custodian of the maglia rosa rather than a genuine contender for his home grand tour, thousands of miles away another UAE Team Emirates rider was sealing the general classification at another WorldTour race.
Tadej Pogacar won the Tour of California overnight just 24 hours after the 20-year-old from Slovenia added his first WorldTour win to his developing palmarés. Where once there were questions about the squad's direction now, it appears, there is hope.