On a flat transitional stage of the Giro d’Italia, when nothing much was expected to happen besides the usual bunch sprint, something did indeed happen of consequence: an Italian won something. Team DSM’s Alberto Dainese’s swooping capture of the expected bunch gallop to take stage 11 in Reggio Emilia marked the first real taste of success for a host nation suddenly starving for cycling prominence.
Dainese’s first-ever grand tour stage win, and first win on the World Tour, puts the 24-year-old out front for Italian cycling, and offers a glimmer of hope. With excellent support all day from his DSM team, Dainese took on some of the fastest finishers in the sport today, timing his jump late enough to come around a host of big names including Fernando Gaviria, Mark Cavendish, Arnaud Démare and Caleb Ewan, who were all left making varying faces of disbelief as Dainese shot out of seemingly nowhere, coming from the back of a group of about a dozen guys all contesting the finale. In the final 50 meters the line stretched thin and Dainese found himself free to come up the left side, whereupon he unleashed a turn of speed that propelled him past everyone in the final 10 meters.
Alberto Dainese takes his maiden GT victory in stage 11 of @giroditalia , stunning Gaviria in Reggio Emilia with a superb sprint. 3rd place for Consonni, great day for Italian sprinters who beat the favourites:Demare, Ewan & Cav. L'ITALIA C'È! #Giro pic.twitter.com/QnfCLsi96L— Mihai Simion (@faustocoppi60) May 18, 2022
Thrilling stuff, but also a relief to Italian fans who still maybe don’t mind seeing one of their lads win something, however accustomed they may be to the foreigners taking the spoils. Last year the hosts captured seven stages of the Giro and second place overall, and the previous few Giri have seen Italians taking a minimum of five stage wins. This year, though, was the worst start since 2017, when no Italian won a stage until Vincenzo Nibali rescued the hosts from ignominy on day 16 (and ending up third overall). But things were still a bit rosier then. Nibali was a top ten rider in the world, Elia Viviani was still a productive sprinter, and riders like Ulissi, Colbrelli, Trentin and even a brief Fabio Aru resurgence kept Italy in its traditional place on the sport’s Mount Rushmore of cycling nations.
Now things are bleak. In 2021 Sonny Colbrelli was Italy’s biggest story, winning Paris-Roubaix, but his cycling future is very much in doubt after a heart condition nearly took him from us entirely. Filippo Ganna does fun things, but as a time trial specialist his contributions are destined to be quite limited (unless you’re into track). Damiano Caruso’s second-place finish at last year’s Giro just underscores the direness — he turns 35 in October. Nibali is retiring, possibly a year later than he should have. Ulissi is probably past his peak. Trentin too... and they are the country’s top-ranked riders at the moment, sitting in 46th and 47th place.
Dainese has not been hailed (or hailed himself) as the New Messiah of Sprinting, so for now we will enjoy his success and just see what, if anything, happens next. But he was outstanding today, and if he could somehow continue along this trajectory, well, maybe Italian fans can smile again. Just a bit.
p.s. Hats off to Dries De Bondt, who rode alone until the 1km mark like a runaway tractor, not terribly fast but full of determination in a way that looked painful to watch. If he doesn’t win a handful of prizes for his efforts, then the system is broken.
- DAINESE Alberto, Team DSM, 4:19:04
- GAVIRIA Fernando, UAE Team Emirates, s.t.
- CONSONNI Simone, Cofidis
- DÉMARE Arnaud, Groupama - FDJ
- EWAN Caleb, Lotto Soudal
- CAVENDISH Mark, Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team
- THEUNS Edward, Trek - Segafredo
- MODOLO Sacha, Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè
- BAUHAUS Phil, Bahrain - Victorious
- NAESEN Lawrence, AG2R Citroën Team
No change to GC as everyone finished together. Also Démare is sort of running away with the points comp, after his closest challenger Biniam Girmay did not start today’s stage due to his eye injury. The Frenchman is up to 173 points, well past Cavendish (96) and the ever-frustrated Gaviria (91). That one is just about in the bag, assuming Démare intends to make it to Verona.
Santarcangelo di Romagna - Reggio Emilia 203 km
Big fight today for the holder of the KOM jersey........to stay awake! Flat flat flat for the sprinters and some wicked people whisper about crosswinds but I’ll believe it when I see it.
Looks like a straight-forward enough finale with just two high-speed bends in the final kilometer.
Expected finish: 17:00 - 17:30 CEST
Sacrificial lamb of the Day : Mark Cavendish
This should be all-out dueling sprint trains and this is what Cav got himself over mountains to do.