Jai Hindley of Bora-Hansgrohe is poised to become the first Australian winner of the Giro d’Italia, two years after coming tantalizingly close, with a calculated acceleration that sent him clear of former winner and overnight leader Richard Carapaz of INEOS inside the final 4km of the 20th stage. Hindley went on the offensive shortly after the barrage of teammates melted away and left the race in the hands of the top three, including Bahrain’s Mikel Landa. Except Hindley did have a teammate, Lennard Kämna, up the road from the day’s break, and the Australian newcomer to Bora wanted to reach Kämna and take on Carapaz over the punishing final 3km of the Passo Fedaia. But by the time Hindley reached his helper, pounding away out of the saddle for what seemed like forever, he had already put some space between himself and the Ecuadorian and it was time to go to work on winning the Giro.
Carapaz never did catch up. Hindley only briefly rode with Kämna, coming by and continuing to force the pace. It was quickly 20 seconds, and seemed to stay there for a km, but then Carapaz started to really wilt, and as Hindley rocketed through the crowd closing in on him his advantage pushed up to 40 second and beyond. By the line he had put 1:28 into Carapaz, then slipping behind Landa and EF’s Hugh Carthy, and the Giro d’Italia had finally taken shape.
Alessandro Covi of UAE won a surprising stage victory on the day, attacking from the nine-rider break that included his teammate Davide Formolo as one of the favorites, but Covi’s tactical maneuver turned into a magical escapade. He attacked 7km from the summit of the Passo Pordoi, and ended up taking the Cima Coppi that awaited him there. Things only got better as he stayed away, with Bahrain’s Domen Novak hot on his heels but unable to overcome the Italian’s fine form. Novak was joined by Giulio Ciccone for a while on the final climb, as the remainder of the break lost contact. But the 23-year-old Covi, third in last year’s Monte Zoncolan stage, was on a special day and came in alone for the biggest success of his very young career.
Hindley will start the final stage of the Giro, a 17.4km time trial with some light climbing, in Verona with 1.25 in hand, a comfortable margin if not quite definitive. Strange things can happen, and when Hindley saw the maglia rosa lifted off his shoulders at the very end of the 2020 Giro, it was under similar circumstances, a short final ITT in Milan. There, however, he had literally no buffer at all over winner Tao Hart, and lost 39 seconds to the Englishman.
That’s about where the similarities end, however. Carapaz probably rates as a marginally better time triallist than Hindley, but only if he’s still got anything left to give, which is in question now. [In 2020 Hart had won the penultimate mountain stage with Hindley on his wheel.] So Hindley not only owns a margin of the type that separates ITT specialists from climbers, he owns it over a rider who does not at all look like he’s about to do something special.
This may be the signature moment of Hindley’s career, though at 26 he has many race days ahead. His other big moment in this Giro was the win at the Blockhaus stage, which he took in a sprint over Carapaz, Landa, Romain Bardet (who has since left the race), and João Almeida, who contracted Covid and left the race earlier this week. Now, after days of fans and press clamoring for the fight for pink to take shape, Hindley has separated himelf from everyone involved. That he waited until the last 5km of the last mountain stage was, in hindsight, a brilliant tactical move, prompted in part by that being the most selective portion of a stage in the entire Giro. Nowhere else was the climbing quite as painful, all the way to the line, as on the Passo Fedaia, which featured a solid 6km of double-digit gradients right to the conclusion of the stage. That was the obvious place to make a serious effort, and Hindley chose wisely.
While we will await confirmation from tomorrow’s stage for the maglia rosa, the remaining jerseys all appear to be salted away, with Arnaud Démare in points, Koen Bouwman in the KOM jersey, and Juan Pedro Lopez in the best young rider’s kit, all with insurmountable margins. Successes by riders from Australia, the Netherlands, France and Spain make for a nicely balanced international mix, and after Covi’s win, Italian riders now lead the way with four stage victories. Other than in the INEOS camp, there should be a lot of satisfaction with the results of this race to go around.
- COVI Alessandro, UAE Team Emirates, 4:46:34
- NOVAK Domen, Bahrain - Victorious, 0:32
- CICCONE Giulio, Trek - Segafredo, 0:37
- PEDRERO Antonio, Movistar Team, 1:36
- ARENSMAN Thymen, Team DSM, 1:50
- HINDLEY Jai, BORA - hansgrohe, 2:30
- LEEMREIZE Gijs, Jumbo-Visma, 3:04
- CARTHY Hugh, EF Education-EasyPost, 3:19
- LANDA Mikel, Bahrain - Victorious, s.t.
- KÄMNA Lennard, BORA - hansgrohe, 3:39
- CARAPAZ Richard, INEOS Grenadiers, 3:58
- FORMOLO Davide, UAE Team Emirates, s.t.
- FORTUNATO Lorenzo, EOLO-Kometa, 4:07
- HIRT Jan, Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux, 4:25
- OOMEN Sam, Jumbo-Visma, 4:31
- HINDLEY, 86:07:19
- CARAPAZ, at 1:25
- LANDA, at 1:51
- NIBALI Vincenzo, Astana Qazaqstan Team, at 7:57
- BILBAO Pello, Bahrain - Victorious, at 8:55
- HIRT, at 9:07
- BUCHMANN Emanuel, BORA - hansgrohe, at 11:18
- POZZOVIVO Domenico, Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux, at 16:04
- LÓPEZ Juan Pedro, Trek - Segafredo, at 17:29
- CARTHY, at 17:56
Belluno - Marmolada 168 km
Showdown in the Dolomites. Last chance to make a difference before your abilities on a TT bike determines your fate. Sketchy unpredictable weather adds some spice.
The long 3 km straight nasty bit after Malga Capela is the one nicknamed “Graveyard of champions”. Will it earn its nickname today?
Expected finish: 16:55 - 17:35 CEST
Fedaieen of the Day : Richard Carapaz
In the end he probably is the strongest here after all, just as the pre-race predictions said.