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With Hart’s Departure, Giro Shaken — Not Broken

Halfway through, it’s a troubled race hoping to turn the vibe around

106th Giro d’Italia 2023 - Stage 11 Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images

[Traveling for a second week but hey, let’s babble...]

I don’t actually have a lot to add to today’s news about Tao Geoghegan Hart fracturing his hip and leaving behind his legitimate hopes of a second Giro d’Italia victory. What don’t you already know about it? The race has been drenched for days and every remaining stage of the Giro has a non-zero chance of seeing rain. The good news is that the odds each day are mostly moderate, based on Milan’s weather forecast, and the odd scattered shower won’t be a huge problem unless it coincides with a dicey descent. Fingers crossed for good luck there. If nothing else, the temperatures should warm up after Saturday. The crashes are an even worse story. But let’s reset ourselves, talk a bit about the rest of the race, and try to have a little fun.

106th Giro d’Italia 2023 - Stage 8 Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images

The Competition Is Still Good

The Covid departure of Remco Evenepoel robbed us of what looked like a really fascinating general classification battle. Evenepoel’s inability to pad his lead in the second time trial left us with seven riders atop the GC separated by less than two minutes, and all (except maybe Andreas Leknessund?) with a plausible path to both winning and losing. Three of those seven riders are now out, with Vlasov having left yesterday and TGH’s crash today.

But we still have Leknessund at 35 seconds and defying expectations. And for the big stories, pick your preference. Do you believe in the Geraintaissance? Can a former Tour de France one-off guy pull another one out of his hat, as Thomas spurns his rumored retirement and tries to add another grand tour to his palmares? Does your taste run more toward a Roglification of the mountaintop finishes, where Primož Roglič (“Primo” this month) keeps tacking on five seconds here, ten more there, until everyone says “uncle”? And if he wins, along with his three Vuelta titles, are we sure he’s not about to add a Tour and complete his trilogy someday? Then finally there is “why not me” João Almeida of a still-strong UAE team, three years after his surprise fourth at the Giro and still only 24?

I get that having all hands on deck is better than what we are left with now, but there is nothing unusual about top contenders dropping out. The Tour is the Tour so don’t hear what I’m not saying, but we were fine with a two-man race last summer — over the moon in fact. For the Giro, a three way battle will do just fine.

106th Giro d’Italia 2023 - Stage 8 Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images,

The TGH Impact

Apart from clarifying/reducing INEOS’ path forward in this Giro, Hart’s withdrawal has had a relatively seismic impact on a more important competition, the FSA Directeur Sportif. What you need to know:

  • Hart was a two-pointer this year, a shocking rating for a grand tour winner maybe, but following his 2020 Giro win — everything in 2020 was odd — Hart failed to make 200 points in 2021, then just 238 last year. He suffered various ailments including COVID-related ones, but you know, fool me once...? So yeah, two points.
  • 295 teams caught on to Hart’s potential this year, however uncertain it may have seemed. And they were thriving. You have to click through to the tenth ranked team on the FSA DS standings right now before you find one that didn’t have Hart. They were sitting pretty, with the only downside being all the company. Now? They will be lucky to see him receive a 526th point this year.
77th Tour of Spain 2022 - Stage 15 Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Best Vuelta Ever?

Barring the quick reprogramming of one of these abandons, we might be looking at a Vuelta of Redemption even beyond its usual standard. Evenepoel needs to go win something somewhere, and it probably won’t be the Tour. Vlasov, fourth in the Tour last year, will also be looking for some glory. Roglič goes to Spain every year and usually does very well — plus he can probably get the Remco Rematch he is left wanting now. Make a mental note that the Vuelta might be the year’s best grand tour.

106th Giro d’Italia 2023 - Stage 1 Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images

Any Takes Heating Up?

You might recall my Viewers’ Guide posts positing a hot take for each stage. With the race thru the first-half stages, have any of my takes gotten hotter? Here is a quick rundown by stage:

  1. Ganna isn’t all that
  2. Points are for sprinters
  3. DiLuca made me sad
  4. Week 1 can be too much
  5. Giro is #2
  6. Let’s chill about pizza
  7. Pecorino > Parm
  8. Golden age of cycling
  9. The Rubicon isn’t so great
  10. Italian beaches are meh
  11. Petacchi was better than Cipo

Hot take 4 stands out. Most of the other correct ones were pretty obvious — and not very hot takes to begin with, which was the point. But along with stage 4 I complained that the Giro was putting on a bit too much of a show with a final point of “for everyone’s sake let’s just get through week 1 in good shape.” The next day Evenepoel crashed twice and things began falling apart.

As for bad takes #5 doesn’t look great right now. Also I could really go for some pizza.