After a big drama, the Queen stage of Giro d’Italia was shortened from 199 km to 75.0 km with the exclusion of Grand St Bernard Pass prior to the Croix de Couer, making a fairly easy day for the GC riders.
The stage started right at the bottom of the mighty Croix de Couer climb (15.5 km, 8.6%). Riders knew the first hour of the race would be very hard and did warm up on turbo trainers before the stage finally started. It was not raining at the start and the weather conditions definitely were not extreme when the race began.
As the race was shortened and it started up a long climb, the breakaway formation would be decided how much w/kg a rider can push for 50 minutes. It was not an easy task as Jack Haig dropped early from the peloton and Jay Vine exploded after trying to get into the breakaway. In the end, it was formed by seven strong riders. Thibaut Pinot, Einer Augusto Rubio, Jefferson Alexander Cepeda, Valentin Paret-Peintre, Matthew Riccitello, Derek Gee and Bruno Armirail. They did the climb in 48 minutes and 2 seconds with 5.90 ᵉW/Kg. A very impressive effort by Armirail and Gee who are both way heavier than the other pure climbers, weighing above 70 kilograms.
The peloton/GC group was not far away and lost only 1:55 min on the climb and pushed 5.62 ᵉW/Kg. After that, there was a treacherous descent, the first part being wet with a bad road surface. The breakaway gained a lot of time on the technical and long descent as it was worth to risk for the stage victory while the GC group did not need to go full gas down Croix de Couer.
At the base of Crans-Montana the breakaway’s lead was over 2:30 min and it was unlikely for the GC group to catch Pinot & Co as the stage was short with low kilojoules and the riders were relatively fresh. It was neutral wind on the climb which was good for attacking riders. The stage was won by Einer Rubio who did not respond to Pinot and Cepeda’s accelerations and rode the climb more conservatively. This strategy paid off as in the last metres, as not even Pinot could follow the lightweight Colombian who took his second World Tour win in 2023 after being victorious in the UAE Tour on Jebel Jais, where he attacked from the peloton and was ignored by the big GC teams. Rubio did the climb at 35:28 min which was not much slower than the peloton.
Considering the lack of fatigue before Crans-Montana, the tempo in the GC group was extremely low for 2023 standards. INEOS had no reason to blow up the climb with Primož Roglič being the likeliest to win the w/kg test and Jumbo-Visma elected to save their bullets for another day. The pace was so slow that Lorenzo Fortunato, Hugh Carthy and Eddie Dunbar all attacked at some point of the climb and gained a good margin. Only Carthy was not caught by the GC group and gained massive six seconds over Almeida, Thomas, Roglič, Caruso, Kamna, Dunbar and Kuss.
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Carthy did 6.11 ᵉW/Kg for 34:14 min and spent way more watts than the GC riders in the draft who pushed 5.95 ᵉW/Kg for 34:20 min. The drafting effect on a 7% gradient is still significant as the riders go uphill at 22.8 km/h and it is hard to make big gaps if the fatigue is low and there is not a strong team like Jumbo-Visma fully committing with a Kuss, Gloag, Bouwman, Dennis mountain train for Roglič. The GC action in the Giro d’Italia has largely been non-existent outside of the two time trials, and today was certainly one of the most disappointing mountain stages in recent history.
Kārlis Ozols (@CyclingGraphs)