Primoz Roglic takes the thorn out of La Planche des Belles Filles and is virtual winner of the Giro d'Italia 2023
3 years after the dramatic outcome of the Tour de France, cycling does justice to Primoz Roglic and gives him back the victory in a Grand Tour, as opposed to that sad day for the Slovenian. Unlucky for Geraint Thomas, who until a few kilometers from the end seemed to have the race under control, but who had to struggle for a long time on the very hard ascent of Mount Lussari.
Stage and maglia rosa for Primoz Roglic who beat Geraint Thomas in the final time trial by 40 seconds
Stage 20, the last day of real competition since the last stage, tomorrow in the streets of Rome, as usual in the Grand Tours, will be a tribute to the winner with the only incentive of the partial victory.
For this final chapter the Giro d'Italia had prepared a time trial of 18.6 km with Mount Lussari as the protagonist, already in the confines of Italy in a region very close to the borders of Austria and Slovenia. The route was divided into two distinct parts, a first one practically flat for 10.8 km and the last 7.5 km of the climb itself at an average of 12.5% but with the first 5, inhuman, maintained above 15%.
This gave play to a multitude of strategies: change bikes and even helmets, for which the organization had established a specific area where to do it because the team cars could not access the narrow final part, go out with the road bike with time trial extensions for the first part or even the option we saw in much of the peloton, already outside the competition to do, without any stress, the route on his bike every day, with the only adaptation of a softer gearing to cope with the brutal ramps of Mount Lussari.
The lack of space at the top, the narrow road and the need to get riders who were finishing their participation out of there made the Giro organization arrange the time trial in several batches. At the same time, the team cars were left at the foot of the pass, and the mechanic had to get on a motorcycle with a bike on his shoulder to assist the rider if necessary.
After the appetizer of the parade of participants, it was time for the favorites to face three quarters of an hour of maximum effort, just like the other long time trial they faced several days ago, an unusual duration in most of the time trials that are disputed nowadays. The attraction, beyond the stage victory, was whether Primoz Roglic would be able to get rid of that thorn in his side from the time trial to the Planche des Belles Filles at the end of the 2020 Tour de France, where the Jumbo-Visma rider was unable to defend the lead against Tadej Pogacar.
Ahead, a disadvantage of 26 seconds with Geraint Thomas, a perfectly salvageable distance given the extreme hardness of Monte Lussari. For his part, the third in discord, Joao Almeida, despite being a great time trialist, started with the burden of almost a minute disadvantage, a distance previously impossible to overcome.
The first to start setting valid references were the reigning Australian time trial champion, Jay Vine and Brandon McNulty who were copying the intermediate records as their participation progressed, giving clear signs of wanting to seek the partial triumph. In fact, Vine managed to set the best provisional time at the finish line with 46'16''. The Australian's joy would only last a few minutes, as his teammate McNulty immediately smashed the time, reducing it by no less than 46 seconds.
The party was spoiled for UAE Team Emirates by a huge Sepp Kuss, who showed that he is finishing this Giro in excellent shape and, on his favorite terrain, showed off his climbing skills, beating McNulty's time by just 2 seconds, also setting a tremendously useful reference so that Primoz Roglic, who had just started his participation, could adjust the pace in the best possible way.
By the way, among the favorites, unanimity in the first section with everyone using the time trial frame to get the most out of the first 10 flat kilometers and facing the climb with very short gearing in order to maintain the maximum cadence despite the inhuman ramps: 50/34 chainrings with 11-34 cassette for Geraint Thomas and, as on the last two climbs yesterday, after a bike change that we initially thought was due to a flat tyre, SRAM Red single chainring setup for Primoz Roglic with 10-44 cassette and 40-tooth chainring, gravel bike gearing.
In the bike change, Geraint Thomas was calm and even changed his aerodynamic helmet for a conventional ventilated one. For his part Roglic lost a couple of seconds by not hitting the right cleat while Almeida made a change almost Formula 1.
A little ahead of the bike change zone was the first timed point where Almeida took the best time although it was quickly improved by Thomas, two seconds less and Roglic who also won this second round, cutting another two extra seconds off the time.
While we were watching the evolution of the favorites, a fabulous Thibaut Pinot, who tomorrow will wear the maglia azzurra of the mountain on the podium in Roma, managed to beat Sepp Kuss' time trial by 6 seconds, thus postulating to win the stage after failing to achieve it these days in the breakaways in which he had slipped.
Regarding the fight for the overall, in the second part, halfway up the climb, just at the end of the hardest section of the first 5 kilometers, Roglic set the best time. Almeida dropped out of any possible fight for the overall by losing 32 seconds to the Slovenian. A few minutes later Geraint Thomas made his move, losing 16 seconds and putting excitement in the general classification until, meters ahead, Roglic's chain came off and he lost, surely, much of that advantage.
At the finish, Primoz Roglic took the best time, improving Almeida's time by a whopping 42 seconds. Minutes of tension remained to find out if the GPS references were valid and to know the outcome of the Giro d'Italia. Less than a kilometer from the finish line the references said that the loss was 34 seconds, although the inaccuracy of GPS measurement in the Giro d'Italia is well known.
However, this time the reference was real and despite the huge effort in the last meters of the Welshman, the Lussari mountain took its toll and at the finish 40 seconds of difference gave the maglia rosa and the virtual victory of the Giro d'Italia to Primoz Roglic in a tremendously cruel outcome since both have been more than deserving of achieving the final victory.
Stage 20 Classification
- Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) 44’23’’
- Geraint Thomas (INEOS Grenadiers) +40’’
- Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) +42’’
- Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Victorious) +55’’
- Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) +59’’
- Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) +01’05’’
- Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) +01’07’’
- Thymen Arensman (INEOS Grenadiers) +01’18’’
- Andreas Leknessund (Team DSM) +01’49’’
- Jay Vine (UAE Team Emirates) +01’53’’
- Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) 82h40’36’’
- Geraint Thomas (INEOS Grenadiers) +14’’
- Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) +01’15’’
- Damiano Caruso (Bahrain-Victorious) +04’40’’
- Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) +05’43’’
- Thymen Arensman (INEOS Grenadiers) +06’05’’
- Eddie Dunbar (Jayco-AlUla) +07’30’’
- Andreas Leknessund (Team DSM) +07’31’’
- Lennard Kamna (Bora-Hansgrohe) +07’46’’
- Laurens de Plus (INEOS Grenadiers) +09’08’’