Ineos Grenadiers could hardly have bounced back harder at the Giro d’Italia on Saturday as just hours after a major blow when time trial star Filippo Ganna had to quit with COVID-19, their two contenders Tao Geoghegan Hart and Geraint Thomas joined Primož Roglič in dropping Remco Evenepoel.
When Roglič initially delivered a searing attack on the short but painfully steep I Cappuccini climb and gapped Evenepoel, initially nobody was able to follow the Slovenian.
But by the summit, Thomas and Geoghegan Hart managed to both distance the Belgian and bridge across to Roglič.
After a tricky, technical descent, the trio worked briefly together to open up a gap of 14 seconds on Evenepeol. It’s not the biggest time gain but is a psychological blow against a rider who has shown no vulnerability to date.
“We said in the meeting before the stage that we wanted to try to take to time on anyone we could but also stay safe and ride our race and we did all of those so it was really good,” Geoghegan Hart told reporters as he warmed down.
“A lot of people have big ideas, we just have to do our own race, sometimes go, sometimes be patient, and keep doing that in the next days.”
“I was really happy me and G were there in the mix and on the front, and it’s another big day tomorrow.”
Having gained 14 seconds on Evenepoel and the rest of the field, Geoghegan Hart has moved up sixth and is 48 seconds behind race leader Andreas Leknessund (Team DSM). Thomas also gained a spot overall and is now fifth, 44 seconds down.
Geoghegan Hart said he was glad to see that while Ineos Grenadiers were not the only team making an effort to shred on the three final ascents on the stage, with the race going twice up the I Cappuccini climb and sandwiched between those two, one trip over the category 2 Monte delle Cesane. He singled out Jumbo-Visma and UAE Team Emirates as the other squads that had made the main contribution.
“It’s good to see people wanting to take it on because so far race hasn’t opened up as expected. But often with some of the stages coming in 8, 10 days time, it’s natural people are patient and waiting,” Geoghegan Hart said..
“The Giro hasn’t begun until the last week so for now it’s just about staying in the game.”
Roglič’s vicious acceleration initially proved impossible for any rider to match. But Thomas expressed satisfaction with being able to deploy the same climbing strategy that served him so well in last year’s Tour, of taking things steadily rather than doing too…
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