The Giro d’Italia is on a knife-edge heading into Saturday’s decisive individual time trial, with Eurosport expert Jens Voigt claiming Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers), Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) and Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) could all still win the race.
With Sunday’s final stage a pan-flat run around Rome for the sprinters, the general classification battle will almost certainly be decided against the clock on Stage 20.
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Almeida is also in the hunt despite leaking time for the second day in a row but will need the performance of his young career, and bad days for his rivals, to make up the 59 seconds standing between him and Thomas in pink.
Asked by host Orla Chennaoui if the Giro was still wide open on The Breakaway, Voigt replied: “It absolutely is and it can go any way.
“Even with almost a minute to gain, on a really good day and if the other two struggle, Joao Almeida is not out of the competition yet.”
After Buitrago had become the latest rider to deal out heartbreak to the outstanding Derek Gee (Israel-Premier Tech) on Friday, back down the road the GC battle belatedly spluttered into action inside the final two kilometres after the Ineos pair of Laurens De Plus and Thymen Arensman finally ran out of steam on the front of the maglia rosa group.
Almeida was first to attack in a move that was quickly snuffed out before Roglic, who had changed bikes at the bottom of the penultimate classified climb to give him lower gears on the steepest slopes, made his move. Thomas was unfazed, easily closing the gap and sitting on his rival’s wheel before launching an attack of his own as he looked to deal the decisive blow in the pink jersey battle.
But despite appearing unable to hold Thomas’ wheel, Roglic somehow produced a last-gasp spurt to pass Thomas and take back three seconds ahead of Saturday’s ‘race of truth’.
“It was so interesting to see Geraint Thomas go on the attack at the end and he really had Roglic on the ropes,” said Dan Lloyd.
“The gap slowly but surely went out and you were thinking, ‘How much time is he going to put into Roglic?’ In the end, he lost three seconds to him.
“It’s hard to get your head around the last 200m of the race. I don’t know how Roglic found the power and the energy to come back from what looked like being over his limit, to actually put time in the other way around.
“It’s amazing how much that last 200m changed your perspective on what might happen tomorrow. As Geraint was gradually pulling away from Roglic, I was thinking, ‘Well, he’s not put a foot wrong the whole race, he’s never lost time to any of his rivals, so going into tomorrow he’s the big favourite to cling onto the pink jersey’.
“I think he still is [the big favourite] but just that last bit, and the extra strength shown by Roglic, we’re now starting to think maybe the momentum is swaying ever so slightly towards Roglic. You never know.”
‘I don’t see Roglic taking time in the TT’ – McEwen
‘I don’t see him taking time in the TT’ – McEwen on Roglic time trial hopes
Barring an unprecedented twist in Rome on the final day, the winner of the Giro will be known at the summit of Monte Lussari as the final GC order is decided with a 18.6km individual time trial.
It is the perfect opportunity for a Roglic redemption ride, three years after he imploded on the final competitive stage of the Tour de France. In 2020, he fell short on an ITT that finished on a brutal climb. In 2023, he will hope to leave Thomas feeling that same pain.
“It’s impossible to predict. We kept saying that every rider in the top three would like more time than they’ve got, or to have reduced their deficit,” said Lloyd.
“It is what it is at this point and they call the race against the clock a ‘race of truth’ for a reason. It’s because whatever you’ve got on the day, that’s what you end with on the day.
“Roglic has 26 seconds to make up and on his day is more than capable of doing it, if Geraint Thomas has a bad day for example.
“I would say the odds are in favour of Geraint Thomas because he’s just been so solid. Today’s been his only ‘bad day’ and he lost three seconds in the space of 100m and that was it. But the others won’t have given up – particularly Roglic.”
However, McEwen highlighted that Roglic’s late burst on Stage 19 will have little bearing on the time trial and backed Thomas to become the oldest Giro winner in history.
“I don’t see it swinging more than 20 seconds either way,” said McEwen.
“And today when G lost that three seconds to Roglic it was a very particular situation. When you saw that red-lining, time trial sort of pace, they were so evenly matched and G even started to ride away.
“Roglic has the advantage of that big acceleration and real punch but that’s only for 100-150m, that’s not the way you can ride a time trial.
“So he’s used his advantage and got his time in his speciality, but I don’t see him taking time in the TT.”
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