It looked like Pippo was going to send Italia into raptures on Wednesday’s Stage 17 – but big, bad Six Day man and omnium specialist, Roger Kluge (IAM & Germany) spoiled the dream, jumping early from an uncontrolled peloton to take a beautiful stage win.
IAM are folding at the end of this year but Rodge will have no bother finding a contract.
With so many of the big sprinters gone – Kittel, Greipel, Demare, Ewan, Mezgec and Viviani – there was no one capable or willing to control the last kilometre except Lampre for Modolo and/or Trek for Nizzolo.
We set up camp at two K to go to watch proceedings; the original three man break – whose protagonists would be away for 174 K – weren’t hanging around.
But the move, spearheaded by that big, strong boy Daniel Oss which had swollen to six men, was obviously going to succumb within the next kilometre.
The surprising thing was that it was Modolo’s right hand and final man in his train, Roberto Ferrari dragging the peloton with two K yet to ride.
Meaning Modolo would have to fend for himself from the red kite to the finish.
We spied the finish on TV as we walked into reception at our digs – Pippo went long, there was hesitation behind, Kluge bridged then jumped – he’s a big strong boy and they couldn’t get him back.
Nizzolo took second and his 13th Giro podium – still with no wins.
Our day started lakeside at the bus park in Molveno – it was pretty hectic and hard to get quotes but we chatted to a few old friends, including Richard Moore who had the Dimension Data bus staked out for an interview with Kudus for his podcast.
And Gianni Savio, Androni team capo whose squadra didn’t make it on to the Giro – maybe those one or two ‘vitamin’ hassles his team had in the last year or so had something to do with their omission?
Schmoozing done we headed off to the halfway point and the one climb of the day.
Oss was away with two others – by the end of that day he’d been away for 174 K.
The peloton was compatto with Kruijswijk riding like a Capo should – up near the front.
We hopped the motorway after the race passed and zoomed along to our two K to go spot.
The digs in Treviglio that night were good, the pizza place cheap as chips and the grappa in the bar next door of industrial strength.
Stage 18 was the proverbial ‘sting in the tail’ job; pan flat with a horrible ramp then a Cat. 2 climb late in the day.
We wanted to see a stage roll out, so chose this one.
It was a good choice and we netted some nice snaps.
Valverde looked relaxed, a stage win under his belt and a Giro podium now looking likely to go with his Vuelta win and podium in the Tour.
Nibali look embarrassed by all the attention.
The Colombians got their heads together.
Maybe Chaves just wanted a break from all that media attention?
Brambilla has had a good Giro and can afford to relax in the team car before the start.
And Pippo? Well, he just looked cool.
The rollout was a laid back affair with riders still chatting to journos and selfie sticks getting waved.
We by-passed the entire percorso across the plains and took the motorway to Pinerolo, the finish town.
In the town there was a savage 20% ramp followed by the second Cat. Pramartino.
It was a nasty: 4.7 K long, 10.5% average and maximum 17%.
A big group got away but by the time they reached us it had exploded with Brambilla (QuickStep & Italy) and Moser (Cannondale & Italy) leading.
We thought they would shoot it out for the win but Brambilla’s team mate and countryman, Trentin was in the group behind, bridged and zoomed past a bemused Moser.
It was another stage win for QuickStep – that’s four plus spells in pink for Kittel, Brambilla and Jungels and it’s looking like Jungels will take the white jersey of best young rider all the way to Torino.
There were some wasted riders on that climb; both from the break and the gruppetto.
But Kruijswijk looked cool, composed and had Battaglin by his side – no drama.
King of the Mountains Cunego wasn’t in the lead group though – he was back in the gruppo, not enough points on offer today to worry about.
It’s looking more like the Dutchman will win The Netherlands first Grand Tour since Zoetemelk in 1980.
But it ain’t over ’til…