Roglic, on the left, and Thomas, with the pink helmet, during the Crans Montana stage, on Friday the 19th. JEAN-CHRISTOPHE BOTT (EFE)
In the old bars and filthy shops, next to San Pancracio and its sprig of parsley, with its back turned, hung a little sign that was considered the pinnacle of ingenuity: “Today you don’t trust, tomorrow you do”, a condemnation to nothing that the best of the 106º Giro d’Italia, in a way, they have proudly made their own.
Today we do not attack, tomorrow, yes, it is the announcement that has dawned every morning, that Geraint Thomas, Primoz Roglic and other champions who have made waiting their only weapon express with phrases like, “There are many very hard days left”, “the last week will be the big bang” or “the fireworks are coming”.
It does not seem, however, that the very calm and sunny Trent, almost Germanic in its order and cleanliness, vineyards drawn square and bevel, and as traditional as its councils against all reform, the city in which the rupture took place, although to the south , closing the view of Lake Garda, rises the mass of Monte Bondone, whose peak, 1,632 meters, and its legends, awaits the runners on Tuesday at the end of a stage with several previous climbs and 203 kilometers.
“Those of you who enter here lose all hope,” wrote Dante at the gates of his hell, a notice that perhaps, listening not to the laments of the fans but to the woeful cries of the surviving cyclists (132 remain of the 176 who left), describes better than any bad temper the hardest Giro of rain, cold, falls and disease that many remember.
Eliminated Remco Evenepoel –the young man who touched the nose and imposed so much thanks to the time trials that the Giro introduced to seduce him– in a joint attack by Primoz Roglic, who managed to torment the Belgian prodigy in a five-minute climb, and made him touching his limits, and the Covid that forced him to retire, the victory in the Giro remained a game of feints without substance, and of conformism and fear, between the two who were most disturbed by Evenepoel, Roglic himself, 33 years old, and Thomas, 36. Only two seconds separate them at the top of the standings, still headed by Bruno Armirail’s borrowed pink jersey. A minimal difference as a result of the two time trials and a bonus, and, given that the last day that can make a difference consists of a very hard time trial climb to Monte Lussari (after an 11.3-kilometre flat with goat, bike change and 7,300 meters of Ascent up to 1,760 meters of a sanctuary with an average slope of 12.1% and peaks on a mountain path of 22%), on the border with Slovenia, the most calculating fans do not doubt that both Thomas, winner of a Tour Thanks to time trials, like Roglic, despite losing a Tour that seemed to have won in a similar time trial, that of the Planche des Belles Filles against Pogacar, wait without scratching Saturday. That would mean that the Three Peaks of Lavaredo on Friday, the most beautiful postcard of the Dolomites, with its last three kilometers at 13% on average – “the toughest climb of my life”, always remembers Eddy Merckx, who won his first Turn–, would leave no mark. And that’s not what many believe either. “It will be a Giro of controlled explosions,” Thomas stresses on the rest day. “I want to run the race, not just attack for show.”
Absent the emotion of the race, the fan entertains himself with certain nonsense and sheds a tear with other stories, tempus fugit, said Virgilio, and Mark Cavendish, the sprinter from the Isle of Man who flew with his nose on the handlebars, turned 38 years old on Sunday and Monday he took advantage of the rest day to announce, together with his wife and three grown children, that this will be his last season in the peloton. In the Giro, he says, he is there — apart from to discuss with the commissioners who order a barrage for the team cars [esto es, que no adelanten a los corredores que se van rezagando para colocarse a cola del pelotón] at the beginning of the stage on the hill in which the fight for the break shoots the peloton at 70 per hour and the sprinters only survive mixed among the cars, a hard survival between exhaust pipes and braking and screeching–, above all, to prepare with Astana for the Tour, in which he will try to achieve his 35th stage victory in July and break the tie for the most winner with Eddy Merckx.
The nonsense of the head of the EF, Jonathan Vaughters, a doped cyclist from Lance Armstrong’s gang with a record on Mont Ventoux who ended up suing the sheriff, calling Thibaut Pinot a crybaby for complaining that EF Cepeda drove him crazy in the escape from Crans Montana, they arrive in the middle of the great debate that Geraint Thomas wants to open with the generations before his.
Armstrong entered the fray calling his enemy Vaughters a “clown fucking”, but before that, the Welsh cyclist had underlined another truth. The old men in the peloton, who are now commentators, reproach the cyclists in this Giro for having a head full of watts and for calculating what they spend and what they have left, as if, they emphasize, they believed that each one arrives at the Giro with a determined amount of watts in the legs and that the story goes of saving them and spending them only when their expenditure yields benefits. This is what representatives of the EPO generation say, who could do the shopping every night and replenish the pantry. And Thomas, who began his career in an Italian team, seems to know what he is talking about when a journalist asks him what he thinks of these criticisms for not attacking and calculating so much. “Lots of other things were going on in the 1980s and 1990s that we don’t do now either, and we’re proud of it,” the old Welshman replied. “So now they can say what they want.”
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