As Jhonatan Narvaez rode to glory in Cesenatico and the GC favourites called a truce in the rain on Thursday's Stage 12, Eurosport broke the news of EF Pro Cycling's request for an early end to the 103rd edition of La Corsa Rosa.
With 11 positive Covid-19 tests across four teams on Monday's rest day, EF voiced its concern to the UCI and Giro organisers that "a clearly compromised bubble" is endangering the health of the remaining 144 riders, plus staff, in Italy.
The request came on the same day that the Belgian veteran Thomas De Gendt admitted that he and his Lotto Soudal teammates were "starting to feel unsafe" with the escalating situation on the Giro.
EF's proposed solution – for an overall winner of the race to be declared ahead of the second rest day – was rejected out of hand by UCI president David Lappartient, who called on everyone to take individual and collective responsibility within the current framework of safety measures to ensure the race reached Milan.
A frustrated Jonathan Vaughters, manager of EF Pro Cycling, has since told Cyclingnews that he feels the request fell on deaf ears.
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"The response doesn't really address our suggestion, it doesn't actually even take note of the suggestion of ending the race early," he said. "It's neither here nor there. The UCI response doesn't read as if they took our concerns very seriously."
But here at Eurosport, we take Vaughters' request so seriously that we are going to look at who stands to benefit from a two-week Giro d'Italia finishing this Sunday after just three more stages.
Firstly, in the interest of objectivity, what do Vaughters and EF stand to gain from this?
EF Pro Cycling are one of only six teams (from 22) to have tasted success so far on this year's race, with stage wins on both of the two summit finishes so far – for Jonathan Caicedo at Etna and Ruben Guerreiro at Roccaraso. Knowing that they cannot sustain that run for all six of the race's scheduled summit finishes, of course they're going to give themselves a better shot by cancelling the last three.
With Portugal's Guerreiro leading the maglia azzurra king of the mountains standings, the irony is that, in a race where so much hoo-hah was made about EF Pro Cycling's zany kit going into the race, the American team are hell bent on securing an alternative blue jersey on their way out.
Guerreiro has been climbing well, but his lead over Giovanni Visconti in the KOM standings is just eight points. And with 94 points available on Sunday's Stage 15 to Piancavallo, even a total outsider would be able, potentially, to get in the break and surpass Guerreiro's 84-point tally.
But with none of the GC favourites in the mix for the blue jersey, Guerreiro should hold on to his maglia azzurra in the event of the only remaining mountain stage being turned into a mass brawl for pink.
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On paper, it's a balanced spread of stages remaining between now and the notional end to the shortened Giro – with Sunday's summit showdown in the Dolomites preceded a stage which could suit both the sprinters and puncheurs, and an individual time trial.
With that 34.1km ITT on Saturday in mind, Ineos Grenadiers would be able to stomach an early finish to the race. Sure, their TT specialist Filippo Ganna would miss out on a chance to win the Milanese race against the clock scheduled for Stage 21, but the Italian's unexpected victory in Stage 5 means Ganna could still net a maiden Giro hat-trick in Saturday's TT, for which he will be the overwhelming favourite.
Indeed, Ineos Gannadiers should be first to put their name down in support of EF's request, primarily because the GC battle is of little interest to them given Geraint Thomas's withdrawal. In the Welshman's absence, they have gone on to win a third stage through Narvaez on Thursday – and they have the personel to push for a fifth stage win on Sunday after Ganna's likely TT triumph.
Who'd have thought that Ineos – usually to stage-hunting what Marco Frapporti is to top 10 finishes – could leave a Giro d'Italia with more stage wins than any other team, not least an edition reduced to two weeks?
Hold your horses! Is that the Groupama-FDJ train of Arnaud Démare I can hear?
The French team have hardly put a foot wrong when employing their French national champion this past fortnight. In the words of his lead-out pilot, Jacopo Guarnieri: "There have been three sprints so far and we've won four of them."
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Given the way Démare won the sprint that shouldn't have been – coming from deep after surviving the punchy climb into Matera in Stage 4 – the in-form Frenchman can't be overlooked for Friday's Stage 13 finish in Monselice.
An otherwise wholly flat stage is punctuated by two ramped climbs near the finish. But Démare's a seasoned Milan-San Remo winner so don't be surprised if he channels his inner Hector Carretero while treating these tests like the Cipressa and Poggio in 2016 to take a fifth win in a reduced bunch kick.
None of Démare's sprint rivals have come close to beating him since the Stage 4 photo finish in Villafranca Tirrena; if EF's request does get an unlikely green light ahead of Stage 13, the likes of Elia Viviani and Fernando Gaviria might as well pack their bags three days early.
Peter Sagan may have something to say, mind, especially given his interest in Démare's maglia ciclamino. Thirty-six points split the two riders in the standings and so Sagan's Bora-Hansgrohe team would do their best to distance Démare on those climbs before delivering Sagan to a second win. If the Slovakian can pocket the 50pts over the line – and keep his losses to a minimum in the intermediate sprint, then he could yet go home draped in imperial purple on Monday.
That leaves the small matter of the pink and white jerseys – which, let's be honest, are practically the same thing nowadays.
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Joao Almeida has not put a foot wrong, but he hasn't exactly been put to the test yet. Provided he holds on in Saturday's time trial, he'd then be one summit finish away from victory in his debut Grand Tour – albeit a victory which would always go down with an asterisk.
Deceuninck Quick-Step have a strong support cast with the likes of James Knox and Fausto Masnada able to stick with Almeida in what would be the final day of reckoning in the Dolomites.
But with the top six riders on GC within a minute off the summit, and even tenth-placed Jakob Fuglsang only 2'20" down, Almeida's lead is far from secure. That said, the 22-year-old stands a far better chance of holding on for one more weekend – rather than one more week.
If Almeida does weather the storm, he would automatically win the youth classification too. But go into the red on Sunday's decisive climb up Monte Cavallo then Jai Hindley, Brandon McNulty or even Tao Geoghegan Hart would pounce on the white jersey.
There's also the prospect that Deceuninck Quick-Step are pulling pink wool over all out eyes and that Almeida is just a decoy for the baffling scenario that sees Masnada, a rider who started the season in the orange of CCC, ride himself into pink at Piancavallo to pull off the home win most people expected from either Vincenzo Nibali or Domenico Pozzovivo.
Well, Domenico, it would teach you right for not pulling the trigger after all that dog work from your NTT teammates, eh?
What is certain – even with the UCI rejecting EF Pro Cycling's request for an early finish of the Giro – is that the second rest day may bring the house of cards down on the race anyway, especially if more riders and staff members return a positive from the pandemic.
The upshot is that although Sunday's Stage 15 may never officially be declared the last day of the Giro by the powers that be, every rider and every team should well treat it as if it is the last. Which should, at least, make for an interesting few days on the Giro.