On paper, a three-second lead for the best part of the final week seems like a script-writer’s dream. In reality, the tiny gap that separated pink jersey Richard Carapaz and his main rival Jai Hindley dulled the GC battle and made for a sluggish battle of attrition. One that was exacerbated by the fact that a third man, Mikel Landa, was so assured of a first Grand Tour podium in seven years that he had little inclination to improve his lot.
While Bora-Hansgrohe and Hindley turned the race on its head in devastating fashion on the last major climb of Stage 20, the Passo Fedaia, the prolonged stalemate that proceeded this moment of magic will be food for thought for race organisers in the years to come. If anything, it was proof that reducing time trial kilometres for huge days in the mountains does not always have the desired effect.
Where, two years ago, the two main protagonists in pink – Hindley and the ultimate winner, Tao Geoghegan Hart – enjoyed a thrilling battle in the final week, sharing three mountain stages between them, Hindley was in 2022 the only GC rider to win a stage, and that came on Blockhaus at the end of the opening week.
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Britain’s Simon Yates, of course, won two stages, but he checked out of the GC battle shortly after his TT victory in Budapest after bashing his knee on the way to Mount Etna. Yates’s swashbuckling win in Torino in Stage 14 was not only a refutation of the mantra that mammoth climbs maketh a race, but a reminder of just how much impetus the GC battle lost when the crocked in-form BikeExchange-Jayco rider cracked on Blockhaus.

‘A photo finish in the mountains!’ - Watch thrilling finish on Blockhaus as Hindley wins

Playing out over repeated short and sharp climbs over a circuit outside Turin, the gripping stage may act as a blueprint for organisers going forward. It also marked the only real occasion throughout the Giro when Carapaz went on the front foot – an attack stemming from a rare moment of isolation from his Ineos Grenadiers teammates.
The British team supported the Ecuadorian 2019 champion well throughout the three weeks – and even on the day of his fall, Ineos seemed to have things under control. Were they too defensive? Perhaps. It’s telling that the Bora and Bahrain Victorious teams of the other riders on the final podium won stages (through Lennard Kamna and Santiago Buitrago) while Ineos never came close besides Carapaz’s third on Blockhaus.
The Giro was certainly all the poorer for the likes of Romain Bardet, Miguel Angel Lopez, Tom Dumoulin, Joao Almeida and Yates not being able to play – for contrasting reasons – a significant role in the fight for pink. Likewise, the loss of leading animator Biniam Girmay was as keenly felt by the fans as the departure of his leadout man Michael Morkov was for Mark Cavendish.

Richard Carapaz of Ecuador and Team INEOS Grenadiers Pink Leader Jersey, Jai Hindley of Australia and Lennard Kämna of Germany and Team Bora - Hansgrohe compete while fans cheer during the 105th Giro d'Italia 2022, Stage 20

Image credit: Getty Images

But the other side of the same coin saw Mathieu van der Poel, the race’s first pink jersey and the man whose rivalry with Girmay delivered so much excitement, go all the distance to Verona to complete his first Grand Tour. And the Dutchman was no passenger, having tried his luck in the mountains as much as he did over the flatter or lumpier stages.
Let’s now take a closer look at some of the best and worst moments from the 105th edition of the race…

Best moment: Van der Poel’s gesture after Girmay’s win

The Dutchman’s thumbs-up was, hands down, the defining moment of the race and the apogee of the rivalry between Mathieu van der Poel and Biniam Girmay – a rivalry that established itself on the very first day when the former beat the latter to top of the ramped finish in Visegrad to take the race’s first maglia rosa.
Both riders were locked in a captivating sprint in Jesi until Girmay finally broke Van der Poel, who eased up and paid his respects to the history-making Eritrean. It was all the more poignant in hindsight knowing that Girmay’s victory would be his last contribution to the race after the 22-year-old was cruelly ruled out with the eye injury sustained on the podium while opening his celebratory bottle of Processo.

Mathieu van der Poel gives Biniam Girmay the thumbs up as the Eritrean wins Stage 10 of the Giro d'Italia 2022

Image credit: Getty Images

Most contentious finish: The final bend in Stage 19

What were the organisers thinking putting in a 90-degree bend just metres from the line at Santuario di Castelmonte? The result was quite predictable as two riders over-shot the corner and had to ride through a gap in the barriers while the rider who finished second was left rueing that fact that winner Koen Bouwman had taken the best race line.
Mauro Schmid’s sour grapes produced a quite different thumbs-up that Van der Poel’s – a sarcastic gesture that the Swiss double-downed on moments later in his post-race interview in which he claimed, “it was not a fair sprint”.
There were other contenders for the most contentious finish – including Fernando Gaviria’s relegation for trying to barge through two Team DSM riders in Scalea, and pretty much any sprint involving Gaviria’s pilot Max Richeze peeling off and impeding the Colombian’s rivals – but ultimately Schmid’s antics as the Giro’s sorest loser won the day.

Most combative rider: Mathieu van der Poel

Sure, Drone Hopper duo Filippo Tagliani and Mattia Bais did their bit early on to secure the fuga and intermediate sprint prizes, not to mention some red numbers on the back of their jerseys. But the Italian duo never attacked with the same glee and purpose and passion as Van der Poel, who spent over 600km off the front of the race in his bid to add to his opening day victory.
And when he wasn’t riding in breakaways or flirting with a mountain win – most notably in Stage 17 to Lavarone where he momentarily led on the final climb - he entertained the tifosi (both roadside and online) with wheelies and quips about putting pineapple on pizza…

‘He doesn’t really care if it goes wrong!’ – The enigma of Mathieu van der Poel

Best debut: Juan Pedro Lopez

Van der Poel can’t win everything – and although he animated most days, plus took the pink jersey on his very first day in the Giro, he wore the maglia rosa for seven days fewer than Spain’s Juan Pedro Lopez. With teammate Guilio Ciccone not featuring in the GC battle, “Juanpe” gave Trek-Segafredo a 10-day stretch in pink that no one could have expected, more than making up for his Stage 4 loss to Lennard Kamna on Mount Etna.
The 24-year-old Spaniard battled to keep the race lead on Blockhaus – even resorting to throwing a bidon at Sam Oomen in the heat of the moment. Once he did finally surrender the race lead in Turin, he soon found himself in the white jersey following Joao Almeida’s withdrawal. Lopez capped a fine debut by depriving, somewhat symbolically, compatriot Alejandro Valverde of a place in the final top 10.

Most pivotal moment: Romain Bardet climbs off his bike

Second on Blockhaus and just 14 seconds off the race summit, the Frenchman looked to be in prime contention to take over the pink jersey from Lopez in the Alps – only for sickness to bring about his shock withdrawal less than 48 hours after leading out teammate Alberto Dainese for the win in Reggio Emilia.
Bardet has been desperately unlikely in the past – his 2020 Tour de France KO while also in fourth place in the standings springs to mind – but this could well have been the most unlucky moment of his career. The DSM leader’s presence was sorely missed as the GC battle petered out in the final week and never may the 31-year-old have had a better chance at that elusive Grand Tour win.

‘Struggling to stand up!’ – Watch the moment Bardet abandoned after being ‘sick all night’

Perhaps just as influential was the withdrawal of Richie Porte with illness just days from the end of his last ever Grand Tour before retirement. The Australian veteran was a calming influence for Ineos Grenadiers and could have provided the help Carapaz needed in the closing kilometres of the Passo Fedaia.

Most unexpected performance: Jan Hirt

A lot has been said about Hindley purging his demons in the final time trial, but the Czech climber Jan Hirt did just that five days earlier in Aprica. Three years after he missed out on a stage win when the Giro last tackled the Mortirolo, Hirt took a maiden Grand Tour win in Stage 16 on a day the mighty Mortirolo returned to the percorso.
After back-to-back days in breakaways were the foundation stone for the 31-year-old first ever top 10 finish in a Grand Tour as Hirt overtook teammate Domenico Pozzovivo as Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert’s leading rider. What’s more, Hirt came within 14 seconds of Pello Bilbao’s fifth place in the final general classification.

Hirt ends wait for Grand Tour win, Hindley pips Carapaz to bonus seconds on Stage 16

Best stage: Stage 14, Santena – Torino

It was only 147km long and didn’t feature any mythical peaks or even a summit finish, but the circuit race around Turin – with its dual ascents of the Superba and Colle della Maddelana – provided more excitement than all the race’s major mountaintop finishes combined.
Forced onto the attack as the best means of defence following Bora-Hansgrohe letting off a grenade in the main pack, Carapaz struck out early, only to be pegged back before Simon Yates rode to his second win of the race. The Ecuadorian took over the pink jersey but conceded vital bonus seconds to Hindley on a day that turned the GC on its head and provided fireworks from the outset.

‘Redemption!’ – Yates wins epic Stage 14 as Carapaz takes pink jersey

Best team: Alpecin-Fenix

Wins for Stefano Oldani and Dries De Bondt as well as Mathieu van der Poel proved that Alpecin-Fenix are far from a one-man team. Despite their limited-edition camouflage olive green kit, Alpecin-Fenix were highly conspicuous in so many of the race’s key breakaways and were rewarded for their efforts. Their return was all the more impressive given the withdrawals of Italian sprinter Jakob Mareczko and the German Alexander Kreiger.

Best piece of teamwork: Bora on Passo Fedaia

Koen Bouwman’s first win came after some selfless work from his Jumbo-Visma teammate Tom Dumoulin while, one day later, Thomas De Gendt struck gold in Naples after a huge helping hand from his Lotto Soudal colleague Harm Vanhoucke.
Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert’s togetherness was a joy to behold while Groupama-FDJ helped deliver sprinter Arnaud Demare to three wins. We even witnessed Bahrain Victorious teeing up Mikel Landa on the road to Lavarone as teammate Santiago Buitrago took the win further up the road.
But nothing could beat Bora-Hangrohe’s combined efforts to crack Carapaz on the last climb of the penultimate stage in the Dolomites. Having Lennard Kamna up the road in the break proved key for Jai Hindley. And after teammate Wilco Kelderman peeled off, Hindley could make his initial attack knowing that the German was just ahead.

'Carapaz cracks!' - Hindley seizes Giro advantage as Covi takes stage 20 win

Kamna played his part in launching the Australian and then promptly sandbagging the Ecuadorian to the line – getting a good look at the pink jersey destined for his teammate’s shoulders at the top of the Passo Fedaia. Poetry in uphill motion.

Best nation: The Netherlands

After Van der Poel won the opening stage and took the first maglia rosa, Koen Bouwman added two more stage wins – plus the blue jersey – for the Dutch. But it’s worth pointing out that Dutch riders came second in five other stages and had, in total, 17 top five finishes throughout the race, including second, third and fourth in the final time trial.
All this without placing a single rider in the final top 10 and with the 2017 champion Tom Dumoulin going home early after a troubled first week. And while we’re on the topic of the Dutch…

Best climber: Koen Bouwman

The 28-year-old rider won two hilly stages in style and gave Jumbo-Visma something to shout about following the withdrawal of their leader Dumoulin by becoming the first Dutchman ever to win the Giro’s king of the mountains competition.
Bouwman made the blue jersey his own by getting in the breakaway in four of the last five mountain stages, wrapping up the competition before the final day in the Dolomites after taking maximum points over all four climbs on his way to a second win at the Santuario di Castelmonte.

'Oh my word!' – Vendrame crashes at last corner in dramatic end to Stage 19 as Bouwman wins

Emerging star: Gijs Leemreize

If you hadn’t heard of Leemreize coming into the Giro, you most certainly have now. The rangy 22-year-old was another silver lining for Jumbo-Visma after clocking up almost 700 breakaway kilometres on his Giro debut and twice coming close to a maiden Grand Tour stage win – in Genova and Lavarone.
The way Leemreize caught Van der Poel on the final descent of Stage 17 and then shadowed his compatriot on the final climb before drawing level and passing him for good was captivating – and it would have been worthy of the win had Santiago Buitrago not clinically struck out behind at the perfect moment.
Sixth on Etna, ninth at Cogne and seventh on the Marmolada provided yet more evidence that points towards Leemreize being a name to remember. Expect big things.

Stage 17 highlights: Buitrago recovers to deny Van der Poel and Leemreize

Most disappointing rider: Caleb Ewan or Ivan Sosa

Not the most charitable sub-sections to write but it cannot be denied that Lotto Soudal’s Australian sprinter had a race to forget. Whether it was crashing near the finish of the opening stage, missing out to Arnaud Demare in a photo finish five days later, or riding most of Stage 10 alone after being dropped by the peloton, Ewan had a shocker.
In his defence, though, at least Ewan did enough to register on people’s radars. After winning the Vuelta Asturias, Ivan Sosa entered the Giro as a bit of a dark horse. But the 24-year-old Colombian from Movistar didn’t finish higher than 19th place on any stage and was hardly mentioned – or even spotted – by anyone on the commentary team.

Most disappointing team: Movistar

Sosa was not the only underperformer for Movistar, for whom Alejandro Valverde’s 11th place in his last ever Giro was about as good as things got. Antonio Pedrero and Jorge Arcas got in a few breaks between them, but the first most of us saw of Will Barta, Oier Lazkano, Jose Joaquim Rojas and Sosa was when they rolled down the ramp at the start of the final time trial.

Best sprinter: Arnaud Demare

It may have been different has leadout man Michael Morkov not gone home early with fever, but at least Mark Cavendish picked up a single win on his return to the Giro after nine years – a win that will keep the debate going over the merits of Quick-Step taking him to the Tour this summer.
Alberto Dainese took a breakthrough sprint win for Team DSM but the most consistent finisher was that man Demare, whose hat-trick saw him also win a second maglia ciclamino jersey at a relative canter over Fernando Gaviria and Cavendish. None of them, it seems, will be a match for Fabio Jakobsen at the Tour.

‘They played with fire’ – Demare denies Cavendish, breakaway to seal hat-trick

Most baffling rider: Guillaume Martin

The yo-yoing Frenchman seems to be locked in a perpetual battle on the fringes of the top 10 of the GC while he seeks that elusive Grand Tour stage win. Oddly, no one at Cofidis has told him he’s be better off targeting specific days rather than going on futile breaks from the main pack on the penultimate climb of a day when there’s a breakaway eight minutes up the road…
For all his efforts, Martin’s showing from his debut Giro was 14th place on GC and a highest finish of seventh, which is about right for a philosophy-loving rider who clearly doesn’t overthink his attacks..

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Best late form: Ballerini, Cort, Arensman

Some riders would have left the race wishing there had been a fourth week. Davide Ballerini (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) did his best to tee up teammates Mauro Schmid and Mauri Vansevenant in the last two mountain stages, while Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost) was another fixture in third week breakaways and almost came close to completing his Grand Tour grand slam in Treviso.
Most impressive, perhaps, was Thyman Arensman (Team DSM) who made hay following teammate Romain Bardet’s withdrawal by almost amassed 500 breakaway kilometres in the second half of the race, coming second in Aprica and fifth on the Marmolada one day before coming runner-up to Matteo Sobrero in the final time trial.

Best veteran: Vincenzo Nibali

The final word goes to the two-time winner Vincenzo Nibali who bid adieu to his home race after a solid if unspectacular fourth place in the overall standings. The 37-year-old didn’t get the stage win swansong he sought but rode with the best on Blockhaus, took fourth in Torino and put in a trademark downhill attack on the Mortirolo. Ciao, Vincenzo!
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