All pants and no trousers. That just about sums up Bora-Hansgrohe’s tactics on Friday’s Stage 19 where Jai Hindley’s team took up the pacing in the peloton for over 100km only to give up the ghost ahead of the final climb to the Sanctuario di Castelmonte. Despite attacks from both Richard Carapaz and Mikel Landa, Hindley was able to cope once he was jettisoned by his team – but the race’s big three crossed the line together to cap another GC stalemate in the Julian Alps of north-east Italy.
Eurosport pundit Adam Blythe described Bora’s tactics as “the most ridiculous thing I’ve seen in a long time” – and this is a man who has to regularly look at his own shirts in the mirror. Blythe and his fellow pundits on The Breakaway were perplexed by Bora’s decision to set up all their targets and then fail to pull the trigger.
“Throughout the whole stage I was expecting them to do something – they had to try something,” said Blythe. “But with 10km to go they just sat up off the front. What’s the point?”
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He then added in a comedy accent: “We’re just going to tire ourselves out ahead of tomorrow’s biggest stage of the Giro, where we could win the pink jersey but we’ll be even more knackered for that than we need to be…”

‘Most ridiculous thing I've seen’ - Blythe on team's bizarre tactics

For, yes, Saturday’s queen stage in the Dolomites includes three mahoosive climbs - including the race's highest peak, the Passo Pordio - and was described by Robbie McEwen as “a stage with fangs”.
“If it’s not going to happen tomorrow it’s never going to happen to separate them and it will just have to be fought out on the time trial bikes,” McEwen stressed.
Carapaz holds a three-second gap over Hindley, with Landa in third place at 1’05”. While Landa will shudder at the thought of donning a skin-suit of any colour, Hindley knows that he lost the 2020 Giro on the last day when he entered the final time trial in pink but level on time with Britain’s Tao Geoghegan Hart.
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If the three mountainous stages so far this week have seen very little separating the top three protagonists in this race, then surely they each have good reason enough to go all-in on Saturday ahead of the TT lottery in Verona. Here are five different scenarios that we may see…

Carapaz to put the Giro to bed

No one wants to win a Grand Tour without winning a stage and the 2019 champion will be keen to stamp his authority on this race with a stage win on the mighty Marmolada in the maglia rosa.
Carapaz has hardly put a foot wrong in this year’s race, his only blip being the crash shortly after the start of Stage 16 to Aprica. So composed is Carapaz that the 28-year-old often looks as if he’s hardly putting in the effort on the big climbs. Surely he’s merely been holding his cards close to his chest before revealing his hand on the Passo Pordio, the highest peak of this Giro.
Losing Richie Porte to illness is a blow, but Pavel Sivakov is showing strong form and Ineos have the numbers to keep a lid on things before their man strikes out on the penultimate climb.
A victory in Stage 20 by over a minute on Hindley will all but secure the Ecuadorian his second Giro as he becomes the fourth different rider to win the Giro for Ineos in the last five years.

Richard Carapaz of Ecuador and Team INEOS Grenadiers celebrates winning the pink leader jersey on the podium ceremony after the 105th Giro d'Italia 2022

Image credit: Getty Images

Carapaz to let Hindley take pink

With nothing separating the top two riders up the Passo San Pellegrino and Passo Pordoi, Carapaz will simply follow the wheel of Hindley all the way up the Passo Fedaia before allowing the Australian either to win by a handful of seconds or to take enough bonus seconds to take over the maglia rosa.
Why? Good question. But by forcing Hindley to don the race’s regulation Castelli pink skinsuit for the final 17.4km time trial in Verona, Carapaz will not only give himself the advantage of being able to wear his own, superior Bio Racer skinsuit, he will force Hindley to relive his nightmare from 2020 when he lost the deciding time trial to another Ineos rider – Geoghegan Hart – while competing in pink.
It would be a gamble for Carapaz – who has twice beaten Hindley in similar length time trials by just six slender seconds – but one that could pay off.

Jai Hindley - Giro d'Italia 2020, stage 20 - Getty Images

Image credit: Getty Images

Landa to throw the cat among the pigeons

Although he’s a further minute behind in the general classification, it would be folly to write off Mikel Landa just yet. The Basque climber is on course to level his best ever finish in a Grand Tour – his third place in the 2015 Giro – but can he go two places better?
Despite losing Jan Tratnik early on, Bahrain Victorious have been a strong unit throughout the Giro, with Wout Poels, Pello Bilbao and Stage 17 winner Santiago Buitrago super-strong climbing lieutenants capable of setting off a grenade on the front of the race.
If Bahrain Victorious ride for Landa like they did on Wednesday’s stage to Lavarone – and if Landa can finally make one of his attacks stick – then he could finally win that elusive Grand Tour and, with it, pretty much make everyone happy.
Of course, Landa is to time trialling what Mark Cavendish is to climbing – so he would need to build up a strong buffer ahead of the Verona race against the clock. We're talking at least a minute. To do this, Bahrain Victorious would have to start their masterplan on the Passo San Pellegrino and then launch Landa on the Pordio so that he can build up a lead of at least two minutes over his rivals as he crosses the line. Simples.

Jai Hindley of Australia and Team Bora - Hansgrohe, Richard Carapaz of Ecuador and Team INEOS Grenadiers Pink Leader Jersey and Mikel Landa Meana of Spain and Team Bahrain Victorious during the 105th Giro d'Italia 2022, Stage 17

Image credit: Getty Images

Hindley to turn the screw on ill Carapaz

The Australian is such a closed book it’s hard to tell how he’s feeling ahead of the Dolomites showdown. It may be that he peaked on Blockhaus and with his sprint for those bonus seconds in Torino; he’s certainly looked more subdued and defensive since the third rest day.
But perhaps Hindley is keeping it all back for one last big effort - rather than putting shoes on centipedes early on.
If he can get the best out of teammates Wilco Kelderman, Emanuel Buchmann and Lennard Kamna, he certainly has the weaponry to take a second stage win and build up a cushion on Carapaz.
All the more so since there must be concerns amid the Ineos camp that the illness which prematurely ended Richie Porte’s last ever Grand Tour could well spread to the man to whom he has been sticking closest these past few weeks…
One whiff that Carapaz – or any of his teammates – is under the weather could see Hindley and Bora pounce. And this time they may not pull up short like they did in Stage 19.

'So, so disappointing' - Carapaz ally Porte abandons his last-ever Grand Tour

Nibali to party like its 2016 all over again

The fifth and admittedly most unlikely scenario – but one which we must include for sentimental reasons alone – involves Vincenzo Nibali getting the farewell win he seeks, and in doing so propelling himself into an unlikely pink jersey.
Taking inspiration from his last-gasp win in the 2016 Giro, Nibali will look to roll back the years with a Shark attack that even the viewers of Jaws didn't expect to see. It’s quite hard to see who will be cast in the Michele Scarponi role in this scenario, for Nibali’s Astana team is looking somewhat threadbare following the withdrawals of Valerio Conti and Miguel Angel Lopez. Perhaps Joe Dombrowski will rise to the challenge?
But let’s forget such trifles. Nibali is so far down (+5:53) that perhaps no one will take an early attack from the 37-year-old seriously and the Sicilian will do on the Passo San Pellegrino what Chris Froome did four years ago on the Colle delle Finestre.
We – and the whole of Italy – can but dream…

Vincenzo Nibali trofeo Giro d'Italia 2016 - Getty Images

Image credit: Getty Images

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