Richard Carapaz? Romain Bardet? Jai Hindley? The contenders for ‘wide open’ Giro d'Italia assessed
There were plenty of talking points after the five-star mountain test on Stage 9 at the Giro d’Italia, with Jai Hindley taking an unexpected win, Romain Bardet and Mikel Landa putting pressure on pre-race favourite Richard Carapaz, Joao Almeida moving 12 seconds off the lead and Juan Pedro Lopez heroically clinging to the pink jersey heading into the second rest day. So who is primed to win?
Carapaz? Bardet? Hindley? The contenders for ‘wide open’ Giro assessed
The fight for the maglia rosa at the Giro d’Italia is “wide open”, according to Eurosport expert Robbie McEwen, after an explosive outing on the Blockhaus left just 29 seconds separating the top seven riders.
Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco) was the biggest act to unravel as the Brit’s hopes of finally winning the Giro disappeared again after he leaked over 11 minutes. Fellow Brit Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost) also shed time, losing almost four minutes on the front group.
Once Porte pulled aside in the closing kilometres, Ineos leader Richard Carapaz seemed set to rip clear and throw down a marker ahead of the second rest day. However, his punch was absorbed by Romain Bardet (Team DSM) and Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious) as the three sailed away on the final climb.
Ultimately, with the trio sinking into a tactical battle, another group of three were allowed back into the frame – Hindley, Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) and Domenico Pozzovivo (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert) – before Hindley edged out Bardet and Carapaz in the sprint.
‘A photo finish in the mountains!’ - Watch thrilling finish on Blockhaus as Hindley wins
“We sort of saw three stick out head and shoulders above the rest when it came to attacking on the climb, it looks to be a really even battle Landa, Bardet and Carapaz,” said Robbie McEwen on The Breakaway.
“But even though it was, they haven’t really taken any time on anyone so this Giro is still wide open.”
The hesitation from Bardet, Carapaz and Landa allowed Lopez to cling to the leader’s jersey for another 48 hours at least. He leads the overall standings by 12 seconds from Almeida. Bardet (14”), Carapaz (15”), Hindley (20”) and Landa (29”) are all within shooting distance of Lopez – as is Guillaume Martin (Cofidis), who was distanced in the finale but is still only 28 seconds adrift.
So who is looking good going into the second rest day? The Breakaway gang assess some of the favourites…
Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers)
Carapaz is bidding to win the title for a second time after his victory in 2019, while Ineos are seeking to defend Egan Bernal's title from last year.
"Once Richie Porte swung off and Richard Carapaz went, the Giro may not have been over but I had a feeling Carapaz might just go up the road and put 30-40 seconds into everybody else," said Dan Lloyd.
"But it was nice to see Bardet and Landa able to keep up with him – and when they started mucking about and accelerating at different points, it allowed a few riders to get back on."
Stage 9 highlights: Brutal day as Hindley surprises, Yates cracks and Lopez survives
Romain Bardet (Team DSM)
Bardet has carried the weight of French cycling on his shoulders for some time now, and has often failed to live up to the hype, but arrived at the Giro on the back of an impressive win at the Tour of the Alps.
"There were no questions coming in from me because he won the Tour of the Alps and looked really good coming into the Giro," said McEwen.
"He looks to be back to the Romain Bardet of around four years ago where he was on Grand Tour podiums. So I was enthusiastic about his chances coming into this Giro.
"It’s good to see nine days in, the favourites go and he’s right there and then attacks over the top as well. So it’s really good signs for the Frenchman, it’s a good show of confidence from him that he feels that good and he knows he’s going well."
Jai Hindley (Bora-hansgrohe)
Hindley was cruelly denied a maiden Grand Tour GC triumph on the final stage of the 2020 Giro. He began the defining time trial in pink, level on time with Tao Geoghegan Hart after more than 85 hours of racing, but could not match the Brit's pace in the final chapter as he finished runner-up in the most unpredictable of races.
"I’m just incredibly pleased for Jai Hindley," said Lloyd.
"It was like that tough second album for him last year, a lot of speculation, a lot of attention on him that he didn’t have before. So to bounce back like he has this year… seriously impressive."
Juan Pedro Lopez (Trek-Segafredo)
So could Lopez win the whole thing?
“I still don’t think so. He was up there in the general classification of the Vuelta last year [in 13th] but with that lost 31 minutes to Primoz Roglic," said Lloyd.
"He’s a young rider so he’s still got room for improvement, I’m sure he is a slightly better rider than he was back then, but the likelihood is once we get into the third and final week of the race there will be one of those stages with multiple back-to-back mountains where he will lose a big chunk of time.
"And he has gone very deep to defend that [pink jersey] today."
‘I lost my mind’ – Lopez admits he angrily threw a bottle at rival at Giro d’Italia
- - -
Stream the Giro d'Italia live and on-demand on discovery+. You can also watch all the action live on eurosport.co.uk.