In recent years, individual time trials have done little to excite fans at grand tours, but the 100th edition of the Giro d’Italia is poised to finish with a race against the clock which could potentially hand the maglia rosa over to one of four riders on the last day. Starting on the famous motor racing circuit of Monza, the stage comprises 29.3km of predominantly downhill racing, concluding at the capital’s extraordinary Duomo di Milano. There is no great amount of technical demands to be negotiated, nor does the topography offer anything in the way of climbs to separate the general classification big names on the last day. Of course, that is not to say it is simply a case of climbing upon the bike and finishing some 29.3.km later with immense ease. A handful of tight turns are present later in the course, which given how hard the frontrunners are expected to be pushing, are always capable of punishing the slightest lapse in concentration when cornering. A total of 75 seconds separates current maglia rosa owner Nairo Quintana, from the chasing pack of Vincenzo Nibali, Thibaut Pinot, Tom Dumoulin and Ilnur Zakarin; these five riders capable of finishing in almost any order after the time trial. Regardless of who does succeed in securing 2017’s centenary edition of the Giro d’Italia, the script for Stage 21 is far from certain.
Tom Dumoulin has had to dig extremely deep in order to limit his losses in this final week of racing, yet has successfully placed himself within touching distance of his first overall grand tour stage victory. Just how much energy he has had to invest is the greatest question mark hanging above him, potentially hampering his efforts here and leaving him just short of the maglia rosa. The Dutchman’s prowess against the clock has been almost unmatchable in recent years, though this course does not provide the rolling terrain and technical nature which has often seen Dumoulin bury his opposition. Regardless, his talent for this discipline is indomitable, and the motivation of winning the pink jersey can only serve has added fuel en route to victory.
Thibaut Pinot produced another aggressive display during yesterday’s stage, culminating in his first Giro d’Italia stage win, as predicted by Spokenforks beforehand. Of those currently challenging for the overall win, Pinot appears to be in the strongest condition in this decisive week of racing and seems the one most likely to overachieve on Stage 21. Despite having previously been seen as a weak time trialist, the French rider has worked hard on this skill, now finding himself as reigning national time trial champion and winner of Stage 3’s individual time trial at 2016’s Tour de Romandie. Though he would favour a route with at least a few hills, being a larger rider could prove beneficial on this flat power based course, a second place finish overall is certainly achievable; perhaps even more.
Vincenzo Nibali did not produce the sort of ruthlessly cunning display which has often seen him snatch victory from the jaws of defeat at major races like these. Now sitting a total of 39 seconds back on race leader Nairo Quintana, he will be looking over his shoulder at Thibaut Pinot and Tom Dumoulin, both of whom could perform strongly enough to push the defending champion off the podium. He has ridden his concluding stages with a cagey mentality, making it difficult to gauge what Nibali might be able to muster with the pink jersey at stake. This course is not well suited to his attributes, yet there should be enough to just about keep his toes upon the Milanese podium.
Nairo Quintana seems the rider most likely to lose out on Stage 21, the Movistar captain far from being enamoured with the rigours of flat individual time trials. The Colombian has not succeeded in using the final mountain stages to build enough of a buffer to his rivals heading into this time trial, now finding himself with Tom Dumoulin and Thibaut Pinot placed within the margin of loss which Quintana is expected to suffer during the final stage. It will be extremely difficult to defend a modest 43″ and 53″ lead to the Frenchman and Dutchman respectively, especially on this mid-distance route, lacking anything resembling favourable terrain for Quintana; slipping off the podium lurks ominously in Milano.
Ilnur Zakarin was a major protagonist yesterday, igniting the fuse upon the final climb of the Giro d’Italia, author of the attack which culminated in Thibaut Pinot winning the stage and Tom Dumoulin losing time to all major rivals. The Russian was a competent rider in time trials earlier in his career, but has now chosen to hone his talents in the mountains instead. Despite this factor, he now looks to be one of the sharpest riders in this final week and will be confident of turning in a performance which harks back to his previous prowess against the clock. It will be difficult to progress further up the general classification on Stage 21, his greatest chance of doing so being a plummeting Nairo Quintana falling down to fifth.
Vasil Kiryienka could prove to be the man to beat on the last stage of the 100th Giro d’Italia, Team Sky having undoubtedly looked after their Belarusian powerhouse with the intention of adding another stage win to their collection. The stoney faced rider will not have to worry about any climbs or particularly technical segments here, focusing instead on generating huge amounts of watts and sustaining them throughout the 29.3km course. He crashed in the final corner of the first individual time trial, yet still held the fastest time for a while and will now likely view that error as motivation to take the win in Milano.
Bob Jungels will be expected to recover the maglia bianca from Adam Yates on the final stage off the Giro d’Italia, the young rider being renowned for his ability against the clock since his early days. Many anticipated that he would begin to diminish in the concluding stages, yet the Luxembourg time trial champion has managed to match the majority of big names when required and may even push for the win here. Though not truly playing to his strengths, he appears comparatively fresh to others, which may prove enough to deliver the victory.
Those who may challenge for the last stage honours on offer at 2017’s Giro d’Italia are Luis Leon Sanchez, Manuel Quinziato, Jos van Emden and Tobias Ludvigsson.
1st Vasil Kiryienka 2nd Tom Dumoulin 3rd Thibaut Pinot
Final General Classification:
1st Tom Dumoulin 2nd Thibaut Pinot 3rd Vincenzo Nibali