A NEW GENERATION IS BORN
The 100th edition of the Giro d’Italia came to a thrilling climax on Sunday and it’s already being talked up as one of the more exciting Grand Tours in recent memory. It had everything; controversy, drama, crashes, surprise, fury, disappointment and elation, all packed tightly into a three-week block. One of the key talking points has been the youth of the stage winners and dominant riders in the race. Though it hasn’t broken any records for the average age of victory, some sort of shift occurred during the Giro as it became clear that a new generation of superstars had arrived to threaten the incumbent favourites.
It all started at the very beginning with the surprise solo victory of Lukas Pöstlberger on a stage which should have been contested by the sprinters. It was a day dominated by the exploits of Pöstlberger’s Bora-Hansgrohe team, the strength in depth of one of the newest WorldTour teams was laid out for all to see. With marquee riders Peter Sagan and Rafal Majka racing in California and earmarked Giro leader Leopold König sidelined by injury, the German outfit sent a young team fixed on riding for stage wins with fast men Sam Bennett and Matteo Pelucchi in their ranks. Though they weren’t able to add to their stage one win, Sam Bennett came close on a number of occasions, and the whole team performed admirably on the world stage.
Elsewhere in the ranks of Specialized riders, the Quickstep Floors team maintained their characteristically dominant form carried through from the Spring. Quickstep sent a team that could cover all quarters during the Giro with no less than three debutants. Ordinarily, riders on their maiden voyage into riding Grand Tours would be given a fairly short list of instructions that might include, “stay safe, help the team, get in a breakaway, make it to the finish.” The Quickstep boys, however, are never ones to come quietly.
It was a bumpy start for Fernando Gaviria, twenty-two years old, and riding his first Grand Tour with a mouthful of braces. After a bumpy start, the Colombian sprinter and his team executed a tactically perfect attack to steal the win out from under the sprinters’ noses in the crosswinds into Cagliari. This first win opened the flood-gates and by the end of the second week, he had added three more to his record book and wrapped up the ciclamino jersey of the points classification. With Gaviria on form, those around him paled into insignificance, André Greipel included. The young Colombian made it look so easy. His exploits at the Giro d’Italia have set sprinters the world over to quaking in their boots. All except Marcel Kittel, who, while they’re on the same squad, will never come up against the newest kid on the block.
With his first ever stage win at his first ever Grand Tour, Gaviria also claimed the pink jersey of the race leader. He could not be expected to hold on to it though with a summit finish on stage 4. But if you know you’re going to lose the jersey, who better to pass it on to than your teammate? Bob Jungels is the team’s young GC hopeful who last year won the Best Young Rider’s white jersey after spending four days in pink. At this year’s 100th edition, he looks like he has made great improvements to his climbing legs, only suffering badly on stage 9 to Blockhaus. By doubling up in the white jersey competition, Jungels confirms that he is waiting in the wings for a big victory. He is a rider like Dumoulin who had to turn himself from a time triallist into a climber in order to compete in the GC, and there’s no reason why Jungels could not do the same.
These riders are no longer ones to watch, they have arrived, and they are here to threaten the sitting champions. The next few years will be exciting for these riders and as long as they ride Specialized, we’ll be keeping a close eye.
Images - Brakethroughmedia
Bikes featured throughout the competition -
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