There were only limited gains and losses in the Giro d’Italia battle for the overall at Roccaraso on Sunday but within those reduced parameters, time-wise Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma) was the pre-race contender who seemed to struggle the most.
In the space of the toughest final kilometre, Kruijswijk slid backwards to the point where he lost 21 seconds to Wilko Kelderman (Team Sunweb) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana Pro Team), and seven seconds to double Giro winner Vincenzo NIbali (Trek-Segafredo).
The 2019 Tour podium finisher slid from eighth to eleventh, in what was by no means a dramatic loss. But to cede any time in the final part of the ascent was not, Jumbo-Visma director Addy Engels agreed, the outcome he had hoped for on Sunday.
“No, for sure,” Engels said in declarations released by the team, post-stage. “The day itself was good, apart from the weather of course.”
“Then that last kilometre to the finish is the kind of effort that normally of course is pretty explosive” – which normally would not favour a ‘diesel’ motor like Kruijswijk – “but after a hard day like this, rather than an easy day and then all out on the final climb … I had hoped for a little bit more.”
Speaking immediately after the stage had ended, Engels said he could not yet pinpoint what had happened to Kruijswijk because he had not yet talked to his top rider. He said he hoped that a day as tough as stage 9, both weather-wise, and in terms of climbing, could have put the Jumbo-Visma leader at an advantage when it came to the steep final ascent.
“Instead, what I saw in the results was that final climb was too explosive for him,” he said.
On the plus side, the gaps are still small and Milan is still a long way down the road, Engels pointed out, and “it’s all within reach, everything is still open.”
“But, specially mentally, this is not the best [scenario], it would have been nice to stay on the wheels of the main contenders and start the rest day like that.”
Overall, Engels recognised, after a very tough opening first segment of the Giro, with three major mountain stages, some hefty transfers and the Giro’s fastest-ever road stage, for most of the peloton, the first rest day could not come soon enough.
“I’ve seen a lot of bad faces in the bunch, it’s been a really hard nine days, long days and if the day spent on the bike was not too long, there’ve been some long transfers afterwards too,” he said.
“The bunch is for sure longing for a rest day and it’s a well-deserved one. It’s very welcome.”