Giro 2022 – Le Blockhaus, finally: the race for the pink jersey really begins

Nine days of waiting. Nine days that we stampeded with impatience. Nine days where the general classification has changed, but where the favorites have not moved an ear. They themselves had said it, like Romain Bardet: “The Blockhaus, at the end of the first week, will be the first revealer“, the Frenchman admitted to us during his visit to the Bistrot Vélo. And that’s it, there it is. The Blockhaus. The first big piece of mountain of this 105th edition of the Tour of Italy.

A very difficult ascent of 13.6km at 8.4%, quite regular in its central part with almost 8 km at more than 10%. It is quite often compared for its profile to Alpe d’Huez, and that says it all about the difficulty of what awaits the riders on Sunday: this climb will change a lot of things. “I think we will see much more clearly on Sunday, after the Blockhouse“, told us our consultant Nicolas Fritsch, in his usual column.

At the Blockhaus, the masks will fall: The profile of the 9th stage

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It must be said that, so far, as we expected and as we had planned, nothing has happened concerning the riders who are aiming for the final victory. There was indeed the time in Budapest but the gaps remained relatively small given the distance (9km). “There has already been Etna but, as we suspected, nothing happenedrecalled Fritsch. I’m not going to say that it’s an uphill false flat, all the same, but it’s a pass where you can’t make big gaps“. Some riders like Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma) or Vincenzo Nibali (Astana Qazaqstan Team) have however already lost all chance there, even if they were not among the favorites, or even outsiders.

Tom Dumoulin (Team Jumbo-Visma) with his head bowed at the finish of the 4th stage of the Giro, May 10, 2022

Credit: Imago

Also losing that day, Guillaume Martin replaced himself this Saturday in 4th place overall after his involuntary breakaway to Naples. The leader of Cofidis admitted having wasted more energy than he would have liked in this 8th stage, where he found himself in the lead without having wanted to. A getaway that could cost him dearly, with the first big mountain stage the day after this ride.

The road to the Blockhaus promises to be complicated from the start with three climbs in the first 38 kilometers and the Lanciano (1st cat) as a warm-up before the Blockhaus. Enough to make the French pay for his efforts, who also fear this scenario. “I hope I won’t waste double the time !”, he said after the finish of the 8th stage. Because, this time, make no mistake, the favorites will fight on the slopes of the Blockhaus. There is no doubt about it.

Martin, 4th overall: “I almost inadvertently found myself in front”

Mission (almost) impossible for Lopez

The favorites will be discovered more than in Etna, where no one attackedbelieves Fritsch. The pass is steeper, the shelter will count less but, above all, Monday will be a day of rest and it will take a week afterwards to find the mountain. So the runners will be more liberated, they will be able to let go more, without a second thought“. And on such a difficult ascent, climbers will be able to have a field day.

In 2017, placed exactly the same day, the Blockhouse had seen Nairo Quintana fly away on its percentages (avoid repetition slopes). The Colombian had won with a 24” lead over Thibaut Pinot and Tom Dumoulin while the 5th in the stage had finished one minute away. Differences that would completely upset the current hierarchy.

“This Giro can be Bardet’s chance of life”

On such a difficult climb, Juan Pedro Lopez (Trek-Segafredo) will have a hard time keeping his pink leader’s tunic. Even if the Spaniard is not the first comer either (13th in the Vuelta last year), he has never managed to stay with the very best in a pass of this difficulty.

He had lost only ten seconds during the first mountain meeting on the Tour of Spain 2021 but the Picon Blanco was twice as short as the Blockhaus (7km against 13.6 on Sunday). To see him lose less than two minutes to the main leaders would be a real achievement. But, even beyond the fight for the pink jersey, the favorites must start thinking about making up time.

Choice time for multiple leaders

Casually, we have to start creating gaps for those who want to win the Giro“, reminded Nicolas Fritsch. And begin to catch up with the seconds conceded in Budapest to a boosted Simon Yates. ‘ on Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates), 24” on Richard Carapaz (INEOS Grenadiers) and 33” on Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious).

It may seem huge, but it’s actually tiny when it comes to tackling one of the toughest climbs of this Giro 2022. Author of a perfect week, Romain Bardet (DSM) overcame the pitfall of the stage of Etna, post-rest, which he greatly feared. But the French ultimately does not know much more about his level vis-à-vis the other candidates.

The course presented by Bardet: “The Blockhouse will be the first revealer”

For a week, the favorites have been patiently waiting for this 9th stage and this first explanation to find out whether or not they can dream of the final victory. And in the end, no one knows anything. Not even, in some formations, who will be the designated leader for the general. Will Bora-Hansgrohe bet on the 2nd of the Giro 2020 Jay Hindley, or on the 5th of the Tour 2021 Wilco Keldermann? Mikel Landa has so far passed between the drops of his usual glitches (falls, etc…) but will the Bahrain-Victorious play his card or that of Pello Bilbao, in form this season?

In 2017, it was precisely on the Blockhaus stage that he was tempted, just before the final climb. What will it be this year? For now, nothing is determined. Nothing is acquired. Any “certainty” of this first week will have to pass to the developer of the Blockhaus. The real lessons of this first week, we will have them on Sunday evening. And, yes, we can’t wait. More and more excited.

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