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Giro d’Italia rest day recap 1: Hungary for more

Hungarian Giro stages are like buses, you wait years for one and then three come at once

Will Strickson
9 May 2022

The word ‘whet’, says Google, comes from the Old English word hwettan – related to the German wetzen – meaning ‘to sharpen’, as in a blade. Although that meaning is retained in the definition of ‘whet’, it’s more commonly used for the phrase ‘whet your appetite’.

Friday saw the start of the 105th Giro d’Italia, one of cycling’s greatest races and definitely one of the three best Grand Tours. This time La Corsa Rosa began in Hungary – after Covid pushed back initial plans for the central European country to host the La Grande Partenza in 2020 – with three stages before an rest day for travel. And that’s why we are where we are today.

Stage 1: Multiverse of madness

Photo: Chris Auld

The first stage was a 195km effort from the capital of Budapest to Visegrád. Flat for the majority with a 5km kicker at the end, it was one for the puncheurs and had been hyped up as such since the route was officially announced last year.

Bagging the first maglia rosa of the Giro has recently become a tradition for Filippo Ganna, with Ineos Grenadiers’ force of nature having swept up the last few prologues, but with this route the opportunity was there for a new type of rider to make their mark on the race out of the gates.

Cue three of the hottest names in the entire sport: Biniam Girmay, Caleb Ewan and Mathieu van der Poel duking it out at the death. 

One young, versatile rider capable of getting up minor climbs and sprinting with the best, carrying the hopes of the sport’s future. One certified super-sprinter, insanely talented but hampered by crashes and underachieving leadout trains. One Mathieu van der Poel, favourite to get his second Grand Tour stage and leader’s jersey at the second time of asking.

Following a breakaway consisting of two Italian riders from Drone Hopper-Androni Giocatolli, it was as you were coming into the final climb. Lawrence Naesen attacked to nothing, Lennard Kämna attacked for a long shot and Wilco Kelderman led out the sprint once Kämna was caught. The kind of predictable chaos that makes Grand Tour racing so good.

And so it went. Caleb crashed, Biniam’s stock rose even further and Mathieu Mathieued, gurning like it was Manchester in the 90s and completely emptying the tank for the stage win to the point that he wasn’t even able to celebrate on the line.

Stage 2: Epilogue

Photo: Giro d'Italia

Stage 2 was the race’s first time-trial, 9.2km through the cobbled streets of Budapest, finishing with a climb that would put the GC cat among the TT pigeons.

It was meant to be a prologue back in 2020, but it got switched to Stage 2 for the betterment of the spectacle in 2022, with the riders contesting the stage win largely coming towards the end rather than spread out over the day.

Early on the time-triallists did their thing, Alex Dowsett and Jos van Emden having their time in the hot seat before Tom Dumoulin set the benchmark for the business end of proceedings.

Then came Simon Yates, the Bury man tipped by some wise journalists to win the overall title this year, in a very expensive new skinsuit. An underrated TTist, overlooked by many as just a climber given his abilities elsewhere, Yates stormed the course and the uphill finish brought him home five seconds up on the windmill.

Stage 1’s top-placed riders came and went before only Van der Poel was left to potentially beat BikeExchange-Jayco’s long-suffering leader. Three seconds was the difference on the line, keeping MVDP in pink but giving Yates the stage and some valuable seconds in the race for GC.

Stage 3: La capra

Photo: Giro d'Italia

The final Hungarian stage was a 201km affair from Kaposvár to Balatonfüred. A sprint stage for Ewan to get his revenge, or Arnaud Démare to return to form, or Phil Bauhaus to make the step up to the biggest stage, or Fernando Gaviria to bring UAE non-Pog success, or Giacomo Nizzolo to save Israel-Premier Tech’s season, or Cees Bol to not be rubbish, or Mathieu van der Poel to sprint prove his worth as a leadout man.

All that was possible. And after the breakaway was pegged back and minor sprint and KOM points were dished out to riders who won’t win those competitions, the sprint did come.

But among the organised chaos emerged Michael Mørkøv. And from the wheel of Mørkøv came Mark Cavendish, the comeback king, the myth, the greatest of all time?

From 300 metres out Cav took the front and there was no danger. Nine years after his last appearance, and amidst a conversation about QuickStep Alpha Vinyl’s Tour de France plans, the Manx Missile took victory at the Giro.

What next?

Photo: Chris Auld

As the Giro leaves Hungary for Italy, the knives are out. Riders and teams are wondering where their wins will come from, and in some cases how they will secure their WorldTour status next season.

Does Ewan have a long term future at Lotto Soudal? Do Israel-Premier Tech have a long term future? Do Alpecin-Fenix know who their best sprinters are? How is Guillaume Martin already over a minute down?

While the opening three stages contained a lot of waiting, be it for the finale drama or for the time-trial tension, appetites and blades are whet and Il Bel Paese awaits.

Lead photo: Chris Auld

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