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Analysis: How things stand after nine stages of the 2018 Giro d'Italia

How the GC riders have done so far and what they need to do in the race for pink

Joe Robinson
14 May 2018

After nine stages, the Giro d'Italia 2018 has hit its first rest day proper. Technically, last Monday was the first rest day but this was necessary as a result of travelling back to Italy from Israel.

Today, the Giro peloton and their teams will be sipping coffee, riding for recovery and putting together the pieces of Stages 1 to 9.

In the race for pink, there will be mixed emotions as some, notably those from Down Under, will be wondering if a Grand Tour start could be more perfect while those closer to home will be wondering what's gone wrong.

Below Cyclist takes a look at how the General Classification riders have performed so far and what else we can expect before Rome in 12 stages' time.

Froome failing?

The obvious place to start would be with the struggling Chris Froome (Team Sky). Things are not looking good for the four-time Tour de France champion who started the Giro hoping to become only the third rider to hold all three Grand Tour titles simultaneously.

After crashing before the race had even begun, Froome lost time on a pretty standard hilltop finish on Stage 4 to Caltagirone before conceding more seconds on Mount Etna on Stage 6.

He managed to hang in there at Montevergine di Mercogliano on Saturday just gone although did take a uphill spill in torrential rain.

Panic stations would have not been at red after Stage 8, yet after the following day's summit finish atop the Gran Sasso d'Italia, some serious soul searching could be taking place in Team Sky's hotel. 

The long climb saw the race favourites all hit the final 3km in the lead group yet despite no real change in pace or attack, Froome found himself distanced and clearly struggling with the pace set by Mitchelton-Scott.

After then dropping behind a group of domestiques, Froome rolled in 1 minute 7 seconds down on stage winner and race leader Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott). 

At 2 minutes 27 seconds down on Yates it is technically not curtains for Froome - he could recoup much of that time in the Stage 16 time trial - yet it is pretty implausible he will regain the time gaps on the 10 riders ahead of him on General Classification.

It is also worth mentioning that of all his five Grand Tour victories, Froome had taken the leader's jersey by Stage 9.

This begs the question will Froome see the Giro out to the finish and was he ever really racing for the win?

After yesterday, some have expressed the opinion that Froome's intentions were never overall victory at the Giro rather a record-equalling fifth Tour title come July and that it was merely the €1.4million appearance fee that turned Froome's head towards Italy.

This could be a slightly naive opinion. Racing the Giro poses a risk to a fifth yellow jersey whether you are racing for the win or not. The weather in Italy can be terrible and the racing chaotic.

Plus for Froome to race the Giro simply to 'get round' is unlikely. He is, statistically, the greatest Grand Tour rider still active and racing a Grand Tour without the intention of winning really is not in his playbook. 

What is more likely is that a build-up of the mental stress of the ongoing investigation into his adverse analytical finding for salbutamol and the physical stress of racing a third consecutive Grand Tour has breached the dam. 

If Froome continues to lose time, especially on the make-or-break Stage 14 Monte Zoncolan finish, it's hard to see him reaching Rome, with a withdrawal on the final rest day a distinct possibility.

The focus on Froome's failures seems harsh on another British rider who has had the perfect start to a Grand Tour, pink jersey wearer Simon Yates. 

Pretty in pink

An impressive opening time trial was followed by a strong three days in Sicily with the third of these days seeing Yates take pink in a 1-2 finish with teammate Esteban Chaves. On Stage 9, the Bury man solidified his lead winning the stage on Grand Sasso.

So far, Yates has proven to be the strongest climber in the race, firstly with his stage victory and also with the attack on Mount Etna to bridge to Chaves. 

Yates also has the strongest team around him with their presence in the mountains Team Sky-esque at points. Young Jack Haig has been metronomic in his pace setting on the lower slopes while Roman Kreuziger is ever-reliable.

Team Sky will probably be scratching their heads as to why they let Mikel Nieve leave. The Basque rider has been strong for Yates and is proving that he is one of the world's best mountain domestiques. 

Also, it must be mentioned that second to Yates on GC is Chaves who is looking back to his 2016 best and is a perfect foil to other GC hopefuls.

Defence, the best form of attack

Defending champion Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) remains Yates's biggest threat and despite being 38 seconds adrift can be considered as the virtual pink jersey when the 34.2km Stage 16 time trial is taken into account.

Yates has openly admitted he wants around a three minute gap on the Dutchman to be safe, such is the disparity in time trialling ability. 

For Dumoulin, it will be a matter of keeping Yates and Chaves in reaching distance as they hit the steep slopes of Monte Zoncolan next Saturday if any hopes of retaining his Giro title are to remain. 

Unable to rely on his team like Yates or the Astana train, Dumoulin will often be flying solo on any summit finish making him vulnerable to 1-2 sucker punch attacks.

Best of the rest

In terms of the remaining GC hopefuls, some will be content on this rest day while others will not.

Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) has been sprightly if not naive at times, showing gusto to cover attacks with a clear desire for a Stage victory.

Currently in fourth, the Frenchman should continue his fight for pink albeit with a more measured approach.

Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida) has proven there is life in the old dog yet with the 35-year-old just 57 seconds adrift and his climbing as good as ever. If he can cling on for dear life in the remaining time trial, a podium spot could be within reach.

Fabio Aru (UAE-Team Emirates) is probably the only true GC rider struggling more than Froome. The Sardinian was first to pop to Gran Sasso and looks more uncomfortable than ever. 

Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) lost time with some unfortunate crashes earlier in the race but can be expected to mature the deeper we go and alongside George Bennet (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Michael Woods (EF-Drapac) should be expected to tough it out for a top 10.