Grand Tours are the only sporting events that are so long, you need a haircut halfway through. An old joke, but true enough to suggest why rest days as necessary to the support staff as they are to the riders.
Another rather hackneyed saying is that sport is a kind of secular religion, which would make rest days are a kind of sabbath, that special day set aside from the working week and dedicated to rest and religious ritual. Except that the great three-week tours invert the calendar: the sacred ritual fills the weekdays, and rest days see the suspension of the venerated activity. It is like a one-day week with six days of rest. Sounds absolutely perfect.
Unlike many rituals, the sporting one is only compelling if it is unpredictable, and this Giro is certainly that. The ‘Eve of the sabbath’ mountain time trial ended with 16/100th of a second separating first and second place. A chasm compared with the 1/100th of a second that separated Dumoulin from Roglic in Apeldoorn, but nonetheless a tiny margin. After Valverde’s capitulation yesterday, Nibali lost time today, and the day ended with Kruiswijk leading Chaves by 2’12” at the top of GC.