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Revolution in a land of volcanoes


In 1968 a tiny country town was founded in Carchi province, northern Ecuador and baptised Santa Marta de Cuba in honour of the Cuban revolution, then at its height. Jonathan Caicedo, inevitably nicknamed el cubano, became its most famous son today by winning stage 3 on Mount Etna. He joined Richard Carapaz as Ecuador’s second Giro stage winner. Carapaz, who grew up 40 km from Santa Martha, won one stage in 2018 and two last year, on his way to overall victory. The two men were team-mates as juniors in Ecuador and under-23s in Colombia.

Behind Caicedo, a revolution in expectations took place. It started in the neutralised section where the hot favourite to win the Giro, Geraint Thomas, hit a bidon in the road and crashed heavily.  The peloton stopped to wait for him at km 0. On the lowest slopes of Etna, Ganna, Dennis and Puccio dropped back to help his as he lost ground, to no purpose: the Welshman eventually finished 12’19” behind Caicedo, his hopes of overall victory in pieces, like his shirt.

Mitchelton-Scott pulled the peloton for most of the stage, to deliver Simon Yates to the foot of the volcano where he finished second to his team-mate Esteban Chaves, and took the Maglia Rosa, in 2018. But, inside the final 10 km, the boy form Bury dropped out of the lead group and began to lose ground. He finished the stage 4’22” down, dropping from 8th to 25th place.

Fuglsang, Majka, Pozzovivo and Kruijswijk all finished within a minute of Caicedo, as well as the two Sicilians Visconti and Vincenzo Nibali. Like Caicedo, they come from a land of volcanoes: Etna stands over a point where crustal material has started to descend within the mantle of the earth, creating above it a depressurised region that causes the mantle to melt. Hence the voluminous lavas that keep Etna active.

But the depressurised region in the Giro surrounds João Almeida (DQT). Reflecting on his second place in the opening time trial, he said this morning: “It gives me confidence and motivation, but I don’t have great expectations, so I’m not stressed. I’ll just try my best, and hopefully finish with the first group today.” He finished eleventh, 12 seconds behind the Nibali-Fuglsang group, but ended the day on exactly the same second as Caicedo. When the fractions of a second won and lost in the time trial were counted, Almeida became the second Portuguese Maglia Rosa after Acacio da Silva, who also took the jersey on Etna, in 1989.

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