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Stage 20: “Che sarà sarà.” What will be, will be.

24/10/2020

Raise your ambitions, seek out new goals: these are the catchphrases of a certain type of culture cultivated by sports. Not the timeless contemplation of the peasant farmer, but the breathless flux of cosmopilitan aspiration. What is it Team Sunweb say? Keep challenging.

Jai Hindley and Tao Geoghegan Hart certainly are, with the effect that yet another Grand Tour is on the brink of being won by the best young rider. Before the stage, Jai, second at 12” from the Maglia Rosa, his team-mate Wilco Kelderman, said, “Usually I like the steeper climbs, but for us today I think it could play in our favour for riding a bit more defensive and trying to keep the jersey.”

Tao, 3rd at 15”, described it as “a super stage for Plan B.” He might have said Plan D for, eclipsed by Filippo Ganna in the time trials, Rohan Dennis has reinvited himself as a Wout Van Poel-type climber, using sustained power to asphyxiate the more specialised climbers on his wheel. Two days ago he mounted an exhibition on the Stelvio. On the final two climbs of Sestriere this afternoon, he repeated it. And, having reduced his own bubble to a miniture household of the same three riders – himself, Geoghegan Hart and Hindley – he then led them to the front of the race in time for the final intermediate sprint. Jai darted ahead to gain 3 bonus seconds, with Tao on his wheel. That extended the Western Australian’s overall lead to 4 seconds.

This time, the slenderness of Kelderman’s pre-stage lead did not allow Hindley to sit on Geoghegan Hart’s wheel. Thinking he detected fatigue in the Londoner’s impassive features, Hindley sprinted with 3.4 km, 2.5 km and 1.3 km to go, trying to shake him off. But Geoghegan Hart stayed close, and won the sprint that counts, the final one, to take the 10 bonus seconds on the line. Hindley, second, took 6”, putting them, incredibly, in the same time with one stage to go. Never since its creation in 1909 has the Giro been so close going into the final stage, to whit, in this case, a 15.1 km time trial, flat as the surface of the Navliglio canal it follows.

Thumbing its annals for clues about what might happen tomorrow, the cycling world quickly noticed that Tao took 1’15″ out of Jai over 34.1 km in the Stage 14 time trial last week, and, at the Tour of California time trial in 2018, 2’45” over 34.5 km. Tomorrow, of course, the routes, distances and, above all, the race circumstances were very different.

Not for the protagonists the futile struggle to see around the corner of time. Tao said after the stage, “I showed my TT legs in the last TT and we’ll see what happens tomorrow. It’s a race so we’ll give everything and what will be. will be.”

Jai was the same, ‘I’m going to give it my best tomorrow and see how it goes, but, regardless of the result, I’m happy with how I’ve been riding and I’m super happy with how the team has ridden this Giro.”

They’ve both risen magnificently to the challenge so far. One more day now. one more day.

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