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The archaeology of stage 9.


What wiped out the dinosaurs, the Western Ghats eruptions or the Chicxulub impact event? What cause Rome to decline, Barbarian tribes, overexpansion, or lead pipes? If the theories are constantly  changing, it is because the archaeologists and historians of the Dark Ages who look at such things have no choice but to draw far-reaching hypotheses from inadequate evidence.

Cycling can talk. From a single acceleration in the final 400m, which were as engrossing as any we have seen in the previous 1418.1 km, what lessons are we tempted to learn?

After 207 cold, wet kilometres, with four hard climbs, Ruben Guerreiro (EF1), another wonderful Portuguese talent who no one has made the effort to believe in, took his team’s second stage win of the Giro, and the Maglia Azzurra to boot.

Behind him, a late acceleration by Kelderman (SUN) and Fuglsang (AST) stretched out the group of leaders. Gaps appeared. Kelderman and Fuglsang, 8th and 9th in the stage, gained 14” on Nibali and Bilbao, and 18” on Almeida. Pozzovivo gained 8″ on Nibali and Bilbao.

The effect was that Kelderman leapfrogged Bilbao into 2nd place, Fuglsang, now 6th, moved up to just 4” of Nibali, 5th, and Pozzovivo moved up 2 places into 4th place at 57″. Yesterday, there were 43” between first and second, 48” between first and third, and 59” between first and fourth. Today the equivalent gaps are 30”, 39” and 53″.

What does it all mean? We are left with only questions. Are Almeida’s days numbered? Are Kelderman and Fuglsang now the favourites? Do those 14” mean that Nibali’s expected Giro campaign, and Bilbao’s unexpected one, are fatally flawed? The danger, in cycling, is to be too subtle. After all, thirteen of the top 15 after Etna are still in the top 15, albeit in a slightly different order. Only Caicedo and McNulty have gone, and they lost the crucial time on stage 5 – Caicedo, catastrophically: 25′ of it. McNulty, not so much: 2’14”. He is still very much in contention, just 22” outside the top 15.

Tomorrow’s rest day is likely to re-set everything. Perhaps the dust will settle next week, and a new landscape will emerge.

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