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The Colombian stand-off

19/05/2023

Today was one continuous wait. This morning, the weather conditions prompted the riders to ask for a shortening of the stage, which they obtained, which meant we had to wait until 3pm to actually get underway. Then, after a rather explosive start on the Croix de Coeur, we waited impatiently for the ascent of Crans-Montana to see how things would work out between the breakaway men who had rode clear in the first few kilometres – namely, Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), Einer Rubio (Movistar), Valentin Paret-Peintre (AG2R Citroën), Derek Gee (Israel-Premier Tech) and Jefferson Cepeda (EF Education-EasyPost) – and among the big GC names, from whom some action was finally expected.

Up front, despite the impatience and the attacks of a rather nervous Pinot, it all came down to the last thrilling and unpredictable metres, absolutely worth the wait. On the contrary, back in the peloton the wait was in vain, as Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) decided that leaving the Maglia Rosa on the shoulders of Geraint Thomas for a few more days might turn out to be a smart move on the long-run, with Ineos-Grenadiers having to bear the hard work and the mental pressure of being race leaders.

In short, today was a stalemate, a deadlock, a stand-off: the calm before a storm that only partially exploded. Pinot, Cepeda and Rubio did not disappoint, with latter constantly managing to close in on his rivals, who both seemed to have more fuel left. Pinot attacked at least five times on the climb, but always met with a swift response from Cepeda and a steady but reliable one from the Colombian from Movistar.

The more Cepeda returned to Pinot’s wheel, the more exasperated the emotional Frenchman became, a situation which led to even more attacks, most of them without any real logical sense. In the space of a few kilometres, Crans-Montana provided a snapshot of the Pinot’s personality, a temperament that makes him one of the best-loved riders in the peloton: and a very strong one indeed, but perhaps too often prey to his own feelings and impulses. Thus, while Pinot and Cepeda were tearing each other apart – even the Ecuadorian tried a couple of sprints but never managed to shake Pinot off his wheel – Rubio enjoyed his front-row ticket to the show.

Between one skirmish and another, the Colombian managed to stick to his rivals, who did not think much of him, convinced as they were that stage victory would be a matter between the two of them. And the Movistar rider could not have asked for a better deal: all he needed to do was to outfox his former breakaway companions in the final 200 m and take his first victory at the Giro d’Italia, leaving Pinot with a disappointing, yet absolutely respectable, second place.

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