After the Giro d’Italia time trial in Budapest on Saturday, Ineos Grenadiers celebrated a remarkable show of collective strength which saw them place four riders in the top 20 and once again on Mount Etna, rather than an individual success, the British team achieved another impressive powerful group performance.
Sicilian-born former Giro d’Italia leader Salvatore Puccio and British national champion Ben Swift did much of the groundwork keeping the 14-day break within acceptable distance in terms of time, then Jhonathan Narvaez, Pavel Sivakov and Richie Porte picked up the pace in the group on the steepest sections of the climbs.
Finally, Richard Carapaz provided the most publicized run for the Ineos Grenadiers team when his searing late acceleration stretched the GC group within sight of the finishing gantries, but not to breaking point.
But as the Ecuadorian commented afterwards, it was the team’s performance that really impressed on the Etna stage.
“Today was harder than it looked, the heat complicated things at the beginning and the pace was quite difficult at the end,” Carapaz told Italian television RAI when told. asked what their strategy was and whether he expected riders as important as former Giro winner Tom Dumoulin. (Jumbo-Visma) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana Qazaqstan) retired.
“What my team did was very important and I’m very happy with the way they did it. It was what we wanted as a team.”
In what was the only real effort by either side of the GC contenders to toughen up the pace behind the break, Ineos Grenadiers’ move eventually saw Porte move into ninth place overall at 2-04 on the new leader Juanpe López (Trek-Segafredo), with Carapaz just behind at 2-06 in 11th.
When asked if his own performance and the loss of Miguel Angel López and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana Qazaqstan) and Dumoulin had reinforced his condition as a heavy favorite, Carapaz dodged the question and replied simply “I am here to win, and there are hard days ahead.”
His teammate Castroviejo revealed that their strategy was not so much open aggression as establishing a steady pace and seeing how that affected the rest of the field.
“It was more of a defensive tactic than an attack because we always saw someone crack on Etna and we saw how Dumoulin suffered this time,” he told reporters.
The decision to pick up the pace had been more impulsive than a previously devised strategy, he said, as “Richard felt good on stage and I was personally happy with that too, because I didn’t compete since Volta a Catalunya so I was very happy with what I could do.”
“We did what we had to do, it wasn’t really planned, but Richard is obviously in good shape and confident so it was good to see,” Richie Porte added to reporters on arrival. “We can take confidence from what we did as a team because we all did our part. It’s a good sign.”