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Giro d’Italia review: Where Jai Hindley won the race & breaking down if Ineos blew it

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After having a few days to ponder Jai Hindley’s stunning, but extremely well-earned, overall Giro d’Italia victory, I wanted to go back through the defining stages to break down where exactly he won the three-week race over Ineos’ Richard Carapaz.

At first glance, Ineos and Richard Carapaz had the win in their grasp, only to crater inside the final two kilometers of the final mountain stage. But under closer inspection, this isn’t the case since Hindley’s stage 20 climbing performance wasn’t particularly shocking, and Ineos potentially even walked into a trap by riding extremely defensively despite holding the race lead by a razor-thin margin for the final week.

To help us digest the end result, and attempt to understand what exactly happened and where mistakes/winning moves were made, I’ve isolated every stage where the top three won/lost time relative to each other and how much time they won/lost.

Where the Top Three Won/Lost Time (w/time bonuses):

Stage 1 (Uphill finish)
Carapaz +0
Hindley +4
Landa +4

Stage 2 (Time Trial)
Carapaz +0
Landa +5
Hindley +6

Stage 9 (Mountain Summit Finish)
Hindley +0
Carapaz +5
Landa +10

Stage 11 (Sprint Stage)
Carapaz +0
Hindley +3
Landa +3

Stage 14 (Hilly Stage)
Hindley +0
Carapaz +1
Landa +43

Stage 16 (Mountain Stage)
Hindley +0
Carapaz +4
Landa +4

Stage 17 (Mountain Stage)
Hindley +0
Carapaz +0
Landa +6

Stage 20 (Mountain Summit Finish)
Hindley +0
Landa +49
Carapaz +1’28

Stage 21 (Time Trial)
Carapaz +0
Hindley +7
Landa +1’40

Hindley vs Carapaz Course Type:
Time Trials (2): 13-seconds Carapaz
Hilly Stages (1): 4-seconds Carapaz
Major Mountain Stages (1): 88-seconds Hindley
Time Bonuses (4): 7-seconds Hindley

Takeaways:

The race was won in the mountains

  • Hindley/Carapaz Time Difference per Stage Type
    Major Mountain Stages 12.5-seconds per stage
    Time Trials: 6.5-seconds per stage
    Time Bonuses: 1.75-seconds Hindley
    Hilly Stages: 1.5-seconds per stage

    • I only counted time bonus stages where either Hindley or Carapaz took time
  • If we add up the total time taken over the number of stages that featured these types of stages, we can see the weighted importance of each stage type. A simple glance tells us that the mountain stages, and in particular, stage 20, played a massive role in the final GC time gap.
  • But it also tells us that Ineos and Carapaz likely underutilized the early hilly stages and were far too conservative in not battling it out for stage win time bonuses. After all, this is how Roglic and Jumbo beat Carapaz at the 2020 Vuelta a Espana despite not being as strong in the third week and completing the course slower than Carapaz.

Jai Hindley is an elite watt-per-kilo performer (aka climber)

  • Hindley showed us both in this edition, and back in 2020 when he finished 2nd place, that he can produce historically great climbing times and estimated power to weight numbers.
  • In 2020, he nearly beat Marco Pantani’s record time up Piancavallo while registering some of the best watts per kilos numbers in the sport (6.3 w/kg for 37-minutes)
  • In 2022, he beat Pantani’s on Santa Cristina and threw down an estimated 6.5 w/kg for the final 20 minutes up the Passo Fedaia on stage 20 to drop Carapaz and win the overall.
  • If these numbers mean nothing to you, just know that it puts him on par with the sport’s best climbers and perhaps even equal with Tadej Pogačar’s best performances.

Hindley & his Bora team played the waiting game perfectly

  • Perhaps even more impressive than his peak performances in the high mountains and his day-in-day-out consistency was Bora and Hindley’s patience throughout the three-week race. Despite having the strongest rider in the race, they waited patiently in the weeds, lurking as close as three seconds behind Carapaz for most of the third week.
  • This cagey riding meant that Carapaz and Ineos took the brunt of the stress and leadership responsibility of holding the race lead (and Carapaz spent at least an hour more per day than Hindley dealing with post-race press conferences). The stress, both physical and emotional, of these responsibilities, add up over time and could have played a part in Carapaz’s fatigue and eventual stumble on stage 20.

When we look at the time differences by week and how drastically things swung on stage 20, it seems very likely that it was always Bora’s plan to sit tight until the final few kilometers of the brutally steep Passo Fedaia, which served up a far more difficult challenge than any else faced by the peloton in the final week.

Week 1 (Stages 1-7) Time Difference:
Carapaz took 10-seconds on Hindley

Week 2 (Stage 8-14):
Hindley took 3-seconds on Carapaz

Week 3 (Stage 15-21)
Hindley took 85-seconds on Carapaz

Ineos failed to exploit Jai Hindley’s weaknesses

  • Knowing what we know now, it is clear that Ineos needed to put time into Hindley early in the race yet failed to exploit his weaknesses, which are positioning in bunch sprints, time trials and the nuances of one-day races (Hindley has never won a one-day race while Carapaz is the Olympic road race champion) to accomplish this.
  • For example, Ineos successfully dropped Hindley towards the end of stage 18 after he suffered a flat tire, only to have the 3km overturn the time loss. If they had been more aggressive about pacing towards the end of these stages and attempting to catch out Hindley on the technical finishes, it is possible they could have ‘stolen’ a minute of free time.
  • Also, they must be ruing stages like the hilly transition day on the 7th stage, the Napoli circuit on stage 8, and the Torino circuit on stage 14. Despite the stage to Potenza offering a similarly difficult to control parcours which allowed Carapaz to steal major time on stage 6 at this year’s Volta Catalunya, they rode incredibly defensively through the stage and failed to put Hindley under pressure, and in retrospect, escorted him through one of the only days where they could have taken major time on him.

Time trialing is still key to winning grand tours

  • Despite this Giro featuring seemingly endless third-week mountain stages and only 26-kilometers of individual time trials, they still produced the second most time gained/loss per stage and all but ruled Mikel Landa out of the race for the win. Landa lost almost the entirety of his 2’06 deficit to second place Carapaz in the race’s two time trials (1’45), and over half of his final deficit 3’24 deficit to Hindley.
  • And this is with both Hindley and Carapaz being substandard in grand tours themselves. If Almeida had avoided COVID and been able to finish the race, he could have pulled back close to a minute in the final TT, which would have made it difficult to keep out of the final Maglia Rosa.

Lingering Questions

Will Jai Hindley be able to eventually compete for the win at the Tour de France?

  • In theory, Hindley’s three-week performance means he should be able to compete against Roglič and Pogačar for the overall title at the Tour de France.
  • However, it is important to point out that this Giro perfectly accentuated his strengths and obscured his weaknesses.
  • With a mediocre time trial and lack of experience of success in one-day races/in the crosswinds, it is difficult to imagine him surviving the notoriously chaotic Tour’s sprint and transition stages. And with his time trialing as poor as it is, it is difficult to imagine him hanging close enough to riders like Jonas Vingegaard, Roglič, and Pogačar in the TTs to overtake them on the climbs.

Will Richard Carapaz win another grand tour?

  • Despite a solid run of recent grand tour results (1x win, 2x runner-up, 1x 3rd place), it is worth asking if Richard Carapaz will ever be able to match his performance at the 2019 Giro d’Italia by winning another grand tour. If he couldn’t win a Giro with only 26-kilometers and the sport’s best grand tour contenders not present, it seems a legitimate question to ponder.
  • Also, it is worth asking if he has potentially been miscast as a true grand tour contender and is instead an elite stage hunter and opportunist who has been punching out elite results despite a lack of elite sustained power. After all, his biggest talent is his ability to identify and seize opportunities. For example, he has never won a grand tour after entering as a pre-race favorite and his 2019 Giro win was won off the back of the extremely long leash extended to him due to him being an unknown quantity and the massive amounts of time he gained in mountain breakaways.
  • As we’ve seen at times, and particularly on stage 20 at this Giro, he lacks the sustained power to weight numbers of top-tier contenders while also not being a time-trialing ace. These limitations severely limit his ability to compete against the superior watts per kilo-ists currently winning grand tours.
  • And if we place his grand tour performances so far into the context of Carapaz being an elite punchy one-day racer/stage hunter who is moonlighting as a grand tour contender, these are incredibly impressive results. 

Where does Ineos go from here?

  • The team with the biggest budget in the sport that has made its name winning grand tours has counted on the Giro over the past two seasons to keep its seven-year streak of winning at least a single grand tour alive. Now that they have failed to win the Giro, it seems unlikely they will win a grand tour in 2022, and even more troubling, they no longer have the most talented grand tour riders on their roster.
  • With Egan Bernal’s status after his off-season crash still in question, Tao Geoghegan Hart struggling with consistency, Carapaz not having the watts per kilos/time trial power to compete with the top GT riders, and their Tour de France leader, Adam Yates, not having a grand tour podium on his palmares at 29 years old, the path back to consistently winning three-week races isn’t obvious.
  • And even more troubling and perplexing is their struggles in the transfer market. While they have failed to sign up-and-coming Anglophone riders like Jai Hindley, they are also struggling to retain their current top riders due to a glut of good, but not elite, riders making it extremely difficult to get sure-fire leadership chances in grand tours.