The Giro always offers twists and turns. On Friday, stage 19 was cut by 130 kilometers following a protest from part of the peloton. Due to many factors, this protest got successful and there was therefore only 124 kilometers to cover between Abbiategrasso, the new departure city reached by bus, and Asti. The race got intense for some time as the bunch fought hard against the breakaway. However, a man from the break eventually got the win, namely Josef Cerny. Arnaud Démare safely finished in the bunch a few minutes later with his teammates. He therefore cemented his cyclamen jersey two days before the finish in Milano.

“A stage that will be remembered”, Sébastien Joly

It was to be the longest online stage in the Giro. It was ultimately the shortest. Instead of the 258 kilometers planned between Morbegno and Asti, only 124 kilometers were covered on Friday. This was a consequence of a protest by part of the peloton on the morning of this stage 19. The main arguments were: a too long distance, with heavy rain, after several tough stages and particularly long transfers in the last week. Following an intense debate with the organizer and the commissaires, the riders’ request was eventually accepted. The peloton still rode for a handful of minutes at the start before stopping to wait for the buses that were supposed to bring everyone to the new, long-unknown start location. “The day’s circumstances were I think the last straw for the peloton overall, but I think they reacted too late to show their discontentment,” explained Arnaud Démare. “We’ve known for a while we would have these big days. Personally, I had a goal today, and no matter what happened, I was ready to take the start.” “We completely understand the tough circumstances, but we received the first messages on the matter at 11 pm yesterday”, added Sébastien Joly. “We knew for several days that it was going to rain today, that it was going to be a very tough stage, and we should have taken a step ahead. On our side, we were in the bus at 7.15 am for breakfast. From then on, we were ready to race. There was certainly rain but it was 10-12°C. It was not Milan-San Remo in the snow. It would have been a difficult stage for sure, but it was not an impossible day. We bowed to the decision, but hats off to RCS for being able to adjust”.

An emergency convoy was therefore put in place. Sébastien Joly, who did the transfer from Morbegno to Abbiategrasso with the riders, told more about this few hours: “It was quite long because we were going along the Como Lake. It wasn’t very far, but we weren’t going very fast. The guys got back on the bus, took a shower and got changed. We did some laundry and cooked some rice. They were able to eat and then we gave them the latest info. Jussi [Veikkanen] was in the car listening to Radio Corsa just in case. The important thing in such a moment is not to give contradictory information. The guys then took a nap. An hour before arriving on site, they were all still sleeping. I started waking them 50 minutes before we got there, but they asked me to rest for another 20 minutes, so they woke up for good 30 minutes before. We did a little briefing and re-watched the finish. We talked again and since the stage was shorter, we knew we had to be ready even more straight away. The atmosphere then rose little by little, the music got louder and they were ready to complete this stage. A reduced stage, but one that will nevertheless be remembered”.

“We could have lost a lot”, Sébastien Joly

As soon as this “new” start was given, three men went up in front, and eleven others set off in chase. In the peloton, the Bora-hansgrohe formation immediately made known their intentions by trying to control this 14-man breakaway. “There was a race, of only 124 kilometers certainly, but there was a race anyway”, commented Sébastien. “And there was some action”. For almost an hour and a half, Peter Sagan’s teammates tried to fight the breakaway on their own. The gap came down to thirty seconds at one point but eventually increased beyond a minute and thirty seconds. And so the German team gave up its plans. Gathered around Arnaud Démare at the head of the peloton, the Groupama-FDJ team did not try to go for a sprint today. “We could have lost a lot”, said Sébastien Joly referring to the cyclamen jersey. “Arnaud and Jacopo talked at one point. They were a little frustrated not to go for the stage win. Then Jacopo told us about an Italian saying: “When you want too much, sometimes you lose some”. Today, it was also necessary to be humble and accept this situation. Also, considering the quite rough finish, I think it was the wisest decision. Although it’s a mixed feeling at the finish line, it’s still a good day, mathematically. It was a special day, but a good day. We now have two stages left, we’ll continue to fight and we will take stock in Milano”. Still wearing the cyclamen jersey, which he leads for 37 points over Sagan, Arnaud Démare is now almost sure to get it on Sunday. “We have to finish within the time limit tomorrow, do a good time trial and it will be good,” concluded with a broad smile the French champion, four times winner of this Giro.

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