Gestures say it all sometimes and for everyone Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) did not speak to journalists at the finish line of stage 10 of the Giro d’Italia, visually at least the Dutchman seemed to recognize that he was squarely beaten by Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) in the return sprint which decided the day.
Widely named as the favorites for the hard-hitting final with marked similarities to the Tirreno-Adriatico stage he won a few kilometers from Jesi in 2021, Van der Poel and Alpecin-Fenix had lived up to the expectations of the pre- stage as they established. a fierce pace on the short but intense final climb of the Monsano.
But Alpecin-Fenix’s hard work proved so successful that it actually left its own leader isolated on the downhill in a group of some 40 riders, which the team later acknowledged may well have influenced the outcome of the final stage.
Van der Poel made multiple accelerations in the tough downhill finish, but attacks from the GC favorites scrambled the Dutchman’s board and in the final kilometer it was Girmay who opened the sprint for the line.
The Dutchman did his best to get along, but the Eritrean was able to rely on Domenico Pozzovivo for his start and therefore had that extra bit of fuel in the tank. Thus, for the second time in three days, Van der Poel was again forced to admit defeat, and in doing so Girmay secured a historic victory.
After sitting down when he knew his options to duel Girmay had evaporated, Van der Poel then gave a thumbs up in recognition of his rival’s superiority as he crossed the line. Just as sportingly, he then gave Girmay a huge congratulatory hug before leaving.
As in Napoli, Van der Poel did not speak to the media, but Alpecin-Fenix sporting director Christoph Roodhooft later told Italian television “it’s disappointing”.
“What happened was that he was beaten by someone else, there’s nothing to say about that,” Roodhoft continued, before pointing out the lack of support from Van der Poel on arrival. “I think he was fine, but Girmay had teammates with him and Mathieu was alone.
“Unfortunately there is nothing we can do. We will have to see how we continue and see if we can possibly win another stage.
With Wednesday’s flat run to Reggio Emilia likely to go the way for diehard sprinters, Van der Poel’s best opportunities this week will likely come in the hilly Genoa finish on Thursday.
Turin’s tough series of climbs on Saturday is also an opportunity for the versatile Dutchman to shine. But the finish circuit in Turin is so difficult that there is every chance that a GC skirmish will evolve which, as happened on Tuesday just before his final sprint against Girmay, could consequently reduce the options of Van der Poel to claim victory. Alpecin-Fenix, for his part, hopes that this particular sub-plot in recent Giro history will not repeat itself four days from now. But for now at least, Van der Poel will have to wait for another chance to show up.