Valerio Conti should have won a stage in last year’s Giro. He would still have had to get the better of eventual winner Gorka Izagirre and two other high-calibre breakaway companions, but when he wiped-out attacking through a hairpin bend on the final climb to the finish in Peschici, all he took away from the stage were some wounds to lick.
An aggressive rider who attacks with confidence, especially when the road goes upwards, it was little surprise to see the Vuelta stage winner go up the road as the finish approached on stage four of this year’s Giro. What impressed, however, was for how long the move endured ahead of a ravaging peloton, nervous about gaps opening on the tricky run-in and sniffing an opportunistic stage win.
The UAE-Emirates rider went clear following a move from Wilier’s Enrico Zardini as the road reared up with a little over 10km to go. But the moment his compatriot’s presence became burdensome, Conti kicked again on the front, shook him off and settled into a rhythm that saw him open enough of a gap for officials to briefly plonk a car in. It was also enough to stir Carlton Kirby into a frenzied ball of excitement – although we’re not sure that’s a measure of much.
It’s not often you’ll see a lone rider pull open such a gap on a peloton in the closing throes of a race, and for his effort we’re going to award him Rouleur’s first pink banana of the 2018 Giro.
For a while, and as the Eurosport commentator justifiably speculated, it looked like Conti might just defy the odds and land himself the bigger prize of a stage. But a hungry peloton has an insatiable appetite for time gap and after Lotto Fix-All and Bahrain-Merida threaded the bunch through the streets of Caltagirone, Conti was caught around the 3km mark.
He’ll get his Giro stage one day.
More sporadic than our Tour de France Top Banana competition, the Rouleur Pink Banana goes to an unsung hero of any stage of the Giro d’Italia we feel like awarding it on