The first half of the 2019 Giro d’Italia was full of excitement: time trials, crashes, massive bunch sprints, breakaway wins, unexpected drama and more!
Israel Cycling Academy had about as good a start to the Giro as people could expect, earning strong results, working towards their three goals, and avoiding almost entirely crashes and injuries.
Here, I present my 5 biggest takeaways from the first part of this Giro, from the opening time trial in Bologna to the exciting sprint on stage 11.
1. Cimolai Consistent in Sprints
Cimolai has been ICA’s star rider so far this Giro, scoring 5 of the team’s 7 top-10 results. While he hasn’t found the stage win he’s dreaming of, Cimolai has distinguished himself as the “best of the rest” in a field that includes elite sprinters Viviani, Gaviria, Ewan, Démare, and Ackermann.
The team has done a fantastic job of protecting him in the flat stages and positioning him well for the final sprint. The evidence of their efforts and his consistency? He sits within the top 5 on the points classification.
The team is eyeing stage 18 as Cimo’s last chance to get the elusive stage podium. With many sprinters having withdrawn (including Gaviria, Viviani, Ewan, Moschetti and Nizzolo), ICA will favor Cimolai’s chances on a favorable parcours.
2. Near Miss for Plaza
Plaza had ICA’s highest stage result with 4th place out of the breakaway on stage 6. That’s a great achievement for the Spanish veteran, but not the win he needs to complete his trilogy of grand tour stage wins.
Plaza will surely continue to animate breakaways into the mountains, but I wonder whether his best opportunity for a stage win has passed. After all, with the GC fight taking shape, teams are more inclined to chase down breakaways.
If Plaza doesn’t get another chance to take a stage win, he may yet regret missing the decisive move for a long time to come. But I sure hope that’s not the case!
3.Choosing their Battles
One thing that surprised me is ICA’s choice not to contest breakaways on sprint stages. This is a signal of how committed the team is to Cimolai, but these stages are made for Pro Continental teams to go up the road. And after all, one of ICA’s goals for the Giro was to be aggressive.
Getting in early breakaways allows smaller teams to gain visibility and establish early leads on several classifications, including the mountains, intermediate sprints, breakaway, and combativity classifications.
Keeping everyone working for Cimolai was rewarded with his consistent results, but I wonder whether he could have obtained similar results even with ICA getting in the breaks. It doesn’t seem like this will stay the case though, as ICA seems intent to fight for breakaways in the mountains!
4. Guy Niv Looking Solid
One of ICA’s three goals coming into this Giro was getting Guy Niv to the finish in Verona. After compatriot Sagiv finished last year, Niv is looking to become only the second Israeli ever to finish the Giro, or any grand tour for that matter.
And so far, so good! Niv has finished safely ahead of the time limits on all the stages and was at 126th on GC, ahead of some 30-odd riders, after stage 11. Notably, his best finishes have been on the more difficult stages, meaning he is climbing well.
In fact, the entire team has done a good job staying out of trouble, aside from the crashes for Gebremedhin and Boivin on stage 2. ICA is one of only 7 teams to still have all their riders in the race, a good sign for the sought-after stage win and an impressive sign considering the field of World Tour teams!
5. Boy, Is This Team Deep?!
One thing that has impressed me these weeks is how competitive ICA was at several races around the world. It’s true that ICA has the most riders of any professional team, but it is also true that they have a fantastic depth of talent.
ICA sent many of its best riders to the Giro, their most important race of the season. However, we also saw the team simultaneously perform well in California and in Europe.
Even if results don’t come in one race, ICA’s depth ensures there is a competitive lineup in another race somewhere else in the world. Case in point: ICA dominated the recent Tour of Estonia, even while the Giro and Hammer Stavanger were going on.
It is this depth and ability to compete at the highest level in several races at the same time that separates ICA from other Pro Continental teams and is crucial to their bid to joining the World Tour next year.