When one comes to these shores, one smells history, great challenges, duels and battles.

The Dolomites are the quintessential cycling location: the immense effort of the riders plunged in a unique scenario which will crown them winners or losers, but however it goes, it will win them a place in people’s hearts.

And today, climbing towards Coi and the Val di Zoldo, it all came down to Italy vs France, an old school challenge. Indeed, there was the reigning Italian champion, Filippo Zana, with Tricolore in full view, and the most beloved Frenchman among Italians (not easy!), Thibaut Pinot, the tragic hero best represented by his famous “only victory is beautiful” tattoo.

However, unfortunately for him, similarly to Crans-Montana, the uphill sprint rewarded his rival, Zana, who took his first victory at the Giro d’Italia, as well as his first since he conquered the Tricolour jersey a year ago. If the spectacle was not lacking among the riders at the front, the same can be said for GC men.

We sort of saw it coming, didn’t we? 

Primož Roglič was not going to let his rivals take all the glory after his difficulties on Monte Bondone, and likewise the Maglia Rosa Geraint Thomas and João Almeida were not going to be content with the meagre 25 seconds they gained on the Trentino mountain.

That was only the first battle, and today came the second. If Roglič twisted his mouth on Tuesday, today it was Almeida’s turn: the Portuguese struggled after the Slovenian’s attack as he climbed towards Coi but, thanks in part to the invaluable support of Jay Vine, managed to limit the damage well in turn.

Tomorrow, however, with Passo Campolongo, Passo Valparola, Passo Giau and Passo Tre Croci before the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, the Dolomites could present a heavier bill.

It is useless to beat around the bush, the uphill time trial of Mount Lussari is an unknown for everyone. It is hard to figure out who will gain and who will lose among the three musketeers who will more than likely play for the Giro d’Italia victory. Which means tomorrow’s stage becomes the last chance to hit Lussari with some more certainty and avoid the Russian roulette of the unprecedented Friuli climb. Bottom line: it’s now or never. – www.giroditalia.it

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