Patrick Lefevere described the Monte Lussari mountain time trial as “a circus,” saying he was “300% against” the course design, yet the riders who raced up the 15% slopes and emerged at the stunning sanctuary loved every moment.
The stage also produced a dramatic finale to the 2023 Giro d’Italia as Primož Roglič did enough to take the maglia rosa from Geraint Thomas.
“Look around! It’s not a circus, it’s amazing,” Alessandro De Marchi (Jayco-AlUla) told Cyclingnews after his ride.
Born locally, De Marchi waved and pointed his finger to the enthusiastic crowds who cheered Roglič to victory and every rider up the climb.
“Everybody is enjoying a nice and different day at the Giro,” De Marchi added.
Aurélien Paret-Peintre (AG2R Citroën), winner of stage 4 to Lago Laceno, enjoyed a final day of suffering in the Giro d’Italia. His 15th place on the stage was enough to secure 15th overall.
“It was a nice time trial,” the Frenchman said. “The course wasn’t more demanding than a ‘normal’ time trial, the power was the same.”
Paret-Peintre praised Giro d’Italia organisers RCS Sport.
“The stage organisation was very different to what we’d heard three weeks ago. It wasn’t ‘folklore’. The zone of bike change was well organised,” he said.
“It was an incredible course, it’s good we can have it,” echoed his countryman Thomas Champion (Cofidis), who sat on the hotseat early in the day. He is set to win the most aggressive rider prize in this year’s Giro after going on the attack for an incredible 785km in five long breakaways.
“The Italian and Slovenian tifosi were on fire. This is the style of route and ambiance we expect from a real Giro,” he said.
Early race leader Andreas Leknessund (Team DSM) is convinced that very steep time trials “have a place” in a Grand Tour.
“Riders have to handle different kinds of stuff, and this is part of it,” he said, moving up from ninth to eighth with another good performance on the stage 20 time trial.
“You don’t know how to expect so late in the race, you don’t know the numbers you can push, this is what makes it even more interesting,” he said.
Sepp Kuss, a teammate of Roglič, celebrated a special day for Jumbo-Visma. He finished a strong sixth on the stage and then sat and watched Roglič take control of the maglia rosa.
“Everybody was waiting for this time trial, they knew how important it would be,” the American told Cyclingnews.
“It’s such a beautiful place, so I enjoyed the sufferfest.”