Wednesday’s 11th stage of the Giro d’Italia was the second consecutive day of extremely flat roads. Tuesday’s pan flat route, the first stage following Rest Day 1, featured a mere 155 vertical metres, the least of any stage in this year’s race. At only 145 km, it was sure to end in a bunch sprint. Nevertheless, ahead of the peloton rolled a breakaway duo including Japanese rider Sho Hatsuyama, this year’s king of the doomed escape.
There have been riders in more escapes than Nippo Vini Fantini-Faizanè’s Hatsuyama in the first half of the 2019 Giro. Wednesday saw the same fugitive trio that lit out for glory on Stage 4–Sho’s teammate Damiano Cima, Marco Frapporti (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) and Mirco Maestri (Bardiani-CSF)–reunite for 442 vertical metres of climbing in 221 km, making it a third break for all three. Some breakaways have succeeded. Fausto Masnada (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) and Pello Bilbao (Astana) both won stages from breakaways. The pink jersey, Valerio Conti (UAE-Emirates), seized the race lead via an escape. But none of these riders are the master of the futile gesture like Sho Hatsuyama.
You see, Hatsuyama distinguishes himself not just for Tuesday’s bound-to-fail partnership with Luca Covili (Bardiani-CSF), but also for the gumption of his solo breakaway on Stage 3. Two days after compatriot and teammate Hiroki Nishimura became the only rider to finish outside the time limit on the opening stage, Sho attacked in the first kilometre and enjoyed his own company for 145-km until capture.
— Giro d'Italia (@giroditalia) May 13, 2019
One wonders is Sho sang to himself, like French long range solo attacker Jacky Durand used to. However, Durand–like later French buccaneer Thomas Voeckler–was out to achieve something tangible, a win or a jersey. Masnada, Bilbao, Conti and current mountains classification leader Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) attacked in larger groups in hope that there would be some kind of reward for their efforts. Sho Hatsuyama knows he’s going to receive nothing but screen time for his team. After Stage 3 he told Velon CC, “The TV show me all day . . . it’s nice for me.”
And this is why the Pro Continental wild card teams do the yeoman’s job of working the breakaways, to fly their flags. Eleven stages in, with Pro Conti teams making up just under 19 percent of the peloton, they’ve provided around 50 percent of the fugitives. Outside of Masnada’s victory there has been little glory. Just attention.