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David L. Stanley
2021 Giro d'Italia Headline:
Tutti Ave Riccardo Minali!

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David L StanleyDavid Stanley is an experienced cycling writer. His work has appeared in Velo, Velo-news.com, Road, Peloton, and the late, lamented Bicycle Guide (my favorite all-time cycling magazine). Here's his Facebook page.

His Latest work is voicing and producing the audiobook versions of Bill & Carol McGann's "The Story of the Tour de France". The second volume just went live.

You can get all three versions of "The Story of the Tour de France" volume two print, eBook and Audiobook here.

And if you'd like to start at the beginning (a very good place to start), here's "The Story of the Tour de France" volume one.


Riccardo Minali (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), a 26-year-old Italian from Isola della Scala, is a remarkably good bicycle stage racer. Isola della Scala, a lovely spot in the Veneto, is famed for its risotto. But I digress.

Ricardo Minali

Ricardo Minali winning stage two of the 2018 Tour de Langkawi

You probably don’t recognize his name - Riccardo Minali. His father, Nicola Minali? Him you probably remember. Pops was a top-shelf rider, most notably with Gewiss-Ballan, in the 1990s. A strong finisher, he won 12 stages in the Grand Tours, and twice won Paris-Tours.

Perhaps you are familiar with some other men also born in Isola. Eros Poli? Elia Viviani? Those ragazzi you know? Good.

Signore Minali finished dead last in this year’s Giro d’Italia. That is a remarkable achievement.

Let me tell you about Riccardo Minali and the 2021 Giro d’Italia.

Riccardo is not, by  most sporting definitions, a winner. A full-fledged pro since 2017, he’s won twice: stage victories in the Tour de Langkawi. He has a handful of podium places. In 2018, he was 5th in the Gran Piemonte, a top-shelf race won by Sonny Colbrelli. Yet, when you study his palmares, you see plenty of results in the 50s, 60s, and beyond.

Riccardo Minali

And here is Minali winning 2018 Tour de Langkawi stage four.

This year’s Giro d’Italia was brutal. An immense number of difficult climbs and descents were on offer. The weather was often more fitted for a Belgian spring cobbled classic than a May Grand Tour.  Rider safety was an issue from Day One with horrible crashes due to road furniture, lackadaisical support drivers, and fans with chainsaws.

Riccardo Minali survived.

This being 2021, the Covid-19 pandemic hung over the race as well. Italy was hit early and hard by the pandemic. With a population of 60 million people, Italy has lost nearly 112,000 lives to the virus. Fortunately, within the race bubble, Covid was not a major factor in race retirements. Still, each day saw the “retired” list grow. 23 teams with 184 racers started the race in Turin. Only 143 riders made it to the finish 23 days later, in Milan.

Riccardo Minali made it to Milan.

What’s it take to merely make the team for a race like the Giro? For 2021, there are 198 UCI-registered men’s pro teams across the levels of the sport. For discussion, let’s say, on average there are 15 riders per team. That’s around 3,000 riders. Out of those 3,000, perhaps 150 of them did not have the Giro on their race calendar. They were going to ride the Tour de France only. Or perhaps a three week Grand Tour was too much for them based on age or fitness. Many riders don’t ride for teams strong enough to be considered for a Giro invitation. But that doesn’t mean the individual riders aren’t busting out to get on a team that is qualified. Ergo, 2,850 riders would’ve slayed themselves for their team leaders as gregarios for a place on a Giro team.

Riccardo Minali made the his squad’s Giro team.

This year’s Giro covered 3,411 km (2132 miles) over 21 stages. Egan Bernal (INEOS Grenadiers) covered that distance in 86 hours, 17 minutes. That is an average speed of 39.6 KPH (24.75 mph). That’s fast. Riccardo Minali’s job was not to win the race. As a gregario (worker bee), his job was to work every day to put team leader Jan Hirt (CZE) into the best possible position. Minali was successful in his job. On the Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux team’s first appearance in a Grand Tour, Hirt finished in 26th place, a more than decent showing for a young team. Minali finished 5 hours and 35 minutes behind maglia rosa Bernal.

A little math(s). Riccardo finished 5.5 hrs behind. Average speed of 40 kph. That’s 220 km. Over 21 days, that’s 10.5 km/day. In other words, Minali would shelter his leader from the wind, fetch bottles, take his wet weather gear back to the car, close down attacks, pull his leader across the gaps, and do all the work that is expected of the gregario. As the stage closed down, he’d sit up, pedal at his own pace with the other gregari, and begin the recovery process to do the same again the next day. That found him falling, on average, 15 minutes behind the leader each day after 4-6 hours of exhausting work.

Riccardo Minali

Riccardo Minali heads down the Passo Giau in stage 16 of the 2021 Giro d'Italia. Sirotti photo.

Riccardo Minali finished, and come morning, started every stage of the race.

A quick word on Egan Bernal. With his victory in the 2021 Giro d’Italia, he joined a select group.

These are the men who won both the Giro and the Tour by the age of 25. That is the man, Egan Bernal, he and his Grenadiers, who drove relentlessly at the front of the 2021 Giro d’Italia for most of May.

Riccardo Minali finished a mere 6% behind one of the finest stage racers of this era.

In the Tour de France, the man who finishes last is the “lanterne rouge” after the red light that hangs on the back of a train’s caboose. Perhaps the last man standing at the Giro could be the Lanterna Rossa: the red light of a man who makes certain that all ahead of him reach the finish safely.

Complimenti e congratulazioni, Signore Riccardo Minali! Let’s recalculate the algorithm that defines “a winner.” Only a very few, the toughest of the tough, could possibly accomplish what you did over three weeks in May.


David Stanley, like nearly all of us, has spent his life working and playing outdoors. He got a case of Melanoma as a result. Here's his telling of his beating that disease. And when you go out, please put on sunscreen.

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