Winning a stage of the Giro d’Italia is a big deal, an honor, a career highlight, a guaranteed salary booster, a points haul, your ticket to free drinks in any bar in Italy for the rest of your damn life.
With all those goodies on the line, the prestige, the media buzz, the party favors and euro bankroll, we have to ask five guys in the breakaway on today’s Giro stage 11 the same pointed question: WTF?
Seriously, bros? Were you just not up for the win? Got a little leg cramp, ate a bad energy bar, too scared to roll the dice, merely content to roll in 3rd or 4th or 6th and let Russian Ilnur Zakarin take all the glory? This is a sad case of doing 95% of the grunt work and then turning your nose up at the treasure chest. No, sorry, I’m allergic to diamonds.
Here are the suspects: Carlos Betancur (AG2R La Mondiale), Franco Pellizotti (Androni Giocattoli), Benat Intxausti (Movistar Team), Diego Rosa (Astana Pro Team), Steven Kruijswijk (Team LottoNL-Jumbo) and former Giro winner Ryder Hesjedal (Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team).
Who’s got an excuse for the pathetic fail? Hesjedal has been aggressive since losing five minutes on stage 4. As a former Giro winner back in 2012, he was heavily marked by the rest and didn’t feel like dragging them all back up to Zakarin when the Russian bolted.
The rest of the guys? You really have to wonder — Hesjedal sure does. “I take it as a sign of respect for my ability that people go after me but it was frustrating because the win was going up the road and nobody chased Zakarin. I was hoping the strength of the group was committed to go for the win but it didn’t work out,” said the Canadian.
Nobody chased a big win in the Giro d’Italia? We’re looking at you, the former juiced Italian climber Franco Pellizotti? The guy who used to have the flamboyant long blonde locks pretty much disappeared from the top of the sport after serving his ban. Shorter hair, way smaller results. But there he is with an unexpected and genuine shot at the biggest win he’d get for the year and well, that Zakarin guy sure is fast, huh? Master P hoped somebody else would do the work and nobody did. He didn’t rise to the occasion, it was carpe not diem.
Then there’s Carlos, the mercurial and supremely talented and mentally oddball Betancur. Won Paris-Nice last year but look over the wiki and zero results this year. You’d figure the Colombian would be all over this gift, like a junk yard dog ripping into a sirloin steak. We figured he’d be highly motivated and aggressive but man of man, look at the Russian guy go.
Now maybe Diego Rosa was just burned out from doing all that Astana domestic work for Fabio Aru. We can give him a pass. And sure, Benat Intxausti already bagged his Giro win on stage 8 and figured he’d play this smart and let somebody burn their match. Same goes for Steven Kruijswijk who was the nearly man on Giro stage 9, finishing second. But ain’t ya still hungry, Steve, after that near miss? Wow, there goes Zakarin hard, anybody wanna … anybody?
You’d figure one of those guys, given a shot at a grand tour win, would jump on Zakarin’s wheel and risk blowing up in return for that prize. Instead they went conservative, calculating odds, riding on probabilities instead of instinct and ambition and desire. They got exactly what they deserved — which was significantly less than Zakarin received.