Contador and the Giro. Is there anyone else?

The next Giro winner?

Does anyone really think that Vincenzo Nibali and Michele Scarponi are going to challenge Alberto Contador for victory in the Giro d’Italia? Me thinks not.

While Nibali was impressive both mentally and physically in last year’s Vuelta, we simply don’t see him hurting Contador on the forty — count ‘em — forty big climbs of this edition of the Giro. The Shark will get shot by El Pistolero.

It’s the same story with Scarponi — is a first overall in Trentino, a 2nd overall in Catalunya and a 4th in the previous Giro enough of an argument for beating the best stage racer on the planet post-Lance? Again, this seems unlikely. And who knows what extra pressure the on-going, never-ending Mantova doping investigation will place on Scarponi and his Lampre-ISD team.

Is Czech Roman Kreuziger ready to step up after a few years of talk about “fulfilling potential?”He has the team leadership at Astana but is this the guy that kills Contador? His best finish in the Tour de France is 9th overall and he nailed a fine 4th last week at Liege-Bastogne-Liege but it’s still a long way to the pink jersey. Getting it, holding it, keeping it until Milan — three tough jobs.

Then there’s the orange man Igor Anton of Euskatel-Euskadi. No question he’s tough in the mountains and it’s still worth arguing whether he might have beaten Nibali in the Vuelta if he hadn’t crashed out. So far this season he’s bagged 3rd overall at the Vuelta a Castilla y León and a 5th in Flèche Wallonne, which are nice warm-ups but the Giro is a crazy bonfire. And he rides for Euskatel — which almost guarantees that at some point in the race he’s going to crash again.

Then there’s 33 year old Denis Menchov, the silent assassin from Russian. He’s won the Giro (2009) and the Vuelta (2007) and was the only rider left standing in last year’s Tour de France besides Contador and Andy Schleck. An experienced grand tour rider, strong against the clock and dogged in the mountains. Sadly, in this mountain heavy Giro, he would seem to be at a disadvantage and his new Geox team is a question mark. In other words, doubtful.

To make matters worse for all those contenders who hope to topple Contador is that the Spaniard has an extra motivation called CAS. The Court for Arbitration in Sport will rule on his clenbuterol case before the July 2nd start of the Tour de France. If they rule against him, the Giro will be his only grand tour for one, possibly two years. This adds urgency and force to Contador’s efforts in this Giro. He’ll be turning the pedals in both anger and fear. He wants it because it might be the only thing he gets.

Vince Nibali may have been training on the Mount Etna volcano all year but even that climb isn’t enough practice for beating Alberto Contador. In this Giro, it will be an uphill battle all the way.

Is there really anyone else out there? Neil Browne of Versus thinks there is — the Italian Police. Wtch out for them because they will take anyone down, no matter how famous.

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  • Jay Taylor

    My mind says that he shouldn't ride it with the threat of suspension hanging over his head. Ethically, he probably shouldn't put himself in a position to rob a worthy rider of a victory ceremony or pink jersey that they may only get months or years afterwards. I also think it would be a way better race without him, more open, interesting, etc, with Anton vs. Menchov vs. Nibali, etc.

    But shit, if he wins it and is then cleared, you know he'll probably win the TDF too. A weird way to get a double, but wouldn't that be a trick?

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com TwistedSpoke

      It would be a better, more open race without him. He's just so much better than the other guys. I'm getting more and more concerned that Andy Schleck doesn't have the killer instinct to deal with Contador in the TDF. It's old school to think you have to hate your adversary but still, he needs that extra something that will power him to a win. Matt

  • leif

    Every time I feel a 'fire in my belly' or a 'punch to the belly'…
    I usually just need to take a shit.

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com TwistedSpoke

      You see? That's the problem: the fire should be in the legs, not the belly. He needs to get a little ticked up, so he pedals faster. Matt.

  • Jay Taylor

    I agree that Andy is a tough one to read. He's obviously got loads of passion and talent, but, kind of as Mario Cipollini was suggesting about some riders today, he just doesn't visibly seem to want it that bad. Liege was supposedly a major goal for the Schlecks and they obviously gave it a huge effort, but call me crazy, they didn't seem that broken up about not winning it. I guess the next few years will tell if he really does have the guts to challenge for a TdF title, but it'll be a tough ask as Contador is clearly hungry at all times and has more than enough talent to make his goals a reality.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Heidi-Marie-Moser/1684263326 Heidi Marie Moser

    Okay, I'm a HUGE Schleck fan, granted, but I think the Schlecks' overwhelmingly main goal this year is le Tour, not the classics. Between the dropped chain incident, taking a great deal of shit for making friends with Contador, and then losing out on the top spot in the 2010 Tour, I think Andy is probably sufficiently pissed off enough to bring his best this year. Hopefully it will be enough to beat Contador, if AC is even riding into July–we'll see. I kinda hope he is because I REALLY would like to see Andy Schleck (or Frank, for that matter!) beat Contador fair and square!

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com TwistedSpoke

      My feeling is that Andy is really on track and on form this year. Last year, no, I saw him in the Tour of California and he had nothing much. This year both he and his brother have had a nice build up and I'm hoping they both bring a one-two punch to make a realy battle with Alberto. Matt

  • http://www.atwistedspoke.com TwistedSpoke

    Okay, you're crazy. Aww, just kidding. This will be the make-or-break TDF for Schleck, the no-excuses tour. He's had a perfect buld up and brother Frank is also primed to really deliver a one-two punch. I hope he's up to the task because that's what it will take to beat Alberto. Matt

  • jack spoke

    Jay/TwistedSpoke – I disagree. There is a process and that should stand. And the process says that he is cleared to race until found guilty but the body that is challenging the previous clearance. Imagine that your state court clears you of a moving violation for example. But the state attorney decides to take the matter to a higher court. Wouldn't you be pissed if you were not allowed to drive until the higher court decided on your case? You would because you have been found not guilty so far. What if he doesn't ride the Giro and then he is cleared by the CAS? He cannot go back and win a Giro he didn't start. He is legal to ride and that is all there is to it – like it or now.

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com TwistedSpoke

      Jack, he is legally free to ride and no disagreement there. I can't say for sure wether he's guilty or not. There sure are plenty of suspicious people, though. Matt

  • jack spoke

    Absolutely we are suspicious but that is not enough when there is a process with experts on the way. I am a Contador fan but if he is guilty I want him punished. But if he is not, I want him exonerated and for his case be good for cycling. The last thing we want is for this kid to win a bunch of Grand Tours only to learn (or suspect) after that he was doping all along (read Lance's here). I'd rather we know now either way and be done with it.

  • Jay Taylor

    Jack, that is true that he is legally free to ride and has the full right to do so. If I were in his shoes I'm positive I'd do the same. I think the fact that while I know that rationally while also feeling like he maybe 'shouldn't' ride shows how complicated this case really is. It's very hard to see what is right and what is wrong. I'm totally with you on the outcome of the CAS decision making it for me. If he's cleared, honestly I'll forget about it and just move on, and if he's not, then he should be punished. I am still erring on the side of strict liability and a bit of a sanction, to be honest. I think the best outcome would have been a one-year ban, but I guess we'll see what happens. Definitely an interesting case…

  • goober b. davis

    There is no way on earth that Contador should be riding in any races. If it weren't for the Royal Spanish Bullshit Committee he'd be riding a bus right now. He's a dirty cheat, the fact that he may well win this race is another insult to cycling fans. How many times do we have to put up with races being won 6 months after the guy steps off the podium???

    The rampant Spanish cheating is despicable, and having a commission to back them up doubles the damage.