Giro d’Italia. Contender short-takes.
On paper, the Giro d’Italia looks as thrilling as the Froome vs Contador vs Rodriguez battle in Le Tour de France. With Sky’s Bradley Wiggins, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), defending champion Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp), old men Cadel Evans and Ivan Basso and Dr Ferrari client Michele Scarponi all lining up, it should be a ripper.
Here’s the Twisted Spoke cheat sheet:
Well, we all know he hasn’t had the dominant season he had last year coming into the Tour. In our book, this just makes him hungrier and nastier.
Last year he had to build up his form and his confidence but confidence is no longer a question. He insists he’s in better shape for the Giro than he was for the Tour — which is a scary thought.
He won’t have Rogers, Froome and Porte to pace him up the mountains but his Colombian boys Henao and Uran have proved themselves so far this season. The Skybot machine has a South American look but the result is the same. In fact, Uran and Henao worked over Nibali pretty good in Tirreno-Adriatico until the weather turned bad.
We get the sense that Wiggins is ready to explode in this Giro. He’s pent-up, tired of all the media-yak and just wants to smash it. He thrives on proving detractors wrong and this year it will be showing his improved climbing abilities.
The Shark is also on form and he’s already had a second and third in the Giro. He was crushed by Sky last year in the Tour but learned some valuable lessons and claims to have a few ideas on how to attack them.
Franky, we have no idea what his secret plan is but if the weather turns nasty –rain, falling temperatures — then look for Nibali to go full gas, take risks and try to take major time from Wiggins. The tactic paid off big on the Port Sant’Elpidio stage in Tirreno when he broke Froome to win the overall.
You can always count on Nibali to ride with aggression and he’s never afraid to take his shots. The Italian races on feel in contrast to the damage control style of Team Sky. That will be a fascinating contrast this time around.
Who wasn’t thrilled to see the Canadian win the Giro d’Italia? It was a much needed victory for clean cycling and watching a dark-horse take the final maglia rosa was one of the high points of the year.
That breakthrough grand tour victory has given Hesjedal a huge boost in confidence and self belief and redoubled his motivation to train. Well, he’s going to need all those things because a repeat triumph is a big ask.
Hesjedal’s performance in Leige-Bastogne-Leige was a welcome sign for Garmin-fans. He took his shot at the solo win and then when his teammate Dan Martin bridged up with a small chase group, he buried himself for Martin who took his first monument. The man was flying and showed how deep he can go.
There will be no underdog show this year and we think all planets will have to align again for him to win. Then again, who needs planets when you’re coming into the race two kilos lighter than last year’s Giro? Power-to-weight ratio and some good fortune might drop him on the podium.
Team manager Jonathan Vaughters is a tactically sharp guy and it will be intriguing to see how he has Hesjedal play off against Nibali and Wiggins. You could definitely see the Italian working with Hesjedal under the right circumstances.
Cadel Evans and Ivan Basso
What can we say about these two old diesel engines? Done and done. After the first day in the mountains, perhaps Basso will give his optimistic “good sensations” quote but in the final week it will be “no sensations whatsoever.” The Basso climbing grimace will on prominent display. This will be the definitive goodbye Giro for Basso.
Cadel Evans, the Tour de France captain for BMC, thinks he needs the Giro d’Italia as a warm-up. He’s a grinder but at 36 do you really see him matching the harsh accelerations by Froome and Contador in France after wearing himself down in the Giro?
We’d like to say that Evans is a genuine contender for a podium in the Giro but he’s really shown no indication that’s possible. You love Evans for his total commitment to the sport and his incredible tenacity and the fact that he has always ridden clean but we’re finding it hard to see him as a Giro factor. And given the cumulative fatigue, we’re still predicting Tejay van Garderen finishes higher in France.
This guy just pissed us off. He’s simply another version of Danilo di Luca and the three month off-season non-ban he got from the Italian Olympic Committee for his Dr. Ferrari ties was a farce.
So yeah, he’s a contender despite our wishes to the contrary. Like Evans, he’s a tenacious mofo and we still remember him vainly trying to fight Contador in the Giro a few years back when Nibali had basically given up. Props for that but then again, the man was juiced up.
We suspect Scarponi will have his moment of glory with perhaps a stage win but with any luck he’ll have bad luck and fall down the standings.
The Man from Blanco will again bring his hard-luck, crash-prone body to a grand tour. Really, the guy hasn’t down much since he won the overall at the Tour of California in May last year. He has his moments — like on the steep gradients on Mount Baldy — where he looks like another Contador dancing up the mountains. But that’s not often and certainly not over three weeks. Blanco needs a sponsor so Gesink better do something, anything.
Euskatel-Euskadi have been in the news this year but mostly for financial problems and Alexander Serebryakov’s EPO bust. Orange in the red.
Team manager Miguel Madariaga is hoping and praying for good news and as usual that job falls to captain Samuel Sanchez who hasn’t ridden the Giro in a number of years.
Sammy seems off to a quiet start to the year but we suspect he will mark a few stages to stir things up. Bradley Wiggins is not discounting Sanchez as a possible trouble-maker. We’d like to see Sanchez up front instead of Scarponi. Here’s to Sammy getting a stage and showing in the 54k time trial that he is a really great climber.
Pass the Barolo, it’s Giro time. Nibali beats Wiggins in a nail-bitter that goes all the way to the end.