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.