Been a tough week chez Garmin. Best laid plans mysteriously foiled and fried from Italy to California.
The mystery theatre is what happened to reigning Giro d’Italia champion Ryder Hesjedal. He had some trouble in the time trial and then bombed in the first mountain stage. This despite what appeared to be scary form coming out of Leige-Bastogne-Leige and some aggressive opening moves in Italy.
For reasons that have yet to be determined or revealed, Hesjedal dropped almost 21 minutes on the opening mountain stage to Altopiano del Montasio. The Canadian isn’t saying what happened and DS Charly Wegelius hasn’t given any clues, either. All we know for certain is Giro over and the looming question is whether he simply exits Italy for a redemption shot at the Tour de France.
Then back in the states at the Tour of California, Garmin-Sharps’ GC captain Dave Zabriskie also flamed out in spectacular fashion. Flame is the word because after the 106 degree stage one and the 110 degree stage two, any rider could be forgiven for melting in the heat.
On the final climb up Tram Road out of the Palm Springs desert, Dave Z lost himself over 10 minutes on GC. He’s finished second in Cali three times but he is officially fried and done this time around. This despite his documented ability to withstand heat based on the sauna acclimation training a few years back in prep for the Tour de France. Back to the comic books and video games, this race objective is torched.
Who would have predicted that Garmin’s top finisher on stage two would be young Lachlan Morton who finished 16, not Zabriskie who was their best hope for a podium spot? Crazy and yet oh-so-human.
It’s just a visceral reminder once again that for all the sports science and wattage and power meters and optimized nutrition, the human body remans an unpredictable beast. Sometimes everything goes according to the numbers and occasionally it doesn’t to shocking effect.
You can ask the question of any number of top riders. What happened to the dominate form of Philippe Gilbert? Why can’t the talented Thor Hushovd regain his previous high level of talent? Why does Bradley Wiggins suddenly seem tentative on descents and scared in the rain? The mental and physical are both hard to pin down or plan out.
You can’t exactly locate the data for that or the algorithm or the template. The human body is still a baffling and elusive and confusing set of functions. It’s also what makes bike racing in the biological passport age so exciting and unpredictable.
Ryder Hesjedal is a massive talent that will rise again. Dave Zabriskie will win another big time trial this year. Wiggo will re-assert himself and give the finger to bone-idlers everywhere. But you want the exact scientific data on how and when? Nobody can actually tell you that. A jour sans and a jour avec is always beyond prediction.