Pink “Purito” showed again that he’s the pocket rocket, winning on the cobblestones and slight uphill finish in Cortina d’Ampezzo after the first brutal day in the Dolomites.
He bested an elite group of five riders that was all that remained of the peloton after it was shredded on the long, exhausting climb of the Passo Giau.
Ivan Basso (Liquigas Cannondale) and Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) took second and third with Basso showing a surprising amount of pop in his legs. Both Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) and Rigoberto Uran were gapped in the last few hundred meters from the summit of the Passo Giau when Domenico Pozzovivo (Colnago-CSF) upped the pace.
Scarponi nearly lost his GC hopes in the Giro when he cramped but fought hard on the descent. The Italian and the Colombian both regained the Rodriguez group with just 2k to go. Moments later Basso put in a strong attack that Hesjedal reeled back. Then it was Katusha Time, with the man in the maglia rosa powering away for the win.
Done in the Dolomites: Roman Kreuziger of Astana. The Czech rider finished in 30th place, losing over eleven minutes. Impossible to see John Gadret cracking the top 5 in this Giro after his third place last season. The Frenchie is almost five minutes back and he sure won’t like that final time trial.
Everyone expected fireworks on the Passo Giau but while the tension was high, the aggressive moves never materialized. Ivan Basso did most of the work, grinding out the punishment with old man diesel power. Everyone was on the limit and only Hesjedal made an exploratory dig.
Who still has the legs to win this Giro? Ivan Basso looked confident all day and his power move in the streets of Cortina d’Ampezzo showed his form is excellent. Not known as a confident descender — although he’s more daring than Andy Schleck — Basso didn’t play it safe on the high speed bombing run off the mountain. He also went to the front to slow the craziness when needed. He’s on his game.
Canadian Ryder Hesjedal never appeared under too much stress and spent much of the final climb in second wheel, smooth and in control. All he has to do is stay with Rodriquez and Basso in the mountains, then crush them by two minutes on the final 31.5 kilometer time trial in Milan. Given that he seems to always get stronger in the last week, his odds of winning just keep climbing.
The little Spaniard from Katusha, The Russian Global Cycling Shindig, doesn’t like the long, grinding climbs that featured on today’s stage. Still, Rodriguez was never under pressure and his win shows just how much gas he still has in the tank. He’s got two days left in the Dolomites to locate another 1:30 to tack onto the 30 seconds he has on Hesjedal. If not, welcome to second place.