Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and defending Giro champion Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) are thrilled by the miserable rain and slick roads and general chaos.
They’re getting the exact conditions they require to beat Bradley Wiggins to the stop step of the podium. Stage six from San Salvo to Pescara featured crappy weather and that has proven a difficult hurdle for the regimented racing style of Team Sky. Hard to train for downpours and mayhem on Tenerife.
This year the only times the Sky machine has been sidetracked were thanks to thunderstorms, a misjudged choice of rain gear and a faulty derailleur. Nibali and Hesjedal are happy men and praying for more rain, havoc and unforeseen events.
Wiggins crashed on the slick, wet roads coming off the final San Silvestro climb and lost time to his two rivals. He lost even more as he dropped his speed for the final six kilometers to make sure he didn’t crash again. If this rain keeps up, we’ll see Wiggins as the second coming of Andy Schleck, a traumatized and tentative descender.
While Nibali himself also slide out, he’s a master on the downhills and he quickly remounted. A chute sans gravité, as the French like to say. He rejoined the front group with Hesjedal and together they both put time into Sir Brad. Somewhere Chris Froome is laughing his ass off.
Thanks to the rain and greasy roads, Wiggins lost 1:24 to his main rivals for overall victory and slipped down to to 23rd overall, 1:32 off the maglia rosa of Benat Intxausti (Movistar). Rapha may make some fine rain gear but staying warm and dry isn’t the issue, it’s staying upright. One tweet suggested “he doesn’t believe in his tires.”
Wiggins was in no mood to discuss the unfortunate events so once again team manager David Brailsford did the post-mortem. “Obviously it’s been a bit sketchy in some areas but we’ll deal with that and welcome the time trial tomorrow and as soon as the road goes uphill we’ll welcome that too.”
The key word was “sketchy” and that pretty much describes the kind of Giro d’Italia that the aggressive Nibali and Hesjedal are praying for. They’re both terrific bike handlers and they know that Wiggins and Sky are off their game when the script suddenly shreds. They’re best hope is rain, wind, unpredictable racings, constant attacks, relentless agitation and random violence.
Brailford tried to put a philosophical spin on the disappointing outcome: “Ultimately when you have difficult conditions like these and hard racing this type of thing can happen. It’s the Giro.” No, it’s the Giro that Nibali and Hesjedal wanted.
If you asked Garmin-Sharp and Astana for their ideal anti-Wiggins scenario before the brit supposedly dominates the time trial tomorrow, they would have said a crash the day before. If it rains for the time trial, they will be all smiles Saturday. If Wiggins does put major time into everyone, be prepared for a screw-you press conference — you can already see the water boiling.
BMC’s director sportif Max Sciandri knows all about the Giro. He says it’s always crazy in this race, “there’s always a little twist.” That twist is going to test Bradley Wiggins like he was never tested in the Tour de France.