FGR #21 Wrap

Well it’s been one of those weekends. First, a note on RKP. The site was infected with some malware that not only took the site down for hours that felt like days, but left behind numerous other files that took hours more to delete, even once the site was fully back online. How the attack occurred is still unknown; security was seemingly tip-top and all software was up to date. Guess it was bound to happen sometime. All I can say is that Mexican drug lords are too good a fate for the people who dream this stuff up. Thanks for your patience and notes of concern.

Meanwhile, the Tour of Italy was busy touring … the Netherlands. I get how the Tour de France starts outside of France every other year. Starting in Germany or Switzerland and riding into France lends the race an elegant international feel, and everyone—even non-cyclists—gets the sense of journey that comes with finishing a ride or race in a different nation. But starting three countries away? As a sense of story goes, it’s absurd. As race planning goes, it’s even worse, as evidenced by today’s rest day, which has been selected not for the racers’ recovery—which was the days’ original purpose—but rather for a transfer that risked being derailed a volcano. You can’t dream this stuff up.

In the prologue, there was a lot of love for David Millar and fellow Brit, Bradley Wiggins. The only surprise in the day’s results was the lack of surprise that came with Wiggo’s victory. It’s funny how our perception of the import of a great ride differs when the victor is someone vying for overall victory (which we chalk up as confirmation of form) versus a bit player such as Brent Bookwalter (where we hope he has just pulled one out of his hindquarters and not a more sinister indication that something is rotten in proverbial Denmark).

And in three days of racing we’ve had three different riders wear the maglia rosa. No surprise in that, but there’s a lot of surprise in seeing three of the race’s favorites—Wiggins, Cadel Evans and Alexander Vinokourov—trade the pink jersey like baseball cards.

That Wiggins, Evans and Vinokourov have all worn the leader’s jersey and not some sprinter interlopers is highly unusual. I can’t recall a Grand Tour that has unfolded this way in … ever. It speaks to just how aware this year’s favorites are that they must remain attentive and up front, just in case.

Seemingly, another character in this year’s Giro is the crashes. Amateur criteriums don’t feature this many crashes per day. Crashes have ended the hopes for Christian Vande Velde as well as Wiggins. And while Wiggins isn’t out of the race, his 4:26 deficit in a race with this much climbing means he’s unlikely to do more than take a stage win.

Of course, the majority of you who weighed in are looking for Carlos Sastre to take the overall victory. He’s a rider with a great deal of class and a willingness to attack. But will that be enough? True, his climbing talent makes him suited for this course, but we can’t forget that his Tour de France win came less due to his aggression than due to tactics that saw him ride away while Evans marked teammate Andy Schleck. If he can play riders against each other to his advantage once again, he could be formidable, just like that damn malware.

Image: John Pierce, Photosport International

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  2. Champs

    Anything can happen in a grand tour, but with this dilute pool of favorites, Vino might take the maglia rosa all the way to Verona. While the rest are “preparing for July,” even the guys without legitimate chances of winning the Tour (we know who those are), the Kazakh actually wants to win the grandest, if not highest-cachet, grand tour.

    Vino winning the Giro could be good for the sport, too. A few stage wins and the leader’s jersey ought to raise the level of scrutiny to the point of shaking out or confirming all doubt about his comeback. If it’s fraudulent, then justice will be served; if not, it’s inspirational.

  3. SinglespeedJarv

    I only went for Sastre because I couldn’t see anyone being able to outclimb him. But giving 1.40 to Basso and Nibali especially with the strength of Liquigas is going to be a long-shot. I think he might still be thereabouts, there are going to be a lot more twists and turns in this Giro, but I’m not sure he can win any more. Cuddles is looking best placed, from Nibali and Basso. Veino will be the Giro randomiser.

  4. Souleur

    Glad you are virus free! Its always a good thing.

    I agree, I have never seen such a beginning to a grand tour. I am not sure really what it is with all the crashes, seems a couple of times I could say it was poor route layout and advisement, but others were just like spontaneous combustion…boom and it happened.

    It will be interesting to see it pick up, I am sure they had time to talk today and hope a day off will reset the clock.

    It is ironic how the first 3 days has has formidible contenders in play.
    keep up the good work Padraig on the site!

  5. todd k

    While I was expecting Sastre to concede some time on the Team Time Trial and the prologue, I was not thinking that he would lose quite so much time in the first three stages. But I guess his style of riding makes him a bit vulnerable to losing time when the stages take a turn for the chaotic as he is not the most aggressive rider out there on non mountainous stages. That said, team Sky was doing everything seemingly right to protect Wiggins and, well, he is fairing even worse.

    Regardless, the chaos from the first three stages has certainly changed the script some. Time will tell if it is a complete rewrite or a minor scene change.

    Sorry you had to deal with a malware infection! Not the kind of way one wants to spend their time!

  6. randomactsofcycling

    Gee, how many ‘Rest’ Days will they need when the Giro starts in Washington?
    As much as I enjoy watching any Grand Tour, the Giro seems to go out of it’s way to be a little on the silly side; 22% gradient – tick, on a dirt road – tick, above the snowline – tick. Isn’t racing hard enough?
    I think whichever Team Leader does the best out of the TTT will have the best chance of holding onto the Pink Jersey. The ITTs are too short to be truly decisive.

  7. Flahute

    In the 2005 Tour de France, the only riders to wear the yellow jersey were David Zabriskie, Jens Voigt (definitely not a “sprinter interloper”), and Lance Armstrong …

    1. Author

      Everyone: Thanks for the kind words about the site’s recovery. Jeez, what an episode.

      Champs: You have a great point. If Vino wins—and he’s got a real chance—the scrutiny will come down on him and the rest of the peloton big time. Having faith that he was really clean and not just evading detection might be tough for some, though.

      Souleur: While traffic furniture can be blamed for a few of the crashes, it doesn’t explain the amped up riding that has led to many of the crashes. Three weeks is a long time to be that amped up. Some folks need to chill.

      Todd K: It amazes me how many of the Spanish climbers lose time in the first week of a Grand Tour, effectively minimizing the threat they might otherwise pose. Sastre is part of an amazingly long tradition in this regard.

      RandomActs: You won’t hear me criticize what goes on with the Giro in the mountains. I love what the organizers are willing to throw at the riders. Why not 22%? Bruyneel hates it just because it means they have to do something other than just run a 25 in back. Why shouldn’t gearing be a more obvious part of race strategy? What’s wrong with dirt roads? I like seeing the riders tested with challenging courses. The opposite of that, taken to its logical extreme would be packs drag racing down perfectly straight highways. How boring would that be? Very few riders would have any chance of winning.

      Flahute: As much as like Zabriskie and Voigt, those guys are definitely interlopers. Wouldn’t it be amazing to see a Grand Tour so perfectly constructed that the leader’s jersey was passed between three riders, the ones who ultimately stood on the podium? I’m just trying to imagine what that course would be like and how the racing might unfold. We briefly seemed to be headed in that general direction until Wiggins had a coffee break after crashing. I’ve never seen a GC guy stand around so casually and for so long after a crash.

  8. todd k

    No kidding with Wiggin’s way too casual approach to getting rolling post crash… Heck Marzio Bruseghin had his butt crack bared to all and was back on his bike with more urgency than anyone on team sky showed…. Maybe the multiple crashes were mentally starting to take a toll on them?

    Was also an interesting contrast to Evan’s solitary fight to minimize minimize his losses.

  9. mike hogan

    As much as I like Sastre, his tour victory was the result of attacking his own team mate who was in yellow, and he had already planed to leave CSC before the tour started. He may finish on the podium but not first,

  10. Champs

    Sastre won the Tour because he was the captain and his team launched him for the win at the Alpe. He is absolutely not the greatest champion France has ever seen, but it was all according to the script, and within the competition level ASO decided to provide that year.

    I also happen to like that Giro has ambition. Andy Hampsten at the Passo Gavia is epic cycling defined. Although that probably wasn’t in the plan for June, but starts in Amsterdam/DC, time trials like Plan de Corones, Cinque Terre, and destinations above the snow line, onto gravel, and at the summit of an active volcano set it apart. Maybe the pros hate it, but I’d put up with the transfers and waiting two hours for my massage to do it. For free.

  11. db

    As a casual racing fan, I am enjoying the Giro. I would feel very differently if I was riding it. But on the fan side, some of the grand tours can feel like nothing more than long marches to a predetermined outcome. This one does not. It’s pretty wide open.

    I hate seeing crashes at any level, but luckily for me Padraig has confirmed my suspicion that some of that stuff falls on the riders, not on the course. Traffic circles are everywhere, even in the Classics.

    What’s more Italian than chaos?

    1. Author

      DB: You made me laugh out loud. Yes, chaos is quintessentially Italian. And I’m giddy as someone on whippets that breakaways have won the last two stages. I’m loving this Giro for the most part. Just no more riders out of the race due to crashes, plz.

  12. Robot

    I love the Giro. It’s always more wide open than the Tour. The routes are consistently better. You lose a lot of the canned, non-racing drama that comes out of the TdF. The scenery is breautiful (that’s brutal and beautiful both).

    I also love Sastre. He’s finished 20 Grand Tours for F’s sake. He’s like an astronaut, been someplace most folks will never, ever go.

  13. Pedale.Forchetta

    Today stage on the ‘strade bianche’
    under a heavy rain
    was really outstanding.
    Evans was great.

  14. Flahute

    With the rain today, the stradas bianches were definitely more stradas rosolares … stradas fangosos; perhaps even i fiumi di merda. Amazing stage.

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