Friday Group Ride #164

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Briefly, I will apologize for the FGR’s two-week hiatus. Technical difficulties kept us from sending our semi-fortnightly missive, and then a mad man on the loose on my home turf kept our minds otherwise occupied. But let’s leave behind weighty topics for a bit. All, now, seems back to normal, and so we push on with queries new and exciting.

While we were away, Classics season seems to have ended. Sadly. But as the Byrds (via Pete Seeger) sang, “…to everything, turn, turn, turn.” Grand Tour season is upon us. I call myself a Classics man, but Padraig prefers the Grand Tours. This we have hashed out in previous and ancient versions of the FGR.

And so the Giro, a race that has, arguably, been on the rise for the past decade. A confluence of great routes, closely-fought finishes and the dark star, self-destructive gravity of the Tour all coming together to the elevate the Italian affair.

As some indication of the Giro’s rise, last season’s Tour winner, Sir Bradley Wiggins, has opted to race for the Giro win rather than defend his yellow jersey. Team Sky will say that this Giro route suits Wiggins’ strengths better, while teammate Chris Froome will lead the squad in France, but it is hard not to understand the decision in the context of increased prestige for the Italian race.

Wiggins’ prime adversary is alleged to be Astana’s Vincenzo Nibali, a Vuelta winner with a better burst of uphill pace and a demonic ability to descend. Ryder Hesjedal, last year’s maglia rosa, remains a dark horse, which seems a bit cruel given the talent, guile and heart he showed in winning the 2012 race.

This week’s Group Ride opens our 2013 Grand Tour discussion, which also includes our own Charles Pelkey (Live Update Guy) doing live text updates throughout the race. Be sure to check in with Charles, a far keener analyst than I can pretend to be. So…the big question this week is: Who will win and why? Is Sir Bradley the man to beat, or will Sky’s disappointing season continue to disappoint? Who have we missed? Who else can win?

Images: Fotoreporter Sirotti, RCS Sport

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12 comments

  1. Souleur

    well, I for one am quite thankful for the return of the FGR to the weightier matters of the universe, and all things ala maglia rosa

    Is Sir Bradlio the man, not IMHO, as Ryder seems to be in form and I think transcended that ethereal ceiling and did something very special last year. I would tend to give him the nod for now, as Sky seems to be so powerful, it is so talented, yet fruitless. It happens.

    My heart and soul is for Jens to pull a perpetual daily breakaway gritting his teeth and giving savvy post interviews and nuance sayings and wowing the Italians, but something says that just won’t happen…who knows. I would look to Sammy Sanchez to be a real good one to watch, I’m not sure if DeGendt were to ride, but if he did, my money is on him to win a GC. Of course, Nibbles could always pull it out, and hot Rod Rodiguez, but only if they show up. I haven’t seen the start list yet even though its nearly here.

  2. Running Cyclist

    Wiggo to win – he has so much talent and, despite missing a win thus far, has shown promising form. Plus, there’s a 55k time trial. Plus, Sky grand tour riders have had a great season thus far and he brings with him a great team. I believe both Hesjedal and Nibali will be very strong and should make it an interesting race. I don’t have a start list in front of me, so I may be missing a great dark horse pick, but I’ll go with the Columbians. All of them. Any of them. It seems that this year could mark the return of the great Columbian climber. Can’t wait!

  3. Wsquared

    My impression was that Sky mandated that Wiggo go for the Giro & that Froome be # 1 in the TDF. It was not Bradley’s decision.

    The Giro is closer to Vuelta than the TDF. The Sky train did not fair well in the Vuelta. Wiggo has to be the favorite, but It looks like Garmin is even stronger than when Ryder won last year. Wiggo looks on firm, but I have yet to see the fominating rider from last season. If Purito can continue to improve his TT, I’d have to include him in the mix. Nibali looks strong, but I’m not sure he’ll have enough support. And if Wiggo crashes, all bets are off.

  4. SusanJane

    I’m prepared for another boring Giro. Sky rides the “perfect” race by waiting, waiting, waiting, limiting the damage, limiting some more, then smashing everyone to bits. SIGH. I want someone, anyone else to win. I want exciting stages. I want another Velta from last year. We’ll get milk toast with a big sticky blob of honey butter at the end. I might cut and paste collage art with the sound off on the t.v.. I might just follow the update guy instead.

    Bitter? Yeah a little. I’m the one who rooted for everyone but Lance during all those years, not because I hated him but because utter dominance is boring.

  5. scaredskinnydog

    Ryder looks really good to me. He’s on top form and he’s been working selflessly for his teammates during the classics. Garmin can ride a good TTT and has the team to protect and support.
    p.s. how bout that Dan Martin!!

  6. Vince

    I tend to agree with Wsquared; Sky knows the Tour is a climber’s route this year and Froome is the clear favorite for them. Wiggo will be tough to beat.

    Nibbles has a solid squad around him from the looks of it…strong enough though?

  7. Wsquared

    This morning purely by happenstance I was listening to BBC International. They had an interview with Wiggo were he stated that the final decision on who will lead Sky in the TDF has still not been made and that he is training for that task, should he be called on, in addition to the Giro.

    That runs counter to what had previously been reported and was treated as such by the BBC. This is not going smoothly for Sky and indicates internal squabbling to my ear. Sour grapes brewing? The plot thickens!

  8. Andy

    Froome has already responded to Wiggins’ latest interview, and he didn’t spud happy. He even hinted that anyone not on board with working for him might not be selected. I like a little internal dispute, especially the kid that can keep us from having to rewatch the boring 2012 Tour. Part of me thinks it’s all a PR move to drum up interest though. With so many exceptional riders to choose from it’s a bit hard for me to believe the Sky brass would let this squab get in the way.

  9. Paul I.

    Wiggins will almost certainly be in pink after the early long ITT. Whether Sky can hold that for almost two weeks is going to be the story, especially as the Giro is backloaded with the tougher climbing. I’m a little skeptical that they can pull this off, I thing Wiggo is going to crack somewhere, and open things up for Nibbles or Ryder. Astana is going in with a very strong team, so this is going to be interesting.

    @Wsquared — Purito is not doing the Giro this year, he will be at the Tour.

  10. Wsquared

    In the Giro, Wiggins will be missing some key elements of the Sky train that he had in the TDF last year, Porte and Froome. It appears he will be relying on the two Columbians, Henao and Urann, for support in the high mountains. They’re good, but the team’s not nearly as deep. It be a will a lot harder to control the Giro.

    I think Purito not riding the Giro was a fairly late decision. Saving himself for a free for all in the TDF.

  11. Pingback: Friday Group Ride #165 : Red Kite Prayer

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