The Giro d’Italia starts Saturday, and this time out everything is BIG. The peloton, at 207 riders, is well beyond the normal size, as are the climbs (see Mt. Etna stage above), with seven mountain top finishes. This a race for the featherweights and survivors. Someone is probably taking odds on how many sprinters will even finish. My buddy DNF will definitely be there.
Here is my list of favorites: David Arroyo (Movistar), Denis Menchov and Carlos Sastre (GEOX-TMC), Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas), Roman Kreuziger (Astana), Alberto Contador (SaxoBank-Sungard), Tiago Machado (RadioShack), Stefano Garzelli (Acqua e Sapone), Danilo di Luca (Katusha), Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD), Giovanni Viscontini (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli).
Contador’s presence at the Italian race, for the first time since he won it in 2008, shakes up the general classification. 2010 champion Ivan Basso skips this Giro to focus on the Tour, so that leave his Liquigas teammate Nibali to battle with the Spaniard. 2009 winner Denis Menchov will hope that his Geox-TMC squad has the gas to keep him in contention. Will a rapidly aging Carlos Sastre be able to help?
Astana’s Roman Kreuziger, finally given a grand tour leader’s role, has a lot of questions to answer about his true top end capabilities, and the pack of skinny Italians who might normally crowd the podium (di Luca, Grazelli, Viscontini and Scarponi) will likely struggle to keep pace with Contador and Nibali.
While most observers ooh and aah over the total number of climbs in the race, the real issue will likely be recovery. It is one thing to climb strong for a week. It is quite another to do so consistently day after day. There will be no safety for the maglia rosa, as the course just provides far too many opportunities for rivals to put in attacks.
Patience and consistency, consistency and patience. And luck. Don’t forget luck.
Of course, it is far too early to begin picking an overall winner, but let’s try something different for this week’s Group Ride. Stage One is a Team Time Trial. Who will win it? AND…who will be in the pink jersey on the first rest day?
Stickers for correct pickers.
The first two hundred kilometers of the Milan – San Remo one day classic played out like a group ride with triathletes in it. The pace it’s a little too high. It’s a little more competitive than it needs to be. And all the dudes are tragically skinny.
Sure, the first two hundred k’s include a climb of the Passo del Turchino, but everyone’s fresh still at that point, and it’s too early to attack and expect to win. In this year’s versions, when the peloton hit Le Mánie at 204k things were still together, but the legs were beginning to go dead, what with the rain and the mud and another 94k to pedal.
By the time they hit the Cipressa and then the Poggio the form riders who were thinking about attacking were too frightened to risk too much. Guys were getting spit out the back like froth behind a motor boat. No one had fresh legs at that point, and Stefano Garzelli road on the front and off into the red, until a bunch sprint was all but guaranteed.
From there it really looked like Tom Boonen, the most named pre-race favorite, was in good position to take the win, but old man Oscar Freire beat him by two bike lengths to join Fausto Coppi and Roger de Vlaeminck as a three time winner of the longest one day bike race on the pro calendar.
No one on the RKP Group Ride picked Freire. We had lots of Boonens, some Petacchis, a Pozzato or two, a few picking Boasson-Hagen, a Chavanel, a butcher, a baker and a candlestick maker. But no Freire. Yours truly probably came closest by picking “an experienced sprinter,” but that’s really more begging the question than picking the winner, isn’t it?
Your thoughts on the race? Do share.