If Monte Crostis is off the menu following a ruling from the race jury last night, today still sees the climb up Monte Zoncolan. This is probably the hardest climb used in any major race. It’s just 10km long but averages 12% and has sustained sections of over 20%. But for all it’s difficulty, it looks like Alberto Contador and José Rujano are on a higher level than the other contenders.
There’s still over a week to go in the Giro and as exciting as today’s stage looks on paper, I worry the result is a foregone conclusion. The climb up Etna saw Alberto Contador take the lead, with José Rujano clinging to his wheel. Yesterday saw the same scenario, with Contador attacking and only Rujano could follow. In the end Contador appeared to gift the win to the Venezuelan.
A question of generosity
It’s this scenario I’m worried about. Contador seems able to give away wins, he is untouchable in the mountains and only Rujano can follow. If this continues then the only interest is how generous he wants to be whilst we watch the others battle for stage wins and places on the overall classification. It becomes a race within a race to see if Gadret can pass Nibali and if Anton can get ahead of Scarponi and so on, although we might see some lesser riders shine from a breakaway.
Is the final week needed?
Nevertheless the final week appears to be a procession. Sunday sees another mountain stage, then comes a rest day followed by a mountain time trial on Tuesday. Then Wednesday and Thursday see two mountainous stages but where perhaps a breakaway can succeed, before summit finishes on Friday and Saturday and then the final time trial on Sunday. I know plenty can happen but all the same, the week-long Alpine extravaganza risks just seeing repeats from Contador and Rujano, the riders will go through plenty of tough times and TV viewers risk déja vu. It feels like we know the result already, no?
Still, it’s important to see who comes second. The Court of Arbitration for Sport has now set a date for the twin appeals from the UCI and WADA. It seems quite possible Contador is banned and that he gets a one year ban starting on the date of his control last July. As such a potential Giro win is annulled and someone else is awarded the Giro. But this is a farce, everyone could have just seen the Spaniard win with their own eyes but the record books show something else. It’s possible this edition is remembered more for the tragedy than the racing.
This isn’t to say the race will be boring, for example I imagine some excitement watching to see if a breakaway can hold off the GC contenders and Nibali and Scarponi must be hungry for a stage win.
It’s just the prospect of the lead changing hands now seems remote and the CAS might have the last word. Longer term it’s perhaps a lesson that mountain stages need to be spaced out a bit more, but we’ll be able to judge that better next weekend. The Giro is often a race of surprises, let’s hope we get some pleasant ones this week.