A long week ahead in the Giro for riders and fans alike

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Contador and Rujano

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?

TAS CAS

Will mountains, a stopwatch or the CAS decide the winner?

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.

Champs May 21, 2011 at 9:13 am

The CAS will negate his result, but Contador is so far ahead that the podium race is relevant. Even if the CAS negates the win, he still leaves his mark by the riders he brings along, especially Rujano, and the time bonuses he wipes out that would otherwise shake up the GC.

Dave May 21, 2011 at 9:31 am

Lets just hope that Contador has un jour sans to open it up a little.

ColoradoGoat May 21, 2011 at 10:00 am

Which is why this Giro is a little more interesting than you are stating. The battle for second is still important.

Dean May 21, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Given Contadors dominance of the Giro thus far does it not add weight to his claims that he did not, or need not intentionally dope? I’m not a fan of his but it seems like he could use a potential flogging of the remaining field here at the Giro, in conjunction with some additional testing of his own, as further evidence of his natural capabilities.
Personally, I’m of the mind he was playing silly buggers with a bag of blood but looking at him climb seems to prove one of two things. He’s got balls of steel and is somehow getting away with continued illegitimate medical practices. Or (a big or) he’s that good and managed to ingest the only cow in Spain that had clenbuterol in it’s system.
Either way I’m still looking forward to the rest of the Giro!

melbin_rider May 21, 2011 at 2:05 pm

@dean – exactly, it’s like conty’s giro results up the ante either way (i.e. he’s that good why would he need to bother, or he figures he hasn’t actually been caught blood doping, so why not go for broke to help substantiate the claim that he is that good and therefore wouldn’t need to bother, if you follow my logic … )

@inrng – my understanding (though happy to be corrected) was that conty’s ban would not be retrospective, so that 2011 giro results would stand. are you saying he’ll have last 12 months results stripped AND be banned from racing for next 12 months as well? or is this just one of the many penalty options available to CAS. thanks in advance for shedding some light

MT Dave May 21, 2011 at 2:13 pm

I’m just a fan of cycling and after the stage ‘win’ yesterday I find myself looking for a reason to be interested. I was hoping you would write this post.

El Tejan May 21, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Just a question: I wonder whether the other contenders are deliberately riding for second, despite their public comments to the contrary. For one, AC has show himself to be in his own class so it is reasonable for them to think, “what’s the point in attacking Contador, blowing up and risk losing spots to my other rivals?” This is even more the case by the possibility of AC’s suspension in which case “racing for second” is tantamount to “racing for the win”. Other than Scarponi and Rujano none of the other GC contenders were very aggressive on the lower slopes of yesterday’s final climb.

Q May 21, 2011 at 5:24 pm

Is it just me or does it seem a bit hypocritical for the UCI to claim they are ruling out the Monte Crostis climb for “sporting reasons”. I thought watching riders lose races due to their inability to get mechanical support from a team car was supposed to be more exciting for the fans, hence the radio ban.

Bundle May 21, 2011 at 8:07 pm

I’ve said it before here: the CAS, in its wisdom, can make the decision it considers appropriate, and disqualify Contador from the Giro or not. And it takes two things for the CAS to do so: first, to convict him for the clenbuterol case, which is a very dubious thing (no proof of performance enhancement, and mere assumptions of blood doping without solid evidence), and second, to suspend him retroactively, which is something no one sees the logical grounds for.
As for the Giro’s parcours, I think it is great, stages finshing on mountain tops are almost always fascinating. I only wish Nibali, Anton or Scarponi had the guts to attack from real far tomorrow, in the Bahamontes-Jimenez-Merckx-Fuente-Hinault-Chiappucci-Pantani tradition. But I don’t think it’s the case.

Rider Council May 21, 2011 at 8:36 pm

We have another dominant rider, what’s the big deal? That’s what they tend to do, dominate. I dont understand? His attacks are impressive, powerful and exciting and yes it looks like he is going to win but we have seen that many times with Armstrong, Pantani, Indurain, Basso in Grand Tours. We cannot always have a mano a mano till the bitter end. Of course those are the best races, but helas we have yet again another phenom and his rivals simply can not match him. Would it be better to have a bunch of flat stages now and then a flat TT or as it the case now a series of brutally hard stages where we are guaranteed some interesting racing. In a way his is doing what we all secretly dream about doing, naturally of course.

notbruce May 22, 2011 at 12:26 am

I think AC rides in a class of his own, and if he gets through all the Giro drug controls then regardless of the past then he should get credit for his ability to dominate in the mountains

Beth May 22, 2011 at 1:34 am

Inner Ring: For lots of reasons I have been unable to get interested in the Giro this year; what a shame. So I’ve tuned it out a bit and just watched an awesome stage 7 of the Tour of California. A week or so ago I asked you if you thought that Zomegnan would “dial it back” at all after Wouter’s accident. Well, I see we now have our answer to that question. He was never willing to do that, but the UCI did it for him. And predictably (for him) he is fuming and calling everyone sissies, or similar ranting (also predictable). We have been here before with Zomegnan and the Giro. I just watched that online video of the hair-raising descent of Crostis that you mentioned. It seems like it would be really hard to maintain the necessary concentration all the way down. I can understand why the riders and teams are beginning to feel like sacrificial lambs being sent to the slaughter, all for the sake of tv ratings and so some of us can get a thrill from the inevitable carnage. The power struggle going on between the various players is getting really complicated/interesting. I think I will watch the Tour of California tomorrow and take a break from bike racing for awhile.

Don May 22, 2011 at 4:38 am

Beth, you spoke what I’ve been feeling without my realizing it. I’ve been watching ATOC over the Giro because I must be more interested in a race where the winner will probably be the winner, instead of a race where the winner might not be the winner, and the riders appear to be riding for 2nd place. What a sad state for cycling.

Mick Tarrant May 22, 2011 at 10:00 am

TOC over the Giro as tv choice, surely not. The Giro is in a different league, despite Bert’s dominance.

Rider Council May 22, 2011 at 9:43 pm

Professional riders don’t ride for 2nd place unless it’s a crit somewhere in the de lage landen in August. How ridiculous to suggest that as a tactic. They are riding for what they can get and that may be 2nd, 3rd, 15th… whatever keeps them focused and motivated and not feeling like they have no reason to race. After the guy in pink, they are all getting a hammering, a serious hammering. All kinds of weird stuff is getting printed as the try to cope with the shock. Nibali just ain’t ready for that yet.

Miso Kuropka May 23, 2011 at 2:13 am

Beth: I did Monte Crostis on Friday. We were hit by the storm right on the top, so the road was wet while we were descending. I was there with 15 friends. We unanimously agreed that the descent was difficult, but reasonable. Organizer did enormous amount of work to make the road as safe as possible. There were still people working on the road to make it even more safer. And I am still outraged that it was canceled, because only after you see it first hand you can comprehend the enormous energy local people put into it. All of this effort, money, volunteer work was wasted because politics and hidden agendas inside the peloton. More importantly, bike racing is such an interesting sport to follow because the inspirational places the race visits and the challenges such places bring to the race. Just consider last year Giro, Strade Bianchi Stage was one of the most beautiful sporting moments of the last season despite the fact that many pros were strongly against it.

It is a shame that Contador (aka El Dopelero) started this campaign against Crostis righ after his reconnaissance trip. The hidden agenda behind this: he knew hat none of the his rivals would beat him on Zoncolan, but realized that Monte Crostis would bring a lot of uncertainties to the race. Thus, he started a campaign against it.

El Tejan May 23, 2011 at 2:26 pm

>> Professional riders don’t ride for 2nd place unless it’s a crit somewhere in the de lage landen in August … They are riding for what they can get and that may be 2nd, 3rd, 15th… whatever keeps them focused and motivated and not feeling like they have no reason to race <<

Thanks for making my point. They know first isn't obtainable given Contador's domination.

Rider Council May 23, 2011 at 4:16 pm

That’s wild speculation about a hidden agenda of Contador. Not liking a rider is no reason to highlight his protest above all the others. We have a tainted upper half GC almost every race nowadays. Go ahead, pick out the riders and teams that are linked to a doping scandal in the current top 10 in the Giro and work out what the percentage is. The lid blew on the pressure pot at last minute. One rider alone could not do that.

Rider Council May 23, 2011 at 4:42 pm

Right, El Tejan, but for now the race is still very much on and even Contador can’t relax with several climbs ahead, he said it himself. A bad day, a crash, a dropped chain. My point was I doubt what happens after this race is probably an issue right now with the competitors. Those who are not aggressive probably are racing to their max regardless. Nibali is one of them, except for his bravado yesterday on and off the bike. That was PR racing not very tactically astute but something for the tifosi and La Gazzetta to keep the faith. He is young and smart so hopefully this experience with help him deliver his ‘opera’ down the road.

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