The Giro d’Italia One Week In

Sunday, 17 May 2015

The Giro d’Italia opened with a team time trial and for the whole week Astana and Tinkoff-Saxo have kept going in the formation. Day after day the bunch has been driven to exhaustion by a line of sky blue or fluo-yellow jerseys. But for all their efforts there’s little to show with Alberto Contador and Fabio Aru just three seconds apart.

Alberto Contador’s shoulder has been the preoccupation since his crash but what about his legs? His attack on the road to Abetone wasn’t the usual heavyweight blow to his rivals and he was quickly reeled in by Fabio Aru. Meanwhile Richie Porte has covered everything and sits in the perfect position, assuming his off-day doesn’t arrive.

What should have been an introductory week to ease riders into the race with some skirmishing for the maglia rosa nd stage wins has been open war between Astana and Tinkoff-Saxo as each team sought to take control of the race. It’s been impressive but hasn’t achieved that much, a lot of calories consumed for little measurable gains. Astana look the stronger outfit, they’re more explosive. This has been raising a few eyebrows but it’s been predictable on paper given Tinkoff-Saxo’s ageing diesels can deliver steady riding but not the explosive uphill attacks. If you’re suspicious and like to judge this kind of thing by television at least wait for the third week to see if they can keep it up before reaching a verdict.

Roman Kreuziger

The tug of war reached bizarre levels on the stage to La Spezia when Roman Kreuziger was up the road in a maxi-breakaway but Tinkoff-Saxo saw fit to race hard, presumably to soften up Alberto Contador’s rivals but effectively chasing down Kreuziger. The Czech could have kept an advantage on the field, putting pressure on Astana and Sky through his advantage but Tinkoff-Saxo are all in for Contador. The battle kept up with Sunday’s Stage 9 again seeing Aru on the rampage. The modest Passo Serra’s steep section was used to jump away and only Contador, Porte and Landa could follow.

Let us wait… …when the enemy is making a false movement we must take good care not to interrupt him
– Napoleon

While the Russian-Kazakh combat raged Team Sky have been on the receiving end. Normally an imposing force in stage races the likes of Leopold König, Vasil Kiriyienka, Sebastian Henao and Mikel Nieve haven’t been as visible. Sky say it’s deliberate and they’re backing away from the Astana-Tinkoff scrap to save themselves for the final week. Of course if they were being dropped they’d probably have to say the same thing out of bluff too. Elia Viviani took a good sprint win for them.

Looking at the four contenders Fabio Aru is the most aggressive and confident right now but for all his attacks and for all Astana’s work he’s not got more than a handful of seconds out of it, a poor return on investment when measured by the overall classification. But precious for his popularity, this kind of racing is winning him fans and delivering big audiences and large crowds to the race. Mikel Landa is proving very useful as he can assist Aru at the most intense points of the race and could be used as a foil on the steep climbs to come to force Contador and Porte to chase.

Contador Abetone

Alberto Contador’s shoulder have grabbed the headlines but shouldn’t we be talking about his legs? Before the crash he wasn’t looking at his best. His acceleration to Abetone was easily reeled in by Aru and Porte and he didn’t look happy in the team time trial either. As for that crash the Giro’s official medical bulletin says it was only a partial dislocation, a subluxation with a small amount of instability which is removed from the headlines of dislocation. Is this hypochondriac Contador bigging up his injuries? He’s not done too much to swell the headlines but he’s not iced them either. Right  now Contador would probably like to loan out the jersey to someone else for a few days but he’s unlikely to gift it to Aru who is likely to harry him for the mid-stage time bonuses.

Richie Porte is exactly where he wants to be although not where the Italians want him to be. He’s been rushing away at the end of each stage rather than doing interviews and RAI’s presenters are getting frustrated. If anything Porte’s been so discreet the talking point has been the mobile home Team Sky are using to ensure he gets predictable comfort every night although it only takes one patriotic Sardinian with a powerful car stereo to drive up and down blasting “Nessun dorma” to give Porte nightmares. But so far the first week has been a dream, he’s responded well to all the attacks and hasn’t been passive either, he’s tried a few accelerations too. He can look forward to the upcoming time trial. That fear of an off-day looms large but for now he’s in the perfect position.

There has been talk of the “three tenors” with Contador, Aru and Porte riding away from everyone else. Rigoberto Uran is still singing if he can shake the head cold. He’s two minutes down on Aru, Contador and Porte but could close this gap in the time trial. On paper it’s possible he puts two minutes into Aru but on tarmac this is a big ask for someone who has been tailed off. If he gains ground the risk is he surrenders it again in the mountains especially as he’s without climber Pieter Serry crashing out early. As things go salvaging third place is going to be a big ask.

Giro peloton

Tiredness is going to be a big factor. Anecdotally riders are mentioning what a hard week it’s been, others are have have high “suffer scores” from power meters and just going by television you can see this has been a very hard week, the bunch has often been lined out mid-stage. The varied terrain and the aggressive tactics have put many on their knees. Fatigue in a stage race is like compound interest, it grows with time and the more it’s accumulated early, the higher the price paid later in the race. After such a hard opening week it’s been perfect for Chris Froome, Nairo Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali. They have good reason to fear Alberto Contador in July but the Spaniard’s been through the mill in the opening week. Even without that crash it’s been a very tough week and now Contador’s crash has only added to his fatigue. The injury is just at that point to make Contador suffer more and sleep less all while keeping him in the race with Oleg Tinkov cheering him on.

If the GC contenders risk being punch drunk from their efforts then Orica-Greenedge must be drunk from the Astoria prosecco on the podium. The Australian team won the first week with the opening team time trial and then success on Stage 3 for Michael Matthews all while rotating the maglia rosa through the squad. Best of all they seemed to enjoy it all, you can them working together and loving the moment rather than deploying bland terms about racing “day by day”. Lampre-Merida have had a great time too, the only remaining Italian team in the World Tour (whisper it: they’re registered in Switzerland for tax) have got two stage wins thanks to Jan Polanc and Diego Ulissi.

Tipped for big things Davide Formolo has already delivered with a stylish solo win in La Spezia. He’s not climbing with the best yet but the win means plenty for his Cannondale-Garmin team, their first televized triumph this season. Of all the teams to merge, putting the Italian Cannondale team with the US Garmin squad made for an odd choice. It’s a subject for another day but Italian cycling is often ultra-hierarchical, amateur squads toil in service of a designated leader and juniors are pressed into formation; a contrast to the relaxed encouragement of Argyll self-expression. Domenico Pozzovivo crashed out and with him went an attacking rider who had to enliven the mountain stages in order to compensate for his lack of time trial skills. He’s OK and will ride the Tour de Suisse. It’s interesting to imagine a fresh Pozzovivo and a lean and mean Carlos Betancur joining J-C Péraud and Romain Bardet for Ag2r’s Tour squad but it would be too many chiefs. Pozzovivo is better suited to the Vuelta where his presence and ability to place on GC helps Ag2r La Mondiale’s points haul too. Last but not least André Greipel’s sprint win was a textbook example of team work but overshadowed by the Colli/Contador crash, the German now has an impressive record of winning a stage in every grand tour he’s started since 2008.

What’s next? A calmer week. Monday is a rest day and the rest of the week is for the sprinters. Tuesday is nailed on for the sprinters and breakaway artists, Wednesday has a lumpy finishing circuit, Thurday’s finish has tough late climb and Friday’s profile is shown above. We should see a ceasefire on the GC although Aru might well try to snipe some bonus seconds. On some ways Contador will want to give up the jersey… but not to Aru. Saturday’s 59.4km time trial awaits.

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Larz May 17, 2015 at 7:37 pm

“Right now Contador would probably like to loan out the jersey to someone else for a few days”

According to an interview with DS Lars Michaelsen (in danish) it seems that Contador intends to keep the jersey, where as others on the team would be happier without it for some days (at least, that was the ideal solution to Lars Michaelsen).

Contador is calling the shots on Tinkoff-Saxo

The Inner Ring May 17, 2015 at 7:57 pm

If there was a way to engineer a big break of non-threatening riders up the road they might take it but the chance for that has gone with their aggressive riding all week. The wildcard teams have yet to get a stage win and will be hoping for some scraps soon.

Augie March May 17, 2015 at 8:09 pm

I actually thought that might happen today with Hesjedal who was 6 minutes down at the start of the day and even had he taken the lead, he would be extremely unlikely to hold it, this isn’t 2012 and Contador/Aru/Porte are not Purito. But no, as usual, Astana decided it would be a hard GC day and Hesjedal got back only 30 seconds while Aru flogged himself for 1 second back on Contador. Porte might not be that chatty but I bet he’s sleeping easy in his motorhome with his opponents either exhausting themselves or falling of the pace.

David May 17, 2015 at 7:48 pm

I’ve seen Contador attack early in Grand Tours and get caught… Vuelta 2012 and Vuelta 2014. It’s easier for rivals to respond to attacks in week 1 with fresh legs.

We can ask Froome, J-Rod and Valverde how they felt about Contador’s week 3 attacks…

Freddie May 17, 2015 at 7:57 pm

As always, brilliant. Thanks INRG!!!

Larry T. May 17, 2015 at 8:36 pm

Nice wrap up of week 1, thanks. I assume it’s the English-language coverage saying “3 Tenors”? On RAI TV here in Italy it’s the 3 (originally 4) aces. They even had a bit where they designated one the ace of hearts, another spades, etc. I spoke with some old-timers at the race on Friday who said it was only LeTour that forbade riders sleeping anywhere other than their designated hotel with their teams. They all were as down on the private motorhome idea as I am…even if Porte ends up in rosa in Milan as a result, it looks bad and less-than-sporting to me. No surprise to me it’s the SKY team who’s trying it. Wonder if TdF still bans the practice?

Anonymous May 18, 2015 at 9:08 am

What’s the objection to the motorhome?

The Inner Ring May 18, 2015 at 9:43 am

The idea that Sky can buy things the others can’t, eg Porte doing the transfer yesterday by helicopter. Porte and his entourage might need to be careful here, by all means sleep in a truck but his lack of media appearances are grating with a few. It’s one thing to win / perform but charming the locals goes a long way too.

Sam May 18, 2015 at 10:11 am

It’s a good point, INRNG, on the media appearances point. Sky can be bad about their strategy on that kind of thing.

Larry T. May 18, 2015 at 11:34 am

Why “by all means sleep in a truck”? And now a private helicopter? Geez. I consider myself a strong “disliker” of SKY..but if they keep this up I might join the hater camp. If Porte manages not to flop in the final week, will Sky’s “marginal gains” now include helicopter transport, no press conferences and private motor homes for their stars? All they’ll have to do is pedal the bikes and wipe their own a__s, but maybe there’s a program for that second one too?

Sam May 18, 2015 at 12:00 pm

Larry, Tinkoff has provided a private plane on more than one occasion to move his stars around mid-race. Its not the first time, and it wont be the last. Hell, Bert got to sleep in Tinkoff’s nice Italian villa the other night.

Hate all you want but why not distribute the hate evenly?

Sam May 18, 2015 at 12:02 pm

^Tinkov

Wouldn’t want to get his name wrong

Larry T. May 18, 2015 at 5:51 pm

As far as I know Il Pistolero’s sleeping in the hotel provided for him AND taking the time to do TV interviews with the local broadcaster. There used to be rules about how riders got around between stages and private planes were against them. And even if they’re not against the rules, they look bad. While certainly the stars get more than the watercarriers in pretty much every way, one of the appeals of the sport to me is they travel, sleep, eat, etc together as a team..something SKY seems to be tossing overboard in their “marginal gains” idea. The stuff they used to do was low-cost and deemed smart (warming down on the rollers, etc.) vs the copter rides and private motorhome which just say “we have more money than you” while flaunting it in a tacky way. I understand others aren’t bothered by it, but I’ve already explained my Marxist leanings.

J Evans May 18, 2015 at 6:22 pm

You can imagine what the rest of his team think about it: I’d have thought any marginal gains would be lost by your riders giving their support somewhat begrudgingly.
And I’m totally with you on the dislike of money dominating everything. (Just look at what people mention when they talk about ‘What is good for the future of cycling’ – they always take this to mean ‘What will make more money’; even the fans – unthinkingly. That’s just good capitalist training: the pursuit of money is the basis of all life.)
Don’t worry, Larry, if rock and roll’s taught us anything it’s don’t get involved with light aircraft.

John May 18, 2015 at 6:26 pm

SKY aren’t the first to do this. It was done by others at the Vuelta last year. Here is Contador after stage 16 of the Vuelta last year:

http://www.steephill.tv/2014/vuelta-a-espana/photos/stage-16/700-IMG_7739.jpg

Speckled Jim May 18, 2015 at 12:41 pm

What’s the problem with deploying resources/trying new things to (legally!) improve performance?

As you’ve pointed out in your financial analyses of the pro teams, there are considerable disparities in how well the various ProTour teams are funded, and Sky is certainly in the upper echelon in terms of financing and resources. However I doubt any of the well-resourced teams would compromise on what they think might optimise their stars’ performance just make the poorer teams feel better.

I agree that there is a perception problem here, but is it being exaggerated by pique at the lack of media appearances (eg star riders have used helicopters for years)? Like Cadel and his lion in 2008, the rule seems to hold that the more a rider tries to shelter from media attention, the more intrusive and critical it becomes. Team Sky could probably sharpen up in this area, but it doesn’t strike me that they doing anything particularly objectionable.

leonn May 19, 2015 at 12:43 pm

@John,

caption from this picture says: “Backdoor exit exclusive: Contador, Valvarde and Rodriguez left the mountain in style in a helicopter. That’s Contador riding shotgun.”

It seems to me an arrangement from Vuelta Organizers and not from Tinkoff’s.

Nick May 18, 2015 at 12:20 pm

It’s unusual. Therefore bad.

J Evans May 18, 2015 at 1:40 pm

If Porte chooses to live in a caravan it makes no difference to anyone else and very little or no difference to Porte. This polemic is a fart in a thunderstorm.

RocksRootsRoad May 18, 2015 at 1:23 pm

Larry T, I don’t really see the objection to the Motor Home – storm in a teacup. Moto GP have been doing this sort of thing for years. If the smaller (budget) teams had the resources, I am sure they would use a helicopter if they could.

This is just your personal bias and weekly anti-Sky rant. Move on.

noel May 18, 2015 at 1:44 pm

away from their usual pr disaster it seems to me that Sky have got it spot on so far… I just reminded myself of the stages in the final week…yikes. If Porte can get a minute or so lead out of the TT, and can attach his more rested and lightweight self, limpet-like, onto AC on those big climbs I think he could be very hard to beat. I’d love to think Aru could be the cause of a new Italian cycling boom, but I fear he’ll lose too much in the TT, despite his team. Landa tho…. what’s his TTing like?

Tovarishch May 18, 2015 at 2:29 pm

Landa – basically rubbish at TT. Lost nearly 7 minutes to Uran last year but seems to have improved somewhat this year.

gabriele May 18, 2015 at 3:05 pm

Neither has he improved that much.
It’s just that the only ITT he competed in this year was the very peculiar one in Aia, during the País Vasco.
Generally speaking, he always struggled to make a top 50. Including uphill ITT or ITT with some climbing.
That said, he sure wasn’t interested most of the times, not being involved in the GC fight, nor had he much motivation or support to improve this basic skill before moving to Astana (he raced for Euskaltel-Euskadi 🙂 ).
Landa has long been known – right from the juvenile ranks on – as a classy rider, a brilliant climber with a keen eye for mythical climbs, who had gone half missing because a certain lack of perseverance.
A pure climber can improve a lot if he starts working properly on the basics for the first time (usually, you just give up and get desperate about it, but the aero factor can play a little on your favour, allowing you to reduce the difference).
All the same, if Landa throws in an impressive ITT, my eyebrow (speaking of Landa 😛 ) will get all mixed up with my hair.

Anonymous May 18, 2015 at 3:25 pm

Aru worked this winter on his position in TTs and to sum it up: Nobody has anything against Sky doing whatever they want to do inside the rules. As long as they are doing it in a respectful way. Respect for the races they are in, for the country they are in etc.. They lack in that department. It would maybe even help if one would get the feeling they enjoy what they are doing.

Sam May 18, 2015 at 4:49 pm

Maybe read some of their individual riders interviews and you might get a picture of whether they do or not? Otherwise its bias (which is fine, of course – that’s any individual’s choice)

For my part, I read interviews with riders from many teams and I really don’t see any difference re enjoyment levels. Cycling at this level is WAY too hard a career if you don’t enjoy it.

noel May 18, 2015 at 5:03 pm

the Sky classics squad certainly look like they enjoy their racing and each others company… Rowe talked about a big p*ss-up weekend they all go on at the end of the spring as I recall.
Brailsford can come over as a bit grumpy, but I guess he’s just doing his ‘control’ thing (insisting Porte warms down/up etc before talking to the media…).

PH May 18, 2015 at 11:04 pm

A minute or so lead? That would be quite the feat. Porte would need to beat Contador by 80+ seconds. Can’t see it myself, but as they say, you never know. In all honesty wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if Contador put in a faster time than Porte.

Alejandro Marinero May 19, 2015 at 9:56 am

The type of ITT parcour makes Contador unbeatable if his shoulder injury could heal in time. The route is not pan-flat where he strugles but, has two lumps similar to those where he landed on a podium by beating the likes of Cancella, Froome, etc. The length of 59 kms. though will make it a different race to everyone in the peloton.

gabriele May 19, 2015 at 11:12 am

I don’t think it’s such a good route for Contador, nor that Porte is necessarily inferior to the Spaniard.
In 2014, Porte’s TTs were a disaster, but that was just as anything else that year for him.
In 2013, he landed 1.5″/km on Contador in the first Tour’s ITT, 33 more or less flat kms (stage 11).
The second ITT (stage 17) saw Contador prevail with a giant margin: it was an impressive performance which saw him just 9″ down on Froome, but I think that Porte was holding back to work as a domestic in the following stages, whereas the previous ITT was followed by flat stages (even if Saxo attacked precisely in one of them thanks to the wind).
That same year in the 33 flat kms of Dauphinée’s ITT, Porte inflicted some 2′ on Contador, even if the Spaniard entered the race relatively low on form (classical preparation for the Tour), whereas Porte was on top form.
In the hilly ITT of País Vasco, Porte was able to gain about 1″/km.
It’s quite obvious that we’re speaking of one of Contador’s worst years ever (which makes even more remarkable his second ITT in the Tour), however it shows that Porte has the potential to take advantage of that stage; though, it must also be said that Porte produced along the previous years a great variety of results in the ITTs, ranging from highly disappointing to exciting, sometimes even in the same year… or race!
About the route: that second ITT in 2013 Tour had climbs with the double of vertical gain and more significant gradients than what we’ll see on Saturday; it nearly hadn’t any flat section at all.
Truth is that Porte appears to like better a different kind of TTs, regular ones, without changes, be it an uphill TT or a flat one.
But Saturday’s is also a TT you can’t ride “on feelings”, a careful planning and optimisation will help greatly, and Sky are better than Contador in this specific field.
I think that much depends on Porte, that is, him finding one of his good TT days and not one of his not so uncommon opaque performances. In the second case, it’s indeed possible that Contador beats him. On the contrary, if Porte sticks to the plan, I believe that he can reasonably get those famous 80″, whereas 100″ or more would be nearly unprecedented and would need a comparison with the other riders to understand if Contador had a bad performance or Porte found the perfect form of his life.

Richard S May 17, 2015 at 8:37 pm

Have Aru/Astana wasted calories, or have they worn down their rivals so that they aren’t going into the TT after 2 weeks cruising in the bunch but rather having chased all round Italy. The more tired they are the less they’ll be able to rip out of Aru in the TT. I expect Astana to attack on every incline all week.

gabriele May 17, 2015 at 8:37 pm

@inrng, some mess about the week we’re entering into: it’s rest day on Monday, a sprinters’ stage on Tuesday (it’s 200km but the few sprinters may be eager to win something!), tricky stage on Wednesday (the lumpy final circuit is preceded by an hell of short climbs, just hoping for the guys they’re not riding it as in Liguria), hard finale on Thursday (more of the same, if they’re going on with the same mood), while the stage whose profile you posted above is on Friday, thus allowing Thursday’s attackers to get some rest before the weekend show.

gabriele May 17, 2015 at 8:45 pm

That is, I wouldn’t say that “the rest of the week is for sprinters”… very probable on Tuesday and Friday, if they can reel breakaways back in, but Wednesday is already quite hard (depends on how they race in the first part of the stage; anyway, I think it would be more suited, if anything, to a classics rider, among whom I would include for example Matthews, given his results not only in Sanremo but also in Amstel and Brabantse Pijl); and I would be *very* surprised to see a sprinter winning on Thursday. Not to speak of Saturday and Sunday, obviously.

The Inner Ring May 17, 2015 at 10:59 pm

All relative, but probably not the terrain for Aru to try more moves day after day.

gabriele May 17, 2015 at 11:43 pm

As you noted, it looks like it has gone personal between Aru and Contador, regarding that provisional pink jersey. On the contrary, it would have been quite logical on Contador’s part to leave it to Aru today and avoid all the hard work on Wednesday (there will be plenty, at least to assure that those in the break aren’t a menace).
Or is it about the ITT start order?
If it goes on like this, without changes in the jersey wearer or time differences, I’m quite sure that Aru will try something on Thursday. On Crosara, or maybe snatching those few seconds in the last km of the stage, that rises progressively from 5% to 11%.
Can anyone confirm that Contador has rarely (or even “never”) lost the jersey once he wore it in a GT? It could become sort of a fixation for him, a dangerous one in this case.

Netserk May 17, 2015 at 11:53 pm

Confirmed. Whenever he has taken a GT leader’s jersey, he has kept it all the way. Most of the time because he gets it late, but mostly because he is very consistent and gets better later in a GT.

bbqwer May 18, 2015 at 11:47 am

The other benefit by holding the jersey: its going to force other contender to attack, AC no need to attack.

Look at what happen vuelta 2014, Froome do all attack. AC only needs to sit as passenger, and attack when closer to finish line.

hoh May 18, 2015 at 12:21 pm

He’s luck as Froome had a terrible ITT. He’d need to attack if it was a normal ITT for Froome and Froome would have gained a minute or so on him. On the contrary here, he’s probably expecting to gain time on Aru during the ITT. He might as well let the 3 seconds go and get it back after the ITT. To be honest, Porte is more of a worry in that regard anyway.

J Evans May 18, 2015 at 2:07 pm

I know it’s traditional for riders to ride at the front if they have the jersey, but there’s no rule that says they have to. A rider who is not interested in keeping it has no reason to feel obliged to make his team ride at the front.
If I had the jersey I’d call my opponents’ bluff and just say ‘You chase the breakaway – affects you just as much as it affects me’.

gabriele May 18, 2015 at 2:45 pm

“Qvesto è Giro d’Italia, no Giro di Kazakhstan!” (L’Aquila 2010).

J Evans May 18, 2015 at 3:16 pm

And winning it is the only important thing: I’d leave all the ‘respecting the jersey’ cliches to the media.

Richard S May 17, 2015 at 8:38 pm

You have to say after the Tour last year and this week, Astana are the most tactically creative of the big GC teams.

Nempnett Thrubwell May 18, 2015 at 10:26 am

You could say after last year’s Tour they were found to be creative elsewhere too. I love the racing but frustratingly, there is a sizable chunk of me that’s sceptical. After the 12 months Astana have had, seeing them blow apart the field and place 3 in the top 5 amid talks of power data revealing hardest first week ever, hmm…
I so desperately wish it wasn’t so.

gabriele May 18, 2015 at 11:29 am

If you speak of what has been *found*, I’d say that “creative” is the wrong word. EPO is not that creative. And they were so lacking in imagination that they gave it to a couple of rider with the same surname.
As I wrote elsewhere, I’m watching them closely, too, even if I believe that it’s way better to wait for further developments: that said, it’s not so utterly strange that the strongest team as a collective on hard terrains tries to take advantage from that.

It’s quite annoying that the same kind of considerations aren’t applied to other teams, when they over(?)-perform (question mark deeply needed, since it can be harder than people think to estimate if a performance is consistent or not with your potential, in Astana’s case just as in the others I’ll name).

Not to point fingers on the usual suspects, I’d say that, for example, Ag2R did enough to raise multiple eyebrows in the last two or three years – and they have had a good number of “official” doping cases, too. But, as it is indeed advisable, people didn’t went around screaming about them. On the contrary (which is less advisable), odes to the cleanliness of new cycling – proven by the result of the *notoriously* clean French cycling – have been raised to the heavens (I’d like to add, anyway, that what looked like overperformances in the team weren’t only from French athletes: personally, I’d prefer to avoid a national perspective).
Orica, in its own field, put in during the last years some interesting over(?)-performances: well, no big doping cases for them, just some shady situations, but a *very* dodgy DS (nothing to envy to Vino). So what? It’s just applauses… hoping they’re “greener” than their sponsor.

The whole Astana thing (whether they are really overdoping, which I wouldn’t rule out, or not) looks more and more a media operation driven by political motives.
Quite effective, indeed. If it wasn’t so, that is, if it was just a matter of shifting cycling culture and fans’ attitude about doping, we’d see coherent positions from these same fans about comparable situations. But it doesn’t happen.
So I guess it’s just about barking at whom and when you’re – more or less implicitly – told to: I’m afraid the whole thing is, once more, about directing and exploiting fans’ sensitivity and passionateness. *Popular*, *spontaneous* protest, riot included, has become throughout the last decade the new trend in political manipulation and indirect warfare, maybe cycling is just updating its armoury.

hoh May 18, 2015 at 12:23 pm

Well, Sky got quite a troll without any case as well.

gabriele May 18, 2015 at 12:52 pm

Very true (even if it must be said that there were other factors, too – as it can be said for Etixx and nearly every other WT team; nevertheless, I’d note that most relevant question weren’t being raised by media, hence that’s another case of “mediatic assault” which usually fails to tackle central points).
Anyway, I’m not convinced at all that positive tests and doping sanctions are a good meter… until we’re shown that institutions can really be trusted. As for me, it will take some time: no Cookson’s fault, just a “slipstream” effect of the past. All the same, they are a good element to be taken into consideration, no doubt about that.
Finally, to be fair I must say that what really made me raise etc. was Astana’s TTT much more than all that followed. We’ll need to put that into perspective (it’s possible that they decided to interpret the race peaking in the first half), still it has been quite impacting.

RocksRootsRoad May 18, 2015 at 9:46 pm

Vaughters got it right with a Tweet a couple of days ago.

If this Giro is Star Wars then it is more “The Empire Strikes Back” than “Return of the Jedi”

I am paraphrasing but you get the gist…

gabriele May 18, 2015 at 11:01 pm

I guess he should be Darth Vaughters, repenting in his final moments after a (sporting) life with the Dark Side.
Whereas I’m not so sure about who the Emperor is: Vino is more like a Han Solo type, Tinkov sort of Chewbacca…

gabriele May 17, 2015 at 9:00 pm

I think I don’t completely agree with the “just a handful of seconds” thing, like “much ado for nothing”: they didn’t sink Porte, and both Contador and Aru survived the reciprocal offensives, but pretty much anyone else is two minutes back or more!
It’s pretty easy to say that the Giro was about them three in any case (humm… and Urán, to start with), but, hey, you must get that on the road. Ask Purito about not inflicting that couple of mins on Hesjedal when he could, or ask Froome if Cobo was one of the outright favourites in that Vuelta. Maybe Valverde didn’t expect much from Peraud. A good bunch of guys are out there riding, and having a couple of minutes on them may prove useful: for Aru (not Contador’s case, indeed), even if he’s not winning, a podium would be better than a generic top ten.
What is more, Astana now has a couple of good cards around one minute back from the pink jersey. Tinkoff showed they’re not interested in getting anything with Kreuziger, but Astana, angry may the Italian media and fans get, could decide to play a “Martinelli”. König will probably rise again with the TT, still he has now 2’30” to get back before he lingers around the top.

J Evans May 18, 2015 at 2:24 pm

Yup, you take time whenever you can if you’re wise (similarly, ask A. Schleck if he now wishes he’d attaced C. Evans in the Pyrenees, in 2011) – and this was the best opportunity to take time from Contador, who will very probably get stronger as the Giro goes on.
Astana and Sky should have teamed up against him: I think they’ll come to regret not doing so.
Fair enough, Astana had a bit of a go, but those two teams should have been pulling all the time: Contador was dropped a couple of times early in the stages.

J Evans May 18, 2015 at 2:25 pm

*attacked

leonn May 17, 2015 at 9:05 pm

Inrng,

You are concern about Contador’s legs, but I think he’s saving them. There’s a 3rd week in play and he’s planning to do Letour on July, so maybe this is a tatic (aggressive tinkoff team ride and little display of power from Contador) to avoid surprises on 3rd week.

The real contenders and true story will appear after TT.

bbqwer May 18, 2015 at 11:51 am

Im huge AC fans, I have to say current AC form are not the same as vuelta 2014.

Josh May 20, 2015 at 1:12 am

Giro 2015 competition is not as steep as vuelta 2014 competition. He probably was planning to save more for le Tour

Anonymous May 18, 2015 at 12:12 am

“Contador’s acceleration to Abetone was easily reeled in by Aru and Porte”

Could say the same about every Aru acceleration being easily reeled in by someone with an injured shoulder.

ronytominger May 18, 2015 at 12:15 am

if theres interest, heres a litte chart about evolution of time gaps (y-axis is seconds behind leader/ x-axis stage nr.)

http://41.media.tumblr.com/048a6fe1b263cce016fd035401330220/tumblr_inline_noiketMxCI1tstsi3_500.jpg

Anonymous May 18, 2015 at 10:57 am

+1

ronytominger May 18, 2015 at 1:43 pm

will be continued and sophisticated of course

Anonymous May 18, 2015 at 1:39 am

Inrng’s writing and analysis has been every bit as good as the racing so far.

Things might go a bit flat (literally and figuratively) this week by comparison I reckon.

Anthony May 18, 2015 at 5:13 am

Have Intxausti or Kruijswijk expressed much of an interest in chasing the KOM jersey yet?

The Inner Ring May 18, 2015 at 9:40 am

Not seen anything but seeing Kruijswijk on the attack twice in a row make him a good choice while Inxausti too has what it takes.

Alexander Hermann May 18, 2015 at 5:13 am

The long ITT ‘s parcour is not pan-flat and this greatly favors Contador. He may even win it due to the absence of Tony Martin. Perhaps those attacks made by Aru and his Astana teammates were planned to gain precious seconds to negate Contador’s advantage at the ITT.

The Inner Ring May 18, 2015 at 9:11 am

I think the flat first half will penalise him and others, the need to push a big gear at 50km/h first will slow some and blunt their legs before the second half.

Jonhard May 18, 2015 at 1:14 pm

Sounds perfect for a bike change.

chris May 18, 2015 at 6:13 am

I don’t see any issue with Contador getting the Pink so early, it’s not as if it’ll change the approach of other GC contender teams – he was a marked man coming in to the tour, now he just has a head start…

The Inner Ring May 18, 2015 at 9:13 am

As Sam says below it adds a lot of extra work every day, as well as the obligations there are all the small things with fans wanting photos and people slapping your back etc, all this for another week where the fatigue adds up. Nice problem to have of course.

Sam May 18, 2015 at 6:30 am

^Chris: the thing about having the leader’s jersey is that every day you hold it, that’s +1 hour’s less rest time thanks to anti-doping, media interviews and obligations after each stage. Whilst your team mates – and importantly, rivals – are resting up in the team bus or en route to the hotel….well you’re not. And over time, day after day, it all adds up and can take its toll, especially over a grand tour. Even rest days are far less taxing if you’re not leading the race (although Aru and Astana will be inundated today, thanks to Italy going Aru-bonkers, and Astana, well, riding the way they are)

Fatso Rosa May 18, 2015 at 6:38 am

The Merida bike co. should give a big fat bonus to Lampre. One day they release their new climbing bike, the next day it’s winning a mountain stage, followed the next day by their aero frame.

That’s one hell of a marketing point.

Kjetil May 18, 2015 at 9:34 am

“it only takes one patriotic Sardinian with a powerful car stereo to drive up and down blasting “Nessun dorma” to give Porte nightmares”

Coffee in my keyboard. Again.
Brilliant!

Thanks for the analysis. I haven’t been able to follow the first week. I have missed something splendid.

noel May 18, 2015 at 9:37 am

I assume Garmindale think that Formolo is still too young to be competitive all the way to Milan, as they (and specifically Hesjedal) appear to have abandoned him to fend for himself at the important moments. Was the plan that Hesjedal was supposed to sit on Tirolongo’s (or whoever attacked Slagter) wheel yday?. Astana look so so strong.

The Inner Ring May 18, 2015 at 9:38 am

Formolo says he’ll see how he fares and will either target another stage win or the points jersey.

Even Slagter didn’t sit on Tiralongo’s wheel when the Italian caught him. But perhaps this was bluff, he knew he was cooked but did not want to show it and so joined in the effort even if he had Hesjedal behind.

J Evans May 18, 2015 at 12:35 pm

One would have thought that Aru’s illness will affect him by the third week: mighty odd if such weight loss, etc. didn’t affect his stamina at some point. He’ll also lose a bundle in the TT.
Porte seems to be relying entirely on the time trial, but I doubt he’ll gain enough on Contador to cover his losses in the big mountains.
I think that Contador is a cut above the others (although none have shown any superiority), but it’s still unproven that he is – as people often say – the best grand tour rider of his generation. He has yet to reach the dominant levels he did pre-ban. He’s had his share of bad luck with crashes, but two Vueltas is his palmares. He might well add a Giro, but the double has never seemed likely and I think he went for that in order to be more certain of winning something this year (and to give himself an excuse at the Tour). Still my favourite rider to watch, though.
I still think T-S chased down Kreuziger because the last they want is for him to win the race – and then lose it in a few months’ time.

gabriele May 18, 2015 at 2:36 pm

I agree with most you say, though you should consider that the “post-ban” Contador is about two-and-a-half seasons! 2013 was disappointing, but the rest has been quite good. Ti-Ad 2014 was quite a display of superiority, as – IMHO – that same year’s Dauphinée, albeit he didn’t win. The Vuelta is the “lesser” GT, still we can’t ignore that in 2014 the Spanish race had an impressive field and was raced at a very high level.

However, we should also take into account a couple of factors: first, more or less any rider who stops racing along various months will be affected in athletical terms when he comes back, usually for at least a year. You can observe that clearly enough in amateur ranks, imagine among the pro. Second, Contador isn’t growing younger. As a rider who started competing at top level at a very young age, it’s quite natural that his career can’t stretch much longer.
Which means we can’t reasonably expect that Contador goes against physiology just to show the world that he’s “as strong as ever”, because no rider is “as strong as ever” when he loses months of competition and when he grows “old” (uhmm… Horner?). And maybe it’s just better like that.
That’s why Bartali’s is still looked up to as an impressive feat.

I’m one of those who think that Contador is indeed the greatest GT rider in his generation (though I guess we need to wait what Froomy and Nibali will do next), surely because of lack of competition, too (he would struggle to enter in the all time top ten, IMHO, despite his palmarés). But my main motivation to consider him as such isn’t at all about his ability to express an overwhelming superiority – which he sure did in TdF 2009, Giro 2011, Vuelta 2008 – but it’s more about his skills to manage things when the situation starts to be tight (possibly because he’s low on form due to a less-than-perfect preparation), as well as his mental strength in what in Spanish you’d call a “mano a mano”. Although he wasn’t in top form, he could control perfectly the Giro 2008, overturn the Vuelta in 2012 and seize it with authority in 2014. To me that’s as important (or more important) than winning when you’re simply the strongest man around, if I need to decide who’s the best rider, and not just who’s the best human engine. Obviously enough, having shown both aspects is even better.
Another factor that’s very relevant to me is Contador’s ability to perform greatly in all three the GTs (and in shorter races with very different terrains, as a further confirmation). To me, that’s to be a “great GT rider”. The three races are quite different in technical and physical terms, and even if the Tour will always be a step above, winning only the French thing isn’t fully satisfactory to make of you a true GT champion in every possible sense.

J Evans May 18, 2015 at 3:27 pm

Agreed, although I think he needs to add a couple of post-ban GT victories – and also against much better opposition than he faced pre-ban – before he can be considered a great.
It’s hard to judge just yet because 2013 was his first year post-ban (and only Valverde came out of the blocks at the same speed he went into them at) and in 2014 he missed the main event.
I have similar misgivings when I hear people talk about Quintana and Froome as people who will win multiple GTs. They might. Or Froome might be a flash in the pan and Quintana’s TT weakness might stop him winning many.

gabriele May 18, 2015 at 4:02 pm

About Aru’s illness: he suffered from the same problem, more or less, which affected him during the Giro in 2013 (it looks like he’s often quite susceptible to it). That year, even if he was racing he could recover pretty well for the third week.

tonyrominger May 18, 2015 at 7:48 pm

if contador isnt the greatest gt rider of his generation, who else is? of course, theres some stupidity in discussing “who is the best” and “making rankings” but i think in this case its just obvious. hes already proven it over years and no active rider can match his gt-palmares. That he gets beaten sometimes does not really change that and maybe hes already over his peak.

J Evans May 18, 2015 at 10:03 pm

My point – in its most basic form – was: is he a truly a great rider or was it the doping?
Time will tell.
For now, his biggest and most dominant victories were before his ban.

Joel May 18, 2015 at 10:48 pm

He is a truly great rider. He hasn’t done/isn’t doing anything that the others didn’t/aren’t. The only question is does he respond to the doping better than the others.

J Evans May 19, 2015 at 9:30 am

Other questions:
Were all the people he beat doping? (Cadel?)
Was he on exactly the same drugs as everyone else?
All of them?
And at the same doses?
And to the same regimes?
You’ve no idea as to the answers to these questions.
Ergo, he could have had more of an advantage from his doping.
Therefore, you don’t know if he was a great rider.

gabriele May 19, 2015 at 10:32 am

You know he very probably is, because no matter what amount of drugs was he taking, the most relevant qualities he showed have little to do with doping. Besides, with most riders you can guess, with a certain margin of error (obviously), if what they’ve got is just doping or there’s something else, also from a physical point of view.
It’s quite easy to tell now, but I always suspected that Basso or Valverde would come back pretty strongly while Sella or Schumacher wouldn’t. Which is no mathematical law since a lot of factors can interfere, but we’ve got some clues, anyway.
If people were less fixated with the mythology of doping overpower (which indeed has its good examples: as most myths it is grounded in some factual reality), watching cyclists racing would dispel a good handful of theoretical doubts.

Regarding what you say below about life ban… I’m not with you on that. Do you really think that if they caught him with EPO or transfusion or even steroids or whatever in the 2011 Giro, with the UCI and the WADA already falling upon him for the clenbuterol thing, it wouldn’t have been considered second offence? Like they waited for TAS, then came in with the second sanction for second offence? Yeah, he could hope to get acquitted by the TAS for the first one, but he really didn’t know beforehand. And, as we saw, it would have been a *huge* risk. What is more, cycling is not only about bans, ask Mancebo (or Rebellin). Maybe Contador isn’t a lawyer himself, but I think he’s got a couple of good advisors. Just as in the peloton, in cycling *justice* there are rules and laws that aren’t in the books but are strictly complied with – eventually much more strictly than those which *are* in the books, I’d say.

Since we’ve illustrated quite well our respective positions – I think – I’ll try not to elaborate further on this. Rest day is over 😉

gabriele May 18, 2015 at 10:54 pm

Why should have he stopped?
And, more of anything, under the hypothesis of his doping attitude hinging on external *attention*, what sense would it make that he went on doping in 2011 Giro when he had an open doping controversy impending over him, just to stop after the ban?
If in summer/autumn 2010 he could maybe feel that the UCI was on his side, a few months later he totally knew they were going after him.
Besides that, if we should suppose that he’s not being doping after the ban, while he regularly was before, well, maybe doping isn’t really that effective 🙂 As I noted above, he delivered impressive performances along 2014, but even in his mediocre 2013 he arrived a few seconds… second, just behind Froome, in the Tour’s (hilly) last ITT. Other results wasn’t that good, but it’s just not the kind of thing you do if you were only a big doper who suddendly stopped.
At least, I’d say that other factors may have been more relevant than doping in determining those performances.
Basso was another rider who came back strong (not as strong as in 2006) from a ban, and his 2009 results are quite good (top 5 both in Giro and Vuelta) but not yet *that* good, whereas in 2010 he won one of the best and hardest Giro d’Italia in years. Same can be observed for Valverde who in 2012 had horrible Classics, a mediocre Tour and a very good Vuelta who saw him growing steadily day by day. The following year his Vuelta was quite similar, but was accompanied by a TdF final GC top-ten, podium in Amstel, Liège, San Sebastián, Lombardia, Worlds.
Why should one imply any (unknown and unproven) change in doping attitude and/or doping context if plenty of technical factors (we could add age) explain pretty well the data we have?

J Evans May 19, 2015 at 9:36 am

That’s the thing about doping: you just never know.
I only assume that he stopped because he would now face a life ban (and I know that this is not necessarily the case).

Josh May 20, 2015 at 1:13 am

“but it’s still unproven that he is – as people often say – the best grand tour rider of his generation.”

What kind of proof are you looking for. He has finished first in 8 grand tours. The next closest in his generation is Nibali 3.

Gigi May 18, 2015 at 1:25 pm

Nice week, recently it has been rare to see contenders of a GT not saving watts for the last 3000 meters and pushing hard with the team far away from the finish line. Very fun week, and La Spezia and San Giorgio have been much more interesting than the 2 finish climbs of Abetone and Campitello: a tough stage, with many little climbs, is strategically much more inspiring than a Vuelta-like straight line ending up with a garage ramp: SRM and Garmin are less important there…

PS When you speak about Kreuzy chased by Tinkov-Saxo towards ABETONE, you mean LA SPEZIA, I guess

Joel May 18, 2015 at 1:58 pm

Well done Gewiss. Sorry Astana.

Dodgy as…

David May 18, 2015 at 2:23 pm

Porte has been great in week long stage races and can follow the first week attacks… but can he follow the attack when his legs are weaker.. We’ve seen the answer before.

On ITT… From 2010 to about 2013 there was a rule change for ITT’s… Since the rule change was reversed, Contador’s ITT performances have been better than most GC guys including Porte and Froome

hoh May 18, 2015 at 7:44 pm

@David: Which rule change r u referring to? If it’s the one about flat seats in ITT, I don’t think AC is tall enough to be affected (you’d need to be taller than 190 cm to be allowed to tilt ur seat).

J Evans May 18, 2015 at 3:18 pm

By the way, the daily parade of ‘lovelies’ in the jerseys is an embarrassment in this day and age. And would have been in 1987.
Time to move on and also stop the dignity-stripping (for all concerned) planting of kisses on the winner’s cheeks.

John LeG May 18, 2015 at 4:43 pm

+1 – I can’t believe they waste video bandwidth on the jersied ‘lovelies’. And the kisses – amusing because of the frequent height differential, but otherwise, can we stop now please?

The Inner Ring May 18, 2015 at 8:09 pm

You can’t take the race out of Italy. See the TV news with the female presenters with the low cut tops, the amateur village races with podium girls. Societal change has to accompany this and Italy isn’t there.

J Evans May 18, 2015 at 10:05 pm

Shame on Italy then.
And the kissing nonsense happens on races elsewhere.
Time the UCI got rid of ‘podium girls’.

sam May 19, 2015 at 10:41 am

You’re right in that, INRNG

Personally I think its a bit of an anachronism these days (I was watching Sunday’s stage with a friend who’s new to cycling who was surprised to see the RAI focus on the girls parading in the jerseys and heels, “I though cycling was classier than that”).

But you’re right in saying its a societal change thing.

+1 May 18, 2015 at 4:57 pm

makes me cringe every time.

Shelby May 18, 2015 at 5:19 pm

Has anyone seen how Porte’s mobile home looks like? Just to make sure it’s not borrowed from another famous cycling person, Dr. Michele…

GB May 19, 2015 at 1:50 am

https://twitter.com/planetcycling/status/600340797121236992 Eurosport will post photos from an interview with the RV
whoops I mean with RV Porte
whoops I mean with Richie Porte in the RV, whew

gabriele May 19, 2015 at 10:03 am

The Good Doctor… RV… I started thinking about Breaking Bad ^___^

Othersteve May 18, 2015 at 6:38 pm

Thanks Inrng for the expressive summation so far.

Nice to see the 3 main protagonist still in the race.
As well only a few sharp elbows posting this post, nice to see.

Larry T, love your emotion and respect for the sport but really they are pro teams
what ever they choose to do should not matter.

Anonymous May 19, 2015 at 6:48 am

Does anyone think that the motor homes might be also part of sky’s marketing. All their sponsors – Jag, Pinarello and Rapha, are prestige brands that need to be viewed and associated with such concepts for ppl the pay the extra price they require. They’re not selling floor boards or shampoo, so for them, it’s beneficial if they are associated with a team that is viewed as a bit elitist.

I just get the feeling that the more people have a whine about Sky doing things like a using a RV, the more they’re helping sky and its sponsors build the image their after. Ie ya’ll being trolled.

Anonymous May 19, 2015 at 12:45 pm

All the fat dentists now need a motorhome to attend their sportives!! ha ha.

David May 19, 2015 at 8:21 am

@innerring can you help me out with the ITT rule change that was brought about in 2010 but only implemented in 2011, then amended in 2013-2014.

Am I wrong in saying since the amendment of the ITT rule in 2013-2014, shorter riders are doing better at ITT’s.. While during 2011-2013 many shorter GC riders had dips in their ITT form..

Anonymous May 19, 2015 at 9:54 am

So when all the other “stars” want a motorhome where are they all going to park them?

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