The Moment The Giro Was Won

Sunday, 29 May 2016

The moment the race was lost? Steven Kruijswijk started the day’s stage to Risoul with a three minute lead on Esteban Chaves and more than four minutes on Vincenzo Nibali. With his form and recent performances this looked more than comfortable.  A crash on the snowy descent of the Colle dell’Agnello and a long chase,saw him finish the stage almost five minutes down on Nibali and surrender the maglia rosa to Esteban Chaves who had just lost time to Nibali on the summit finish to Risoul.

The 2016 Giro d’Italia was an unusual contest marked as much by illness, injury and accident as by tactics and attacks. No sooner did a rider occupy the top spot, whether as the lead hope for the overall classification or the fastest sprinter did they suffer misfortune or decide to pull out.

– “Has he got a weak spot?
– “Descending, yes, perhaps and he’s always had a bad day too. Until now he’s been able to stay hidden, he can’t any more and he doesn’t have a big team

Those were the words of Nibali during the second rest day press conference when asked about the new race leader Kruijswijk. With hindsight they’re prophetic but at the time they sounded optimistic, proof that Nibali did not think he could take time. After all Kruijswijk had ridden the perfect race, he’d avoided trouble on the flat stages and been present and correct in all the small skirmishes. Then came Stage 14, the Dolomites stage to Corvara which Kruijswijk take on a new dimension. Not only did he take over the race lead, he looked comfortable with it. The next day he took more time in the mountain time trial and then came the rest day which left Nibali and others wondering if there was any way to beat them. Talk of trying something on a descent rhymed with “hope dies last”.

Steven Kruijswijk

Things were going to get even better for Kruijswijk the day after the rest day. On the short and intense stage to Andalo he was isolated yet put time into his rivals, this was like a film fight where people gang up on the hero yet he inexplicably manages to take them all on and triumph.

So far so good and by now – having ridden the Giro six times – the Italian media were finally learning to pronounce Kruijswijk. “Stevie Wonder” started Stage 19 in a commanding position. Only the highpoint of the race was to be his low.

He crashed, he needed a new bike, he was injured, he didn’t have a team mate and he probably slept badly too. There were questions about whether the riders should have waited for Kruijswijk but the Dutchman wasn’t asking them, at least not in public: he acknowledged that he’d made a mistake and paid the price.

Could Kruijswijk have won the Giro?
The Kruijswijk crash counter-factual isn’t unreasonable. Without going too far down the rabbit hole of speculation it seems probable that he could have won. Kruijswijk had a three minute buffer on Chaves on the morning of the stage and over four minutes on Nibali and had been able to match them in the mountains so far. Just prior to The Crash Valverde was distanced, so Nibali was climbing back onto the podium so Kruijswijk would have enjoyed a free ride for much of the way to Risoul.

Yet there were signs of looming trouble for Kruijswijk on the Agnello. As they crested the Cima Coppi point Nibali had the lucidity and luxury to pull a jacket on. This was little more than a plastic sheet but when you’re soaked with sweat and embark on a 70km/h descent past walls of snow and through damp clouds it’s almost a comfort blanket. The jacket didn’t make Nibali faster but maybe it just showed he was more alert than Chaves and Kruijswijk. Was Kruijswijk on the edge here, frozen and fatigued? It’s a hypothesis, no more.

Like many accidents, it’s never one failure but a series of problems that compound a hiccup into a tragedy. What made things worse for Kruijswijk was his isolation, to crash and then to need bike change but with only neutral service for help at first was problematic enough but not having a team mate to help on the long descent to Guillestre. It meant almost an hour of chasing and if he got help among a group of riders including Bob Jungels he had little rest and duly paid the price on the climb up to Risoul, those cattle-yoke shoulders began to sag for the first time. Because the race had crossed into France RCS had to leave their mobile X-ray unit behind so Lotto-Jumbo had to drive him to a hospital which would have only added to the fatigue.

Meanwhile Nibali cracked Chaves on the final climb in each of the last two mountain stages. The Colombian cherub looked done for. There was talk of bronchitis, la bronchite in Italian, or a chest cold in plain English. Whatever the cause he too slumped on the climb with Nibali taking 53 seconds off him in Risoul. It left Nibali with just 44 seconds to take back the next day and his tail was up. With some help from his friends at Tinkoff who pulled hard on the Col de la Lombarde – a Specialized pact or a Bahraini job application from Manuele Boaro and Rafał Majka? – Astana upped the pace until Chaves was frowning and Nibali rode away into Italy with the maglia rosa waiting for him.

Rewinding to Apeldoorn

The opening three stages were a success for the race with big crowds and home rider Tom Dumoulin taking the opening stage and the first of six days in the race lead. He looked confident and his move to counter Vincenzo Nibali’s hapless attack on the road to Roccaraso led to increasing speculation he could go all the way. It seemed far-fetched, Dumoulin played it down and in time he left the race with a saddle sore. Intriguingly he moved house the other day, not the sort of thing you do on a whim, so was he too planning all along to leave the race?

Bob Jungels

Etixx-Quickstep had a stellar Giro. They have the Belgian heritage that ties them to the classics but their roster has become far more eclectic and they succeeded on several fronts. Marcel Kittel took two sprint wins and it made it look easy to the point where all the sprinters will be scratching their heads as to how to beat him in the Tour de France and its opening stage with the yellow jersey waiting for the victor. Gianluca Brambilla had a stage win and a spell in the maglia rosa, even defending it during the Chianti time trial and Matteo Trentin took a stage. The big performance was Bob Jungels who took the race lead and finishes 6th overall with the white jersey. He was solid but the high mountains were not for him. Still 23 he’s now going to face the tricky question of whether to become a grand tour contender, it is tempting and lucrative but he could easily fill a different niche as a one week stage racer who can do it all except the high mountains.

Lotto-Soudal had great time with three stages for André Greipel and one for Tim Wellens. Greipel bailed while wearing the red jersey, a decision that caused obvious debate. At least he was honest rather than feigning an injury on the first climb as a pretext to get on his pre-booked flight home. But it speaks to the Giro’s insecure status. It remains one entry on a plastic calendar that is moulded by teams and riders according to commercial imperatives.

The Dutch-Belgian theme continued with Lotto-Jumbo’s surprise Primož Roglič, second in the prologue by a fraction of a second and then first in the Chianti time trial. As the picture shows he got dry roads when others faced a downpour and as the Slovenian stood on the podium to collect his prize the sun came out again.

The weather upset the script. Those expected to take time like Ilnur Zakarin and Rigoberto Urán lost minutes while the climbers fared well. Nibali was the best among the GC contenders but only took seconds on his rivals.

The story was that Mikel Landa was going to lose time in the Chianti time trial and then win it all back in the mountains. Only he did the reverse, a great time trial and only to quit the race after being dropped up the next mountain after suffering from stomach problems, his race was over. In a race dominated by the big teams neo-pro Guilio Ciccone of Bardiani-CSF won the stage and an orphaned Team Sky had to find other goals. Mikel Nieve took a stage and the mountains jersey with his geriatric pedalling style.

Diego Ulissi took two stages, his second win after the race had split apart on the Forcella Mostaccin. Bob Jungels and Andrey Amador had attacked and on the hilly run into Asolo Ulissi zipped across to them and able to hitch a ride on the back of two riders looking to take time rather than the stage.

Il Flop Di Nibali
Nibali had a torrid time along the way. There’s the background project of this Bahraini team, a distraction even if he’s trying to leave it all to his agent. Two deaths marked Nibali, first that of Rosario Costa, a 14 year old boy who rode for Nibali’s junior team in Sicily, run over by a truck and Nibali was given the news on the day of the Chianti time trial. Tuscan priest Don Francesco Pieraccini who would ring the bells of his church in Mastromarco – Nibali’s adopted home in Italy when he and his father emigrated from Sicicily –  whenever Nibali won. The media were giving Nibali a hard time, La Gazzetta and La Stampa both had front page headlines of “Il Flop” even if La Gazzetta’s columns still showed signs of belief. Maybe they needed to in order to keep their Italian readership interested but they’ve seen Nibali race enough to know he can turn things around.

Nibali Roccaraso

Several of Nibali’s bad moments had a self-inflicted element. The first mountain skirmish in Roccaraso saw him attack into a headwind on a gentle slope. At the time this was attributed to team orders but it seemed unreasonable to attack and he paid the price, being countered by Tom Dumoulin and losing a few seconds, the time gap was small but it suggested something was wrong and the media pressure began to build.

The Dolomites tappone to Corvara saw Nibali attacking on the Valparola climb which is an uphill drag at 5.8% average. Nibali never got far with his attacks. Kruijswijk and Chaves paced themselves across to him and then countered to leave Nibali floundering solo. The two were able to collaborate and the gentle slope and the ensuing non-technical descent suited a group of riders rather than a lone rider. Nibali lost time this day and presumably lost time the next day because of this, he effectively did two back-to-back mountain time trials. Come the mountain time trial and Nibali donated yet more time with a bungled gear shift and a slow bike change.

Day By Day
GC chart

The chart shows the daily GC standing, in seconds behind the overall leader, of the top four riders plus Jungels and Amador who feature as maglia rosa wearers who finished the race. As you can see the yellow line of Kruijswijk shows just how consistent he was until Stage 19 while the green trail of Chaves is more volatile, he was losing time on some of the flatter stages too. Jungels rode and excellent race and his six minute loss in the Dolomites hit his chances hard. Not that he could have won but he was consistent at other times. It’s the pink line of Nibali that shows his gain on Stage 19 was transformative and only left him with a small deficit on Chaves to turn around the next day. Alejandro Valverde also rode a steady race, what he lost in the high mountains he took back on other days and Kruijswijk’s crash gifted him the podium finish.

Is The Shark Fishy?
There have been questions from readers and followers about Nibali’s performances: are they suspect? Who knows? I don’t. In some ways it be nice to inhabit a more certain world where I knew, or rather claimed I knew either way, just by looking at the race. A lot of this the suspicion is down to the toxic presence of Alexander Vinokourov who still gives many the creeps, this is compounded by the team’s history. The performance estimates so far show some fast climbing times for the race as whole but Nibali’s efforts don’t stand out among these. After all he was repeatedly losing time to his rivals on some climbs which isn’t what you expect a doping programme to do; unless perhaps you think his rivals were doing more. When Nibali took back time to Risoul he was apparently two minutes slower than his PB up this climb set in the 2014 Tour de France under different conditions (in a group, it was warmer, earlier in the race). If you like to check these things it’s worth waiting a few days until French website chronoswatts to put out its estimates and see if any “radars” are flashing but until then there’s not much to go on.

Musical chairs
It’s not been live on TV every day but a lot of business is being done behind the scenes. La Gazzetta broke news of a new Qatari team aiming for the World Tour but there’s been nothing more since, it sounds improbable but if it’s real it’s a huge deal. Meanwhile the Bahrain-backed team is gathering speed and there’s talk of a link with Lampre: it’s always easier to buy your way in rather than start from zero. IAM announced they’re pulling out, a pity but at least they didn’t string out the process and leave everyone high and dry. Meanwhile there’s no news on Tinkoff but Alberto Contador could be interested in recovering the team. Meanwhile bike and clothing sponsors are juggling these projects all while riders big and small are signing for new teams; the Cycling Podcast said Georg Preidler’s off to Orica. In the meantime there’s no word on what the UCI World Tour looks like.

The Revelations
With hindsight last year’s riding by Kruijswijk was telling, at times he even hard the better of Contador in the final week. Who was impressive this time? There weren’t the same three week heroes. Bob Jungels is mentioned above already and Joe Dombrowski was climbing well but finished an hour and half down as he was on team duty. So there were no breakthrough GC riders.

Otherwise Guilio Ciccone took an impressive stage win and Alexander Foliforov shocked people with his mountain stage win; he’d excelled as an U23 but so do many Russians only to vanish. Less in the revelation category but Moreno Moser showed up again and Gianluca Brambilla is delivering results he promised years ago as a neo-pro. Orica-Greenedge’s Damien Howson impressed. Meanwhile both Esteban Chaves and Ilnur Zakarin showed they can cope with three weeks of racing. With more luck, skill and cunning Zakarin could have finished on the podium; he didn’t but maybe he will someday soon.

2017?
It’ll be the centenary edition and race boss Mauro Vegni promises an all Italian route with talk of a start in Sardinia and a visit to Sicily is possible too, good for the 100% Italian theme but handy to attract Fabio Aru and Vincenzo Nibali back. This year’s race skipped a lot of the legendary climbs, presumably so that next year’s route can be a greatest his compilation tour. The startlist is always a concern but this Giro ends on a note of unfinished business. So many fell by the wayside that they’ll be eager to return in 2017 in order make amends. Chaves, Kruijswijk, Landa, Uràn, Zakarin and more all have unfinished business.

Giro d'Italia podium 2016 Torino

The Verdict
All the theatre of the Giro and more. The three weeks featured aggressive racing and action but the overall result was as much if not more defined by accidents, illness, misfortune and withdrawals but staying upright and healthy are prerequisites for stage racing. The sprint stages were lively even once many had gone home by choice or not and they were hotly contested, just see the Turin sprint where Giacomo Nizzolo was disqualified. There were exciting breakaway stages and drama in the high mountains and the maglia rosa changed shoulders eight times. The race being decided on the final climb of the final mountain stage must have had the race owners purring with delight.

Long after his ribs have healed Kruijswijk will be sore about what happened on the Agnello, one mistake cost him so much. Vincenzo Nibali was aided by strong team who helped break down rivals but the Agnello incident changed everything, turning an insurmountable deficit and looming defeat into a shot at victory. He wins his second Giro and his fourth grand tour.

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Dennis broadway May 29, 2016 at 8:23 pm

Can anyone tell me what kind of medicine Nibali was taking? i sure would like some? Four says before the end of the race he was dead and buried and then suddenly he becomes Superman! Wow!

STS May 29, 2016 at 8:41 pm

Dear Inrng, would you please delete that comment above before it starts another “discussion” based on speculations and hatred. Thanks!

The Inner Ring May 29, 2016 at 9:15 pm

I’m reluctant to delete reader contributions even if it they read like someone’s rushed to the comments without reading above. Dennis broadway’s comment can stand. Nibali wasn’t dead and buried, he was fourth overall. Since publication there’s this report about stomach problems for the mountain TT:
http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/nibali-reveals-illness-before-mountain-time-trial-at-giro-ditalia/

Chris J May 29, 2016 at 8:44 pm

Yes, I suspect many would write an alternative, speculative, cynical – and not to mention hugely libelous – “The Moment the Race was Won” article.

That aside, I feel desperately sorry for Kruijswijk. The worthy winner over the three weeks, in my opinion. As has been said many times, on this blog and elsewhere, cycling truly is a cruel sport.

Was another excellent Giro. And that’s despite Dumoulin and Landa’s early exits. Imagine if they were both fit and challenging into the third week. Could have been spectacular!

MRJ May 29, 2016 at 9:13 pm

Who is expected to lead Lotto NL at the Tour? Gesink? I know he is utterly worn out (and of course needs to physically heal) but I would love to see Steve K come back for a cameo. If nothing else, who could be a better super-Dom in the high mountains?

From a new fan of the sport, who only started following during last year’s Giro, a huge Thank You to Mr Inrng for the outstanding and informative coverage. Man, what a race. I cannot wait to see what is cooked up for number 100 next year.

The Inner Ring May 29, 2016 at 9:16 pm

Gesink and Kelderman look to be the leaders. Last year Kruijswijk rode the Tour as a luxury helper and played his part in Gesink’s final overall position of 6th overall. It’ll be interesting to see if Lotto-Jumbo can retain all these riders or if Kruijswijk gets an offer from elsewhere. La Gazzetta says BMC are interested… but they always are.

ShortsNL May 29, 2016 at 10:17 pm

Gesink has announced in Dutch press he wants to go for stage wins at the Tour. It will be interesting to see what role Kelderman is given and how the team will set support and tactics for both of them. It coul turn out a disaster results wise if played badly.

Chris_SK May 29, 2016 at 10:38 pm

Probably more likely he would peak again for the Vuelta.. unless Lotto are short on helpers for Gesink and Kelderman’s GC chances.

ebbe May 30, 2016 at 11:58 am

From what I’ve heard, Kruijswijk is planned to go for la Vuelta. His rib should be fine by then, and he’s got a very good shot at winning, or at least a GC podium and wearing red for a few days.

If I were Lotto-Jumbo (the team), knowing that consistently performing in all three grand tour in one years is too much for anybody, I would not sacrifice a good chance of a la Vuelta win for merely a (remote) change of helping Kelderman or Gesink finish top 5 in le Tour.

If I were Jumbo (the supermarkets), I’d want the publicity of a la Vuelta GC contender in red. Despite finishing off the podium in the end, Jumbo supermarkets is already selling pink “thank you” sweet pastries 😉 http://www.levensmiddelenkrant.nl/sites/default/files/styles/w620_h366/public/nieuws/jumbo_steven_kruijswijk_actie_tompoucen_lotto_jumbo_volkskrant_advertentie_900x525.jpg?itok=VOsWZeTQ

Anonymous May 29, 2016 at 9:19 pm

Dumb

Anonymous May 29, 2016 at 9:51 pm

Well, that’s my cue to leave. All the hate and nonsense here is too much for me.

Anonymous May 30, 2016 at 7:03 pm

A combination of drugs that are not on the banned list

Yodi May 29, 2016 at 8:32 pm

Thank you for perfect coverage during the Giro and an insightful recap article. Certainly won over me to make the Giro my favorite Grand Tour.

Vittorio May 29, 2016 at 8:50 pm

Thank you for this fantastic recap and for your punctual coverage. This is simply the best website for cycling fans. Cheers from Trentino (Italy)

_kw May 30, 2016 at 9:31 am

+1

Great coverage and perfect summary! Tons of insight, the usual witty remarks and just the right balance.

Let’s hope time will address some of the underlying issues in the sport such as Vino and others in management. Maybe then some of the knee jerk reactions will subside a bit and people will show a more positive attitude even though a quick glance at other sports seems to indicate that a healthy level of skepticism is not unwarranted.

ebbe May 30, 2016 at 4:22 pm

Altough I’d personally like to see Vino *and many others with him* leave the sport as soon as possible, let’s not forget that there would one World Tour team less without him. I seriously can’t think of many teams that don’t employ any tainted individuals. Maybe one or two teams, but that’s it

_kw May 30, 2016 at 9:52 pm

I was thinking long term since it’s a generation change which has already started and will continue. It takes quite some time although (let’s see if I can stir something up…) if there’s a certain cyclist among the 23 positives from the London Olympics things may be quicker than expected 😉

Anonymous May 30, 2016 at 11:30 pm

Thousands and thousands of years ago, two male hominids had a contest over a female. The loser, who was physically smaller, had a genetic mutation that gave him a larger brain and the beginning of what is now described as “the ability to reason”. After thinking about his loss for a few days, he returned with a club in one hand and a rock in the other and beat his competition senseless and then took the female with him.

Our tools have evolved and we wear clothes now. But, how much has really changed?

gabriele May 31, 2016 at 12:32 am

Little.

Petty fantasies about hominids fighting for a female and the depressing objectification of women in the Giro’s jersey parade… imagine all that, how primitive can people go on being century after century?

And I’d like to stress the word “fantasies” since if you’d bother to have a look to bonobo society (our closest relative, genetically speaking), you’d discover that sexual practices and gender relationships are quite different from what you imagine.
Arguably more *developed* than the mindset of people who are able to conceive the scene you just described above or that shocking parade.

Anonymous May 31, 2016 at 1:46 am

You’re sort of aggressive this week, Gabriele. Are you OK?

Animals of all types have been fighting, forever, for the right to eat and procreate. Generically, historically, size and strength have won (yes, with some animals and human cultures, beauty or some other attribute wins, but whatever) until man, who was already using tools, developed the concept of an advantage.

And That is what is being discussed, advantage in sport. Best of luck.

gabriele May 31, 2016 at 9:07 am

@Anon
A little bit of aggressive racing is fine when the circumstances and the context tend to prompt that 😉

Othersteve May 29, 2016 at 8:53 pm

Excellent overview of the tour.

Till next year and those songs yet sung!

RT May 29, 2016 at 8:55 pm

A great round up of three brilliant weeks of racing. Thanks so much for the blog INRNG, I’ve really enjoyed checking out your previews each morning!

Joe Saroni May 29, 2016 at 8:58 pm

The rumors are true, watching the events of the past few days the only explanation is that the ghost of Vincenzo Torriani was ensuring the Giro went to the favorite. I can’t remember a rider “in crsisi” for days then suddenly pulling on the la maglia rosa.

channel_zero May 31, 2016 at 5:10 pm

The reality is, we don’t know and the UCI doesn’t want anyone to know despite their credibility problems.

You also have to consider how much work Kruijswijk was doing and the “bad day” that more often than not visits the eventual winner. This is the stuff of grand tours even as they become shorter.

Doctornurse May 29, 2016 at 9:09 pm

INRING? Yet another leaders jersey for the unquestioned patron of cycling blogs .

I think that both Giant with Dumoulin at the Vuelta and Lotto here have learned the hard way that (a) do not underestimate the ability and strength of your lead rider and (b) You have to provide your lead rider with more climbing support in a GT. Chaves will be back, but maybe Orica should invest in one of those sexy hi altitude training camps?

Nibali won this Giro using his significant skills- Virtuoso bike handling, excellent strength and lethal team of highly paid cycling assassins- especially the incredible Scarponi- who essentially delivered the race on a plate once Stevie K dumped it. Chapeau to him,

I think that Nibali has now shown three times (La Toussuire and Lombardia last year and Risoul this week) how important his pride is as a motivator, especially after an embarrassing or below par performance- To his substantial credit and for which he was rewarded

That said, Nibali is a bit of a prima donna- He likes the flashy attack that may be full of panache, but often are tactically suspect, wilts a bit when under real pressure, and then tends to blame others and look for excuses if things don’t work out.

That said, for me his bravery, skill and ability to exploit others mistakes slots him above Froome and below Quintana in the GT champion hierarchy. Froome is a physiologic gifted in his ability to pour out the watts in the last 5k of any single climb. But, he requires a focused, multi-million Euro team of highly paid support staff and a glittering array of World, Olympic, and National cycling champions, GT stage/jersey winners and former team leaders to give him a strategy, suffocate the race and chaperone him from point “A” to “B”- That said, more often than not- he delivers and does so under pressure.

Quintana is a brilliant, brave and skilled racer, who is improving his TT – Dude has been hamstrung a bit by Valverde, and has been obliged to play a team game, but he has shown what he can do when the team are ALL riding for him, and he is clearly the future of cycling.

Of course Contador, as the second man to win all three GTs at least twice (Hinault) is head and shoulders above them all. That said, his only weakness is whether you think he has won 7 GTs and is going for his 8th, or 9 GTs and is going for his 10th at this year’s TdF

This was a brilliant race, and it will be interesting to see how if the TdF can come close in terms of excitement and cycling action…

Cheers!

Alexdelli May 29, 2016 at 10:27 pm

Perfect.
I add only a point for the “winner is dope” people:

The suspicious situation was not Nibali more fast than Donoulin or Kruijiski, but Doumulin or Kruijski more fast than Nibali.

Nibali race during all year season, so if he is doped, the risk should be to great, than Froom and other rider that race in one GT per year.

You accepted Armstrong for years and now you doubt of Nibali?!?! Don’t watch cyclism anymore

Anonymous May 30, 2016 at 12:10 pm

Agreed.

Also (not that it’s absolute proof), if you go back and read Nibali’s comments when Astana was in doping trouble you’ll see a guy who was furious that his teammates doping had cast suspicion onto him.

Alex M May 29, 2016 at 10:36 pm

Totally agree with your rankings of the Cuatro Galacticos. Yes, Nibali is a bit of a diva – the way his soigneurs come running to put a blanket on him after a stage reminds me of those bits of James Brown stage antics (without the tongue in cheek attitude), the crying (even if genuine), and the whining about the media treatment of him – he really reminds one of a pampered movie starlet, especially in his home race where he really gets the royal treatment. Nibali also got the lucky breaks, the SK crash and Chaves cold, in the nick of time, not to mention his main rivals crashing out in the 2014 tour. But he’s a great champion, too, obviously, and deserves praise. In ’14 he killed the cobbled stage, and this year he found his form just at the right time. I’m guessing this will be his last grand tour victory, and he deserves some non-Italian praise. (But I still loathe Vino and wish him nothing but rotten tomatoes, the creepazoid)

Neuron1 May 29, 2016 at 11:14 pm

Pretty funny visual, but I do believe that most of the “big” riders get treated that way a the end of a stage. Water, juice, soda? Dry towel, warm jacket, quick loofa before the podium? It’s like flying First Class, your drink is waiting before you are even in your seat, but it’s a bike race. I wonder if he gets the same pillow, blanky and tucked in at night like the Sky boys, marginal gains and all. There is a movie about CSC “Overcoming” where the soigneur is rubbing chamois cream in one of the rider’s bibs and he asks how thickly the rider wants it applied, “mien heir”. They are all rightly pampered, they are pro athletes and there are big bucks riding on their riding.

Vitus May 30, 2016 at 12:39 am

Oh, Nibs get a blanket after the finish line? Diva! Only that any other rider gets a blanket or a jacket too. Put a hole in your filter bubble and watch.
I guess if the shopping cart pusher gets a blanket before he jumps into his camper after stem watching for hours, it’s only a sign of professionalism at Sky?

Anonymous May 30, 2016 at 12:26 pm

It’s not that he’s being pampered, it’s that he and his team are on top of every detail and leaving nothing to chance.

Riding well and clever tactics are what we watch, but conservation and recovery off the bike is no small part of winning a GT. All that pampering is just proper food and warmth. It is part of winning.

Doubter June 8, 2016 at 7:45 pm

Lol…..a diva. Wasn’t it Froomemonster that prohibited the defending TdF champion Wiggins from riding on his TdF team?

irungo txuletak May 30, 2016 at 10:39 am

Really good wrap up of the 4 main GT riders of the moment. I mostly agreed on the comment on Froome, but maybe less on Quintana. I may prove wrong in the future, but for the moment I see him as a very talented rider but quite guided from the team leader car. His main problem when compared to Froome is that the team car is not Sky’s…

noel May 31, 2016 at 8:58 am

Irungo – so you are saying that Quintana’s problem is that he is at Movistar not Sky?… with Movistar being the top WT team for the past 3yrs….?

gabriele May 31, 2016 at 10:09 am

I think that irungo txuletak is implying that last year Movistar decided to go for a strategy which ultimately hindered Quintana’s chances to win the Tour – and, more generally speaking, they’ve got a conservative way of racing which isn’t that suited to Quintana’s qualities or even personal attitudes.

If you follow his career throughout the last four years you think you can nearly see him becoming less and less daring or, better said, less *adventurous*. One might said that it’s because he’s really going for victory, now, while before he was no more than an audacious “young gun”… but his bold racing has always been extremely effective (not the early-Gilbert or low-form-Nibali kind of attacks), and at the same time you don’t see him really improving his results with the different racing style he’s been adapting to.

In his first pro year he won the Queen Stage of both Vuelta a Murcia and Dauphiné attacking solo more than 10 kms away from the finish line (and in the first case that was also enough to win the final GC). He also won the Italian Classic Giro dell’Emilia or the Queen Stage in Route du Sud (again, finally winning the GC, too, thanks to that move): he went solo on the very last climb, but in both he’d been selecting the head group to some ten units or so already on the penultimate climb. They never let him go, not even in the Dauphiné. At most, they didn’t venture to go with him from that far, but they always tried hard to reel him back in (Evans and Sky train included).
In 2013 he was still attacking from the penultimate climb or several kms away from the finish line on big climbs (Ventoux anyone?) and it didn’t look to be working that bad. Though, you could also see him winning out of pure waiting game and canny display of moment picking in classic mountain-top finishes like Arrate or Lagunas de Neila (he won both stages and the respective GCs of País Vasco and Vuelta a Burgos).
Giro 2014 had one of his decisive attacks during the Stelvio stage, but, generally speaking, you could already see him becoming more conservative.

The specific situation we’ve got in our more recent memory, that is, the Tour 2015, shows pretty well how your observation about WT points isn’t perhaps that much on spot: Movistar collected many more points racing to have Valverde on the podium than risking him out of GC in order to have Quintana as a final TdF winner. They received from the final GC 25% more points than Sky did in that same TdF… and such a difference was more than decisive to finally win the WT classification over Katusha.

What you’re saying would be a valid reply if irungo txuletak was referring to some sort of general “weakness” of the team (the kind of troubles which limited Kruijswijk and, on a lesser extent, Chaves), but this clearly isn’t the case: Movistar is indeed a strong team, but the reference to the “team car” suggests that what may affect Quintana is their way of racing.

Irungo txuletak will correct me if I got it wrong 🙂

irungo txuletak May 31, 2016 at 11:30 am

You did interpret (and develop) my comment perfectly. It was more a comment on tactics than on team’s weakness.

More generally, I am also not sure (but I may prove wrong) of Quintana’s ability to read a race like a Nibali or a Kontador. I have the impression that he is more following orders from the team car than doing his “own thing” – it is of course only an impression based on how he replies in post race interviews.

calypso_king May 30, 2016 at 10:56 am

Doctor and nurse required. You’re delirious.

Larz May 29, 2016 at 9:14 pm

So what does everybody here think about the future for dutch GT ambitions?

Last year we saw Dumoulin being toppled only at the very end of the Vuelta. This year we saw Kruijswijk being a crash away from winning the Giro.

Coincidence? Or should we expect a golden age for dutch cycling in terms of GC in grand tours?

AK May 29, 2016 at 10:13 pm

It only takes one outlier for a Golden Age. I don’t know if Dumoulin will further develop as a stage racer or choose the way of e.g. Tony Martin. But Kruijswijk seems the real deal.

ShortsNL May 29, 2016 at 10:21 pm

Yes with Dumoulin, Poels and Kruiswijk better than ever things are looking bright.

However I am concerned with the younger U23 generation. Rabobank is withdrawing its sponsorship so there goes the only top tier development team focussed on Dutch riders.

We might very well have another couple of dry years ahead of us in the future.

The Inner Ring May 29, 2016 at 10:51 pm

Floris Gerts was very impressive too this spring. Sam Oomen did very well too, as much as the already high hopes invested in him might suggest. And then of course there is Mathieu Van der Poel.

ShortsNL May 30, 2016 at 1:45 am

Good calls. Ironically only VDP ever gets any mention at all in Dutch press, the likes of Oomen seem to be forgotten.

I hope my country can keep producing talents like this.

Tovarishch May 30, 2016 at 10:16 am

Does the presence of a national U23 team really make a difference? The best of the UK U23’s (Owain Doull, excluded, but for good reason) are all riding in foreign teams and seem to be the better for it.

Michael B May 30, 2016 at 10:29 am

Is MVdP turning his hand to road racing? I love watching him in cyclo-cross, he looks very classy on a bike and obviously has a huge engine, but seem to remember he signed a longish contract with his team? Here’s hoping he does turn to road racing.

irungo txuletak May 30, 2016 at 10:43 am

There seems to be anti dutch spell in the GT… After what happened to Dumoulin in the Vuelta now it is this Kruijswijk’s story. I must agree with what I read above: without his crash, I think he would have won. This was the determinant moment of the race.

ebbe May 30, 2016 at 12:24 pm

Talent wise, I’d say the Dutch as a country have got a pretty good thing going these days. The current stumbling block for these talented GC contenders to go on and win a GC is lacking or missing support in the mountains. Dutch teams (I’ll go ahead and count Giant Alpecin Dutch a well) don’t have the money to
1) Either keep the good helpers in their teams, or
2) Get new good helpers
It’s the same in Dutch football by the way 😉 Our rich multinationals and billionaires – we have many of both – are not really willing to invest in sports it seems. Smaller companies are more willing, as is illustrated by the great results of Dutch women and women’s teams.

There was a time when that money was available (for a men’s elite World Tour team), but that came with the sponsor’s CEO personally demanding results “whatever it takes”. We all know how that ended.

Caveja May 29, 2016 at 9:40 pm

‘With some help from his friends at Tinkoff who pulled hard on the Col de la Lombarde – a Specialized pact or a Bahraini job application from Manuele Boaro and Rafał Majka?’ I did wonder at the time why Tinkoff were pulling so hard, like so many of Mr Inrng’s astute observations I think this one has some legs, as the saying goes.

STS May 29, 2016 at 10:10 pm

I did not see it at that way. As long as Boaro was “pulling” the group was still big. And even Boaro didn’t seem to suffer. All the others behind him were at ease and the chase didn’t make any inroads into the lead of Dombrowski, Pantano and Visconti. That didn’t change during the brief spell of the other Tinkoff rider at the front of that group. It was only when Fuglsang came to the front and soon started to show the pain that the group was immediately thinned out.
Not sure why Boaro and friend rode at the front of the group – maybe simply because they were still there and wanted to show themselves to some prospective future employers? – but it probably was of no help to Nibali.

Vitus May 30, 2016 at 12:43 am

Why the rode at front? Cause the ‘friend’ was Majka, who may wanted also try to distance some rivals to jump on the podium.
That was an easy one.

bluereiter99 May 29, 2016 at 9:48 pm

The ‘cattle-yoke shoulders’ of Kruiswijk. I love that image. I look at them and wonder why they don’t hinder him in TT.

Anonymous May 29, 2016 at 9:57 pm

like the leading edge of a wing

Ferdi May 30, 2016 at 7:13 pm

Been thinking about that too… Probably they don’t hinder him too much on tri-bars, but I guess they must be a drag on descents…

RonDe May 29, 2016 at 9:55 pm

If Kruijswijk doesn’t crash I don’t think Nibali wins. Its that simple. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Of course, if you are a fan of The Shark you are laughing it up right now. But for me it boggles my mind that a rider who is NOT one of the top 3 in grand tours as I count it has won 4 of them. How has he managed this? Well, yes, firstly he had to put in the performances and I give him credit for that. Nibali certainly animates races. Bravo. But I also point to weakened fields (with respect to those he actually did beat) and I admit this wasn’t always his fault (2014 Tour crashes for his most notable competitors, for example). He has won a Vuelta, a Tour and 2 Giros and not had to beat a Contador, Froome, or a Quintana to do it. Does this devalue those wins in my mind, that he has not beat the best toe to toe to the line? Yes, absolutely. The guy who wins the 2016 Tour (where basically every top GC rider except him will be facing off) will be a better grand tour rider than Vincenzo Nibali.

Anonymous May 29, 2016 at 10:01 pm

Every grand tour winner is the last man standing on the top step because a challenger screwed up, was unlucky or just didn’t have it all together. Nibali is that guy. So is Contador.

Neuron1 May 29, 2016 at 10:44 pm

RonDe: To win the race you have to finish the race. It is that simple. Landa was supposed to be the man here at the Giro and he was gone after his GI bug as were others. It seems Nibali had the same problem but continued to ride. That makes him the survivor of that crisis, while others succumbed. Does that make him less of a GT winner. No, he is still the winner. When Nibali noticed that SK was cooked near the top of Colle de Agnello, and he knows that SK is not a great descender and Nibali poured it on, that was smart tactical racing. That SK crashed was not the intent, but to take time on him. Riding your bike on all terrains in all conditions is necessary to win Grand Tours and the fact the SK crashed showed a weakness. Does that make Nibali less of a GT winner. No, he is still the winner. That Chaves developed bronchitis is nobodies fault, illness is one of the travails a GT winner must overcome. He didn’t. Does that make Nibali less of a GT winner. No. Regarding the 2014 Tour, Nibali’s aggressive riding put Froome and Contador under press and forced mistakes. So please don’t say that Nibali didn’t beat them, he did. They started the race, they just didn’t finish. The fact that Chris Froome can’t stay upright without a phalanx of monster Sky boys around him is not Nibali’s fault. My question is: If SK or EC had won the Giro due to Nibali dropping out, would the same arguments be posited, that it was a hollow victory. I doubt it. This just comes up because of Anglo dislike of Nibali. I’ll take my pro cycling fast and furious with unpredictability, crazy attacks, breakneck descending, etc. Watching a group of automatons cranking away at a fixed wattage for hour after monotonous hour just doesn’t do it for this fan.

STS May 29, 2016 at 10:52 pm

+1.
Great reply. Nibali is the deserved winner of that Giro and the 2014 TdF. After Froome and Contador were out he didn’t have any real competition left in the race. But when they abandonned the race he was already way ahead of them and his times up big climbs later in the race showed that he could match Froome’s and Contador’s W/kg.

Alexdelli May 29, 2016 at 10:59 pm

+1 you are a real cyclist and you love cyclism like me. I left Froome and similar to other type of cyclist

Larry T May 30, 2016 at 6:54 am

+1 Be careful Neuron1 – you could get accused of being a shill for me! Post-race is where (sadly) the Inring community starts to lose focus – way too much “woulda, coulda, shoulda” to explain away the fact that the commenter’s fave failed to win. My fave in the 2015 Tour failed to win – are there reasons for this? Certainly, but he still failed to win. All the “woulda, shoulda and coulda’s” in the world won’t change it. He managed to win 2016 Giro. Races/sports are tests, pure and simple, failing anywhere (showing up with the wrong team, wrong tactics, weak skills, lack of attention) means you don’t win.
BRAVI Nibali and Co….. now bring on the next race…though (as usual) Il Giro’s a tough act to follow.

Tovarishch May 30, 2016 at 10:24 am

It is very easy to claim it is an anglo dislike for Nibali (not being an anglo, I couldn’t say) but, personally, I would like to see a few more members of the GT winners club (Chris Horner excepted) and more riders for us and the other contenders to watch out for.

Michael B May 30, 2016 at 3:37 pm

Personally speaking I don’t sense an Anglo dislike of Nibali at all. I love watching him race given his appetite to attack and magnificent descending abilities. I do think there’s a healthy sceptism – as there should be with all riders – but that is probably magnified thanks to both his director sportif and super domestique’s doping past (as it would be if Froome had a similar set up).

Having said that I think accusations against Nibali based solely on this Giro performance are unfair as they’re without any evidence base, plus his performance was within the “normal” zone to me. I’ve seen a few compare his recovery to Landis which is way off in my opinion, they should watch that stage again on YouTube and remind themselves how outrageous it was. Nothing like this Giro.

Neuron1 May 30, 2016 at 5:28 pm

MichaelB. Points well made and taken. I’ll just point out some of Froome’s domestiques that have tainted pasts. G Thomas at the 2010 TDF was listed as an 6/10 on the suspicious for doping list. That was based on Biological Passport data and all of those near him, and many with much lower scores were eventually popped for doping. He road for Barloworld, as did Froome (doping scandal) and Saunier -Duval both teams with checkered pasts. Kiryienka came out of the Russian cycling camps and rode for Tinkoff and Caisse d’Epargne/Movistar prior to Sky. Siutsou also came from the same background where doping was not only expected but required. His team history is similarly checkered and he was an 8/10 on the UCI list. Porte rode for Saxo under Riis, I believe he has the same doping pedigree as Vino. David Lopez was a member of Euskaltel and Caisse d’Epargne/Movistar prior to moving to Sky. And let us not forget that Sky had Dr Geert Stegmans as their team doctor prior to it being “discovered” that he and past connections to doping. If you back to the 2012 team and follow the team members you will find it continues like this. My point is that any rider or team past or present can easily be connected to doping with minimal effort.

Nick May 30, 2016 at 11:25 pm

Sorry, Froome’s team is dodgy because it includes Thomas who is dodgy (in part) because he used to ride on the same team as Froome? Some of this stuff is as ropey as the guys claiming that Nibali’s GT wins don’t count.

That circularity aside, there is a difference in perception between having domestiques who used to ride for teams with dodgy DSs or with doping colleagues, and having a domestique who was himself banned and a DS who was himself banned. You don’t need to construct a link between Vino or Scarponi and doping.

BenW May 31, 2016 at 12:28 pm

Neuron1, what’s this “2010… Suspicious for doping list” of which you write?

Anonymous May 31, 2016 at 2:10 pm

@Ben, It’s a leaked UCI document of riders suspected of doping based on their bio-passport. Back when the B-P was being used as intended.

noel May 31, 2016 at 3:23 pm

INRNG’s comment at the time…..Handle with care
Suspicion’s a particularly nasty sentiment. Finger pointing, accusations, denunciations, whispers and more are all ugly because often they’re quite wrong. So take the list above with more than a pinch of salt. There’s no direct link with doping, this is just an internal score used by the UCI to help testing. But both the list and the leak raise serious questions…..

Neuron1 June 1, 2016 at 3:36 am

Actually, I’m not pointing fingers. It’s just so hard to try to be subtle via keyboard. I’m just trying to point out that most everybody that has ridden a bike at the WT level can be connected with taint. It is quite easy. I personally believe that the GT rides of today are much cleaner than in the past. Not because they are better people, but because the testing is so much more rigorous, not perfect, but clearly better, and because there is much more scrutiny. Yes there may be micro dosing and newer drugs but the UCI and WADA are testing with “intelligence”. They seem to have a clue what is being used sooner and therefore the athletes seem less likely to risk it.

Off the subject but connected. Speeds seem to have increased on virtually all stages of the races, but this I believe is easily explained by equipment improvements. Bikes and wheels are more aero, tires have lower rolling resistance, frames are all at the UCI minimum and much stiffer, compact cranks, etc. When watts/kg was calculated in the past it didn’t take into account bike, shoe, clothing weights which need to be added to the equation.

skiddley May 31, 2016 at 11:02 am

Well said, You just changed my mind about Nibali ( i’m a biased Anglo )But also on reflection Quintana too. I’m frankly a bit dissapointed with Nairo, although he is still young he has only won 1 GT and never won a stage of TDF. No evidence actually to place him in the same category as Froome Cantador and Nibali. Before in my mind I had him as the successor in waiting and that may yet be true but I have found his racing generally a little less exciting than I expected it to be. Nibali, on the other had is exciting and at still only 31 has an exceptioal palmares. With regard to the Tour win he beat Madjka Porte, Thomas, Van Garderen, Kruisjwijk, Valverde, Pinot Bardet and Nieve Handsomely. I am not a great Froome fan but I wish you guys would get off his back with the Sky train stuff, however is pulling on the front you have to follow the wheel in front and make it count at the business end. Froome beat Quintana, Cantador and Nibali in the most recent TDF straight up he’s won it 3 times, (alright he actually only came first twice but you know what I mean) and won 5 stages. Can we stop the idolising of Quintana until he actually produces the results because for my mind at the moment he is now a distant 4th Galactitico if he is one at all.

gabriele May 31, 2016 at 11:36 am

Quintana is all about potential. I agree he need to *win* more GTs in order to actually step up as one of the greatest GT champions (or he’ll remain an “Ullrich”, great but hardly among the greatest).
That said, he’s already got a better score than the other guys except Contador in short stage races, and winning again better competition, too.
Hey, you perhaps don’t get how young is the guy: he’s only raced two (2) TdF, made second both times, including his debut race. In the Giro it was veni, vidi, vici.
I’m afraid, too, that Movistar will change his riding style, as it seems from the way you perceive him, but if you had followed the guy for more years you’d know he’s a spectacular racer. And not only in the juvenile ranks: his first two years as a pro were attack-fest, all his victories (some seven between stages, a one-day race and GCs) involved middle or long range moves, totally or partially solo, against the top pro field. Something which Contador started to do only once he was an established champion.

gabriele May 31, 2016 at 11:41 am

PS @skiddley
And… well, Quintana actually *won* a TdF stage (besides coming in second some other three times).

Ah, I was forgetting, Froome wouldn’t have ever won the 2012 Tour against Wiggins. He’s stronger than Wiggo, but the course wasn’t suited. And with a different course, he’d maybe lose to Nibali. Don’t forget that the guy wasn’t that strong mentally, either. He was far from being ready to be a leader in a GT, as it had already been evident in the 2011 Vuelta. Which is totally normal, if you think about the kind of life he was living in the peloton until then.

skiddley May 31, 2016 at 5:21 pm

Gabriele, apologies I stand corrected on the tdf stage, It was a magnificent one too.

I have followed Quintana since quite early because I saw the excitement in his racing, and the results, it is because of that I have been disappointed since, I did qualify it and say he was still relatively young, but true greats are usually doing it early on too.

Better than Froome in short stage races? Are you sure? Froome would have won the Wiggo Tour I’m sure now, how many domestiques have come second in a grand tour?

One final thing with Nairo, which particular rider beat Quintana into second on those two TDF’s.

As far as Nibali is concerned head to head against Froome in Grand tours Finished there is no competition. put the three of them together in the same manner and results wise the best rider is easy to see.

Neuron1 June 1, 2016 at 3:41 am

Actually, I don’t dislike Sky. Not a Froome fan, but huge begrudging respect. I just use them as an example since they seem to be held out as the purist of the peloton and therefore are an excellent foil to the oft attacked Astana. Astana definitely has a checkered past, but I believe with the changing of the times throughout the peloton they have sought to clean up their act.

gabriele May 29, 2016 at 11:31 pm

Yawwwwn… is someone paying you for the nonsense litany or is it just the old Goebbels motto?

Nibali’s been collecting podia in GTs since 2010 and now’s got got more of them than a couple of your GT phenomena – not just more victories.
*If* they’ll go on winning, they’ll get a better palmarés than Nibali, and your hypothesis will be true: they will have been better.
For now, they’re just in an earlier phase of their careers, because of young age or late miracles, hence their presence in previous GTs is simply irrelevant.
For example, if Quintana or Froome had been racing the 2013 Giro I don’t know if they’d have won it (I’ve got quite strong doubts) but, in any case, that would have meant not being equally competitive in the following Tour and thus getting a victory or a podium less. And, well, no need to say that Froome had no hope in the 2014 Tour (it would have been a hard fight for Contador).
Do you know another thing? When Nibali podiumed in the 2010 Giro, Froome was there… didn’t finish the race. But that was the *other* Froome, I guess.
The riders who decide not to race have got a problem: they simply can’t prove how good they are. Those who did, if they get to finish line, have this chance.

Neuron1 May 29, 2016 at 11:49 pm

Yes, and in addition, when Nibali went up against Wiggins and Froome in 2012 he was taking both of them on at once on the road stages. Thus they could play off against him and he still comported himself admirably. Sky brought the team to win it all, as had been their stated goal. Liquigas had a strong but not really comparable team. Reviewing all of the stages, Nibali and Froome were in a dead heat for most of the mountain stages and he only lost time in the ITT on stage 19. Not bad for a total piker.

Vitus May 30, 2016 at 1:04 am

Cobo must be a worthy GT champion for RonDe, he beat the other other Froome in Vuelta.

Larry T May 30, 2016 at 6:56 am

+1

Nick May 29, 2016 at 11:47 pm

I can understand if thinking he didn’t have to beat any of the other 3 to win devalues his wins for you. But I can’t understand why you don’t think he beat Froome & Contador in the 2014 TdF, just as much as he beat Landa and Dumoulin in this Giro. All 3 were at the start line trying to win it; he did, they didn’t. He beat them.

Razorback May 30, 2016 at 12:07 am

+1 RonDe,
Neuron1 and others, we are not saying he doesnt deserve the win – He does, period. Our argument is that non of his GT wins were against the top riders of his generation. He keeps choosing races where Froome, Quintana and Contador are not there. Not only GT, but also some others races.
He has one good win vs Froome in Tirreno and I cant remember others (there are probably a few others).
You can always argue that they started 2014 Tour, but truth is, we can count how many times Nibali finished a race in the podium in 1st and had any of those three behind.
Feels to me that he deliberate picks up races where the fields is weaker.
He indeed is a fighter and a very good (and consistent) GT rider, but some miles away from the top 3.

Neuron1 May 30, 2016 at 12:33 am

Since Froome came out of nowhere in 2012, and didn’t really “exist” on the pro race circuit prior to that it was tough to race him. Contador had a little clenbuterol problem for a few years in there too. That may have limited the competitive options. Nibali has been racing and winning for a very long time. Regarding head to head competition, Nibali did very well against the tag team of Sky at the 2012 Tour, only losing significant time in the ITT on stage 19. So in GT face offs it’s probably pretty even with Froome. Question: When Contador won the 2105 Giro, there were no major players present, does that make it less of a win? Do these criteria count for all races and racers, or just some? The bottom line is that riders pick races, they show up and win or don’t. They can’t control who is going to be there and who is going to withdraw.

Razorback May 30, 2016 at 12:58 am

Contador has most of his career, by far, has chosen to ride the Tour and faced the top level competition there.
2008, is probably the last year where he chose to race the Giro and Vuelta rather then the Tour.
Nibali, in the other hand, since 2010 raced the tour 3 out of 7 (including 2016).
He indeed deserves the win, I would never take it out from him, but at the same time, it is clear that or 1) he picks races with a weaker field or 2) he doesn’t win when the top riders are racing (with a very few exceptions..
You are right, the riders pick races, problem is, Nibali chooses the easiest ones.

Neuron1 May 30, 2016 at 1:54 am

Yes, and it takes different skills to win those other races. Skills which to this point Froome has not shown us. That’s why they, Sky, aren’t there contesting them. Except of course when Froome crashes out of the Tour if the wind is blowing, rain is threatened or there are bumpy things in the road, he doesn’t ride the Vuelta. Even then he doesn’t win. Sky wants to be able to dominate every portion of a race and that is not nearly as easy at the Giro or the Vuelta. You can try to belittle Nibali’s wins to try to elevate others, but the guy is an all round bike racer and he doesn’t need a bunch if big brutes to protect him from himself in the peloton. I find it interesting that when he is getting beaten he conveniently breaks a bone which precludes his continuing.

Nick May 30, 2016 at 12:13 pm

Again, I can see the argument that Nibali’s GT palmares are better than Froome’s, but you can’t simply declare the 2012 TdF a draw and ignore the fact that the 2015 TdF took place.

Nicktarios May 30, 2016 at 3:27 am

Is Froome a better GT rider than Nibali? I’d suggest not. 2 TDF’s doesn’t stack up against 4 GT’s, of course winning each at least once. Quintana only has 1, and may indeed prove superior in the years ahead (and most likely will). Besides Contador, who is clearly number 1, Nibali has to rank second amongst current riders as a GT rider. A case for this can be made both objectively (his record) and subjectively.

Anonymous May 30, 2016 at 12:42 pm

We’ll see what Quintana is made of soon enough (and with the support of Valverde, fewer excuses), but my gut says that he’s headed in the same direction as Purito: great, but not greatest.

Razorback May 30, 2016 at 12:58 pm

I am not counting palmares. I have no problem in recognizing that Nibali has a great collection and is also a quite consistent GT rider.
My points are related to:
– Last 4-5 years, head to head Nibali has lost multiple times to Froome, Quintana and Contador more often then win – Froome has bitten Nibali even while on duty for Wiggo
– He deliberately picks races where the others aren’t. Most of his GTs were in similar situations

ebbe May 30, 2016 at 1:02 pm

“He keeps choosing races where Froome, Quintana and Contador are not there”

1) And they keep choosing races where he’s not in. So what’s the point?

Nibali rides a lot more races then these guys do. “They” – *especially Froome* – have the luxury of only having to focus on one stage race per year. So there goes your ceterus paribus assumption.

2) Simply not true. When they did all show up at the start of the ’14 Tour, Froome crashed out from pure lack of handling skills on the exact same stage where Nibali completely demolished the field.

Simon May 30, 2016 at 4:35 pm

Froome and Contador started the 2014 TdeF. Did you want Nibali to go and massage them back to health when they got injured so his win would be justified? Nibali trains to race across the season whilst Froome and Contador have a gt or 2 in mind. When was the last race report that mentioned the other big 3?

Vitus May 30, 2016 at 12:46 am

I will miss your daily “Nibali is so weak and never deserved to win so many Grand Tours” posts. Glad I still have xkcd and Dilbert for daily amusement…..

ebbe May 30, 2016 at 12:53 pm

Most GC wins (current peloton):
21 – Contador
16 – Valverde
12 – Nibali
11 – Froome
10 – T.Martin, Quintana

Thanks to https://twitter.com/CafeRoubaix/status/736932619900866561

There is no way you can chalk all of Nibali’s GC wins up to failing competition. And even if you could, you could probably do the same for most of the other guy’s GC wins.

RonDe, you’re operating from a robotic view on athletes and sports: Rider X has more power than rider Y, and therefore is the better rider who would have won under controlled circumstances. Sports isn’t like that. Circumstances are never controlled, nor should they be. Staying out of trouble is essential to being a GC contender. It might even be the single most important factor. If you make a mistake and crash or become ill, then you are simply not the GC contender the media or the start list makes you out to be. No matter how big your name or your power numbers are.

But your start list comparison becomes even more doubtful when we consider other factors: Froome spends his entire life focussing on one stage race per year. Nibali is much more allround, he even rides small races in Italy because he wants to support the local scene. Nibali rides to win every time he rides. Froome rides everything he does purely in preparation for that one stage race per year. Even if Froome happens to accidentally snag a GC win in another stage race, it is usually in preparation for that one goal. Does being a good “peaker” make you a good allround top contender in your mind? In my mind it’s the exact opposite.

Or let’s take Contador: If Contador would not have contended the ’15 Giro, would he have been better in the ’15 Tour? Yes, of course! So, following your logic, that means Froome’s ’15 Tour win is hollow, since he did not compete with the best possible Contador? Or with Tom Dumoulin who crashed out of the Tour early, but demolished Froome later on in the Vuelta.

If we start to go down this route, you can start questioning every single win ever. That is, every win not attained by a team of robots under completely controlled circumstances. I’d rather watch real people compete under real world circumstances, including all the real world drama.

noel May 31, 2016 at 10:04 am

I checked wins at WT level only (slow day at work!)
Bertie 14
Nibali 6
Froome 6
Quintana 5
T Martin 4 (ok, 2 x Beijing!)
Valverde 3
…doesn’t tell you much really except to underline what’s obvious – the other guys have a way to go to claim parity to Contador (despite his 2yr holiday…), and the bulk of Valverde’s wins were in non WT races in Spain. I imagine if you did some kind of podium count Valverde would rise back up the charts a bit…

gabriele May 31, 2016 at 10:54 am

Agreed on general overview, and useful from a statistical POV even if the WT is slightly biased and, when so few races are referred to, it can be also interesting to give a look at what races we’re specifically speaking of.
Froome has a double Romandie-Dauphiné-Tour series (well, to say the truth he won Romandie in 2014 and didn’t in 2015 😉 ).
Nibali’s got double Tirreno, double Giro, Vuelta and Tour.
Quintana has Romandie, Catalunya, Tirreno, País Vasco and one Giro.

Among those three, I’d say that the most qualified palmarés in short stage races is clearly Quintana’s (by far, and because of variety, too). Nibali is clearly ahead if we speak of GTs. Froome likes French 🙂

Obviously, as I said elsewhere, Quintana has time and room to improve, and probably also Froome has got more time and occasions than Nibali to win something else, due to the late start of his high level career. This is just how things look like presently.

Anyway, both the “every GC” and “WT GC” perspective would need to be corrected by a pinch of insight.

It’s quite laughable to consider the Critérium International or the Vuelta a Murcia as a “stage race” (two stages… or 1 + 2 x 1 half). The Herald Sun Tour makes me turn up my nose in terms of competitiveness of the field, even more than the not-so-convincing Slovénie Tour or Giro di Padania.
Then, on a slightly superior level, you’ve got races with a nice field but which are really starter whose value is very relative, think of Oman, Andalucía or San Luis.

Finally, there are not-WT races whose cycling value is surely superior to, say, Romandie, and which, for different reasons, can be sometimes even more competitive than Dauphiné because it’s more evident that you must be strong there to perform better in your real-goal race. In fact, in the Dauphiné’s case, the debate is open, and you often see gregari up there in the GC or reversed performance in the Tour. On the contrary, in Trentino or Vuelta a Burgos – even if the starting field isn’t as stellar – you tend to find more often the contenders of the Giro or the Vuelta already in full racing form, which makes winning them more complicated and, on specific occasions, also much more significant.

Finally, you must consider that if you have the luck of having seen a race, you may discover that it has had a technical content way superior to its real value. It’s the Route du Sud 2012 case, to name one.

noel May 31, 2016 at 11:36 am

agree on Quintana – bags of potential to be rated right up there… but he needs to actually win a Tour or two first…

and on your point that WT wins don’t tell us everything… Gerrans has won the TDU 4 times I think?….

noel May 31, 2016 at 11:39 am

and…. I didn’t realise that Rigo Uran has never actually won a GC at all….

Razorback June 1, 2016 at 7:04 am

ebbe, et al…
first of all… is always good to have this kind of debate with the ones that love the sport… we may not always agree, but is quite fun…
Anyway, I have just spent more time than I should looking at numbers to try to put some numbers in this trend.
First of all, we probably can prove many different things, choosing different numbers.
To my point, I have always recognized Nibali with great Palmares collection and quite consistent. So I dont want to argue with total numbers of wins accumulated (as it is probably one of the best indicators of life-time performance), but my main point is when racing together (head-to-head), Nibali is behind the other 3 and he chooses races where the others are not.
I have just prepared a small database with all WT and HC races (disclaimer: there is probably some mistakes as I have to type it all) from 2012 to 15 as this is the best representative time of all racing together . it adds up to 66 races (only stage races).
Bellow are some findings… some helps me prove my point, some actually doesn’t (and some are new)

— Final results are:
– Froome: 22 races (stage), 13 podiums (9v+3+1)
– Contador: 19 races, 11 podiums (7v+3+1)
– Quintana: 21 races, 10 podiums (5v+5+0)
– Nibali: 22 races, (5v+2+2)
– Porte: 26 races, (4v+4+0) – also the highest number of DNFs. Was quite surprising, but Porte is actually one of the best stage racer in this past years. Specially if you account for 1 week races.
I have started to add Valverde, but the fact that he races Ardenas, makes it less comparable. But I am happy to add.

— Head-t0-head results:
Nibali has bitten Froome 3 times (Tirreno 13, Duaphine 14, where Froome lost time in the last stage, TdF14), and Froome has won 6 (Oman 13, Oman and Romandie 14, Romandie, Dauphine and TdF 15).
Nibali 3×3 Contador
Nibali 1×4 Quintana (Only victory is Dauphine 12, where Nibali finished 28th and Quintana 38th in the beggining of his carrer)
Nibali 5×1 Porte

In races with 3 or more, Froome also has the best results: 9 podiums (5 Victories); Contador 5 podiums (3 victories), Quintana 5 Podiums (2 victories), Nibali 3 Podiums (2 victories).

— Does Nibali picks his races?
Regarding my point that Nibali picks races where the other 3 arent, I was partially wrong, actually Quintana is the one that has raced less in races with 3 of them. The only thing that stands out out of Nibali’s 5 wins, in only 2 there was some of the others. Froome, from his 9 wins, only 2 were solitary (13 Criterium and Romandie)
Also Froome has raced Contador and Nibali 10x each, but only 6 Quintana.

Anyway… some data…
I dont want to discuss who is the best of all time, but feels to me that vs the other top 3 stage racers, Nibali is behind.
I am also not a big sky fan… I am the “underdog” kind of guy. Love to see Horner and Hesjendal wining tours, also I was cheering for Chaves (actually I am major fan of the Classics)

Happy to send the file if any of you are interested…
Lastly, Inrng – great blog! major fan

Nick June 1, 2016 at 11:08 am

@Razorback, thanks to both yourself and to Gabriele for your analyses, they really help in thinking about these riders. One query, though, Razorback: did you include the 2012 TdF in your database, as Froome certainly beat Nibali then?

Also, if you went back to 2010 or so, then Contador and Nibali’s standings would improve relative to the other two, who hadn’t yet started their top level careers.

noel June 1, 2016 at 11:23 am

this concept of picking races to avoid the other top guys…? is it really like that, or do they just map out a program at the beginning of the year that suits their particular strengths and goals
and adjust it as injuries and illness crop up during the year. I can’t really imagine Nibali (or any of the others) thinking ‘I’d really like to do the Dauphine in the run up to the Tour, but Froome might be there so I’ll do something else instead…’

Razorback June 1, 2016 at 3:49 pm

@Nick,
Indeed, I have included TdF 2002, and it counts as a win for Froome vs Nibali.
Also of course adding previous years change the picture, but 2011 Contador was not racing, Quintana was just starting.
I have no doubts that Contador and Nibali are leading the “overall Palmares competition” (I also really like the fact that Nibali has a Lombardia in his Palmares), but the 4 seasons between 2012-15 gives us a good lab to compare all of them together.

Richard S May 30, 2016 at 2:41 pm

If we’re talking about weak fields who did Quintana beat in 2014? Not many of the top boys. I don’t get why he is regarded as a great, with one GT win, and Nibali with 4 isn’t?! Let’s face it, the Tour is fairly sanitised and controllable. Sky can spend all year up a volcano honing their wattage relay ready to drop Froome off a km away from the top of the various summit finishes. What about if he had to race down though? I think he would have ended up with a similar fate as Zakarin. I don’t for one second think Froome would have beaten Nibali at the rain/snow soaked 2013 Giro. He couldn’t cope with one wet stage at the 2014 Tour. That’s before we start taking about winning one monument and podiuming at two others. An all round class act is Vincenzo.

STS May 30, 2016 at 3:06 pm

Judging Quintana from what he has shown so far he is certainly not at the same level as Nibali. The one GT he won was the Giro 2014 when Uran² became second. And for the most part this came down to Stelvio-Gate when he beat Rolland and Hesjedal on that stage.
In last year’s TdF Q was waiting, waiting and waiting before he finally dared to attack Froome much too late. IMHO it was even more boring watching him race than watching Team Sky.
I think most people rate him high because of what he is probably able to do on a climb. But he rarely shows that at least not in GTs.
It would be interesting to see Q race under another DS like Martinelli who somehow seems to inspire his riders to risk loosing in order to win.

Anonymous May 30, 2016 at 3:15 pm

I don’t know of a bigger screw-up than the Stelvio disaster. And then Uran was so polite about it.

Simon May 31, 2016 at 4:31 pm

He is a class act. He has won all 3 grand tours and is a protagonist in 3 of the 5 monuments. He and Bala are the the 2 best all rounders at the moment. Froome, Porte, Tejay seem a little one dimensional

Razorback June 1, 2016 at 7:15 am

You got a point in 2014 – indeed most of this races were solitary (Burgos, Giro), but since 2013, Quintana is:
– 4×4 vs Contador
– 4×0 vs Nibali
– 2×4 vs Froome
not bad

AK May 29, 2016 at 10:26 pm

I was kind of hoping you would use this moment as the race-winning one. Nibali rode a great last two stages, but given how Kruijswijk rode with a broken rib it’s hard to imagine Nibali or Chaves pulling back enough time on him if he had stayed up, or crashed with less damage to bike and body.
Kruijswijk said he was very tired and hungry at the top of the Agnello, and Nibali said he had spotted his troubles and deliberately put a high pace on the last bit of the climb and on the descent. If that is true, that’s smart racing .

Chris_SK May 29, 2016 at 10:36 pm

I agree, it forced an error at a time when attention was needed.
Kruiswijk didn’t climb that badly even in the final stage with his fractures, night in hospital and sorely wounded pride. It’s highly likely, he would have been able to mark Nibs or limit his losses (in the way Valverde did on stage 20); and win the Giro.

Ecky Thump May 29, 2016 at 11:47 pm

I’d agree with this and Inner Ring’s point.
Race officials were handing out the plain wind capes to riders at the top of the Colle dell’Agnello (Bob Jungels got an exact same one as he crested just before the Maglia Rosa group). Nibali grabbed one as he went past, Chaves and Kruijswijk didn’t – Nibali had been putting them under severe pressure just prior to this.

Anonymous May 30, 2016 at 2:25 am

especially with all the downhill kilometers in play

Chris_SK May 29, 2016 at 10:34 pm

Your “2017?” paragraph has me excited already… a centenary route, for sure to include all the major climbs.. and Nibali & Aru likely to be on different teams and going head-to-head for pink. Tasty!

Gavin May 29, 2016 at 10:40 pm

“Because the race had crossed into France RCS had to leave their mobile X-ray unit behind”

What about the EU, open borders and freedom and goods, services and people?

The Inner Ring May 29, 2016 at 10:44 pm

Lots of things still vary from country to country, from coffee to healthcare provisions, language to customs, an Italian patient can’t walk into a French hospital just like that and so on. I’m not sure precisely why the track stayed behind, only that it did. It meant a trip to Briançon hospital for Kruijswijk, which is roughly 40km away.

Neuron1 May 29, 2016 at 10:49 pm

Sir Inrng: I just returned from the Giro and having watched the way people drive in the mountains, I’m sure it wasn’t a very long trip. Hair-raising but brief.

_kw May 30, 2016 at 9:17 am

I would assume it was due to such equipment potentially being export controlled (radiation) and in that case the permits would have needed to be applied for ahead of time just for the short trip to France.

mabarbie May 30, 2016 at 5:49 pm

Don’t usually comment, but if not getting paper work done is the reason why stuff does not get done that is a pretty bad reason. It’s not as if the Giro had just decided to pop over to France for the day or anything…

UHJ May 30, 2016 at 10:50 am

Also radiation units can’t freely cross borders – yet without a truckload of paperwork.

UHJ May 30, 2016 at 10:50 am

Sorry, didn’t see -kw’ comment so redundnat post here…

Ron Atkinson May 29, 2016 at 10:59 pm

Tom Dumoulin was planning all along to move into his new house tomorrow after his girlfriend had done all the heavy lifting.

“Sorry, liefje, work are sending me to Italy for three weeks. There’s nothing I can do about it.”
“Not so fast, loverboy . . .”

Anonymous May 29, 2016 at 11:15 pm

The Colombian Olympic team for the men’s RR should be awesome.

Matthias Bonjour May 29, 2016 at 11:16 pm

“geriatric pedalling style.” that and Carlton Kirby’s “pedalling like a bag of spanners” are my favourite pedalling metaphors. Thank you!!

dr mengele May 29, 2016 at 11:36 pm

great writing inrng, thanks.. .. do you know where to find the list of riders with TUE’s for the Giro, or for any race ? how long does the TUE last ? It would be great to see a list of each rider who has one (or multiple ? is that possible ?) before the start of the grand tours, and those given one once the tour has started.
keep spinning……

The Inner Ring May 30, 2016 at 9:59 am

TUEs are private medical information, they’re almost never mentioned so there’s no list on the internet waiting to be shared.

dr mengele May 31, 2016 at 2:36 am

thanks for the reply. how does one find out then ? or only the rider, doctor, team and UCI know?
Is the UCI required to give that information if asked, or if asked by someone with proper credentials?
Can you tell us, what are all the medical “items” that a rider is required to get / allowed a TUE?

..keep spinning…

STS May 31, 2016 at 3:20 am

If that’s not (unfortunately) your real name what goes on in your mind to use that as your alias?

Simon May 31, 2016 at 4:35 pm

It’s definitely very odd

Esteban May 29, 2016 at 11:45 pm

subscribe Yodi 100%

Raouligan May 29, 2016 at 11:46 pm

This has been a topsy turvy three weeks of racing that’s seen amazing sprints by two of the worlds greatest, the confirmed revelation of Chaves and Kruiswijk.
It’s been a compelling three weeks worth of viewing following on live commentaries for me, that often the TDF isn’t.
I’m beginning to wonder if the geography of Italy isn’t actually better suited to more exciting racing, also the Giro not having the season defining potential of the TDF be that right for wrong seems to allow for more creative exciting racing.
The TDF is going to have to go some to be more compelling than the last three weeks have been, excellent Inrng coverage as always.
If I have one criticism it’s that the highlight shows get messed around with on Eurosport because of the French Open. Although Rob Hatch and Sean Kelly are stunning from the sofa with a glass of varying Italian bitters mixed with fizzy Italian wine and water!

Chris J May 30, 2016 at 1:05 am

“This year’s race skipped a lot of the legendary climbs, presumably so that next year’s route can be a greatest his compilation tour.”

Interesting. I hadn’t considered that.

So, do you think that means next year’s route will be a veritable high mountainfest? While I’d be glad to see the return of some of the classic climbs, it would equally be a shame to lose the variety of this year’s parcours. I thought they got the balance and mix of stages just right. Almost every day was home to consistently exciting racing – even the sprint stages. There was very little “filler”. Great job by the organisers.

The Inner Ring May 30, 2016 at 10:01 am

This year’s route was less mountainous but still hard. Next year should have more mountains but probably not loads more, just some more big names: Stelvio, Mortirolo etc. Maybe even the Nivolet for once.

Ferdi May 30, 2016 at 1:40 am

Isn’t it a little weird that no one has a word for Zakarin, who was looking really good?

Ecky Thump May 30, 2016 at 5:52 am

He was my pick, pre-race, for a podium.
But his bike-handling looks dodgy, no?
All over the place in the wet TT, and crashed on the descent.

I must say that it’s been…er..interesting reading the comments over the last couple of days.
I’ve got Nibali’s win down as pure theatre.
A mixture of fortune but with lots of guts, determination and experience.
I’ve come to admire the guy even more for all his failings.
Sometimes the greatest battles are with yourself, and Nibali has come through and delivered.
He’s a champion.

The Inner Ring May 30, 2016 at 10:02 am

One problem is he doesn’t have many words, even in Russian his interviews are very short. So there’s interest in him but not much content to go on. He’s bound to feature more though, his Giro suggests he can be a grand tour contender.

Chris J May 30, 2016 at 12:01 pm

I thought he’d finish on the podium, too. But then I thought Landa would win, so what do I know!

Zakarin is clearly strong enough to be a serious GC contender. Does appear that he needs to work on his descending, however.

Nica May 30, 2016 at 2:33 am

Nibali is a great champion, but the way he got a towed at last years Vuelta shows that his character has a major flaw. I would not put my hands on fire for him. Nevertheless the Astana team tactics and most likely internal talks with Beppe Martinelli after the disaster of the crono escalada made a huge difference in the outcome of the race. Hats off to the team, in particular Michele, and not necessarily to the winner.

ebbe May 30, 2016 at 1:15 pm

Every pro cyclist ever has gotten these kinds of tows after being held up by a crash or flat. I’ve seen tows on TV dozens of times since, some small (sticky bottles) but some big. It has been widely reported that Froome did the exact same thing in the same Vuelta just the day before, when he was held up, it just wasn’t caught on camera.

Does that mean we should allow it? No. The jury made a decision and it was justified – albeit a bit overly harsh. But we also shouldn’t cherry pick. There are plenty of others who should have been DQ’d somewhere in their career for the exact same thing, but weren’t. Do they then also have a major character flaw?

STS May 30, 2016 at 1:53 pm

Exactly, ebbe! An exagerating and astonishingly picky moralism way beyond what is reasonable and realisistic is another specialty of those new to cycling fans that came in during the Lance years or even later because of Sky’s TdF wins.

“Hats off to the team, in particular Michele, and not necessarily to the winner.” I couldn’t stop smiling when reading this sentence in that contest. Sure, Scarponi rode a suberp race and was invaluable for Astana and Nibali. And from what I’ve seen from him and read and heard about him he also seems to be a really great bloke. But blaming Nibali for a flawed character because of that tow and then praising “Zapatero” is just stupid. Get real, boys!

Nica May 30, 2016 at 2:28 pm

Thank you for your replies to my comment. A teacher once told me that if you assume something, you make an ass of yourself. In my case 30 years as a racer and also bicycle mechanic, so your assumption does not apply to me. Go for a ride perhaps it will help you “ride off” so of that ego. Cheers Mate!

ebbe May 30, 2016 at 4:06 pm

Don’t really know if you’re addressing STS, me or both. Speaking for myself, I’m not assuming anything about you at all. I just don’t agree with your assessment, for the following reasons:
– I don’t think getting a tow after being held up is a sign of a major character flaw. No contender in their right mind would say no if their DS pulls up in a car besides them offering to bring them back after they’ve lost time because some other guy can’t keep his bike upright. Of course, I do understand it’s simply not allowed, so punishment can be justified.
– However, if that’s the way to go, then the judges should be consistent and put the gavel down on all cases of tows. As they’re now clearly doing with sprinters deviating from the line for instance. They obviously aren’t doing the same for tows. Well, they did in one case, but not in all the other cases that we can see weekly on TV.
– We’ve seen others break various “small” rules over and over again. From getting tows, to accepting food/drink in the last 20k, to taking a wheel from a competitor team, to removing a helmet while riding, etc. All of these practices are just as illegal as taking a tow is. To single out one individual seems biased at best. Again: Do you also think Froome has a weak character for getting a similar tow the day before? Do you think Froome has a weak character for accepting an energy gel for him in the last 20k (more specific: cowardly having a team mate get it for him, which means he knew he was breaking a rule)?

What you should be saying if you would be consistent is: Pro cyclist have weak characters. But then I’d like to see you explain how they finish stages/tours with cracked ribs, fractured femurs, broken wrists, etc. Or winning a grand tour when two people close to you die within a few days of each other, one of them a 14 year old kid from a team you sponsor who was run over by a truck on a training ride, as Nibali just did this Sunday. That’s not a sign of a weak character by any means.

Nica May 31, 2016 at 12:53 am

Thank you for your comment. Not sure who Zapatero is? Below is a link of the small two you are talking about. Sorry perhaps I am being too dramatic about this :).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bv_g4BJregQ

STS May 31, 2016 at 2:32 am

Nica, What do you want to express with that question mark after “Not sure who Zapetero is?” That you don’t know whose “name” Zapatero is or that I don’t know? Zapatero is Spanish for shoemaker and Scarponi is Italian for shoemaker. So the infamous Eufemiano Fuentes – you know who that is, don’t you ? – used “Zapatero” as the apt but somewhat too simple to decipher code name for his customer Scarponi to mark the bags with his blood that was to be reinfunded at some point. I have thought that this became common knowledge amongst cycling fans years ago. At least many long-term cycling friends I know call him “Zapatero” now and say “Piti” when they mean Valverde who was also a customer of Fuentes.
Compared to what Valverde and Scarponi undisputedly did some ten years ago – Scarponi even confessed to it – the tow Nibali took when he was ordered to do so was a rather small and quite common breach of the rules.
Maybe now you understand why I found your comment about the difference in your attitude towards Nibali and Scarponi so funny and came to the conclusion that you cannot be a long-term follower of pro cycling.

Larry T May 30, 2016 at 3:57 pm

Help me understand what you’re saying Nica.
Nibali’s not-so-good because he got kicked out of the Vuelta for taking a tow from the team car, but you like his gregario, who was kicked out of cycling for involvement in Operation Puerto and admitting to working with Michele Ferrari?
And then – “Hats off to the team”? Would that just be the guys that raced the Giro and helped the guy you don’t like win or does it include team management, like the guy who got caught borrowing his uncle’s blood to race in LeTour awhile back?
I’m confused.

Nica May 30, 2016 at 8:41 pm

Thank you Ebbe for your comment, I am not addressing you. My comment stands Nibali was ejected from the Vuelta last year and that was blatant hold on to the car window and lets go. It was not a sticky bottle or a tow/draft to catch up to the peloton like many other riders do because of a fall or mechanical. As a result, I lost respect for the guy and doubt his integrity as such, so I do hope his performance the last two “race” days were clean. The guy could not pedal in the crono escalada!. It is not a matter of liking him or not. Facts are facts. Same to what Sepulveda did in the Tour last year, not acceptable, and he was expelled also, for taking a ride on a car, so yes in my book a cheat. Astana do have a history behind as the figure of Vino lingers, and the issues they had last year with several riders testing + and frankly I think Vino is a persona no grata to me and not even Nibali likes him. Nevertheless, all the astana gregarios deserve my respect in particular Michele, with history of doing or not, they deserve my respect because they raced great, that is all, I am not comparing them to anyone. I believe this is a smart blog and as such we are all entitled to constructive and intelligent deliberations. The reason why I support this blog, not by merely writing comments but also endorsing it with my small contribution to buy a cap or jersey which I wear with satisfaction. If I wanted to be disrespected for writing my comments then I would go to other sites or blogs. My comment stands. Cheers!!

Larry T May 31, 2016 at 8:40 am

Thanks Nica, now I understand your thoughts. They make zero sense to me in any logical way, but I understand them. Might I guess you think hiding a motor in your bike (mechanical doping) is far worse than taking PED’s or transfusions? With this I promise no further questions 🙂

Nica May 31, 2016 at 1:33 pm

Thank you Larry T for your comment. Mechanical poping or taking substances is the same to me, both wrong. My original comment is very clear. Cheers!

Pedro Ortiz May 30, 2016 at 2:45 am

The moment the Giro was lost by Chaves: On stage 16 he lost concentration and got caught at the back of the leading peloton when Valverde and Steven Kruijswijk attacked. At the finish line he arrived 8th at 42 sg of Valverde; Nibali arrived 11th at 1’47”, that is 1’ 05” difference with Chaves (…and he los by 55 sg at the end).
That Stage was so critical for Esteban because he spent a lot of energy chasing the guys at front and end up being the fastest on the final climb that day, however to my view he paid the price later. He emptied the tank where wasn’t needed because he got distracted. Lessons to be learn I reckon.

Travis May 30, 2016 at 5:03 am

That was a bad day for Chaves, but i have no doubt he can go with Nibali in the hills. Even in the third week of a GT. I think the murmurs of some kind of cold are more than likely true. But then so are those that Nibali was off earlier on. But at the end of the day it doesn’t matter. Nibali was the best at the end. Why can’t we say Nibali won the race as a result of better bike handling skills than Kruiswijk or he won the race by limiting his losses on his bad days and being ruthless on his good.

Pedro Ortiz May 30, 2016 at 6:04 am

Agree, off course he was overall the best one. My comment refers to an analysis of where Chaves could have won the Giro as everyone else talks about Kruijswijk’s fall being where he lost it.
The way Nibali was climbing on the last stage wasn’t spectacular. If we compare it with Uran that is not an excellent climber and he managed to get relatively closer to Nibali on the last stage.

GTGTGT June 1, 2016 at 7:21 am

Anyone who watches OGE’s Backstage pass could clearly hear Chaves’ voice getting heavier by the day. He sounded quite sick in the last couple of days. No coughing (at least on camera), but you could hear his voice becoming gravelly…

Very surprising to me that he (and others) don’t descend with some sort of jacket or even a gilet. It just begs a chest cold.

cherrypicked May 30, 2016 at 6:01 am

Jungels was impressive for me. I think it would be good for cycling if he becomes a grand tour GC aspirant as he appears to be more of racer/all terrain type rather than a watt counter, in the Nibali mould than the Kruiswijk/Froome mould. Did he do altitude training in preparation for the Giro?

“Bob Jungels who took the race lead and finishes 11th overall ” – think he was 6th?

The Inner Ring May 30, 2016 at 10:13 am

Correct for Jungels, fixed now.

TheRider May 30, 2016 at 9:11 am

Thanks so much for your daily coverage on the Giro. It really helped a bunch when I was unable to follow a stage.
Now on to the Tour and hope it holds up compared to this Giro. Fantastic season already (let’s just forget about Ardennes, I know I have)

The Inner Ring May 30, 2016 at 10:13 am

Now onto the Tour? They will be daily coverage of the Dauphiné here plus there’s the Tour de Suisse, Route du Sud and more to come as well.

StevhanTI May 30, 2016 at 12:26 pm

The LBL finale was thrilling to the max but the 240 kms (and both other races that week) preceding it weren’t.

The Giro never disappoints though nor does INRNG coverage.

MLM May 30, 2016 at 9:22 am

Thanks for the writing Inner Ring. It was great to start the day off with your previews and glances into the Italian cyclingscape. It really added something to 3 weeks of the most beautiful and interesting of the ‘Grand Tours’.

MattF May 30, 2016 at 9:42 am

Inrng – I think you’re underselling Bob Jungels and I refer to the following sentence;
“The big performance was Bob Jungels who took the race lead and finishes 11th overall with the white jersey. He was solid but the high mountains were not for him.”

He actually finished 6th overall, a truly outstanding performance. Also, on what basis can you conclude that the high mountains were not for him? Sure, he suffered in the Dolomites and Stage 19 but his performance on Stage 20 (1:22 behind Nibali) was pretty commendable.

Great coverage of the race – thank you.

The Inner Ring May 30, 2016 at 10:15 am

Jungels was very good and he showed how well can climb in the Tour de France last summer too. But rarely front group material in the high mountains. He can only improve and may well begin to consider if he can hang with the best here.

Charles May 30, 2016 at 10:31 am

I’d like to believe in a clean Nibs but as far as I’m concerned he grabbed onto a team car to cheat his way back at the Vuelta and he’s done the same again here only it wasn’t caught on camera. In Vino Veritas

ebbe May 30, 2016 at 4:11 pm

Froome did the exact same in the same Vuelta, the day before. Widely reported, but just not caught on camera.

So, are you going to discount all of Froomes wins as well, from now on?

Anonymous May 30, 2016 at 8:12 pm

Well, I certainly am!

Nick May 30, 2016 at 11:00 pm

Froome held on to a team car to get a tow back into the peloton during a team time trial? A team time trial that had been neutralised for GC, and which Sky pootled round in about 20th. Are you 100% sure of the veracity of these wide reports?

Anonymous May 30, 2016 at 11:34 pm

Nick,

It might have been three days before.
Professional cyclists take tows after some bad luck.

Nick May 30, 2016 at 11:52 pm

It would certainly be unlucky to get dropped before the race had even started. Though I suppose Froome managed to crash before the start of the 2013 Tour.

tedba May 31, 2016 at 11:22 am

Peleton in a team time trial?

Anonymous May 31, 2016 at 12:51 pm

Ebbe

Are you sure you’re not confusing Froome getting DQ’d from the 2010 Vuelta for getting a tow when he was going to quit at the end of the stage anyway?

If not can you provid a link to a quote from any rider, DS etc that saw this. Thanks.

Anonymous May 30, 2016 at 11:36 pm

I doubt Nibali will ever take a tow again in his pro career.

MC May 30, 2016 at 11:02 am

Nibali’s “illness” was a great “commedia dell’arte”.
I don’t like this kind of psychological warfare.
I don’t like that races are won downhill (where’s the limit?) and I don’t like the fact that I don’t trust the GC contenders being clean…
So it was a nice battle, fearing it’s been a freak show again.

Jurgen 54 May 30, 2016 at 11:35 am

Can I kindly suggest to move your cycling fandome to track racing.
No “comedies”, no psychowarfare, and best of all no downhill!

My first post, sorry it was due to that silly avalanche of nonsense…
Thanks anyway INRNG, not your fault and please keep it on.

Anonymous May 30, 2016 at 12:54 pm

maybe knitting is for you? I don’t know.

The Inner Ring May 30, 2016 at 3:48 pm

Remember the Tour de France is going to finish with the toboggan-run descent off the Joux Plane to Morzine. Before that the Pyrenees have two downhill finishes. Descending is an important part of the stage racer’s repertoire.

STS May 30, 2016 at 4:03 pm

Just hilarious how some people would like to see GT racing transform even more into a W/kg competition as it already is. Descending has been part of the sport ever since. And placing the finish line in the valley makes racing through the mountains more fair compared to mountain top finishes even though guys like Chaves still have an advantage over heavier riders.

gabriele May 30, 2016 at 5:21 pm

+1
Besides, the “downhill finishes” force the climbers to give really everything uphill, because a small advantage can be neutralised by the descent, hence you must try whatever is within your means to reach an – unknown – “critical advantage” which eventually pays off despite the descent.
Whereas, with a lot of uphill finishes what you see is that everyone chooses a policy of minimum risks, attacking later (last km or couple of kms) to accumulate small time difference over small time difference (plus time bonuses) without assuming the risks which a full gas 15′-20′ attack might entail.

irungo txuletak May 30, 2016 at 6:11 pm

Completely agree with the comments above. Making all the mountain stages finish in Alpe d’Huez style tend to make riders more conservative.
I think that this Giro had particularly well designed stages, with downhill finishes or short climbs after monster mountain passes.
The Tour should do more of that. The Vuelta is another story, geography does not help.

irungo txuletak May 30, 2016 at 1:21 pm

I was a bit disapointed by Majka. Would have expected more from him. He was never really in contention.

Richard S May 30, 2016 at 2:50 pm

People always expect youngsters to get better as they get older, whether it’s in cycling, football or whatever. Why would they? The only reason to think someone might be able to jump to GC winner is if they have been held back for someone else, like Nibali was for Basso, Froome for Wiggins or even Ullrich for Riis. But Majka has had a few goes for himself and always been just off the big guys. I don’t see where that 5 – 6 minutes is going to come from.

The Inner Ring May 30, 2016 at 3:46 pm

Cycling has a bit tactical component and experience matters, whether knowing the roads in a classic, how to pace a long time trial or all the small energy savings to be made during a stage race. Like all jobs it takes a while to learn this craft. Majka though has passed this stage and I’ve not seen much of an explanation on his Giro results, their tone seems to be satisfaction with the result.

irungo txuletak May 30, 2016 at 5:05 pm

Kruijswijk would not be the example of somebody who grew up giro after giro, would he?
And Majka has been more than once team mate of Kontador. And after last year’s good vuelta I would have expected him to finish closer, not that far from Valverde or Chaves. (I don’t mention here Kruijswijk who was in the form of his life).

MultiplexRant May 30, 2016 at 4:05 pm

Lovely rundown, INRNG, and thanks for the insightful coverage of the race.

Success has been spread quite widely for this Giro, but there have been losers too. The standouts for me are Cannondale, who cannot be happy with their performance on GC with Uran, let alone Formolo who was pre-race favourite for the white jersey, yet finished 1h18m down on Jungels.

Lampre will be happy thanks to the frisky Ulissi, bit Sacha Modolo’s most significant contribution Haas been to secure a fellow Italian sprinter’s DQ for a stage win.

Speaking of which, while nobody can complain about winning a maglia rossa, Trek Segafreddo must also be a touch disappointed, though Cancellara’s ongoing illness problems are not a failing of the team.

Finally, BMC – but did they have any ambition here in the first place? A bizarre state of affairs for one of the best funded teams on the circuit. They’ll be happy with Atapuma’s buccaneering efforts but ultimately they came to nought.

The Inner Ring May 30, 2016 at 4:26 pm

As you say with BMC they didn’t have much to do in the race but tried for the breakaways with Oss, De Marchi and Atampuma especially. Zabel was learning in the sprints too. La Gazzetta says they’ve made an offer to Kruijswijk which at first sounds far-fetched given their already stellar roster but given Porte and van Garderen both want to do the Tour de France Kruijswijk could do the Giro and Vuelta and become a millionaire along the way.

Richard S May 30, 2016 at 6:46 pm

I believe their plan was for Gilbert to be leader and go for stages until he got in a ruck before the Ardennes. You never know how it might have turned out, there wer a lot of stages to suit him.

CA May 30, 2016 at 4:24 pm

Very interesting Giro, I can’t remember a race where the battle for the top-step of the podium was so wide-open.

I’m still not sold on why Nibali shouldn’t have waited for Kruijswijk. Why is this different from when the GC riders waited for Jan Ulrich in 2001/2002 (I forgot which year) or Armstrong in 2003? Both those guys fell on their own, yet the other riders felt they had to wait. Please let’s ignore the other issues around these riders, haha.

The Inner Ring May 30, 2016 at 4:30 pm

There’s no rhyme or reason, these are unwritten rules. Nobody waited for Nibali either when he was wearing the maglia rosa in 2010 on the “strade bianche” stage to Montalcino and crashed.

Having mentioned Kruijswijk’s status in the peloton (a rising star, not a patron) the other day there’s also a more concrete reason not to slow: Nibali had dropped Valverde on the Colle dell’Agnello and so get on the podium by distancing Valverde. Had he waited for Kruijswijk he’d have let Valverde go past.

Gareth May 30, 2016 at 4:56 pm

I think a key thing about the unwritten rule is if the race is ‘on’. For example, bunch rolling along on a flat stage, you wouldn’t start attacking if the leader crashed or even going uphill if the attacks weren’t already flying you would probably soft pedal for a while. On the other hand when that crash happened the race was definitely on and that was pat of what caused the crash in the first place so Kruijswijk has to live with it.

Also looking at it to me it seems that Kruijswijk was last of the group and it is therefore plausible Nibabli didn’t even know he had crashed at least for a couple of minutes when I’m sure he would hear on the radio. I know when I’ve raced (only local affairs -I’m no ex pro) fairly major incidents have happened behind me and I have not been aware until told about it afterwards.

CA May 30, 2016 at 11:20 pm

Hmmm… thanks for the responses guys, I still am on the fence, leaning towards not buying it.

The guys always say “the race was ‘on'”, but really, the guys stating the race was “on” are the guys who are not waiting for the fallen riders.

gabriele May 31, 2016 at 12:22 am

You got it topsy-turvy. It’s the other way around. The normal thing is *not* waiting for whoever fell as an individual error. Exception can be made depending on the power of the rider(s) invoved.

There’s quite a lot of notable examples, think about Cancellara stopping the peloton in order to wait for Andy on the road to Spa, whereas *the following day* – when he found himself on the right side of a quite big pile-up with his captain – , he helped him to make his way to the line 1’13” ahead of Contador. Lance was more than 2′ down. The times had changed, indeed, and he’d better have known it 🙂
Curiously enough, the fans who love the “chaingate” narrative fail to remember this anecdote.

In the *first* stage of the 2011 Tour, Contador went down and finished 1’20” down. He was the year before’s winner and, without doubt, a possible GC contender, but Evans et al. didn’t care at all. Contador wasn’t waited for by Aru when the Spaniard was the leader during last Giro (fast and furious finale of a stage… but…). Nobody among the top four waited for Contador when he went down descending the Allos last year and Sagan gave him his bike. He was about 4′ minutes down and doubled his delay in GC in that stage.

Lance was famous for *not waiting* other riders he didn’t like (well, they weren’t in the leader’s jersey), and the Ullrich case was sort of a peculiar case – he even used to make his team pull on the front to distance people who had been belated by bunch falls.

Inrng made a couple of pretty decisive points above, but you could even go back to Gaul’s call of nature or to Ocaña’s fall, both while in the leader’s jersey (Ocaña had to retire from the race, but Merckx for sure didn’t stop to check if the leader was right or could follow on or whatever).

CA June 3, 2016 at 4:29 pm

My final posting on this topic (well, until it happens again). I now believe more than ever that Nibali should have waited. The reason being, yes you can attack the pink jersey, and if Nibali’s strategy was to drop him going downhill, and if he did drop him while, then fine, continue to put time into the leader. But, if you’re in the same group as the leader (or another GC competitor), and someone falls, then unwritten rules dictate you have to wait.

Even if the “normal” thing is that people don’t wait, it’s because most of the time people aren’t following this rule.

It’s an issue of doing the sporting thing, and Chaves’ and Nibali’s pink jerseys were the product of violating the integrity of this race.

gabriele June 3, 2016 at 10:07 pm

CA… I don’t know exactly what unwritten rule are you speaking of, since I wouldn’t say it exists – in pro cycling.
As you say… “normally, people don’t do that”. But “unwritten rules” are about what people *normally do*. On the contrary, how dou you recognise or define them?

When something similar to what you’d fancy was applied, the most famous cases happened in a *mafia* context which really doesn’t support any claim about that being “sporting” (quite the contrary).

Then there’s the common sense thing. How does it make sense to wait minutes, allowing already dropped contenders to come back to the front, only to see how is the maglia rosa faring?
And if you’re the leader, it may become great to claim you’re having a mechanical or so when you’re under pressure.

Of all the crazy things I’ve read about this Giro in the last days, this is one of the less understandable ones. Not the worst one, indeed, in that sense the doping divination is something you can’t beat.

Joe K. May 31, 2016 at 8:32 am

Nibali himself said that he was deliberately putting pressure on Kruiswijk after the top of Cima Coppi because he saw him breathing hard. So, clearly Nibali was attacking him on the downhill when he crashed into the snowbank. Even if he had noticed that Kruiswijk had fallen, he had no intention to slow down and wait.

gabriele May 30, 2016 at 5:14 pm

A technical point which hasn’t been very much raised: whoever has raced, more or less on any level, knows the (huge) difference between having on your shoulders the responsibility of attacking and matching an attack. It’s a big difference both in psychological and in physiological terms. The difference in watts can also be relevant when that happens on slopes whose average gradient is somewhere below 9%-10%.

Chaves, for example, later paid quite a high price for his Agnello attacks (I can’t believe he was already ill, then… you would wait a little more if you didn’t feel fine, because if you don’t know how your body will react, starting the fight far from the finish line might mean eventually losing a bigger amount of time – see what happened to Nibali).
In the Dolomites stage Kruijswijk and Chaves both attacked Nibali, but the later had forced all the previous moves and had spent a way greater amount of time on the front, feeling that the responsibility to sink Valverde was mainly on him (from the images it looks like they were pulling more or less 50%-25%-25%).
The day before, Chaves had tried one single shy attack, then went on defending and taking advantage of Nibali’s accelerations.
Same can be said for Arezzo or Roccaraso. Counter-attacking in the final km isn’t as hard as getting *exposed* more or less far from the finish with multiple moves on the front.

This is no criticism on my part: it’s in the nature of cycling that whoever might be deemed *a priori* as the strongest rider, or whoever’s got a greater pressure to win, is consequently forced to take more responsibilities, risk more, spend more. That’s what makes cycling so interesting: a self-regulating factor which tends to hinder the winning chances of a competitor for the mere fact of him being acknowledged as potentially stronger than others (easier alliances between the other competitors, being more marked, and so on).
However, this factor explains quite well while being for many years a top contender ends up implying a harder game while underdogs might receive different forms of indirect advantage, both in a race as a whole or in a specific phase of the race itself. But Kruijswijk and Chaves finally had to endure the pressure of upping their game, while Nibali was suddendly “helped” by his weakened position (for example, on the same Agnello, where Orica “worked for/instead of” Astana and where Chaves softened the group with his attacks while, at the same time, tiring himself more than ever before.

Razorback June 1, 2016 at 4:01 pm

@Gabriele,
Another interesting number comes out of the analysis of 2012-15 stage races by looking at top10 finishes vs overall races.
– Contador is actually the most consistent: Out of 19 races, he was top 10 in 18 of them (just missed tdF14)
– Quintana is tough to analyse as his 2012 year was still a “transition year”, but if we look 13-15 he was top 10 14 out of 17 (DNF at Vuelta and two poor results at Paris-Nice)
– Froome has 17 out of 22 (3 DNF: TdF, Espana, USA and two poor results Dauphine 14 and Catalunya 15)
– Nibali’s number are curious, he was top 10 only 14 out of 23 and has no DNF (also in his top 10 there are some 7 places and a 10th)

Again there are probably multiple interpretations, but is a nice angle to look. independently of their programs, some of them are more consistent then the others (even running a similar number of races)

gabriele June 1, 2016 at 7:19 pm

@Razorback
This is interesting, probably more than the “head-to-head” thing. As I said below, I don’t have time to follow up, but I suggest you to thik about one aspect. You say that you appreciate Nibali for being competitive in one-day races, too, but you seem to imagine that it comes with no consequences… like a gift of nature.

Well, it’s partially so, but being competitive in the Classics also means you’ve got to work hard to include those goals, too, both in your racing *and* training programme. Your calendar goes complicated and your specific training must be shifted to fit for the Classics requirements.

You simply *can not* be racing all the other races *exactly as* another cyclist who doesn’t consider the Classics among his goals. I could make tons of example taken from the performance curve of Classics riders in different years.

That becomes evident when you see that Nibali has raced as many stage races as the rest… but meanwhile he’s been competitive in Classics, too.
How the heck would it be possible for him to be *equally competitive* in all the minor stage races?!
It would mean that he’s hugely physically superior to the rest – which he isn’t, frankly.
Hence he’s generally *racing more* than the competition, including some training work in the form of short stage racing, something that the other guys prefer to do “at home”. Which is also very telling.
Racing more, both in other spots of the calendar and in different kind of races (different physical qualities to foster) while keeping the same percentage of top GC performances would be simply incredible.

gabriele June 1, 2016 at 7:27 pm

Compare the 2012 and 2013 seasons of Nibali to see the difference between a more Classics-focused season and a more GC-focused one.

Anyway, Contador and Nibali are obviously growing old, hence I wouldn’t be surprised that the further you place your observation window, the more favourable the stats become for, say, Quintana. I’m pretty sure that in 2018 Contador and Nibali won’t be among the best GT riders, while Nairo will very probably be up there.

Besides, the older you get, the harder it becomes to get to your peak (which might still be as high as the others’ or thereabouts) and the shorter will it be, reducing the number of top performaces outside your main goals.

Yet, as I said, let’s see if Froome and Quintana, who weren’t on the scene in previous years, will win what their present potential might suggest. That’s the only thing that matters.

Being the strongest a couple of months for a couple of years doesn’t mean being a top GT rider.

Especially since being a top rider isn’t about placing better than any specific rival, it’s about winning races. Even when you’re not the strongest athlete on the road. Particularly so, I’d say.

gabriele May 30, 2016 at 5:49 pm

Another interesting information: despite the presence of several high-mountain low-speed stages, and a lot of tricky hilly stages, the general average speed of this Giro was very high, the second higher in recent years (and if you compare it to the TdF, it was faster than the 2015, 2012, 2011, 2010 or 2009 TdF, many of which had “easier” or, better said, “flatter”/”faster” courses).

At the same time, the W/kg produced by the top riders in the final climbs weren’t extraordinary at all (according to Ferrari’s calculations, they barely reached the 6.0 W/Kg: only Kruijswijk did slightly better – in the uphill ITT). Notably, the climbs previous to the last ones were raced faster than usual. The Giau was an all-time record, and the Bonette, too, was quite fast.

As I wrote several times, when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

When you start some stages with average speeds over 50 km/h a rider with Chaves will pay a price.

Many riders will go over 6.0 W/kg on a single final climb, or if the previous climbs has been climbed at controlled speed. Last Tour represented a very clear example in that sense. But if you start to push a little harder than usual climb after climb, the final performances might be very diverse, being placed in a totally different power-duration zone.

Lastly, the fact that Chaves or Valverde (we don’t have enough elements for Kruijswijk) could clearly express a better 5′ top power than Nibali didn’t necessarily mean that they’d be able to sustain as much power as him when forced to “face the wind” with little help for more time. Which happened as soon as the selection became more severe.

STS May 30, 2016 at 6:15 pm

I noticed that as well. The times when Lance could claim uncontested that the TdF is ridden much harder than the Giro are long gone. Many riders claimed that last year’s Giro was by far the hardest GT they’ve ever witnessed. And that they were not too keen to doing it again. Many of them blamed Astana for making the race so hard and you couldn’t help but think that this strengthened the animosity towards Astana in the peloton.

In the TdF the racing for the GC is more predictable. Which as you state makes it easier to produce higher W/kg outputs on those final climbs and as a direct consequence leads to a more predictable outcome more related to the individual differences in W/kg .

It became obvious in this Giro that Nibali had a problem whenever the intensity became very high. For whatever reason. There were rumors about allergies affecting him at lower elevation and a new diet which perhaps did not provide enough energy for those ultra high intensity efforts. But what you could also notice was that he did not seem to have any problems with keeping the intensity pretty high for extended periods of time. So the size of his “gas” tank and his metabolism are probably very well adapted to long demanding stages. Which is to be expected for someone with his number of racing years and class and also the kind of preparation he did.

By now I have been hoping for many years that the size of the gas tank and thus tactical racing – which I find closely related to each other – will become more decisive again in modern racing as they were in the more distant past. At least the four recent Giros have developped into that direction certainly helped by the topography of Italy, some smart course planning, and Astana’s strong team performances.

irungo txuletak May 30, 2016 at 6:46 pm

In former times we spoke about diesel engines vs explisve riders. But I think there are still riders that are better off in long sustained efforts than in short high-intensity ones.

Ferdi May 30, 2016 at 7:42 pm

+1.

Julie May 30, 2016 at 10:23 pm

Thank you again for an absolutely superb post. Your writing is clear and very interesting. I’m in France, but wasn’t able to watch the race on TV. I depended on a stream and your posts. Thank you! Julie

tedba May 31, 2016 at 11:25 am

Just want to add congratulations for another excellently covered GT.

Obviously we don’t like to see crashes as the determining factors of a 3 week long race, but the drama was excellent again. Plenty of riders in contention throughout the tour, with many falling out dramatically and one of them coming back improbably… The Tour and Vuelta have a lot to live up to now.

gabriele May 31, 2016 at 12:33 pm

A very interesting thread about stage races in general has been started by ebbe and noel above.

I focused on comparing the short stage races performances of Quintana, Nibali and Froome. I felt quite clearly that this is their respective order, out of cycling intuition, but I decided to have a deeper look. Hence I decided to check the final GC of the editions they won and see how many GT podiumers were in the top-5.

Why GT podiumers? Because I can tell them by memory, whereas I’m not as sure about some riders and their GT top-fives (did Tejay ever made it? I’m joking, he’s precisely the one I can remember!).
Why top-5? Because it means they really are in contention, I’m not including this year’s Froome in Catalunya as a serious contender, despite him making a top 10.

As every too simple a statistics, someone can get quite unlucky. Nibali is, in this case (since he’s so lucky racing his bike! 🙂 But he prefers it this way, I guess): for example, he beat *several* guys who only made… the 4th spot in a GT! Or a couple of times the “GT-podiumer rival” ended up 6th, in “shooting distance”, too (less than 90″ in GC). Well, that’s life. Maybe I’ll prepare a Nibali-oriented stat with “all the guys who made top-4 in a GT within the 6th place” for fun’s sake 😉

However, Quintana collected 9 “scalps”, Nibali 8 and Froome 7 in short stage races (more than 2 days). If we consider only the WT ones, it’s even clearer: Quintana’s got 7, Nibali’s got 4 and Froome only 1.

Another interesting fact is that 5 out of 7 scalps collected by Froome come… from Oman! And one from Andalucía. If you decided – correctly IMHO – to give less value to those *very* early races, Quintana and Nibali’s situation wouldn’t change much, whereas Froome’s scalps collection would be hugely diminished.
If one was so cruel to decide to simply take February away from the stats (“February cycling?!? What the heck is that?”), we’d see a stunning 9 (Q) -8 (N) – 1 (F).

As I suspected, no top GT contender looks like to be showing up in decent form in Dauphiné nor in Romandie, at least when Froome wins. Imagine that he collects *zero* points in Dauphiné and barely scores 1 point in Romandie, thanks to… Vincenzo Nibali, who made the 5th spot in 2014 – despite being in a clearly different form to what he showed in that year’s TdF. That is, my “rule” helps, so to say, Froome, here, because Nibali didn’t seriously enter that Romandie with the form necessary to fight for victory, he made 5th only because he was so good that season that a top-5 could came being far from form.

If we look at the numbers from a race POV, using the same data I collected (that is, referring only to the editions won by those three athletes – which isn’t very rigorous, it’s just to get a broad idea), we can see that a total of 7 scalps come from Tirreno-Adriatico, 3 from Trentino and 3 from Romandie. Other interesting numbers are 5 from Oman, a raising race preferred by many GT contender as a starting season test, and 2 from Burgos, a very underrated no-WT race. As I said a few lines above, this isn’t a good stat, but as long as these three cyclists are concerned it can offer at least a sensation.

I think this casts a different light on the argument about who “always wins without serious opposition”, or who “shows up stronger in the races which *do* matter”. Maybe they matter for an ASO-oriented or French-oriented TV public, but if you look at the actual technical contents, thinks might come out different from what part of the public seems to be imagining.

gabriele May 31, 2016 at 12:56 pm

Wow, I gave a look at Valverde and… yes, he’s got a lot of Spanish no-WT races, but some of them were really qualified, back then. I myself didn’t expect that, many of those now are reduced to two days, but back then before the Krisis, they weren’t, and had nice startlists.

After all, the best stage racers tend(ed) to be Italian and Spanish, hence it’s quite logical that apparently minor races were hard fought and such a high level prompted international competition, too, the likes of Menchov, Evans or Leipheimer.

Valverde collected some 15 scalps in his career, even if some 6 of them come from the nearest home roads of Valencia and Murcia!

What’s significant is that the two Dauphiné he won were really highly qualified, with two GT podiumers in the top five each. They mean so much more than Froome’s. He won Burgos, too.

irungo txuletak May 31, 2016 at 3:33 pm

I remember that win in Burgos: he was still very young and won 3 stages out of 4, among then flat sprints and summit finishes. I was really impressed by then.

A different J Evans May 31, 2016 at 6:30 pm

Interesting analysis Gabriele – thanks for putting this together.

Out of interest, how many races/races per year were there for each of the contenders (if you still have the numbers handy)? The Quintana numbers are impressive given his relatively shorter career.

CA May 31, 2016 at 3:56 pm

Inrng – great post – and great back and forth above… funny response from one guy though who butchered the famous “assume” saying. He says it makes an “a$$” out of yourself…. NOPE, it makes an “a$$ out of U and ME” so we’re all a$$es…. just saying.

John vandestegge June 1, 2016 at 4:43 am

Here we go
The Brits attacking everybody else
As if no one is clean but the Brits or commonwealth riders
You are pathetic
Landa Dumoulin Amador KRuiswijk Chaves JUngens are all clean but the Italian is dirty???
You make me vomit
Hope your Porte and Froome and Thomas get a medicine of your hate despondency envy jealousy in France , again this year; hope their electric motor in the bike goes bonkers
We need less parvenu Britons commonwealth crooks ,not more , in the grand tours
Go back to your lab and learn at least how to ride descend look good on a Bike , you look horrible like deviant stick insects, learn how tocreate joy on a tour not this crappy machine lab built way of riding of hating, you are nothing to remember in this sport.
Pathetic.

Richard S June 1, 2016 at 2:15 pm

nice

CA June 1, 2016 at 9:23 pm

wow

How are landa, dumoulin, amador, kruijswijk, chaves and jungens British or British Commonwealth riders?

Doubter June 8, 2016 at 8:20 pm

Love it…..you should be REQUIRED to comment on every post.
Bring it, my good man.

gabriele June 1, 2016 at 12:07 pm

@Razorback
Thanks for the number crunching.
It’s interesting to match that with the other little experiment I made with short stage races only.
In fact, there are some elements to be taken into consideration if you choose an head-to-head perspective (which I don’t consider totally appropriate, since cycling isn’t tennis and, for example, a combination of collective factors holds a huge influence on the final result – but you’re fully entitled to look at things from the angle you prefer, obviously!).

What are this year Catalunya and Romandie telling us about Froome? That he’s now a rider who’s being beat consistently not only by Quintana, but also by Zakarin and Van Garderen? Are these two races really two full points against Froome for all those riders? (and is Froome 1 x 1 in GTs against Aru? 😛 )

Sometimes many rider don’t enter, say, the Dauphiné (typically) or other races with any intention of winning. It’s pretty clear that you can’t just sum up different competitive attitudes, especially if the goal is building up a head-to-head record. That’s especially true when riders are in different phases of their career or have got a different profile, for example having more or less goals in a single year.
Froome has won a lot of little Oman and Romandie things where *nobody else* had that much interest to go full gas. Even his Dauphinés are like that (compare with Valverde).

NOTE that this isn’t very relevant if you decide to match a whole palmarés with another (you collect races over races, whoever is racing there) but it’s *hugely* important if you want to “measure” head-to-head challenges!
It’s not any sort of “head-to-head” if someone isn’t really there to win. It counts for the winner as a legitimate victory, but you can’t say it’s a direct confrontation if the rival wasn’t even trying. True for Nibali, but also for Froome and everyone. Some riders go into a race to win more often than not (Contador, Quintana), others don’t. But you need to understand what’s happening if you want a true head-to-head. On the contrary, go on including the pre-2012 Froome results and let’s see what happens.

From my POV the Dauphiné 2014 was one race where all of them tried to win, more or less (even if Nibali was clearly intentionally back on form – see the relative difference between him and Contador there and in the TdF), the rest way less.
I’m a bit race picking, perhaps, but I think that Froome was clearly better than Nibali in TdF 2012 (not sure about if it was fair, given the difference in team depth and the very unbalanced course, but let’s take it as it is), TdF 2015, and maybe, just *maybe*, Dauphiné 2015 (I don’t think Nibali was thinking about winning, just building up form). Full stop. Nibali was better in Tirreno 2013 (Froome going strong for victory), Dauphiné 2014 (idem), TdF 2014.
Feel assured, I won’t include the awful results by Froome in Catalunya 2014-2015-2016 in any serious head-to-head, either. I don’t think that Pozzovivo, Daniel Martin or Valls proved themselves better stage racers than Froome thanks to that “head-to-head” result.

Another thing: the fact that these riders choose the races to avoid the others makes very little sense.

Nibali’s programmes, for example, are heavily conditioned by the need to race in Italy and the importance to him of one-day races. You can’t logically expect him to use French minor races as anything else than training. And, apart this year, you can’t expect him to be on form in Oman if he wants to build a first peak for the Spring races. If he changed his programmes, as he partially has been doing (with negative effects on his performances, since his body was adapted to other rhythms), it was *to race* in the races which mattered the most *for other people*.

Same can be said for Froome, you can’t sincerely say he’s sort of a coward because he’s avoiding the Giro, where he’d risk to prove “head-to-head” weaker than the others… he was not avoiding a full-form Nibali in 2013 nor an amenacing Quintana with more favourable terrain in 2014. He was just going for his most logical goal, the Tour. But that’s not true for everyone, not at all. Contador preferred to try a double than have a more serious shot to the Tour. And the people who said that it was “to have an excuse” would need to explain why he’s now going fully for the 2016 Tour, being older, and risking much more to lose “without the Giro excuse”. Nonsense.

Competitive racers think about their programme and their goals, the contenders come as they are.

Richard S June 1, 2016 at 2:22 pm

You only really needed to put that last sentence. To get to the top of any sport, particularly cycling where you are effectively the head of a team, you have to be supremely confident in your own ability. The top guys will back themselves to win the races they target regardless of who else turns up.

Razorback June 1, 2016 at 3:40 pm

Gabriele,
indeed, picking a measure or a KPI is challenging. Of course riders riders have different objectives and also as they have different programs, so they programs and form may cross in different points.
That is why I would look some numbers in combination and as a whole for the period.
Froome has more victories than any of them, also much more podiums and, at the same time, was ahead of the others more often than behind. All o them have between 19 and 23 races in the period, and Froome just won more, and I am pretty sure wins counts for them. They may choose races for building up rather wining, but I guess if they could win they would, so for one reason or the other, Froome was more up there then the others.
Sure numbers shows curiosities, as two wins for Froome at Oman (although Nibali also has a 2nd place), we could discuss what races, but I tried to be consistent and add all WT and HC to avoid picking races and let the fact that the sample was big enough to make this adjustments.
I was tempted do add tour of Sao Luis and Andalucia as is a preferred race for Quintana, Contador and even NIbali. I didnt for consistency, but results are in line with the others, as Quintana and Contador have the advantage over Nibali (btw, agree that February is not a top month for cycling, but is interesting to see their form in the begging of the season, specialty if they have similar GT programs).
The argument of picking races indeed is driven by the GT program they choose, but that is partially why I don’t like Nibali’s program. He prefers to race a Vuelta or a Giro more often then the others. Some will say is because he like that, some others because he is Italian and will always give some focus on thr Giro. I would say is because he want GTs where the others are not. Anyway, I guess this part of the conversation is more about personal feelings already.

gabriele June 1, 2016 at 4:37 pm

Razorback, the data are fine, but you need to understand them. They can help you to cast a different light on things, but they can’t help you to define a general concept like you’re trying to do.

There’s a famous about statistics… some people use them as a drunk man who’s lost the keys of his home while coming back at night, and obsessively looks for them right below a street lamp: when he’s asked if he had lost them near there, he says “well, no, I didn’t lost ’em here, but here’s the only place where I can see anything”.

Nibali’s race days in the four years you studied: 80-85-74-70. Froome’s: 65-62-55-60.
It’s a whole different world.
And that makes your idea about “whatever their racing programme, if they could win, they’d do it” a bit less meaningful.

The fact that Froome went in *concentrating* his preparation to bring home some specific races that could be fine for his image, his self-esteem or whatever doesn’t necessarily makes him a better racer “head-to-head” (that’s the important part!) if the others weren’t really there to win.

It’s not that your numbers are wrong and mine are right, they’re two different POV to look at the same reality. As you say, Froome won more, but this doesn’t make false the fact that outside the TdF he won without serious opposition (most of the times). They’re choices, and some riders have more obligations than others, or simply a broader horizont.

A last thing (I won’t follow up writing, but I’ll read if you eant to answer): if you’re so interested in the *present*, throwing away a good part of Contador’s or Nibali’s or Valverde’s careers because that lanky guy was the *other* Froome, perhaps you should include this year’s race… you’d discover that (if your previous numbers are right), Froome has lost a couple of GC more against Quintana. Which changes the panorama… (I think it doesn’t makes sense, since Froomey wasn’t in form… but if this is your way to build the data, it must be coherent, present is present, not from when you want to when you want).

Neuron1 June 1, 2016 at 5:48 pm

Following the 2014 Dauphine, Nibali was interviewed and responded to the following question. Paraphrasing. Reporter: “Why did’t you win this race?” A: “Because I came here to the Tour, not the Dauphine.” To follow up on Gabriele’s point, different races, different racers, different agendas. If you want to see some really excellent analysis of power outputs on climbs Froome, Contador, Nibali, Pinot, Perraud and a few others check out sportsscientists.c o m and find the section on “physiology at the front of the tour”. Very interesting and legitimate analysis. Great discussions here on Inrng, without the slathering vitriol found on other pages.

Neuron1 June 1, 2016 at 5:49 pm

Should read “Because I came here to win the Tour…”

gabriele June 1, 2016 at 8:15 pm

Two provocative thoughts:

– what if Nibali had the Tour on his mind during the Giro? (and well before: that is, he tried not to enter the Giro on top form, and then raise his game during the race, which is how you typically can get to the Tour with a decent shape, 85% in both instead of 100% in one of them). Though, the Giro turned up to be tougher than they thought and he nearly lost it.
Going into the TdF on a lower level than your top, thus “than the rest”, might mean having to try to win it with some kamikaze long-range move – but that’s not bad news at all. With Aru on your team, and with all the DSs knowing you suffered in the Giro, you might receive some free leash.
A training more and more focused on long-time solo efforts…

– This is pure fantasy, but…: what if OTOH this season Froome was trying to nibalise himself (well, what if Sky is nibalising him, I mean)? He’s a great chamaleon, as we saw several times in the past (reducing is ITT skills to improve his climbing in 2015 atc.). Sky knows that now everyone knows Froome’s trick. That wasn’t enough to make Chris lose the 2015 Tour, essentially because LPSM was huge, the first week saw a great defense (and some fine involuntary help from Contador’s team) and, more than everything, because Movistar went totally Movisky, not only avoiding to exploit their own full potential, but also hindering the moves by Nibali or Contador.
Maybe Sky decided that it’s time for a change 🙂 More ITT kms this year, too. I observed with curiosity the different way Froome was racing both in Catalunya and Romandie. And something was there to be seen in HST, too. It would be totally hats off to the British team.

noel June 3, 2016 at 11:46 am

Gabriele – I can get OTOH, ITT and HST, but LPSM has me stumped…..??

gabriele June 3, 2016 at 12:54 pm

ROTFL 😀

Don’t know if it was tongue-in-cheek or not, nice comment in both cases.

It’s a new substance experimented by an Oxford spin-off only available to Anglo athletes… O__O

Or it’s just La Pierre Saint Martin 😉

noel June 3, 2016 at 2:28 pm

got it, thx

CA June 3, 2016 at 3:26 pm

HST is Harmonised Sales Tax right??

J Evans June 9, 2016 at 12:54 pm

I for one was not at all surprised that the most experienced and successful GT rider in the race showed more stamina than the others in the third week. No other explanations necessary.
On another note, I was in Sicily for most of the last week and not once did I see or hear mention of the race.

skiddley June 2, 2016 at 1:07 pm

Gabrielle, All this discussion is interesting and basically centres around the four big names, and my original contention was that maybe Quintana may not belong there yet. so I was thinking what about Aru? He’s younger that Nairo won a grand tour, and has a second a third and a fifth. won the Vuelta after coming second in the Giro the same year. Maybe we should be talking about him? will Nibali be riding the tour as his number 2?

gabriele June 2, 2016 at 2:22 pm

Hi skiddley, I think that we should perhaps move on from this already-over-200-comments page 🙂

To reply, in short, Aru is another young huge talent, well known from his juvenile years. He’s marginally younger than Quintana and it looks like he’s got a little less “motor” (no doping implication here! – nor biological nor mechanical). Quintana is more of a “killer”, too (no reference to Di Luca, either), and the Colombian looks like he’s got a natural strong racing intuition, unless Movistar will be able to take that totally away from him.
Some of that also happened with Aru, he became more and more “disciplined” – dull? – when racing (he’s always been *incredibly* disciplined in training, eating and so on), but I think that he needed it more than Quintana: being more explosive, the risk of blowing himself out was higher.

I think he’ll become one of the big in GTs… but he must prove it. The Vuelta is very, very suited to his characteristics (the Giro, strange it may sound, a bit less so), will the Tour work for him?

It’s interesting that he and Nibali have got very different qualities when the kind of effort is concerned (Aru is more explosive, Nibali loses less power in hard conditions), although, OTOH, both are very good in the third week of a GT, they have got the ability to reduce the damage when they’ve got a bad day and do recover fast, too. Perhaps Aru might even better than Nibali from this last POV.

As I wrote elsewhere on this same page, I suspect that Astana will play a double game in the Tour: apparently, they’ll send there a team which is half for Aru and half for Nibali, if you look at the gregari they chose (during last Vuelta, it was fully Aru’s team).

Presently, I’d rate Aru in a second-tier, with Valverde and, perhaps, the likes of Purito or Pinot (the former is now too old, the latter hasn’t won enough).

skiddley June 3, 2016 at 10:12 am

Agree about moving on, thanks for the reply, it provides more insight into Aru and Astana than I am capable of achieving on my own. I think the posts on here have been stimulating and very informative. There is no question that this is the finest blog in cycling.

J Evans June 9, 2016 at 11:56 am

The only thing certain from this race was that Valverde was going to come third. No matter who went up or down, how many times, that was never in doubt.

J Evans June 9, 2016 at 12:51 pm

Actually, the other certain things were the ever-tedious drug accusations and the ‘Nibali is not that good and has won four lucky grand tours’ comments.
(I only saw the second last stage yesterday – managing to avoid the result until then, despite being in Sicily – Eurosport Italy having messed up their coverage.)

Nica May 31, 2016 at 3:20 am

Thank you for your reply Sts. Do not distort the facts with your empty comments. I made my coment and it stands! Take my advice ride the bike it will do you good. Cheers mate.

Richard S May 31, 2016 at 9:48 am

Plus I think there is a massive difference between being caught in a crash in the bunch or having a mechanical and crashing on your own due to your own error when you are racing down a descent. The first is bad luck and not the type of thing you want to decide a result. The second is poor judgment or lack of skills and is nobody’s fault but your own.

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