Who Will Win The Giro?

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Nairo Quintana, Monte Terminillo

Nairo Quintana is the obvious pick. The depth of field is better than ever so whatever Quintana may do the next three weeks look promising given so many other candidates want to win or stand on the podium in Milan. Here’s a look at the contenders for the maglia rosa.

Who can stop Nairo Quintana? He’s won this race before and if he benefited from confusion in the midst of a snowstorm on that stage in 2014 he showed in the following days he was the best, notably winning the Monte Grappa time trial. Since then he’s finished on the podium of the Tour de France twice and won the Vuelta last September. This year he’s taken several wins including Tirreno-Adriatico. He’s a Colombian climber but not the usual darting gadfly, instead he turns a big gear and wears down his rivals and he’ll find a route that suits his style with several long, grinding climbs. Two things count against him. First if he’s aiming for the Tour de France this implies he’ll have to lap Italy with efficiency. Second if he could design the course he’d not have so many time trial kilometres so this forces him to attack which undermines his need for economy. But as we saw in Tirreno-Adriatico, he attacks in the mountains and it works then there’s nobody else in the picture. Movistar look strong with Andrey Amador capable of a top-10 and Winner Anacona as the essential mountain lieutenant. Among all the contenders Quintana’s status is such that among the contenders he’s arguably the only one for whom any else than a win would be a disappointment, even a failure.

Vincenzo Nibali

Vincenzo Nibali is the home pick and last year’s winner. Just like 2015 he seems off the pace, he won the recent Tour of Croatia but this was against thin opposition and he needed to contest the intermediate sprints to see off Jaime Rosón. As promising as Rosón may be, Nibali now faces proven opposition. More worrying for him, he’s got an appointment on Mount Etna next Tuesday, a genuine summit finish when last year the race saved the big summits for late in the race. French General Foch once said “My centre is yielding. My right is retreating. Situation excellent. I am attacking” and Nibali has been here before and has turned things around and if last year’s win had a lucky tough thanks his rivals crashing and falling ill he had the legs to exploit it. Can he win? Maybe but many seem to have him as a top pick but his form isn’t reassuring, his team isn’t as strong and the field is deeper. He comes with a Bahrein-Merida team dedicated in his service, although Enrico Gasparotto may fancy an uphill sprint or two and Giovanni Visconti a breakaway, and even if we include 23 year old Luka Pibernik the average age is 32.

Steven Kruijswijk

Steven Kruijswijk was so commanding going into the final two mountain stages that you could hear a portly soprano warming up her larynx. Then one crash into a snow bank and he slipped to fourth place. It’s a good example of how when things go wrong it’s really a chain of events than make a disaster rather than a single mishap. Kruijswijk’s crash was costly but a bungled bike change and a weak Lotto-Jumbo team with nobody around to help him was ruinous. He was the strongest on the climbs last year and in 2015 he was good in the Valdobbiadene “Prosecco” time trial, finishing an impressive fifth. If “The Coathanger” shows up with last May’s form then he’s good for a podium but he’ll find the density and level of opposition is higher this year, in the conditional because there’s nothing to go on. He’s following the usual below the radar approach with no results this season, just like 2016 and 2015 but did have a scare in Yorkshire when he crashed, he rode one more stage before abandoning. The likes of Stef Clement and Jürgen Vandenbroucke have been hired for support and this will help his chances further.

Geraint Thomas

Team Sky bring two contrasting contenders in Geraint Thomas and Mikel Landa. Thomas as track rider who has had to learn to climb and Landa as the Basque climber who needs to improve his time trialling. Both have learned, Landa has improved his time trialling and he was 20th in the Giro’s Chianti stage last year, in the same time bracket as the likes of Nibali and Kruijswijk albeit on a confusing stage under tricky weather but this and other results show he can limit the losses. Can he make gains in the mountains is the question. He looked at ease in the recent Tour of the Alps but office politics could come into play, Landa will need to attack in the mountains but what if Geraint Thomas sits higher on GC following the Montefalco time trial as they ride into the Alps, will Landa have any freedom or must he pace the Welshman? Plus this remains a British team and they’d love a British rider everything else being equal. Thomas has been climbing well for years, some see him as a classics contender making a late move to stage racing but he was second in the Tour de Suisse in 2015. Now he’s just won the Tour of the Alps and looked to be floating on the climbs. His problem has long been holding it together for three weeks, he could shine in the first two weeks but self-destruct come the Dolomites; and if he’s physiologically drained then the final time trial won’t be so advantageous. As such this is a test of him and his leadership. Sky have had a torrid time at the Giro with a series of failed bids including Mikel Landa’s abandon last year but come with a team that’s stronger than ever including new recruit Diego Rosa and they’re so committed to the GC contest that they left out house sprinter Elia Viviani.

Thibaut Pinot

Thibaut Pinot starts and this is a big deal for a French rider on a French team sponsored by La Française des Jeux when commercial imperatives would have him focus on the Tour de France. An excellent climber, he’s turned his weakness in the time trials into a strength over the last two years. He enjoys racing in Italy and May’s cooler conditions are to his liking too. He still has a reputation as a bad descender among some but that’s the July effect where memories of the Tour de France crowd out others. The form looks good, he was impressive in the Tour of the Alps both on the climbs and even sprinting for a stage win but if anything this was too impressive, using up energy that he might need to save for the coming weeks. He’s stood on the podium of the Tour de France which shows resilience over three weeks but there’s an anarchic side where you sense he could be brilliant or the wheels could fall off. He could win but so far his biggest triumph in the general classification has been the modest Critérium International, instead he’s often finished on the podium and this has been seen as a satisfying result rather than a near-miss. FDJ’s team is solid with “Tobe” Ludvigsson a precious recruit and the “Swiss Guard” of Steve Morabito and Seb Reichenbach.

Adam Yates

Adam Yates was fourth in the 2016 Tour de France. As lines on a CV go that alone gets him a long way into the Giro picks. Last July he never placed higher than seventh, his was a triumph of consistency rather than flair, he was often hanging at the back of the lead group rather than pulling the audacious moves his brother Simon does. If he can find last July’s form he’ll enjoy this course and recent results suggest he’s in good shape. He’ll have to share the Orica-Scott team with Caleb Ewan and his sprint train.

Ilnur Zakarin

Ilnur Zakarin was close the podium last year before crashing out. The Stork of Tatarstan is good in a time trial and has shown he can climb against the best, whether getting the better of Nairo Quintana in the Tour de Romandie last year or recovering from his Giro crash and broken collarbone to ride the Tour de France and take the summit finish at the Emosson dam. His form looks good but no more, 15th overall in the Tour de Romandie which makes him less of a pick in the immediate but he’s shown over the last two years he can hang with the front group. Katusha offer support with Matvey Mamykin one to watch, a promising U23 rider confirming this as a pro when so many Russians fade once they turn pro.

Tom Dumoulin

Tom Dumoulin cracked in the 2015 Vuelta but only after a long spell leading the race thanks to punchy riding on the shorter climbs, a loss but a sign that he could still climb with the best. Since then he’s expanded his repertoire taking the Andorran stage of the Tour de France, the kind of long steady summit finish where he can turn a mountain pass into private time trial. He’s had a good start to the year with a string of top-10s in the few times he’s raced but the real test is the high mountains to come in the Giro and it’s conceivable his plan is predicated on taking the maglia rosa after the Stage 21 time trial and not before, it’d mark a curious symmetry to him taking the race lead on the first day last year. He’s got Wilco Kelderman as a lieutenant, a top talent who has in the past shown he can climb with the best and is an excellent time triallist but now struggling to repeat the promise he showed so early while Team Sunweb will aim for the sprints with Phil Bauhaus the obvious aim is GC with Laurens Ten Dam and George Preidler, nearly a mountain stage winner last year.

Bauke Mollema

Bauke Mollema might be the third Dutchman and indeed he seems to be mentioned a lot less than Dumoulin and Kruijswijk but remember the Tour de France? He matched Ritchie Porte and Chris Froome on Mont Ventoux until that bizarre crash and for all his awkward suffering style on the bike was comfortably sitting second overall until he crashed on the Domancy descent on Stage 18 and lost minutes but he’d also been dropped late on the final climb of Stage 16 suggesting he was fading in the final week. He’s also good in a time trial, or at least superior to many climbers. A win though? It’s hard to see, he’s often consistent rather than successful and has to share a Trek-Segafredo team with sprinter Giacomo Nizzolo but the third Dutchman could be the first.

Tejay van Garderen

BMC Racing bring two leaders in Rohan Dennis and Tejay van Garderen. For van Garderen the story in recent times has been one of cracking under pressure and hype but some of that’s not his fault and now he starts a grand tour with fewer expectations. He’ll find the steady climbs and time trials to his liking. He’s won huge mountain top finishes such as the Tour de Suisse’s Sölden stage last year and has just shown good form in the Romandie time trial. A win still seems elusive though, a podium would be a satisfying result to demonstrate consistency. Dennis is trying to go from a short distance TT specialist into a grand tour contender and aged 26 he’s still got time on his side. A top-10 overall and a TT stage win along the way seems reasonable rather than the outright win.

Rui Costa has been 200-1 with some bookmakers. A win seems wild but he’s a diesel who’s found winning ways this year in Dubai and the grinding course suits him, he’s fully capable of a top ten as his multiple wins in the Tour de Suisse show although he may prefer stage wins.

Among the others, Cannondale are the startlist’s five stars movement with Pierre Rolland, Davide Formolo, Michael Woods, Hugh Carthy and Joe Dombrowski all capable of something but just not the overall win, Rolland has looked very strong of late while 24 year old Formolo is the most intriguing, still very promising and now looking much leaner than he did in last year’s Giro. Bob Jungels was excellent last year but it’s hard to see how he wins overall but he could shine during the race with a stage win and a spell in pink. Domenico Pozzovivo has done well in the Giro before but a win, especially with the time trial course, looks impossible and he’d surely sign for a stage win while team mate Alex Geniez has finished in the top-10 overall before but the deeper field this year makes this harder. Bora-Argon look bereft without Peter Sagan and Rafał Majka but Patrick Konrad is a strong stage racer who climbs well. CCC Sprandi’s Felix Grosschartner and Jan Hirt should be visible in the mountains. Finally Gazprom Rusvelo return with stage winner Alexander Foliforov plus stage race stalwart Sergey Firsanov.

Nairo Quintana
Steven Kruijswijk
Bauke Mollema, Geraint Thomas, Thibaut Pinot, Tom Dumoulin
Vincenzo Nibali, Mikel Landa, Tejay van Garderen
Yates, Zakarin
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Augie March May 4, 2017 at 1:15 pm

Small typo in Mikel Landa’s name.

Stating the obvious but Nibali was lucky to win last year, without Kruijswijk’s crash and Chaves’ illness in the crucial last couple of stages it would have been a different story. Personally I like to see Dumoulin win, I like the way he rides, and his fight for the 2015 Vuelta was great to watch. Rui Costa should stick to stage hunting as he seems to have re-found his 2013 form and I’m sure he’d be happier with a win or two there rather than a middling top 20 on GC which seems to be about all he’s capable of.

gabriele May 4, 2017 at 2:08 pm

Stating the obvious, but that’s why Nibali has won 4 GTs and Krujis and Chaves none (yet). And when it starts being a pattern, statistics stop calling it luck.

You’d better get to the two obviously decisive stages in healthy conditions and face descents in the best possible conditions, too (which K. didn’t, he couldn’t put his vest on and had been struggling with a power bar), or you’ll be unlikely to win whatever.
Not much more a case of *luck* than Nibali falling and finding himself pulling alone in the crosswinds at the beginning of the 2015 Tour or Quintana being in poor physical conditions during the 2016 Tour.
What I’d call bad luck is, dunno, Chris Horner… 😛

One might add that the situation during the last week of the 2016 Giro was determined, more than anything else, by the Dolomite stages, where Nibali put in the strongest performance in terms of “total watts” but a combination of tactical factors, which are not about luck, and, yeah… sheer bad luck (the relative distribution of riders in little groups is more or less a random element, but this would be complicated to explain in detail)… saw him not only lose a lot of time but also suffer a good deal of extreme strain which affected him in the following days.

Kit May 4, 2017 at 4:18 pm

+1

Nick May 4, 2017 at 11:20 pm

Agree with most of this, though I doubt that statistics would go out on a limb for a ‘pattern’ of 4 events.

gabriele May 4, 2017 at 11:33 pm

If the probability of the event itself is generally low, occurring four times might be meaningful enough.

RonDe May 4, 2017 at 11:44 pm

Nibali has never beaten the top riders of his day in those 4 GTs. We’ve had this chat before but its still true. Quintana is here. No way Nibali beats him if they both finish.

gabriele May 5, 2017 at 12:03 am

Well, in 2013 and 2014 Nibali probably was the top rider of his days. However, I’d agree that now Quintana should be way better than him – I’d be surprised if the passing of time hadn’t had this effect in their case.

RonDe May 5, 2017 at 9:31 am

In the 2013 Giro Nibali was riding against Uran (2nd) and Cadel Evans (3rd). This is not what I call top opposition. He didn’t have to face Froome, Quintana (then much younger and without a GT win of course), Contador or Valverde. This was the same year he mysteriously lost to Horner in the Vuelta. 2014 could have been his chance to beat the best but both Froome and Contador crashed in the Tour so we’ll never know.

gabriele May 5, 2017 at 2:26 pm

I wouldn’t dismiss that much Evans – yet, he was old, indeed.

Nibali had a decent opposition in Evans, Urán (not that bad), Scarponi, Majka, all GT podiumers, some solid supporting charcaters like Pozzovivo, Pelizzotti, unfulfilled promises who were very good at the time like Betancur and Intxausti, and then, just outside the top ten, Samuel Sánchez, Sergio Henao… Inferior to the Tour? Very probably so. Way less class, for sure, but let’s also give a serious look at that 2013 TdF top ten.

You name Valverde. Valverde in 2013 was far from being a serious GT threat. He was a Vuelta GC competitor, sure, but his best results in the TdF and his confirmation in the Giro were still to come. Have a look at any timeline (TdF: 6th in 2007, 8th in 2008, 20th in 2012).
Contador? Contador precisely in 2013 had the worst season of his whole pro career. Neo pro years included. Really. If he crashed out he’d have had more of an impact on the competition, probably!
Quintana wasn’t only “much younger” – he was a neo pro riding his first TdF (and 2nd GT) ever. First time as a GT leader, too (like… Danilo Di Luca beat one of the greatest GT riders of his generation, oh wow!).

The mature top rival for Froome was Purito. Purito or Evans? Uhmmm.

Kreuziger, Mollema, Fuglsang, Navarro, Talansky. The five of them hadn’t *any* GT podium then and wouldn’t get any later, until now. ZERO. Among all of them they barely collect, in their whole sporting history, any GT top five, none in the Tour (except K.’s 5th in that same 2013 Tour, obviously!), one in the Giro, a couple in the Vuelta.

All in all, better than the Giro, I’d say. I appreciate very much the presence of classy riders, albeit in their worst moment or so, over in-form serious professionals.
At the same time, not a stellar competition, either. Far from.

It depends on the level of nitpicking you want to apply. Froome’s victories look all about just looking at big brands, Valverde, Contador, Quintana, no further details are required. In Nibali’s case, you suddenly become very picky and/or selective (say, Valverde, was racing last Giro, wasn’t he? Did he crash or what? A less competitive Valverde matters to prove Froome 2013’s value but a stronger one doesn’t for Nibali?).

This was just a demonstration.

Personally, I think that after a certain number of years a rider’s career should get valued as a whole, good and bad luck tend to balance. At the same time, nothing prevents anyone to go and win other GTs, with a weaker field or whatever.

At the end of the day, since Indurain’s time most TdF winners just won *one* GT – that single Tour: Riis, Pereiro (or Landis), Sastre, Andy Schleck, Wiggins.
Others won one Tour and a different GT: Pantani, Ullrich, Nibali.
Somebody just won multiple TdFs: Armstrong (* I’d strip the titles, just in his case), Froome.
And Contador won multiple GTs everywhere.
It’s up to any rider to decide the way he wants to go down in history books (admittedly, Froome is at least trying to become an Ullrich 🙂 ).
Of that list, only Armstrong (*) and Contador won more GTs than Nibali. You can include Indurain and then you must go back to Hinault.
I guess that all those other guys, TdF winners!, along *three decades* of cycling weren’t smart (plus lucky) enough to go and grab those easy GTs with lousy competition – also imagine that most of them *actually competed to win* through Giros and Vueltas, but, as I said, Nibali was sooooo lucky… nobody could be as lucky as him.

Gian May 4, 2017 at 1:31 pm

Lucky or just more experienced so didn’t lose concentration/succumb to illness?

I’d also like to see Dumoulin win but think it’s Quintana’s if he really is going for it 100%.

Augie March May 4, 2017 at 2:01 pm

Experience has nothing to do with avoiding illness. I guess it’s the difference between winning because you’re the strongest or Steven Bradburying your way to victory. The end result is the same, but obviously the conversation afterwards is affected by the method by which this is attained.

gabriele May 4, 2017 at 2:15 pm

“Experience has nothing to do with avoiding illness”

What an apothegm! You don’t have much *experience* about cycling, have you? 😛

Jokes apart, getting ill has got a random component, sure, but it’s also about how you prevent it with appropriate behaviours (which might not be enough), how deep have you been forced to go (Quintana’s illness during last Tour was, IMHO, or, better said, as a wild guess on my part, mainly due to a huge lot of flat and windy saddle hours) and, so to say (this will be an oversimplification), how resistent is your constitution, which is one of the thing deemed relevant in a GT.

The Bradbury example just show that you’ve been indeed watching a different sport ^__^

The Inner Ring May 4, 2017 at 2:17 pm

Experience can help with illness, the habit of dressing up the moment you cross the line on a cold day, eg after a mountain stage – even if you have won – and other habits like hygiene, eg shake hands with the mayor on the podium or pose for a selfie but don’t rub your eyes or pick your nose afterwards unless you’ve washed your hands. None of this prevents illness it can reduce the risks.

Augie March May 4, 2017 at 2:27 pm

Use of emoticons does not cover for the unsuccessful attempts at humour.

And the Bradbury example is actually very apposite. How many bike races have been affected by/how many unlikely winners have emerged because of a late crash? Gerrans in the 2014 LBL anyone? If this hasn’t occurred to you perhaps you haven’t aren’t quite the cycling maven you posit yourself as.

Dr Manhattan May 4, 2017 at 2:47 pm

Well there are crashes and there are crashes. Getting tangled up in the Metz Massacre I’d consider bad luck. Riding yourself into a snowbank, not so much.

Augie March May 4, 2017 at 3:33 pm

Absolutely, but I was referring to the luck of those who benefit from crashes.

gabriele May 4, 2017 at 3:35 pm

The use of emoticons was intended to reduce the insulting potential of the post. I tried to express the fact that I consider your comparison mainly funny, and didn’t mean my remarks as, say, indignant. Take away the emoticons and you might notice the effect, much more unpleasant, I think – that’s what I wanted to avoid.

Do you think that Bradbury was actually the second or at most the third best athlete, as Gerrans probably was in his magic days, in that whole competition (composed, as you might remember, by different series)?
Do you think that Bradbury had proven along his career that one of his main qualities was precisely being greatly resistant, more skillful than the rest in a specific quality of his discipline, and especially focussed (I don’t even know if the first point even makes sense in his sport)? Enough to say that he had more chances than others to take advantage of such complicated situations?
Do you think that in Bradbury’s case everyone else was out mainly because of their own mistakes, or some of them were just being brought down by others?
Did Bradbury produce what was anyway a *great performance*, checked against the rest (not ill, not fallen)? Yeah, because Nibali, besides attacking well before the last GPM in both mountain stages (not the most common thing in powermeter cycling), also had only two (2) riders less than one minute behind in both stages. Just three riders under the 2′ mark in Risoul and 9 in S.Anna (GT podiumers like Majka, Valverde, Urán…). No similar selection was ever produced uphill by Quintana and Froome at the 2016 Vuelta and Tour.
A cycling race has got some two hundreds athletes competing at the same time, you must be in the position to win, feel assured.
Bradbury was often *well behind* the rest, and that’s *precisely* what often saved him (and one of the comical elements). I’m sure that cycling history is long and rich enough to provide some suitable example, I just don’t come up with anyone right now (and yours sure aren’t).
How many other individual gold medals did Bradbury win during his career, by the way? Gerrans won a couple of Monuments ans some other pretty good WT races, no need to speak about Nibali.
Begin to see any difference between “luck” and “statistical advantage”?

noel May 4, 2017 at 4:44 pm

will someone pls tell me who this Bradbury bloke is and what he did!

Spelling Bee May 4, 2017 at 6:22 pm

Augie, you’ve commented on this site long enough to know that gabriele spells the word ‘joke’ i-n-s-u-l-t. He merely puts the emoticons in to try and avoid being seen as unpleasant, as he admits. It’s certainly a strategy which works with most of the people most of the time. Remember, when he says he finds your comparison mainly funny that he’s laughing at you and not with you.

Augie March May 4, 2017 at 7:03 pm

@Noel, have a look at this which explains Bradbury’s improbable gold medal in the 2002 winter Olympics, just one of those things that happen in sports, sometimes you get lucky:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYUjmEH9NNk

@Spelling Bee yes, and often confuses length of comment and a patronising tone for insight.

Maglia Nera May 4, 2017 at 11:11 pm

Thank you for that Bradbury video. That’s what we came here for: insights not insults. Whilst I get analogy and the role of chance and accidents is sport, it seems a little hard on Nibali.

gabriele May 4, 2017 at 11:56 pm

Oooof, I need to breath some not-patronising not-insulting insight again:
“Experience has nothing to do with avoiding illness. I guess it’s the difference between winning because you’re the strongest or Steven Bradburying your way to victory. The end result is the same, but obviously the conversation afterwards is affected by the method by which this is attained”.
Well, at least it wasn’t long.
I had thought that “the method” by which that victory was attained had been attacking far from the finish line in the hardest mountain stages and finally dropping the rivals with just a couple of them less than a minute down, but curiously the conversation didn’t look much affected by *that* – now I finally see that Nibali had just been going slow on purpose waiting for the rest of the field to fail. Enlightening, indeed.
But what I like best is the tone of that first sentence…

A real insight and a hint of statistical proof of what Augie is defending would have been to invite the readers to check what recently happened to Durasek, winner of the first mountain stage and then race leader during the last Tour of Croatia – which Nibali finally won. Am I allowed to place some emoticon here? 😛

The Inner Ring May 4, 2017 at 11:58 pm

Ladies and Gentlemen, the argument is getting boring, playing comment tennis invites me to zap the entire section. It is fine to hold different opinions here.

noel May 4, 2017 at 1:35 pm

it’s almost a shame that Quintana’s doing it, as it could’ve been a real dog fight between about 10 riders otherwise

The Inner Ring May 4, 2017 at 1:47 pm

Hopefully there’s a contest. Quintana tops the bill but he’s got to watch a lot of riders. I just hope he doesn’t run away on Etna, that there is a contest until late in the race.

JC May 4, 2017 at 2:08 pm

I suspect none of the main contenders will fancy taking the jersey this early in the race. It adds to the effort not only on the road but also with all the media hoopla taking up precious recovery time. Stage 9 to Blockhaus might be more of a decisive point.

RonDe May 5, 2017 at 12:35 am

I hope Quintana batters them out of sight on Etna. Its days like this, before any action has happened, that the keyboard experts tell us with their empty arguments that riders A,B and C can win when the truth is they haven’t got a hope in hell, all things considered. When the pedal strokes are done we find most of this is just empty words.

Anonymous May 5, 2017 at 5:15 am

Looking forward to an exciting race then?

NZL_Scotsman May 5, 2017 at 4:16 am

I hope that Dumoulin is strong early week and is several minutes ahead after the big ITT, Kruijswijk catches up in the second week (and holds on to win just) and Nibali and Quintana are going for it in the last week. Last year was a superb race, mainly due to the drama of so many leading GC to then falling away for Nibali to be strongest at the end.

StevhanTI May 5, 2017 at 9:03 am

+1

Richard S May 4, 2017 at 1:42 pm

Its very hard to look past Quintana for this. Aside from Valverde he’s probably been the form stage racer of the year so far. Everyone else either has no obvious form, obvious weaknesses or both. I cant see Thomas time trialling or climbing with the best, and Landa, Nibali and Kruijswijk have been completely anonymous this year really. The most likely route to a non-Quintana win for me is if Dumoulin sticks with him in the first round of mountain stages and then takes a couple of minutes in the long TT, and then a couple of the 3rd week mountain stages are abandoned or re-routed because of bad weather! Hopefully 2016 Kruijswijk, 2015 Landa and 2013-14 Nibali will turn up to challenge on the climbs and Dumoulin can do an Ullrich on them in the time trials, and we have a classic.

gabriele May 4, 2017 at 3:00 pm

Well, Quintana was the strongest “stage racer” last year, but that didn’t help him much come the TdF. Kruijswijk didn’t show anything at all both in 2015 and in 2016 before putting in strong performances at the Giro. Froome has been showing little before the TdF for a couple of years, besides Dauphiné. You really can’t say. Thomas has been notable in Trentino (Tour of Alps) but Landa is the one who really impressed me there.

It’s not so hard to look past Quintana (even if it’s not so clear who would win instead of him): take into account that the course might slightly tilt the balance in favour of others, and I’m not just thinking about the ITTs.
Quintana doesn’t usually have a great first week (unless he changed his preparation in order to tackle the double GT), and here we’ve got two decisive uphill finishes in the first part of the race.
The remaining uphill finales are quite short (30-35′ of climbing) and are preceded by long flat stretches (120 kms for Oropa, 70 kms for Piancavallo), which means that there won’t be any chance to tire the rivals before the final concentrated effort.
The other mountain stages tend to include *always* long sections from the last GPM to the line (25 kms in the Romagna stage, 30 kms in Bergamo, 20 kms down the Stelvio, 15 kms in Asiago – but that’s 70 kms from the Grappa!) , which means that if *one* rider is stronger than the rest, but *the rest* includes a lot of quite strong riders (and perhaps some of them from the same teams), the former might find himself at a serious disadvantage against the chasers, especially if he needs to make for large chunks of time which are lost in the ITTs (where no strategy might favour you). The question is if anyone would collaborate with Quintana in case they’re on the front alone with some 20 kms to go… maybe yes (some Rujano?), maybe no.
Think about the Dolomite stages, for example, which is a less evident case: yet, if you look at the last 52 kms, you’ve got just two short sections of climbing (about 7′ and about 20′), the rest is descending, false flats, or the last mainly flat 4-kms-long stretch to the line.

IMHO, Quintana will actually need to be creative or impressive if he wants to get this victory, especially if he wasn’t able to deal some decisive blow in the first half of the race (which won’t be easy, both because of his characteristics and because when the rivals are fresh it’s harder to produce any selection – even the impressive 2011 Contador on the Etna had 7 riders under the 60″ mark and 17 of them under the 90″ mark. It was really on the Grosslockner, stage 12, where he could inflict a more significant time difference to the rivals).

Of course, this whole post won’t make any sense if Quintana leaves the rest 90″ behind on the Etna and 2′ behind on the Blockhaus, then losing a couple of minutes at most in the Sagrantino ITT. Tough, even in such a situation, he’d risk to be put under strong pressure if the others collaborate to isolate him: the truth is that the reasons because of which I don’t like this course on paper, actually make it more interesting if the strongest rider was indeed Quintana, precisely because it’s open to different options. It’s obvious that, as we stated so many times, but now more than ever, it’s up to the riders and their teams, while other years the course itself granted an high probability of exciting racing.

Richard S May 4, 2017 at 3:51 pm

I know Kruijswijk et al rarely show anything before the Giro but still show up and do well, but that makes it hard for you to predict how they will do because you are basing it on nothing (this year). So in that regard, its hard to look past Quintana on form. And as well as Thomas and Landa did in Trentino I just can’t see Thomas winning a Grand Tour, and Landa has only really once hooked up an entire 3 weeks. This whole post wont make any sense either if either wins but such are predictions.

NZL_Scotsman May 5, 2017 at 4:31 am

Bad weather could have a massive impact on the race (again). If a few of the big climbs are cancelled due to snow, then the balance of the rain changes completely from second half climbing bias to first half ITT bias.

gabriele May 4, 2017 at 1:51 pm

“…he benefited from confusion in the midst of a snowstorm”.
Uhm, yeah, he also benefited from not holding back during more than 20 kms of not-neutralised not-snowy not-especially-dangerous descent while the peloton was *lazily* 😉 losing terrain against a few men that were just seconds ahead after the “snowstorm”.
Why that? Becuase the only confusion was some teams hoping that they could take advantage of the situation to have their gregari back in the field (which had been thinned by Movistar’s work) at zero cost. And they can only blame their subsequent decision to stick to that strategy km after km, despite the ongoing situation.
By the way, Quintana also benefited from his ability to climb essentially alone along the last 20 kms long climb, a slipstream climb, being some *two minutes faster* uphill than his rivals who had been “hindered by the Stelvio descent” – note that he hadn’t ridden well protected in a bunch, between the two climb, but in a break, which tends to be a little more expensive in terms of energies even if you don’t share many turns.
We’d better be lefebvrian (the social production of space…) not lefeverian while writing history 😛

The Inner Ring May 4, 2017 at 1:53 pm

All true, just that his win came with this polemic but for me at least this was extinguished on Monte Grappa.

Larry T May 4, 2017 at 3:25 pm

+1 (as usual) It does seem some are watching a different race than others – the perspectives are VERY different and for some reason this seems more true about the Giro than Tour or Vuelta? Or maybe that’s just me with an unabashed passion for La Corsa Rosa?
On the other hand, I do find what I call “Phil Liggettism” regarding the Giro still out there – a British-flavored love/hate for all things Italian.
I can still remember Liggett grumbling on a Giro video years ago about the various leaders jerseys and how the Italians used different colors than LeTour “just to confuse us” or when he couldn’t make up his mind if the rider winning the stage was Fabio Baldato or Adriano Baffi…so he came up with “Balbaffi”!

Richard S May 4, 2017 at 3:48 pm

Yes because Phil Liggett is a berk we all are Donald… I mean Larry!

RonDe May 5, 2017 at 12:41 am

Liggett is a moron Larry but that doesn’t mean all Brits hate Italy.

Anonymous May 5, 2017 at 5:53 am

Not exactly a lot of love for the likes of Nibali/Aru, though, is there?
Mind you, same is true of Contador/Valverde.

Kit May 4, 2017 at 4:24 pm

Lefebvrian/Lefeverian, this blog just gets better and better.

OJT May 4, 2017 at 10:39 pm

+1. How many blog post comments on any subject (globally) name dropped Henri Lefebvre today? I would suggest only one. Love it.

JC May 4, 2017 at 2:00 pm

Seems a very fair summary (as usual).

Nairo Quintano does seem the overwhelming favourite though I remain to be convinced that announcing in advance going for the Giro / Tour double is sensible strategy. Movistar have form for not quite getting their strategy correct. Being the Giro numerous elephant traps await on the most innocuous looking stages, does he have the team around him to get him out of an unexpected problem on a wet hilly stage or if the crosswinds hit in Sardinia?

Has Steven Kruijswijk really put last year’s events behind him? It is difficult to see how not winning from a seemingly impregnable position will not have a detrimental effect.

Maybe Vicenzo Nibali will come good when it matters but he is under huge media pressure, his every move analysed in minute detail. This cant be helpful (as Thibaut Pinot has found in July).

Can Geraint Thomas keep up on the big climbs in the third week? He does seem to have the form and should be able to cope well with the varied terrain until the alps hove into view. How will he and Mikel Landa work together (seemed to be fine at the Tour of the Alps). The Sky team is not quite the formidable force that rode around France last July (no Wout Poels, Luke Rowe, Ian Stannard or Gerraint Thomas himself as a super domestique).

Thibaut Pinot does look in good nick, not sure he has a great team but might surprise everyone.

Simon Yates wont be a surprise anymore so might not get the freedom he has in the past, he does seem to be able to hang on on the big climbs but can he spring an attack? Is his time trialling up to scratch?

I have a hunch that Nairo Quintana will hit a problem and also be held back by the Tour thing, someone else will pip him to the post in Milan. Not sure who, too many imponderables and sheer luck plays a big part, anyone of 7 or 8 riders could take advantage of a slip by Movistar.

NZL_Scotsman May 5, 2017 at 4:21 am

Adam Yates racing the Giro, not Simon, and surely deserves at least the one chainring

Michael B May 4, 2017 at 2:03 pm

Unless he crashes out I can’t see past Quintana but hands up here as another Dumoulin fan. It would be great to see him minimise time loses in the highest mountains and batter everyone in the TTs. Would another 20-30km of TTs made this a more exciting Giro? Something akin to 1990s TdF courses would open up the battle a little more to Dumoulin vs the climbers. I think it’ll be a great race anyway but it’d be cool to see the Giro experiment with that format as I don’t think the Tour would at the minute (Froome is such a strong TT rider he’d probably win it even more easily than he did last year).

Dr Manhattan May 4, 2017 at 3:26 pm

Not taking sides, I would like to see the Grand Tours in general tilted away from the pure climbers. More TT, less mountaintop finishes, more medum mountains, more contenders in with a shout.

Only drawback, TTs are a bore to watch…

Michael B May 4, 2017 at 5:00 pm

“Only drawback, TTs are a bore to watch…”

Yeah, that’s largely true, unless it’s perfectly balanced and the TT is the final day, as might be the case in this year’s Giro. That could be a far more exciting day than the usual “parade and sprint finish in a big city” format.

jollygoodvelo May 5, 2017 at 11:06 am

Agreed – I actually think a TT on the final day is a great idea, because it means there are actually 21 stages and your race comes down to the last 4-5 riders on the road. Even if there’s a big time gap, you have the race winner coming across the line having worked hard rather than half-cut and wobbly from the Champagne/Prosecco/Cava he’s glugged on the way.

The Tour is a bit different because of the grandstand finish of the Champs Elysees ‘sprinters world championship’, but no reason why the Giro and Vuelta can’t both do it.

Larry T May 4, 2017 at 5:24 pm

+1

NZL_Scotsman May 5, 2017 at 4:23 am

The coverage of ITT’s could be so much better though. Compare to Formula 1 or the American car races with all its data on the screen. Most of the time you are lucky to see a couple of time splits and you need a spreadsheet running to work out who is gaining places on GC.

J Evans May 5, 2017 at 5:56 am

I find a pen and a bit of paper works fine.
Then again, I’ve never been able to use spreadsheets properly.

gabriele May 4, 2017 at 3:40 pm

As I explained above, the mountains might have less an impact than what we’re used to because of the route design. Of course, much will depend on racing strategies and riders’ form (and the weather, too).
I think that the quantity of ITTs is pretty much balanced (also considering that it’s the Giro, anyway, bound to be an opener race, and not a race pretty much reserved to a single category of “heavier” cyclists as the Tour was well into the 2000s).

Michael B May 4, 2017 at 5:04 pm

Hope you’re right regarding the balance, it would be great to see it going down to a final TT with Quintana, Yates, Nibali etc trying to hold a two minute lead against the likes of Dumoulin, TJvG or Rohan Dennis (there’d have to be a miraculous improving in climbing from him, admittedly). Even if it was just for the podium places it’d make for an interesting final day.

Tovarishch May 4, 2017 at 8:10 pm

Don’t overlook Thomas in the time trial. It is a discipline he hasn’t really had to concentrate on in the last few years but has been in the top dozen in the world. My guess is that Sky have had him putting in the miles over the last few weeks.

Michael B May 4, 2017 at 9:50 pm

Fair point on Thomas. It’s almost like he falls between the two camps now. If he can get through three weeks without an off day he could be a huge threat to Quintana, although I’m not convinced the split leadership model ever works. He always seems such a good guy though, I hope it does work out for him.

leonn May 4, 2017 at 2:16 pm

“and last year’s Giro stage winner George Preidler.”

I checked that and best result from Preidler on 2016 Giro was third on stage 16.

I’m from a country without any tradition on cycling what it’s good for me because I measure riders for their actions and words, not their nationalities. TvG is one of them with such potential but not good with words or brilliant actions on the race. Last year on Tour de Suisse on uphill stage finish his team mate Atapuma was solo in the lead and a small group of chasers with TvG in it. The chase was slimming down Atapuma’s 30s advantage and less with more than 1-2km to go TvG attacked on a group of 8 climbers or so (G Thomas, Talansky, Barguil, Kelderman, Latour, Lopez, Scarponi and Rui Costa between them) but without explosive power enough and the others stayed on his wheels. This move almost costed Atapuma’s win and TvG came behind, because Barguil counter attacked (no one chased because of huge attack from TvG ) and for 4s didn’t catch Atapuma. I get it that he must feel well to make his move, but a big group like that with your team mate ahead you must follow attacks, not initiate them! Next stage (another uphill finish) he imploded and guess who is shepherding him? Atapuma. It seems he is not more smart/savvy rider of the bunch and didn’t know his limitations or his contender’s skills. Oh boy! His interviews is full of confidence, but it doesn’t show enough humility on them.

I’m really excited with this Giro (my preferred GT) in particular because there’s a lot potential riders to make the Giro even better.

jollygoodvelo May 5, 2017 at 11:10 am

Preidler looked as if he would win that stage for a long way up the final climb, but was mugged by Kruiswijk and Chaves inside the last 100m or so in the sprint finish for the time bonuses.

Dr Manhattan May 4, 2017 at 2:36 pm

Is Tejay van Garderen to Grand Tours what Edvald Boasson Hagen is to spring classics? Once the next big thing, currently fading into oblivion…?

On another note, I’d group Kruijswijk with the other three-ringers, if only to make the point that I see Quintana head and shoulder (figuratively, obviously!) above the rest in this Giro.

JT May 4, 2017 at 3:15 pm

I just can’t see Quintana going forvthe win if his real aim for the season is the TDF. The field is too deep for him to use this as a warm up for the Tour whilst still winning.
He might still win by giving 100% but by doing that he is making the Giro the priority and the Tour a “let’s see what happens” race.

I think Zakarin will get at least a podium if he can stay upright. Last year he was heading for the pink jersey on the time trial before two crashes and a mechanical. Despite that disastrous TT he was looking good for a podium spot until he crashed. Having said that, he was off the pace in Romandie so maybe I am completely wrong about him.

Dr Manhattan May 4, 2017 at 3:28 pm

Agree to first paragraph. He can’t cruise around Italy conserving energy AND expect to win the bloody thing. It’s one or the other.

Ecky Thump May 4, 2017 at 3:33 pm

Interesting points.
And you would think that Sky will give Quintana both barrels (Thomas and Landa) to make doubly sure that he doesn’t arrive at the Tour in tip-top shape.

gabriele May 4, 2017 at 3:44 pm

Yeah. Astana vs. Contador in 2015 was a convincing example, I think. Sky brought an impressive team to support two riders who’re anyway sort of a bet, not having proven much until now (in Thomas’ case the doubts may linger about his physical charcateristics, in Landa’s case it’s more about his head). What’s sure is that they’ve got more then enough to prevent Quintana from strolling around – if he wants to win. And, as I wrote above, the course is on their side…

Ecky Thump May 4, 2017 at 4:03 pm

Very interesting take on the parcours’ suitability to Quintana.
In the past he’s often had Valverde shepherding him on the descents.
I wonder if he can be got at on those?

Or even if there’s any wind on Sardinia, Sicily or the coastal stages, and Quick Step put on the hurt?

gabriele May 4, 2017 at 4:20 pm

@Ecky
From what he’s shown along his career, Quintana is supposedly a pretty good descender (even without Valverde, who’s a *great* descender).
OTOH, I agree that the flat sections, especially if windy, could probably be used to hinder him, even if the wind isn’t usually as strong in Italy (not even on the coast) as it is in France. I’m curious about Sardinia, but perhaps Puglia is *the* moment. The Giro had great crosswinds in the past… when it started in the Netherlands!
Unzue said that they sent Quintana to Abu Dhabi to practice windy situation, but you can make for your physical characteristics only up to a certain point, a light rider will always suffer in the wind.

Cepphus Grylle May 4, 2017 at 8:43 pm

I think Thomas will do well. While there is a legitimate question over his 3 week race ability, he’s in top form and remember he was a solid top 10 in a tough Tour a couple of years back, while doing much of Froome’s donkey work, before being crashed into the trees in the last week (not his fault this time!).

Anonymous May 4, 2017 at 4:32 pm

im a tvg hater but think he may surprise at this giro. the parcours are in his favor and his performances this year are quietly impressing.

biggest issue will be if and when he implodes. i also dont like how lackadaisical he’s been to his giro preparation.

do we expect anything substantial from pozzovivo?

JC May 4, 2017 at 4:44 pm

One additional point to bear in mind is the weather. A look at the Stelvio webcam shows piles of snow and no road. Even at the much lower Passo Pordoi it is currently snowing. The weather forecast for the next couple of weeks suggests more high altitude snow. I am sure every effort will be made to clear the roads however there is no guarantee the “big” mountain days will run as planned. Less mountains means that the race will be more open than perhaps anticipated with more riders having a realistic chance

Larry T May 4, 2017 at 6:29 pm

I believe they don’t bother opening this road (or trying) until June though of course they’ll plow it off earlier for La Corsa Rosa. I’ve been up there when it’s snowing, sleeting, raining like hell or nice enough to enjoy a panino in the sun sitting outside in shorts and short sleeves – and ALL of those times have been in July! But you’re correct, there’s no (never) a guarantee the big mountain days will run as planned. But that’s part of the reason Il Giro is so much more interesting to me than LeTour, no matter what Shill Phiggett thinks about it!

The Inner Ring May 4, 2017 at 6:30 pm

It’s always a risk. La Gazzetta Dello Sport was reporting this morning that the Giro is trying to get a later slot on the calendar for 2018, nothing drastic probably just a week later but it helps.

Nick May 4, 2017 at 11:19 pm

What prevents it from going back a week? Surely a GT would take priority over another race, or is it a clash with other events in Italy/TV clash with Roland Garros?

jollygoodvelo May 5, 2017 at 11:16 am

I’d have thought going back even one week means fewer riders will attempt the Giro/Tour double because there’s less recovery time – but frankly, I don’t think that’s possible even now.

J Evans May 5, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Would be a shame to prevent riders from trying, though. I hope they’re not allowed to move it.

I think it’s only a matter of time before the Extreme Weather Protocol has an unwanted effect on a big race (I’m not counting last year’s Tirenno) – it’s been used an awful lot – this year’s Giro could be that race.

noel May 4, 2017 at 5:02 pm

loving this thread! – I’ve changed my mind half a dozen times so far….

actually surprised that Quintana (and Movistar) aren’t sensing a Froome off-year, what with the baby and all the Sky shenanigans, and focussing fully on the Tour… he could well end up missing both.

gabriele May 4, 2017 at 5:41 pm

Apparently, Quintana decided much more than Movistar. And perhaps the question is precisely that he’s sensing what you say. Of course, your conclusion is absolutely right. OTOH, what better occasion within the current general settings?

NZL_Scotsman May 5, 2017 at 4:28 am

Quintana’s strategy makes sense to me. If he wins the Giro, then he already has had a good year. Win the Tour as well, he is one of the greats of his generation. Lose the Giro, win the Tour would also be very good. Lose both, then gallant effort and try another strategy next year. Plenty to gain trying both, not as much to lose. If he only did the Tour and failed, then it would be another year of the same.

Duncan May 4, 2017 at 5:56 pm

Re Thibault Pinot. Did anyone see Tour of the Alps? He was heroic, but I could not work out what his team were doing. On one of the later stages they worked like mad in the first half – and then were nowhere to be seen when Pinot could have done with a team-mate on the selective climbs. Geraint Thomas had Landa with him the whole time, and Sky consistently fought back to support Thomas.

But I can’t understand Cannondale either. They seem to have no-one capable of really “giving it some”. Rolland made a few erratic efforts here and there, but doesn’t seem half the rider he was 2 years ago. I really don’t get what strategy or objectives some teams have or rather seem not to have at all!

Strictly Amateur / The GCW May 4, 2017 at 10:50 pm

Cannondale:

I’d like to see the “young” team put Formolo up for their overall GC leader and give it everything. They can always resort back to what their planning but the objective should be taking the kids for the biggest ride. Perhaps Dombrowski…

Go big and grow.

The Inner Ring May 5, 2017 at 12:02 am

A win seems difficult but there’s every chance Cannondale finally get that win to end what is now approaching two years without a win. Formolo took a good stage win in La Spezia at the end of a very hard stage, now he is looking much sharper. Rolland too is looking extremely lean and was powerful in the Tour of the Alps but will suffer in the time trials. The team has a lot of climbing talent and can hopefully play off each other, instead of the “old 1-2” they can hope to have several riders. But as we saw in L-B-L they can be dynamic but get no result too.

sebasn May 4, 2017 at 6:25 pm

Nibali and Landa 4*

SilverSurfer8 May 4, 2017 at 8:36 pm

My pick for the win is Dumoulin. He came awfully close last year without even focusing on the GC. Now, with his full commitment to GC, look out!

Not even a podium for Nibali. His partying to training ratio is way off.

I think if Quintana has some bad luck early, he will bail and rest up for the Tour, so a DNF for him-which would be great to open up the race.

Could be an all-Dutch podium!

RonDe May 4, 2017 at 11:10 pm

Quintana will win. If you picked anyone else you’re mad. But the second name I’ll mention is Tom Dumoulin. That’s one hell of a lot of ITT kilometers and he’ll bite chunks out of some GC guys there. But it all depends on him not having a total breakdown on a mountain stage which undoes everything.

Anonymous May 4, 2017 at 11:52 pm

Why wouldn’t Lotto-Jumbo bring Primoz? Dude is absolutely drilling it right now, and with Steven being so close last year why not put all the eggs in that basket? Especially considering the main reason SK lost was lack of a team presence when he crashed! I want to see Lotto-Jumbo win a GT, gives hope to the little guys out there ya’ know?

J Evans May 5, 2017 at 3:59 am

If NQ is riding to win then he’s very likely to do so. But I still wonder if he’s more using this as training for the Tour. Probably not, but we’ll see.
I think without him it would likely be a more interesting race, as the rest are pretty evenly matched – and the July processional would probably be more interesting (a vain hope, perhaps) with him at full strength. Which he may or may not be – I don’t believe this ‘stronger in a second grand tour’ line – Froome would have beaten him handsomely in the Vuelta if he had an ounce of tactical nous. It seems more like ‘not confident I can beat Froome in the Tour and want a win in the bag plus a ready-made excuse’ – hope I’m wrong.
It would be sad to see Landa again lose position in a Giro due to ‘coming from the wrong country’. I’m very much in favour of the Stephen Roche response to team orders as opposed to the Froome ‘stick finger in ear in full panto mode, then do as you’re told’ option. (And I bet Greg LeMond agrees with me.)
Prediction: Sky back Thomas, restrain Landa, then Thomas cracks later in the race.

RonDe May 5, 2017 at 9:37 am

Using the Giro as a training ride would be the ultimate insult. Its bad enough that the sprinters do 10 days ands then go home. But I believe that NQ is actually here to win. He knows full well that he cannot bank on the Tour and with Froome also doing the Vuelta, and but for one bad day last year nearly doing a Tour/Vuelta double, then the Giro seems to be the one GT he can bank on bagging.

J Evans May 5, 2017 at 12:05 pm

‘Ultimate insult’? Riders used to do it all the time. Look at riders’ palmares from the 80s and it’s full of people doing badly in the Giro and then getting a podium in the Tour.

gabriele May 5, 2017 at 12:41 pm

It wouldn’t be great, but it happened before.

As it happened to the Vuelta (frequently enough, especially with its “new” calendar position) and the Tour, too (seldom, both for its importance and symmetric calendar reasons).
Unpleasant may it look – and it does – , we should look beyond the “insulted honour” downside: a classy competitor, albeit not in its best form, may add to the quality of racing, at least for some stages; quality cycling isn’t limited to physical conditions only, even if GC victory might be out of reach.
The alternative, more often than not, isn’t having that athlete in best form – it’s not having him at all.

Otherwise… you could even stop writing that Froome won his GTs against, say, Contador, given that the Spaniard never had, not even by far, his proper form when Froome won those races: for obvious reasons in 2015 and 2016, when he crashed, and quite clearly in 2013, too, due to the lack of racing kms the year before – if his dire performances during that *whole* season weren’t enough evidence, even checked against following years, not his previous top ones.

gabriele May 5, 2017 at 11:23 am

Froome wasn’t going to win that Vuelta anyway.

J Evans May 5, 2017 at 12:12 pm

Why wasn’t he?
Froome was less than 1′ behind before Stage 15 (and looking fine), lost over 2.5′ on that stage, then gained over 2′ in the final ITT.
Me saying this ‘Froome would have beaten him handsomely’ was certainly over-stating it, but it did look decidedly plausible that he would: all he had to do was stay on Q’s wheel for the race and then take 1′ in the ITT.

gabriele May 5, 2017 at 1:05 pm

Quintana was visibly superior uphill, among other occasions on the final climb of Aramón Formigal (after a way harder day than Froome had, from a physical exertion POV) – which means that it would be bold to reduce that stage to a “zero gain” for Quintana, even if you decide not to include the breakaway factor.
Froome lost nearly one minute on that final climb, even if he could take advantage of some slipstream along most of those 8 kms, while Quintana was pulling alone (with the psychological burden of the wheelsuckers).
And that’s about figures.
Beyond figures, the Aitana stage also showed that in a serious a decisive mountain stage Quintana was in total control, which means that it’s not that sure that Froome could have kept up with him – quite the contrary, if you see how deep Froome went without causing any minor problem to the Colombian.
OTOH, if Froome hadn’t been that far back, he probably wouldn’t have taken the risks he took in the ITT, while Quintana, conversely, might have pushed harder. Despite his final sprint, Froome didn’t look at ease on Mas de la Costa, either.

The impression of that whole race is that Froome couldn’t have done any better (in the Aramón stage the race slipped away from his grasp because he couldn’t react to a further accelerations, not because, say, he wasn’t aware) – while Quintana had a margin.
On that basis, given that Quintana actually won, Froome not only didn’t win, but with Quintana in the race he wouldn’t have won anyway.
Obviously, if any accident had happened to Quintana 😉 , Froome might have won as “the best of the rest”. A deserving, gutty and overall impressive ride by Froome, which, IMHO, makes of him the best GT racer of the year despite a certain lack of particular showy racing – yet, not enough to win against that Quintana, under any circunstances.

J Evans May 5, 2017 at 2:10 pm

Whilst I don’t agree with you, I don’t have your encylopaedic memory of races and can only rely on my own thoughts at the time which were – rightly or wrongly – that neither rider looked particularly like dropping the other. So, I don’t have anything to back up my opinion, apart from Froome’s greatly superior TT abilities (I think Quintana’s weaknesses on the flat – both in TT’s and ‘normal’ racing – could prevent him from ever winning the Tour: it’s so easy to make him suffer in the wind).

gabriele May 5, 2017 at 2:48 pm

@J Evans
Quintana dropped (20″< difference not including time bonuses) Froome two times, Camperona and Covadonga, besides the hugely different performance on Aramón Formigal. Froome mainly resisted on climbs with less than 500 mts of altitude gain (less than 15' full gas), with the Aubisque draw game as the only exception before Formigal.
Quintana, I'd say, just didn'try harder when he didn't need it anymore. Aitana's final climb is available on Youtube.

Winning the Tour will always be super-hard for Quintana. He got his big chance with the 2015 course and, despite losing time in the crosswinds, I'm still convinced that he would have won if he was allowed to race hard on some climbs far from the line instead of waiting for Valverde.
Which has long been Froome's weak point: he's always had – until now – one strong and short shot a day (and few days in every GT). But that kind of weak point is way easier to cover up in a race like the Tour (not to speak of most Vueltas).

Logan May 5, 2017 at 4:28 am

Certainly a steller line up, looking forward to watching it for the next 3 weeks.

Some decent odds for Michael Woods or Joe Dombrowski to be in the top 10 on GC, I think one of them will and I got $7/$8 for both.

Charles May 5, 2017 at 4:50 am

Seriously, please can someone explain why Tejay van Garderen is mentioned as a potential GT winner every year but I have yet to see him put in any consistent performances that warrant this.

At best I see a top 20 for him but more likely an early departure in tears.

Can’t see past Quintana tbh.

The Inner Ring May 5, 2017 at 8:49 am

He is very talented, a win seems unlikely but he has finished 5th in the Tour de France and that year he made some mistakes. But it’s a big test for him now, he needs a result or he’ll be changing teams soon and taking a substantial pay cut.

J Evans May 5, 2017 at 5:13 am

I find the much-held belief that Nibali has been lucky to win four grand tours rather odd – I think it has a lot to do with him riding for Astana (and now BM) and ‘the tow’ (as if no other rider has done that).
He did beat Contador and Froome when he won the TdF. They started the race and staying on your bike is a crucial part of cycling – and often not down to luck.
Nibali’s ‘luck’ has a lot to do with being hardy and having superb bike-handling skills.
His form doesn’t look too good, but two stars? I’d put him at least level with Kruijswijk – and not on the same level as TVG or below Mollema and Thomas.

RonDe May 5, 2017 at 9:40 am

His GT wins are down to weak fields and in the case of the Tour, crashes. Its not hard to check who he beat to win them and in what circumstances. The best want to beat the best fair and square.

J Evans May 5, 2017 at 12:20 pm

You do realise that no matter how many times you state it as a fact, you can’t possibly know what would have happened in the 2014 Tour if AC and CF hadn’t crashed?
Also, a big part of racing is not crashing – ergo, he beat them.
As well as that, after the cobbled stage Nibali had 2 minutes or more on all other GC contenders. Had he stayed upright, Froome might have been closer, who knows, but that’s a big ‘might’.
Nibali’s one of those riders who shows that cycling is not just about numbers.
Checking who someone beat to win a race is simplistic – look at last year’s TdF: ‘the biggest race of the year’, but CF won it virtually unchallenged. Does that make CF’s victory less worthy?

Rupert May 5, 2017 at 11:33 am

Yeah – Mollema as third pick is a big call! can’t make up my mind about Nibali though, definitely crafty and a rider that improves over the weeks of a grand tour (although not as much as Horner!).

Definitely agree with SK as the second pick though – looked superb in 2015 with some aggressive riding after losing time early on.

gabriele May 5, 2017 at 1:09 pm

Sorry Rupert, Horner doesn’t really “improves over the weeks of a grand tour” – in 2013 he had been great since stage 3! – the correct statement should be “improves over years and years of Grand Tours” 😛

Red Hare May 5, 2017 at 11:21 am

“Steven Kruijswijk was so commanding going into the final two mountain stages that you could hear a portly soprano warming up her larynx.”

Thanks, made me chuckle.

Anonymous May 6, 2017 at 12:58 pm

Oh man, what a glorious rant. A fair one too. I feel the same way. You forgot to mention that Froome had the luck of being British or at least in some part so he was Sky’s preferred GC man. Without that luck of having the dominant team in those TDFs around him, I’m pretty sure it would have been a lot more difficult for him to beat Contador or Nairo. So luck is a part of it, sure, but it gets really complex and comparison doesn’t mean much.

David May 5, 2017 at 8:10 am

Yes, Crashbike was ‘at fault’ for riding into the snow, in that he allowed his attention to wonder. However, that kind of thing happens quite often in the peloton. The bad luck was that whereas most of the time it doesn’t result in a crash, or if it does they just pick themselves up and carry on and no-one much notices, in his case the consequences were disastrous for his race.

StevhanTI May 5, 2017 at 9:09 am

I remember that Nibali commented after that stage that he saw Kruiswijk suffering on the ascent and he decided to put him under pressure on the downhill. Of course this could just be a way of justifying to himself that his fortune was more due to someone else’s bad luck than to his own doing but it remains a real possibility, we’re talking about Nibali after all.

If you want to win something as big and demanding as a GT you must excel in every little aspect of the sport (or at least have somebody by your side who is complementary to your own skills)

Nick May 5, 2017 at 11:12 am

I think it’s characteristic of most highly-competitive people, that they are always able to believe that their successes are down to their hard work, and their failures down to bad luck/skulduggery by others.

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