Highlights of 2017: Part III

Monday, 4 December 2017

How was the Giro for you? With hindsight the “fight for pink” to borrow the race’s awkward strapline wasn’t vintage stuff. Tom Dumoulin was climbing so well he kept Nairo Quintana within seconds on the Blockhaus and took minutes from him in the time trials and if it wasn’t for the imbroglio over his bowels on the Umbrailpass then he would have cruised to the win. But circumstances combined to give Quintana a shot on the final mountain stage where he, Pinot and Nibali and others put Dumoulin on the spot.

Things lit up on Stage 20 on the climb to Foza, an old military road that climbs out of the Brenta valley. Earlier on the climb to Foza there were attacks from Vincenzo Nibali and Nairo Quintana but they were initially reeled in. Ilnur Zakarin and Domenico Pozzovivo managed to go clear and get out of site. Quintana and Nibali tried again but could only keep a slender lead with Dumoulin watching from behind. Pinot then bridged across and this boosted the move, the trio began to go clear, despite Bob Jungels helping out Tom Dumoulin behind. The trio caught Zakarin and Pozzovivo but it wasn’t 3 + 2 = 5 as the group didn’t look so organised but the race has the allure of a team pursuit as the breakaways stayed clear across the Asiago plateau while behind the chase group were rolling through, and all this after a long hill climb. The gap was slender but this only added to the suspense and all along there were plenty of calculations to be made. Who should work, who wanted the stage win, would the time bonus alter the GC or even the final podium. Best of all it kept the Giro going right into the final weekend, suspense that both the Vuelta and Tour lacked.

With hindsight: Tom Dumoulin was an authoritative winner. The fuss over his toilet break diverted attention away from how he climbed the Umbrail about as fast as Quintana and Nibali. Interestingly, refreshingly after dominating the race there was next to no suspicion helped by his team’s image where there are no dodgy doctors or sulfurous soigneurs and they were early members of the MPCC so no arbitraging the rules on corticosteroids either.

The route helped Dumoulin as RCS keep trying to get the balance between a “soft” (these things are relative) parcours designed to attract Tour de France contenders and a savage route cherished by the tifosi. Based on the leaks the 2018 edition – this posted was typed up before going away on holiday and the route announcement – looks like it’ll be a gentler version to tempt Dumoulin back even RCS has, whisper it, traditionally tempted stars with juicy start fees rather than tailoring a route to suit.

But Dumoulin doesn’t need steady ski station climbs and molto time trials, he was at ease on the Blockhaus and bossed the Oropa finish and if Monte Cavallo was hard going he managed it well.

Thibaut Pinot won the stage and was close to the podium and has had a good season only Romain Bardet and Warren Barguil bathed in the limelight come July leaving Pinot somewhat in the shadows. Pinot probably prefers some of this, there are less burdens on him and these days the weight of expectation in France is spread across many shoulders. But squaring the circle of being a rider who loves the Giro while being the captain of French team is always going to be a dilemma.

What of Vincenzo Nibali? He’s no superstar nor “household name” in Italy but come May he is a popular figure and delivered the first Italian stage win of the race as Italians and especially RAI and La Gazzetta were kept waiting. But beyond the Italian peninsular he’s even less known to people. Many know his wins but few seem to know much about the man, he’s probably more associated with that stickiest of bottles from the Vuelta than the youth cycling club he and his family help run and so on. Either way he envlives races with his attacks, he is a pinch of pepper for when the racing gets bland.

There were more stages to pick from, the stages to Peschici won by Gorka Izagirre and Bergamo for Bob Jungels were intense and great entertainment too. But there were some polemica too over that police motorbike and social media erupted over Dumoulin’s dump with some thinking the others should have waited for him like the Giro was some kind of social ride and the matter of cycling’s unwritten rules would remain a hot topic come the Tour de France too with Chris Froome’s multiple mechanicals and as ever because they are unwritten these rules are not black and white and so leave many followers disatisfied, especially as those following the race via television get multiple camera angles and replays when those actually racing often see the wheel in front and not much more.

Why the highlight? Suspense late into the stage race, scenic roads and a lively tactical battle made this a gripping finish. It was a day when we knew Nairo Quintana had to attack and if he seemed underpowered at times – he later said he had a fever – he still gave it his best and distanced Dumoulin to set up a chase.

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{ 57 comments… read them below or add one }

David P December 4, 2017 at 1:56 pm

Enough here to prove it was a highlight without even needing to mention Gaviria!

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Erik December 4, 2017 at 2:12 pm

Great write-up. And yes, screw this ‘cycling’s unwritten rules’ malarkey. I just hope we have seen the worst of it. Then again, staying away from social media helps.

Can some-one quickly give a link to a video with an hour or so long highlights package of this event? Please?

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gabriele December 4, 2017 at 2:13 pm

A great stage, but too few for a generally poor Tour (once again).
But let me split down this sentence:

“As the dominant event on the calendar (YES!) it attracts the best riders (NOT THAT MUCH…) at the top of their game (NOT ALL OF ‘EM) but this alone doesn’t ensure good racing (SURE)”.

Froome wasn’t at the top of his game, I believe, but that’s a detail. What’s more relevant is that maybe for the first time in the last couple of decades (after a dark decade, then years of chase and eventually some “nearly-a-draw”), the Giro had a slightly better set of GC riders, as a whole.
Contador, Quintana and Froome weren’t quite surely at the top of their game, even if in a very different measure. Froome’s condition is open to debate, but many – and many reader here, too – already pointed out the possibility he wasn’t at his top watching the race, without needing to watch what would happen at the Vuelta to confirm a strategic preparation.
Dumoulin, Quintana and Nibali is a way more impressive podium than Froome, Urán, Bardet, although I think that Urán is generally underrated. The rest of the top ten was more or less comparable, especially if we consider the level of performance actually produced by Contador. The comparison stays valid, even with a shade of superiority for the Giro, perhaps, if one looks at the top 20.
However, if the price to pay is such a change in the course and, generally speaking, worse racing, I’m not sure if that’s a good path to walk down.

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gabriele December 4, 2017 at 2:15 pm

Ops, hey, what the…? This was my commentary to Highlights Part IV… which now went missing. Well, it’s also about the Giro, but obviously the sentence I quote to start with was in the other post :-/

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J Evans December 5, 2017 at 9:44 am

‘However, if the price to pay is such a change in the course and, generally speaking, worse racing, I’m not sure if that’s a good path to walk down.’

– I’d say it’s definitely not. I’m far more excited by a Giro of good racing than a Giro with the ‘stars’ in it.
I’m not at all convinced that Giro 2018 is going to be up to much – I reckon people like Dumoulin and Nibali will focus on the Tour, and it’ll be Froome v Landa v Aru. So, Froome to win it in the TT’s.

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Larry T December 4, 2017 at 3:36 pm

La Corsa Rosa 2017? For decades I’ve waited patiently for the BICISPORT Giro recap issue to come out having collected them and the pre-race guide together. This year I didn’t bother. The “defend in the mountains, mow ’em down in the chrono” tactics make for boring racing, though a few guys like Nibali tried to liven things up. I have hope for 2018 these tactics might not be so effective if enough of the top GC racers show up. Froome will have a tough time mowing Dumoulin down in the chrono, but the SKY man has recently shown a more all round competitiveness, so we could be in for some excitement?

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Anonymous December 4, 2017 at 6:16 pm

The “defend in the mountains, mow ’em down in the chrono” tactics make for boring racing……
Larry – this is one of your favourite gripes, but hasn’t Inrng put up quite a few postings showing the lack or TT miles in GTs over the last 10yrs+ compared to the ‘good old days’.
Isn’t the reality of relative EPO-less (or EPO-lite whatever) racing now that the top climbers are quite closely grouped, and with no meaningful TTs at all we’d just end up with stalemate and a race up the last 3km of the mountain top finishes.
I’d rather the Quintana’s, Nibali and Chaves of this world have to try and shake off the Dumoulin’s and Froome’s as early as possible with all the subtexts that releases… the climber/TT balance seems to be better than it ever was – but to win you do need to be pretty handy at both…

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The GCW / Strictly Amateur December 4, 2017 at 7:52 pm

In the past, I didn’t care for T.T.’s. I like the climbers. But I’m getting it; the TT’s are needed to make the overall racing exciting.

Still don’t care for the TTT’s.

Agree with Motormouth below: The Giro was a lot of fun this year, good recap.

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Larry T December 4, 2017 at 8:31 pm

If you expect a response from me you need to stop yelling from the bar toilet stall and come out where we all can see you. I try to ignore Mr. Anonymous and his ever-growing family.

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noel December 4, 2017 at 10:48 pm

sorry Larry that was me, didnt mean to be anon… didnt think I was yelling either, just discussing…

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Anonymous December 5, 2017 at 12:01 pm

You were not yelling Noel, I don’t know what that old twonk was typing about.

Brian December 5, 2017 at 12:41 am

Give me a break. This comment is more ridiculous than the typical musings from you Larry.

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gabriele December 4, 2017 at 10:30 pm

I’d second the idea that a decent quantity of ITT kms are needed to foster a spectacular race.
As you say, with a race which is only for climbers, you’ll have only climbers competing – and for most of them the less risky strategy will be the one you describe.
But to make the whole plan work, you also need mountains that make it less easy to defend than it was in last Giro. You could tell how it was going to be before it even started.

And – what follows is quite predictable, too, on my part – the EPO thing you say doesn’t make sense. Have a look at how “grouped” climbers were before EPO was even available. You’ve got all sorts of situations, but the pre-EPO history of cycling presents of good number of climbers making a difference uphill (moreover, in very general terms any doping like EPO which allows riders to raise their power without significantly raise their weight will tend to favour heavier cyclists, placing bottlenecks elsewhere).

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J Evans December 5, 2017 at 9:48 am

Yup, there is no correlation between drugs and closeness of racing (even if we assume that they’re currently racing clean).

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Larry T December 5, 2017 at 9:35 pm

OK now that I know you’re not one of the Anonymous family of “twonks” I’ll respond: The lack of TT miles vs the “good old days” doesn’t much matter when the tactics are pretty much the same. I started paying attention to the sport in the early Greg LeMond days and have to admit plenty of times (perhaps most notably, the 1990 TdF?) those were his tactics. But they made for boring racing, livened up only by wanting the guy to win, which I did. BigMig was probably next practitioner, in the same mold as Alex Zulle, Abraham Olano and right through to Chris Froome. I’m not saying chrono stages should be eliminated but racers who “defend in the mountains…” don’t much excite me. My hope is if Dumoulin (in my book he’s the Dutch Indurain) shows up to defend his Maglia Rosa from 2017 a guy like Froome will need to come up with some new tactics, tactics that he’s already begun to demonstrate. Attacks and innovation when it comes to gaining time (and I don’t mean marginal gains stuff) on your rivals is what makes racing exciting.

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T-72 December 6, 2017 at 8:06 pm

You make it sound like Froome is a guy that wins Grand tours by ITT alone. That’s disregarding good performances on practically all terrain in other stages, flat, uphill and downhill, including cobbles and crosswind stages. Above all it’s disregarding that some days no-one can follow his attacks on major and tactically important climbs. While other good climbers can beat him on some days, in the TdF they have yet to beat him on a major climb on an important day, in a decisive way. It is not so much “defend on the climbs and mow them down in the ITT”, it is high performance all around the clock.
A top Grand Tour rider is in the best group of climbers AND the best group of time trialers, but must be decent in every other discipline, and add some age and treachery on top.
In my opinion, the good GT parcours makes as many of these elements as possible, possibly decisive for the race outcome. IMHO most of the GT parcours offered up over the past couple of years has managed this quite well, with exceptions for some Vuelta editions that have been more pure climber’s races.

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gabriele December 7, 2017 at 11:44 am

You’re absolutely right in most of what you say, but you’re quite much exaggerating while picturing the situation on climbs.
The “some” days you name, when “no-on can follow his attacks” are *three* in his whole career or so. You can perhaps get to 5-6 if you add minor races like Andalucía or Criterium Internationale.
I can recall Froome being evidently (>20″) dropped on a climb several times, and frankly they were very relevant ones (probably more relevant than one of his three, like LPSM), as you can also notice by his own reactions on those occasions.
Alpe d’Huez (2x), La Toussuire, Semnoz, LPDBF, Peyragudes at the TdF only… if you also include the Vuelta (I’ll let the Giro aside because it was Peter Parker before the spider’s bite) the figures raise even more; same must be said if you sum up also shorter stage races.
This doesn’t take away anything to your argument, which I’d agree with, while I still think it doesn’t need to be built on imaginary performances to stay true.

Larry T December 7, 2017 at 5:11 pm

“….guy like Froome will need to come up with some new tactics, tactics that he’s already begun to demonstrate. ” This was part of my post, did you read the whole thing?
But yes, “defend in the mountains and mow ’em down in the chrono” does pretty much suggest this is how guys like BigMig, Dumoulin and Froome manage to win. Boring. My hope is with Dumoulin taking on Froome someone will have to try some new tactics, which just might end up being more exciting to watch. I want to watch guys try to win rather than avoid losing. Too much of modern pro cycling is the latter, which is why I say BRAVO to Froome for taking on the challenge of Giro/Tour 2018. I may not be saying that if he ends up racing both in the “avoid losing” manner, but for now – BRAVO!

J Evans December 4, 2017 at 11:50 pm

Barring Aru and Landa, I don’t think any other big contenders will turn up. With Froome in the Giro, this is an ideal year to do the Tour – and certainly not the Giro.

Looking at the route, do people think RCS have tailored the route to Froome?

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Ecky Thump December 5, 2017 at 10:35 am

The hottest ticket in town is Froome v Dumoulin.
That is the one many people want to see.

Is the TdF course fully set yet?
You can bet your bottom dollar that ASO will anti-TTT it, if it hasn’t been (similar to last year).
Which would make it a fruitless exercise (IMO) for Dumoulin; he’d be better off going for the Giro.
It’s Quintana, or maybe Bardet, who could gain most from Froome’s double attempt.

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J Evans December 5, 2017 at 10:58 am

I’m not convinced that F v D would be that much of a contest, at present. I think F can match D fairly closely in the TT and the opposite is not true in the mountains. Would like to see it, though. (But I think D will go for the Tour along with most others.)
I don’t think Froome will be able to ‘save himself’ for the Tour as much as he did for this year’s Vuelta: I think if he does that he’ll lose one or both and I think he’ll want to make sure he wins the Giro.

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noel December 5, 2017 at 3:14 pm

I agree with that JE – if you are going to attempt a double, you gotta make sure you win the first one, otherwise you are right on the back foot, with pressure on (as Q found out last year) . Plus Froome has the prize of holding all 3 simultaneously up for grabs – and he may not get that chance again, whereas he gets another 2-3 cracks at a 5th Tour win…
so as long as he wins the Giro it’s good news for his palmares, and of course if he does win both…

J Evans December 5, 2017 at 3:32 pm

Noel, I’d like to see Froome go for the trifecta (all 3 GTs in a single season) – I’d like to see anyone try it. Not at all convinced it’s possible, but I’d like to see.
If I was someone like Pinot – and, most crucially, I could convince my team to let me do it – I’d focus on the Vuelta this year: possibly his only chance of winning a GT. Valverde is probably wily enough to do that – but he possibly wants the World Championship more.

noel December 5, 2017 at 4:50 pm

…now we just need to get the weather to play up in the Giro – something Sky can’t control!… I’d like to how Froome copes in some proper rainstorms and freezing mountaintops (be a shame if Nibali isn’t there to really test him though)

gabriele December 5, 2017 at 12:47 pm

The TdF course has been already presented. 35 kms of TTT to start with and then on the penultimate day 31 kms of ITT, a rolling one with a couple of short walls.
Not very favourable to Dumoulin, indeed. He might like (as Froome) the absence of true mountain marathons, the abundance of notably short stages, and the reduced climbing over 2000mts.
He won’t like the uphill finishes after stages which are anyway hard – despite their often disappointing length – and the importance of the team in several mountain situation which look to be very open to a variety of strategies.

Dumoulin confirmed himself as a top rider winning the last Giro, but the enthusiasm should be proportioned to the exceptional characteristics of that Giro.

Not only there was a good quantity of ITT kms, and *not* technical at all (in fact, they were totally favourable to specialists as we rarely saw in the last 5 years’ GTs), but the decisive second half of the Giro never had more than some 15 kms of climbing over the last 50-60 kms of any stage (or something like that, I did the maths and wrote something here during the Giro but I can’t rememeber now). The Tour will present much more climbing kms on that same distance in each and every mountain stage, even reaching the double or more of that quantity in 5 out of 6.
We shouldn’t forget, either, that he won by a very reduced margin over Quintana, for whom the course was way less suited and who wasn’t shining at his best. Dumoulin really wasn’t left behind only on Oropa (which isn’t actually a serious “climb”, more a Vuelta first-week thing) and in the Dolomites stage, 137 kms of easy, high-speed climbing with one of the poorest finale ever (however, I consider his Blockhaus performance as utterly impressive).

No doubt he’s got the potential (he looks to be still growing stronger, unlike Quintana, or Bardet, or Nibali, with the former two anyway supported by young age) – yet, he still needs to step up significantly (which, I insist, he can probably do) in order to win a Tour like this. Of course, if it was like 2012… he’d win it beyond any doubt.

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gabriele December 5, 2017 at 1:35 pm

@J Evans Re: tailoring the Giro route

Clearly less than last year (luckily enough), but I think that they’ve tailored it again, yes. And, marketing-wise, it’s made to look more promising than it actually might prove itself.

For example, some of the hilly stages don’t present any crescendo, on the contrary, they taper off in the last 30 kms or so; or sometimes they look very spiky on the profile but, if you check, you’ll easily discover that the “climbs” are a 3-4% affair.
Which means that what could have been a serious menace for a GC-oriented control of the race is pretty much reduced, on paper at least, to an indeed very interesting opportunity for stage hunters, but probably little more.
The La Spezia 2015 stage or the Pescara 2013 one are a good term of comparison. If you superficially look at the profile, they look comparable to the Sicilian stages, for example, but if you look closer it’s a different world.
The funny thing is that back then you had the impression that, presenting the stages, they tried to make them look less menacing… now they try to boost the idea of an emotional and altimetric electrocardiogram even when the terrain isn’t actually that promising. The Giro 2017 showed the (wrong) way with stages like Tortolì or Peschici: be it for lack of altitude gain or for too easy a finale, they couldn’t deliver the class of spectacle and hard riding I demand from the kind of stages at the Giro.

Generally speaking, the vertical gain, both in mountain stages and in hilly stages, is under what you’d expect at the Giro (again… barring 2017, obviously).
And you can’t avoid noticing the abundance of monoclimbs. Sometimes it’s not a monoclimb, but it doesn’t make much sense to attack before the final climb anyway, like in the Zoncolan stage.
The Jerusalem short ITT is pretty technical, but the other isn’t at all.

However, there also good news for the spectator: the sprinters will need to gain themselves the opportunity to run for the win in a decent number of easy stages, thanks to “bumpy” finales which might set a nice challenge between trains and stage hunters. A Giro classic which had gone a little forgotten recently.
Classics riders will have their opportunity both in those stages and in hilly ones: maybe we won’t get GC action, unless something peculiar happens, but they’ll be entertaining anyway.
There’s only one middle mountain stage which isn’t a monoclimb, but it might be pretty good, the Sappada one.
Endurance comes into play, no very short stages (well, one could have found a place… but I won’t complain: I appreciate them, yet it’s a case in which I still prefer lack over excess).
The stage will really favours action is the penultimate one in Valle d’Aosta to Cervinia. The Finestre one, to Jafferau, is a huge bet by the organisers: the Finestre will be over 70 kms to the line, most of them flattish and very favourable to an organised chase. The risk of a no context by serious GC contenders until the Jafferau is huge.

If nobody finds the courage and the strength to put Sky to the sword in the hilly stages – where, as I said, Froome’s rivals will really need both to make a difference, given the relatively soft terrain – the Sky champion will have the opportunity to programme perfectly his efforts in the monoclimb stages of the first half of the race, where his rivals won’t have any strategic option to tamper his plans. Later, he’ll have the ITT.
But much will depend on how he’s going to tackle the double. If he prefers to enjoy a single long peak of form, he should finish the Giro strongly then go hard in the Alps for the Tour. Instead, if he prefers to split the feat into two separate peaks (as his observations about the 6 weeks between the two races suggest… if that’s not a mind game itself), he’ll strike hard before and then defend himself at the Giro, whereas he’ll place his winning options on the Tour’s last week, that is, the Pyrenees and the final ITT.

All in all, I consider that it makes sense to adapt “a little” the route to the reigning champions. That always happened. Last year Vegni brought things way too far, anyway. 2018 isn’t that bad a route, even if it’s still below the usual Giro standard. It will require very proactive racing to be made interesting, but at least it doesn’t totally clips the wings to attacks.

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J Evans December 5, 2017 at 3:39 pm

Interesting stuff, Gabriele.
The preponderance of monoclimbs in grand tours these days is a major bugbear of mine – primarily because they don’t usually produce exciting racing.
The widely accepted – but unproven – view being that the public like to see all the action squeezed into the final few km is certainly not shared by me.
And if you want to make a course for Froome, monoclimbs are the way to go.

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Motormouth December 4, 2017 at 4:10 pm

“he’s probably more associated with that stickiest of bottles from the Vuelta than the youth cycling club he and his family help run and so on”

I simply can’t believe that. I have never once thought of this when I hear his name, or any other rider’s snafus, and anyone who dwells or focuses on such things has their priorities wrong.

The Giro was a lot of fun this year, good recap.

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Hammarling December 4, 2017 at 4:22 pm

Well i didn’t know he had a youth club, but i do know of that bottle… so… But that issue is far from the first thought i have, that’s reserved for the great attacks and wins that litter his career!

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Larry T December 4, 2017 at 5:57 pm

But we’d NEVER describe Mr. Froome by his actions the last time he raced La Corsa Rosa now, would we?
http://www.cyclingweekly.com/news/racing/giro-ditalia/froome-disqualified-from-giro-ditalia-60517

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J Evans December 5, 2017 at 9:49 am

Yup, I think ‘guy who has won all three grand tours’.

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Anonymous December 5, 2017 at 12:03 pm

Stop yelling Larry, no need for it.

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Barry December 7, 2017 at 10:02 am

I have to agree, Maybe its my soft spot for Nibs but my first thoughts of him are an attacking, exciting rider. His winning of Lombardia in 2015/cobbled stage in 2014 TDF coming to mind every time I see him race recently and as much as being a cycling tifiso favourite, he always seems to me a little bit of an outsider. The sticky bottle doesn’t come close!

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gabriele December 4, 2017 at 4:31 pm

One detail. Dumoulin climbed the Umbrail about a minut slower than the likes of Nibali, Quintana, Zakarin and Pozzovivo. His was a notable performance – especially considering the mess and the psychological pressure (while slipstream mattered little at hardly 18 km/h) – but he was on par with Jungels, A. Yates, Formolo and a struggling Pinot rather than comparable to the very best.

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Andrew December 4, 2017 at 5:20 pm

Wow- I don’t think of Nibali that way at all. Astounding performance on the cobbles in the Tour, the fantastic comeback win at the Giro, descending like a madman at Lombardia. That’s who I think of.

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CA December 4, 2017 at 10:17 pm

Me too, I remember the way Nibali dominated the TdF when Froome and Contador had bad races. Nibbles completely turned the storyline of that race from “(insert winner) takes yellow because Froome crashed out” to “Deserving winner forced the Champ into difficulty on Paris-Roubaix stage to win overall”

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Ecky Thump December 4, 2017 at 8:15 pm

Talking of the two Frenchmen brings a pleasant though off-tangent season highlight for me and one that always brings a little smile.
Inner Ring’s always approving headmasterly tones of the lamb-suckling country boy Thibaut Pinot and the scholarly bookworm that is his countryman Romain Bardet can be compared and contrasted with the (for Inner Ring at least) hatchet job that was his piece on the tattooed Ferrari-driving Filippo Pozzato.
It brings to mind the classic tale of the recently retired George Best, lying on a bed of bank notes with a naked Miss World, who is quizzed by the horrified champagne-wielding hotel waiter “Mr Best, where did it all go wrong”? 🙂

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Steve December 4, 2017 at 9:56 pm

No one has ever tracked down that horrified waiter… it’s almost as if Best made it up years later to entertain the audience when doing the rounds as an after dinner speaker.

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gabriele December 4, 2017 at 10:15 pm

Pozzato could buy and probably bought a Ferrari before he could earn a living thanks to cycling. Things had *gone wrong* quite soon in his case.

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Eskerrik Asko December 5, 2017 at 10:39 am

Do you mean Pozzato is that rare thing, a rich kid who excels and turns pro in a sport traditionally seen as a working class career – or do you mean that Pozzato was that perhaps a more common thing, a young man so obsessed with “style” and “high class” that he ends up in a pile of debt (unless he happens to win a lottery, becomes a drug dealer or rapidly reaches success in a professional sport)?

PS I had no idea Pippo started as a roller hockey player – at the age of four! – or that he is a CNC lathe operator by training.

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gabriele December 5, 2017 at 12:06 pm

He’s from a quite wealthy family.

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Duncan December 4, 2017 at 8:28 pm

Truly exciting, the first time I’ve ever watched the Giro. My heart sank to hear that Sky will turn it into the bore-fest they turned the Tour and Vuelta into…

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Chris_Slovakia December 4, 2017 at 10:04 pm

I’m hopeful for Nibali to give full attention to the Tour next year.. when i see the Giro has 8 summit finishes and 44km time trial, it just begs for Nibs to switch to focus on France where he has more opportunities to surprise and ambush the regulars (especially if Froome is tired from the Giro).

It was a strange Giro. After Quintana failed to really gain any time on Blockhaus, he seemed content to mark Nibali or follow the latters moves, rather than initiate too many attacks on Dumoulin himself.

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Ross December 4, 2017 at 11:01 pm

“What of Vincenzo Nibali? He’s no superstar nor “household name” in Italy”

I must say, I’ve always thought Nibali as one of the finest and most exciting grand tour riders in recent times, and therefore one of the most famed of contemporary cyclists. He’s one every grand tour and a few one day classics and is always willing to attack. Many riders would die for a palmares as full as his. I would have thought, therefore, that he was a crowd favourite in Italy, but as I don’t live there I really don’t know how big his profile is.

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Larry T December 5, 2017 at 1:32 am

While Nibali’s no Valentino Rossi I spend enough time there to know he’s a big deal when it comes to cycling in Italy, no matter what Mr. Inrng thinks.

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Mark December 5, 2017 at 4:15 am

But beyond cycling circles is he a household name? (I ask as I don’t know).

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gabriele December 5, 2017 at 11:50 am

I’d say he sure is, but it’s hard to support it with facts, going beyond personal feelings, based on the newspapers you read or the people of your social circles.

I had a quick look to Google Trends for Italy, which might be quite useful for the question you ask since it represents the attitude of general users more than fans’. Again, I’d say he’s no superstar but he’s for sure a household name.

Nibali’s got more volume than both Sagan and Froome with a 4:1 ratio. Froome’s Tour victories generate spikes which aren’t even comparable to Nibali’s Giros (not to speak of Nibali’s Tour, which is obviously enough his peak in terms of interest by the general public). Contador gets way closer even if he’s still far back (2:1), mainly thanks to his Giro challenges.

Outside cycling, we must take into account that the general public looks interested nearly exclusively in GTs and only while they’re on. Not much gossip about Nibali but, besides such factor, he’s being less followed by those who don’t care about cycling if he’s not racing a GT.
You also can notice how winning the Vuelta had a small effect on his popularity (the Spanish race isn’t being broadcast in Italy) and how “losing” races, even if he was podiuming, be it the Giro or the Tour, didn’t raise general interest that much, until he won the Tour; from then on, he became a source of interest although he wasn’t winning.

That’s very relevant when you compare him to, say, Federica Pellegrini, who is indeed a bigger name in Italy, the superstar kind as Pantani or Cipollini were.

In swimming, Filippo Magnini is hardly above Nibali, and gossip greatly helped him: it’s quite significant that his fame peak, the only matching Nibali’s feats, isn’t any of his two Worlds titles or three European titles in 100m freestyle, but the beginning of his romance with Pellegrini.
In tennis, Sara Errani Roland Garros (lost) final was bigger than anything by Nibali (a little bigger than the Tour), unlike Francesca Schiavone’s title (!), but they never came close to Nibali in the rest of their career, even though they went on winning or made the news for other reasons.
Andrea Dovizioso, racing MotoGP on Ducati and running for the title until the very last race, despite a steadier all-year-long interest, sits clearly behind Nibali, with his own peaks (his winning races and the finale of the season) getting just a half of Nibali’s score in Giro 2017 (not to speak of greater wins).
More or less can be said about NBA stars Gallinari, Bargnani or ring-winner Belinelli, all of them on the same average level of interest as Nibali (only Gallinari is slightly over), but their very top moments barely come close even to secundary peaks like the 2015 Tour or the 2017 Giro.
The CONI Walk of Fame doesn’t help much, since it’s more about 20th century, but most recent Fioravanti and Baldini don’t come close to Nibali.

If we look at football (which makes little sense), Nibali is no match for, say, Buffon, but other important figures like De Rossi, Insigne or Chiellini aren’t that far above Nibali, and they’re mainly because the year around interest: since Nibali won the 2013 Giro, none of them matched Nibali’s peaks of pupularity.

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Larry T December 5, 2017 at 9:46 pm

I would define “household name” as someone who could go on TV and plug any product with success outside his/her own sport. Valentino Rossi can plug cars, internet service providers and pretty much anything. George Clooney can do the same.
I’ve never seen Nibali plug anything on TV with the exception of SIDI cycling shoes awhile back.

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Joe K. December 5, 2017 at 2:54 am

Part of the fun of watching this year’s Giro was waiting to see whether Dumoulin would crack and lose his overall lead (not that I wanted this to happen). As for the other contenders and pretenders, they contributed little or none to the excitement of this year’s Giro.

As for next year, I would like to see other GT contenders, such as Dumoulin, Nibali, Quintana, join Froome in going for the Giro-Tour double. If they don’t, and skip the Giro, only to do the Tour, then they will run the risk of looking like cowards (at worst) trying to take advantage of a weakened Froome.

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gabriele December 5, 2017 at 9:46 am

A bit like Froome looked like a coward in 2015 for not following Contador’s attempt of a double?

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CA December 5, 2017 at 7:04 pm

Gabriele – exactly! haha… Froome famously had no desire to try the double that year and Contador famously failed at the double.

Look, let’s be clear. The person who is risking everything here is Froome himself. He’s not invincible and at 33 this spring, he’s at the age where top GC men start to lose a bit. Froome looked beatable in 2017, so in 2018 in theory he will be even more beatable. I think the odds are next to impossible for him to win the double and I think he’ll be so gassed by June that he risks joining the five TdF winner club.

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Anonymous December 5, 2017 at 2:37 pm

Froome isn’t a big deal in the UK Mr Inrng, just like Nibs isn’t in Italy. More people in the Uk probably recognise Mary Berry than CF.

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Hammarling December 5, 2017 at 5:15 pm

More people would recognise Mary Berry than the Queen, hardly a fair comparision to put her against Froome :p

Froome is probably the second most well known active cyclist in the UK, behind Cavendish. Well, between him and Lizzie Deignan. And it’s because of his Tour wins, none of the other Brits gets any general acknowledgement. He was headline news in July, made headlines again in August, was a headline in September at the Worlds and is headlines again with SPOTY. No-one else gets that wide media showing in the UK. [Based of what i know from trips to the pub and chats with family and non-cycling following friends]

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noel December 5, 2017 at 6:12 pm

I bet more Belgians than Brits know who Stannard is…

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Kit December 5, 2017 at 4:27 pm

This whole “TTs make a race boring” vs “TTs are less than ever” surely deserves to be put in some context? Gaps in mountain stages used to be far larger than they are now, but gaps in TTs were not. Surely this is an imbalance that means TT kms would be all the shorter if it were to keep that balance?

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E_Pi December 6, 2017 at 1:33 am

Given the ridiculously good Giro weather, Froome might in hindsight have been better trying the Giro-Tour double last year. (Has there ever been a GT with such benign weather?).

Even with a Giro in his legs, shadowing Bardet etc might have been achievable. And I’m not sure Dumoulin would have looked so great with the Sky train methodically pummelling him day in day out.

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gabriele December 6, 2017 at 11:46 am

The Sky train would have perhaps raised the rhythm on a couple of (final) climbs, but would have had it way softer for most of the remaining ones, as they usually do.
It’s to be seen how Dumoulin would have fared in case of such a combination.
However, if we imagine other teams also raising the pace as they actually did (notably Movistar) when Sky wouldn’t, the final effect might have well been fatal for Tom, given that where I imagine Sky giving an extra push is on Piancavallo and on Foza… right were Tom would have lost the Giro. To Froome… – or to Nibali, or to Quintana.

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