Can He Win The Giro?

A powerful display of climbing saw Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) take time out of his rivals when many thought he might find the steep slopes of Pampeago too much. Instead, he clawed back time on race leader Joaquim Rodriguez and left Ivan Basso even further behind.

Here’s the overall classification tonight:
1 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team 84:06:12
2 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin – Barracuda 0:00:17
3 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre – ISD 0:01:39
4 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:01:45
5 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling 0:03:21

The answer should come tomorrow on the slopes of the Mortirolo and Stelvio tomorrow. A huge stage where some must decide between defending a podium position or winning the race outright.

Right now it looks increasingly likely that Hesjedal can win the race overall, especially because Rodriguez is normally very weak in the time trials.

But anything can happen and tomorrow’s mountain stage is the biggest day in the race including the finish on the Stelvio pass at over 2,700 metres above sea level. A supreme final test in the mountains awaits before the time trial in Milan on Sunday.

44 thoughts on “Can He Win The Giro?”

  1. Can he win? I think so and I certainly hope he will. He’s really impressed me so far and I’m sure he’s able to ride well on a climb as long as the Stelvio – we’ll see how he deals with the height.

    • The man trains regularly on Haleakala (over 3000m), and holds the record time on it too.
      So my guess is he can likely deal with the altitude better than most. Can’t wait!

      • How many pro level climbers go to Maui, bring a bike, and attempt Haleakala at full effort? I’m just saying that “record” doesn’t mean much. And all of these guys are training, and probably living, quite a bit at altitude (or the tent equivalent). In any case, it should be a good stage!

  2. I think he can. Tomorrow will be long stressful day for all the contenders, but Ryder is looking strong and confident. I know there’s one day left, but how many have won the Giro (or any Grand Tour) without winning a stage?

    • Irishpeloton can give a complete answer but Contador in 2008 and Scarponi last year won the Giro without winning a single stage. I wouldn’t put it past Ryder Hesjedal to win the Milan ITT though.

  3. Can he win? He’s totally in the driver’s seat after today. He could lose 2+ minutes to Basso, Scarponi, and Rodriguez and still win. But he should be fine tomorrow.

    The real question should be on his demolition of today’s stage. He dropped all the climbers who planned to gang up on him. I was rooting for him to defend and scratch and claw his way through these last 2 mountain stages and to achieve a comeback victory on Sunday, in a BigMig style. But this performance seems a bit too extraordinary. Am I the only one with such concerns after today?

    • His performance doesn’t seem extraordinary to me in the way you are suggesting. With the history cycling has been through, we can’t be naive, even about someone on a “clean” team, but everything I’ve seen so far is believable for two reasons. First, Ryder is not dominating these climbs–he’s just that tiny bit stronger than his rivals and is able to take a few seconds here and there. Second, this isn’t coming completely out of nowhere. Not a single rider who finished ahead of him in the 2010 Tour de France is here in the race, and for the first time Ryder built his season around the race and came into it as unquestioned leader of his team. For me, I would say Rodriquez is performing at my expectations, Hesjedal slightly above expectations, and Basso slightly below expectations, but none of them dramatically so.

      • Good points.

        In the 2010 TdF, Hesjedal finished better than Rodriguez in the overall, but that was not until the final time trial that Ryder moved ahead. I’d argue that Rodriguez was the superior climber in the 2010 TdF, but that is not so true today. Basso and Scarponi didn’t participate in the 2010 Tour (AFAIK), so we don’t have a good comparison there.

        And it’s not that he dominated the climb in terms of time — he didn’t. It’s that he escaped a group of excellent climbers, most of who are working against him specifically. Maybe that is the fault of Basso and Scarponi and Rodriguez for not attacking more often.

        Anyway, I hope he is clean.

        • I agree that Hesjedal didn’t dominate the climbs in any way that should raise eyebrows. He’s riding in top form and Vaughters is all about his team being clean, clean, clean.

          Of Basso, Scarponi and Purito, only Scarponi truly attacked today with all that he had left. With 2 or 3k to go, Scarponi attacked and Hesjedal was right on his wheel. Kreuziger was still up the road and even Pozzovivo lost contact. Scarponi attacked again and Ryder and Purito were right there…then Ryder accelerated and Scarponi was right there, but Basso and Purito were now gapped and lost momentum. Pirazzi finally cracked with ~ 2k to go.

          Hesjedal and Scarponi rode clear, but Ryder put the pressure on him. [Behind, Basso, Purito and R. Uran were a trio]. Ryder rode away from Scarponi and closed in on Kreuziger, who began to crack but held on for the stage win. Basso lost 35″ to Hesjedal and Purito lost 11″.

          If I were Basso, I’d be really nervous about now. His gregarios were cracking today and his riding style and tiring legs couldn’t match his rivals. We’ll see who has legs tomorrow, but Szymd may be cooked, don’t know?

          And Purito ought to be feeling worried, too, with Hesjedal a superior TT.

          Tomorrow will be fantastic, no doubt!

          • Uh, I think you’re missing Paul’s point here Roadie61. He’s saying it wasn’t the way he climbed yesterday that should raise eyebrows except when taken in context of (a) his performance overall and (b) the caliber of riders he was able to leave behind. And the fact that he seems to have come from nowhere. In fact, the figures you cite about what was happening in the race and behind him after he attacked) highlight just how dubious Ryder’s performance might seem.

            However, I’m inclined to believe that Ryder’s clean. Although it may appear that he’s come from nowhere, I think you’d find that North American and especially Canadian fans of cycling will be less surprised by his performance at this year’s Giro. He’s been sort of developing in this direction for about three or so years, performing well in the early season at the hillier races like the Ardennes Classices and stage races in Spain. And of course as everyone keeps pointing out, he did 6th (after Contador’s positive) at the Tour in 2010. I think he would have had a higher placing at last year’s tour if he hadn’t got caught up in the mayhem in the first week of the race. The big difference this year is the deliberate planning to peak for the Giro in order to be the team’s leader and GC man. In previous seasons, he was peaking for the Tour to be a strong domestic for Vande Valde or (yuck) Danielson last year.

            It does look like he can win, which would be great for cycling in Canada for about three weeks. It might even be possible to ride on the roads for a few days after Sunday’s TT without having to worry about being driven into the curb or a ditch…

        • I had the honour of being soundly trounced by Ryder in a few Canadian junior and U23 races and have a good idea of his mentality and would put my head to the block that he is totally clean. Superb family support (and genes), strict adherence to the program and loads of hard work is what it was all about back then. Sure, some of his past teams raise eyebrows, but his progression stayed steady when he was in the most… tempting of teams. I wholeheartedly believe. And it’s been a long time since that happened.

          • @Scott: Point taken.

            North Americans (and esp Canadians) who follow cycling on an ongoing basis know that Ryder’s performance has not come out of nowhere, as you say. One look at his palmares shows impressive and progressive improvement. And yes, peaking for the Giro as Garmin’s GC rider was planned. Seems to be working out quite well!

            Riding away from one’s GC rivals who are working to squelch his performance is exactly what should happen when a rider’s in top form, is peaking and has his legs that day. I think Basso’s just past his prime and riding as such. Purito’s still firing all cylinders, but just didn’t have big attacks left in him at the end of Stage 19.

            The Mortirolo and the Stelvio should be a tremendous final showdown of the best skills and ultimately, attrition. The descents could also prove decisive with the many hairpin turns demanding the best technical mastery. Basso will no doubt be thinking of the ’05 Giro where he lost 42 minutes and likely the overall on the Stelvio (stomach troubles and the infamous twisting road).

            Epic day, on what’s “…arguably the purest, most exhilarating, most spellbinding mountain playground accessible to cyclists.” – CN, 25 May, 2012

  4. At this point, there’s no question he can win, unless he severely overextended himself today, but so far, he seems to know his limits and is just one more big summit finish from having it virtually wrapped up. I think at this point that not only can he win it, but if things go well tomorrow, he could take those 17 seconds and wear pink during the final TT, and I would bet that Ryder is thinking about that possibility as well.

  5. BRAVO! As I wrote earlier I’m rooting for the guy who wants to WIN rather than races not to lose. On TV, the “Falco Bergamasco” said all bets are off above 2000 meters so tomorrow will be a big test. Based on his performance so far, his rivals should be VERY concerned about how to get enough time on him to survive the chrono stage on Sunday. Had to feel a bit for Scarponi today, he was fried but attacked over and over purely on heart I think. I was happy to see the Boring Basso Train finally come off the rails a bit…he’s burned through all his team and still doesn’t have the maglia rosa.

  6. Absolutely! He couldn’t be in a better position for his skill set. While the other GC riders grimaced and tired, Hesjedal was in complete command of his abilities. His form maintained while others rocked and heads dropped. CVdV and P. Stetina will grind for Ryder tomorrow, legs willing!

    Purito hit the wall today, though still managed 3rd. Scarponi couldn’t match Hesjedal in the final stretch and Basso’s big diesel engine was no match today for Ryder’s legs. Is Szymd cracked for good? Capecchi cracked with about 30km to go today, will he recover well tonight? And can Agnoli and Caruso continue as strong tomorrow as today?

    Hesjedal doesn’t need to take pink tomorrow because he’s got Purito beat in the TT, though winning the stage would be the icing on the cake. Must ride smart and conserve some for Sunday:) And I don’t think Scarponi and Cunego will be able to catch Ryder and Garmin’s two super domestiques tomorrow, just a hunch.

    Bring on the Queen stage!!

  7. It will be a sight to behold if all the GC aspirants crack on the slopes of Stelvio and Ryder smoking a Purito. This has truly been a beautiful race, I fear that Le Tour will feel “boring” after this Giro.

  8. CAN Ryder win the Giro……of course; he’s shown it already

    WILL Ryder win, that’s the question.
    Dropping those climbers today was as impressive as anything he’s done in his career. Those guys are built for that, and he beat them straight up.

    Exciting stuff….

  9. @Paul

    While I understand and respect where the passionate cycling fan’s immediate reaction to such a performance is one of cycism, I think it is sorely misplaced in Ryder’s case. He is a late bloomer, has progressed slowly but surely, and if anyone has followed his career this one GT is probably the culimination of his physical powers. For all the talk of the lightweight climbers dropping him on the steeps, the guy is 6`4“ and weighs what, MAYBE 69 kgs in this 3rd week of the the Giro? Power to weight is everything, and he has leaned out of the years.

    I certainly don’t pretend to have a crystal ball or reverse time-machine glasses, but I think it is safe to say he is 100% clean, expecially given the Garmin outfits controls outside of the bio-passport and the Adams whereabouts system.

    • He’s tall and skinny but let’s not go overboard. The man is “only” 6’2″ tall. His stated weight is 72 kg. Check the Garmin website. Certainly he is going to be lighter at the end of the Giro, but he hasn’t got to that Andy Schleck/Brad Wiggins emaciated state yet. Wiggins is nearly 6’3″ and claimed weight is 69 kg. Hesjedal is just tough.

  10. At this point I would say that it is Ryder’s Giro to lose, did he go to hard today???

    What about Rodriguez’s chances at the Maglia Rossa, he needs 7 points. Are those 7 points out there and will he be given the opportunity to get them?

  11. Lots of cycling folks with decent fitness brag about heading to Maui to ride the volcano and struggle to get it done in 4-5 hours, I heard from a friend last night Ryder rode the 10,000 ft Haleakala 38 times, all under sub 3 hrs. His record is just over 2.5 hrs.

    I think he’s got it in him!

    • There’s a huge difference between “cycling folks with decent fitness” and a professional cyclist. It’s like comparing your high school bully with Ali at his peak.

    • Here’s a 2009 video of Ryder’s attempt at the Mt Haleakala unofficial record … he didn’t break Jonathan Vaughters’ time on this attempt, but did set the record a few weeks later.
      The “action” starts about 3:30 into the video.

      For this non-record-setting ride, the video end credits summarized:
      about 10,000 ft (3050 m) climb
      2hr 33min
      57km (35.4 mi)
      avg speed 22.3 kph (13.9 mph)
      350 watts average

      Note that at the 10,000 ft peak, oxygen content is only about 70% of sea-level, which makes the 350 watts average even more impressive.

  12. I think he can pull it off but what is his strategy for the next two days?

    Go for more time on Stelvio and sacrifice energy for Sunday’s ITT or sit in and let the followers battle for the remaining podium spots while saving energy for Sunday.

    Either way, it’s exciting to watch.

  13. I think if they come to base of the Stelvio all together Ryder will stay with them. Purito (or others) need to put him under pressure on the steeper Motirolo, if they can. Early attacking might beat him but it is a risky tactic for holding into one’s podium spot.

    PS I loved how Ryder attacked when he smelled blood in the water!

    • I agree. I’m betting Rodriguez is wishing the Motirolo was the finishing climb. The steepness suits his explosiveness, and he could probably get away from everyone, even Hesjedal. But it is too far from the finish to consolidate his gains. Maybe if he had teammates up the road. My guess is if they get to the bottom of the Stelvio together Ryder will be smiling.

    • All he has to do is stay close for tomorrow. Keep all his rivals infront of him and in his sights as long as possible and ride a realistic TT.

      If he can stay calm and use others he will be right were he needs to be. ( Hawaii is a TT
      He has some of the better Italian teams plotting against him he has to hang on and just limit his loss) That said, He has not truly been put under pressure yet on a big climb.

      Good Luck,

  14. having watched Ryder since he used to smoke the starts at NORBA National MTB events I’d say he’s earned his place through hard work and talent. I hope he gets the win and I’m getting up early to watch it all unfold tomorrow….Stetina and VdV will sell themselves to help – remember he had two helpers a long time long as Basso almost! Can’t wait…

  15. Of course he can!
    The question now is… are the others going to try anything to prevent it or simply assume defeat because he was the strongest yesterday?

    • Rodriguez and Basso raised the white flag yesterday, admitting that Hesjedal is the strongest.
      It’s now Ryder’s race to lose, which he won’t, the Gods willing.

      Some non-GC riders should also make the queen stage fantastic to watch as a bonus to the overall. I’d love to see Pozzovivo attack for the stage win if he’s got his legs back today…and R. Uran is down too much on time and could go all out on this stage if his legs are there. A day of attrition and great pain, but also a day for the ages.

      No live video yet here in the US (and no TV)…first break of 13 riders is up the road…two more hours of agony, waiting for visuals…wish I were there!

  16. I love it when a mountain biker shows the roadies how to handle all around riding. Ryder Rides with a big heart and even bigger stones. He showed the big men how to ride down a mountain at full speed. He is a working mans rider and I really hope he pulls it out.

    • It’s hard to normalize for different levels of effort (Ryder dusted JRod at Pais Vasco last year, but this year he was far from peak form and had a lower time–at least, that’s the theory). Nonetheless this chart does not look particularly encouraging for Ryder. Of course Ryder and JRod have both ridden time trials that aren’t listed here, but is it possible that we are simply ascribing TT ability to Ryder because he rides on a strong TT team and he has done well in the (distant) past? What other major time trials has Ryder performed well on in the recent past?

      The nice thing about not having any one person to root for is that you can appreciate the race for its drama without getting emotionally involved. I’m well past that here.

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