Who Will Win The Giro?

With the race four days away, time to run through the list of contenders for the race. Bradley Wiggins and Vincenzo Nibali appear to stand above the others but fortunately there’s no script.

One big difference this year is amount of foreign contenders. In recent years the Giro has looked like the Italian stage race championships but now riders are coming from as far as Canada, Britain and Australia to win the race.

First let’s remind ourselves of the route. A team time trial, one long flat time trial, an uphill time trial and then six summit finishes. The normal stages also come with time bonuses of 20-12-8 seconds for the top three each day.

The course and time bonuses can help our predictions but remember the best experts will struggle to pick the weather for this weekend. But the forecast suggests Sky vs the sky blue Astana.

Bradley Wiggins starts as the prime pick. Received wisdom says Wiggins won last year’s Tour de France thanks to the route’s long time trials and reduced climbing. But it should be remembered he put time into every rival in the mountains too. The Giro remains a different proposition but the stock phrase last summer was “we’ve trained for that” and Wiggins will have planned for the steeper slopes and practised sprinting for time bonuses. The Giro’s efforts are less linear, the strategy of riding at, say, 450W for a fixed period of time is harder with irregular slopes and the sprint for time bonuses… which is why Sky will be keen to let lesser riders go up the road to mop up the time bonuses and thus deprive Wiggins’s real GC rivals of time bonuses.

It also makes the team tactic of setting a tempo in the mountains harder. Certainly the benefits of sitting tight on the wheels is reduced when the speed drops on the double-digit gradients which means Sky’s mountain train tactic will be less effective. Indeed there’s talk Wiggins comes to the Giro with a weaker team. But Sir Bradley’s crusade requires a band of Knights Tempo suited to the high mountains, with the likes of Rigoberto Urán, Sergio Henao and Kanstantsin Siutsou.

In last year’s Tour the first time trial stage , 41.5km from Arc-et-Senans to Besançon, saw him put 2.07 into Vincenzo Nibali. Over 55km he could put three minutes into Nibali and more into the other climbers. Then it becomes a question of marshalling this lead over the mountains. Logic and arithmetic don’t work the Giro but for let’s try: three minutes over six mountain stages means surrendering 30 seconds per stage but with the time bonus it means this gap has to be even less.

But Wiggins is trading on his reputation. He’s been fifth in the Volta a Catalunya and fifth in the Giro del Trentino although technical problems disrupted this and as a result he will be on traditional mechanical gears for the Giro and not electronic gears.

Vincenzo Nibali is the next pick. To win he must be the all-Italian superhero, a sky-blue Maciste who climbs with the best, beats the clock and punches the pedals to win stages and time bonuses.

He’s had an ideal season so far with wins in Tirreno-Adriatico and the Giro del Trentino. In years past he’s won the Vuelta and finished third and second on the Giro. Nibali won’t calculate his race on Wiggins but it’s clear he’ll need to attack and sprint in the mountain stages in order to take back time lost during the time trial. By extension we can expect his Astana team to ride tempo to chase down breakaways so he can try to scoop the time bonuses. He’s a lively racer with a combative style. He’s focused on the Giro, there’s no talk about doing the Tour, only victory in Brescia counts.

Like any superhero Nibali has his weak spot. His is tactical, he’s prone to attacking too early in a race. It’s great to watch but often the audacity comes at a cost and he’s caught and dropped. Another is his relaxed style. An anecdote: he targeted the Tour de France in 2012 but never visited a single stage of the race and revealed he thought the first time trial was for teams rather than individuals until just a days to go. A move to Astana seems to have helped his relaxed indifference, he’s been training more on his time trial bike and working on his aero position. But it’s hard to imagine he’s become the total professional in the space of a few months.

Ryder Hesjedal is the defending champion. His win in 2012 was a surprise. He’d never won a stage race before, perhaps this meant rivals were willing to let him go on the road to Monte Cervinia, the move which let him take time on others? I kept thinking he’d crack in the final week as the climbs and time bonuses would suit Joaquim Rodriguez but in the end he held on tight enough to reclaim the lead in the final time trial. This year he won’t get such a free rein and the course is less suitable since he’s rarely in the top-10 for a time trial. A podium is possible… but I said this last year and he won. He comes with a strong team in his service with Peter Stetina and Christan Vande Velde notable helpers for the climbs.

Cadel Evans appeared on road cycling’s radar when he took the pink jersey in the 2002 Giro, an era when Eminem and Celine Dion topped the charts. Now 36 he wants to beat triple winner Fiorenzini Magni to become the race’s oldest winner. Experience counts for plenty and he’s coming into good form as his climbing showed in the Giro del Trentino. A good time trialler, he’s also a punchy rider capable of winning time bonuses. Seventh in the Tour last year when ill suggests if he’s fresh then he’ll still be a force but the BMC team look mixed, they still lack climbing power in support. Hard to see him winning but the podium’s quite possible.

Robert Gesink (Blanco) is another foreigner targeting this race. The “Condor of Varsseveld” can soar in the mountains and is better in the time trials than you’d think. But consistency is a problem for him as is rotten luck. Crashes, illness and other misfortune makes you think the likeable rider unwittingly ran over a box of black kittens some time ago on the family farm. But when things go well he’s an exciting rider with fifth place in the 2010 Tour de France to his credit. This will be his Giro debut.

Ivan Basso (Cannondale) has not had any results this year and left the Tour de Romandie by the back door. But the Giro is his goal this year and if he’s been working hard then perhaps he was just dead tired in Switzerland after a block at altitude and will come fresher to the Giro? He’s a hard rider to read, perpetually calm in manner and riding style alike. Remember he was unremarkable this time last year – 33rd in Romandie – before finishing fifth overall will not start the race after a cyst, probably a saddlesore, prevents him from starting.

Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida) and Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) are two experienced climbers who will lose molto time in the time trial and then have to claw it back with attacks and stage wins in the final week. Scarponi is in form as his smooth riding in the Giro del Trentino and Liège showed. By contrast Sanchez hasn’t had the results this year and aged 35 the Giro. 15th in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, 18th in Tirreno-Adriatico, a long mountain breakaway beckons.

Others to watch
One of the best things with the Giro is that it has a lot of open stages where any of the 207 girini can bring a surprise. A hilly stage or some bad weather can turn the race upside down. Here are a few names who could animate the race and alter the tactics of the main contenders.

Mauro Santambrogio (Vini Fantini) is in winning form and an easy pick for a stage win in the mountains. I’ve long liked the Vini Fantini team because of manager Luca Scinto’s simple ways but the fluo yellow is looking less bright these days as the team has recruited Danilo Di Luca and Stefano Garzelli, and both are in form. Matteo Rabottini took one of the best wins last year and will feature in the breakaways again.

Radioshack’s Robert Kišerlovski could impress. 10th in the 2010 Giro, he’s had his fair share of bad luck over the years, including crashing out of the Tour de France when tacks were dropped on the road. He’s in form and was strong in Romandie on the main mountain stage.

José Rujano is back with Vacansoleil-DCM. In 2010 he was the only rider who could stay with Alberto Contador in the mountains but he’s looking erratic this year, 34th in the Romandie prologue was his best result this year. A high overall position is almost impossible but his team is counting on him and he could come good for the final week? Indeed it’s the same story with many South Americans whether the entire Team Colombia with the likes of Darwin Atapuma and Jarlinson Pantano but also others riding for the Italian teams.

By contrast Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale) has to worry about holding the form he’s had since early April. He rode the Giro as a neo-pro in 2011 and finished fourth on the final mountain stage, proof he’s got the recovery powers for a grand tour. But the Colombian is likely to animate stages rather than the overall. The same for team mate Domenico Pozzovivo, the race passes through his home region on Stage 5 but recovering from a cracked rib, he’ll be more at home in the Alps.

Movistar pair Beñat Intxausti and Eros Capecchi could each surprise but I’m sure I said this last year too. One novelty is Saxo-Tinkoff’s climber Rafał Majka will be allowed chances for himself. One antique is FDJ’s Sandy Casar who is aiming to ride all three grand tours this year. The Frenchman was sixth in 2006, a notable performance for a rider long held to be cleaner than an FDJ jersey still in its packaging.

88 thoughts on “Who Will Win The Giro?”

  1. ryder is not getting enough credit for his win last year and the media is downplaying his chances of winning again for some reason. he is exactly where he wants to be and he has a great attitude. it wasn’t like he took time on one stage last year. it was everyday he was there making moves, staying safe and putting the pressure on others.

    there is no arguing wiggins and nibali are the top favs. but who could be the surprise winner this year?

      • Funny that, I must have missed you and the 19 others as a Brit on holiday in Canada last August. The guy on the ranch we stayed at had no idea about the Giro neither did the guy in the local bike store – he was busy watching the world downhill champs on DVD!

        Good ride Ryder.

    • Ryder certainly deserves credit for his win, but the level of competition vs this year is not even in the same ballpark. Besides Rodriguez (who, to be honest, wasn’t even at his season’s peak), he went up against a pu-pu platter of aging Italian ex-dopers and young, inexperienced potential GC guys. Wiggin and Nibali are cream of the crop. Evans and Sanchez should be better than anyone besides Purito last year.

      Beyond the individual riders, there were no true power teams at the Giro last year; it was generally every man to himself. Sky and Astana are going to bring the heat. Uran and Henao are that much better than this time last year.

      This is going to be a tough podium to come by. No doubts that Ryder is prepared, but this is going to be a far greater challenge than last year.

      • I beg to differ. Ryder’s ride last year was one of the best I’ve seen in years. And while you’re busy slagging off his level of competition, do keep in mind that Nibali’s sole grand tour victory had him beating none other than…..Peter Velits.

        • True, but Nibali was also 24 or 25 when he won that grand tour. He is now mature enough to be called “in his prime”. I don’t even think it’s debatable that he has since joined the elite levels of GC contenders after his performances over the past year and a half (T-A, TdF, Trentino).

          I’m not saying Ryder won’t step up to the occasion again (after all, he did everything he needed to for the win), but a moderate dose of skepticism is warranted in this situation. Especially considering he has by far the weakest support team of the three favorites.

          If you are not convinced Nibali and Wiggins are a cut above the rest, take a look at their GC finishes over the past five years. Then look at Ryder’s. One of them is not like the others.

      • There was no grand tour with a complete field last year. Wiggins beat a teammate kept in check, Nibali, and van den Broek. Every other fav had crashed out, doped out, or was already injured. No Contador, no schleck, no Sanchez, no Ryder, and a sick Evans. It was not a win against the best. Ryder beat Purito, Basso, Scarponi, de Gent, Kreuziger and a crashed out Frank S. Contador beat Purito, Valverde and an allegedly out of form Froome. I am not sure that there is much to pick between any of those fields. This Giro is going to be exciting because, provided everybody keeps the rubber down, it will be the most complete field since the 2011 Tour.

      • Agreed. I watched it via torrent in South America ex post facto and went from having only a vague idea who Ryder was to really rooting for him in the final TT. As you say, you expected him to be dropped, and he certainly looked in the ropes at times, but then he’d dig out a huge effort to keep him in the game. It was awesome!

  2. It’s going to be an intriguing Giro for sure. The biggest question will be the collaboration of the like-minded grimpeurs vs Wiggo. If they band together and even take it in turns on different days to attack from long range (Scarponi, Samu, Gesink, looking at you here) in the mountains, it could create some uncomfortable dilemas for Sky.

    • The downside of having so many grimpeurs is that they could split the time bonuses between them. Not that it’ll happen, but Sky could even try and use Henao and Uran to steal bonuses from Nibali, leaving Sivtsov/Siutsou, Cataldo, and Zandio to keep Wiggins within spitting distance of the key GC threats.

    • There’s often talk of alliances but they rarely happen, most riders would rather finish second themselves than help someone else to win. But there should be some obvious benefits for the climbers to attack or take turns etc.

  3. The Giro has easily become my favorite race to watch. This year’s field should provide even more fireworks than last year.

    Interesting that Wiggo has decided to switch to mechanical shifting for the giro after his recent mechanical troubles. Brad seems to get what Brad wants on Team Sky. I say this in light of Froome’s assuring everyone (anyone) he can find that he is the leader for the Tour. Last time I checked it was April and the Tour starts sometime in July?!? Froome may by trying to convince himself the most of anyone. History tells us that Sky was created around Wiggins and the goal to produce a first British tour winner. It seems to me Sir Brad is the be all and end all of Sky’s grand tour aspirations, no matter how many lead in races Chris Froome wins. Of course I could be mistaken about this, but it would be interesting to see what Cav’s thoughts are on how much “support” Brad is going to provide for Froome’s tour ambitions. Let the polemica continue!

    • “Brad seems to get what Brad wants on Team Sky.” Which some might argue is the way it should be. Or at least when it relates to the Team Leader wanting whatever he thinks is necessary to achieve one of his main goals for the season. Perhaps not so much when your leader wants an easy life, full team support despite being past it, or just to jerk people’s chains in revenge for their perceived prior jerking of yours.

  4. Concur that it’s primarilly Wiggins versus Nibali. Given the TT’s (and barring any mishaps) Nibali will have to put a lot of time into Wiggins in the mountains, as you mention, something he totally failed to do at last years TdF. Having said that it’s not last year and this isn’t the Tour so I’m hopeful of a good battle – roll on the rollout!

  5. Great preview again inrng… one request I have: I am always surprised by the limited attention in almost all stage race previews regarding the sprint battles to be expected. For me, one of the great things of cycling is that within one race there are all kinds of sub races going on, and many commentators seem to agree during the race .- but in the previews that seems to be less often visible.

    Keep up the great work though!

  6. What about Urán or Henao? I can imagine Wiggins falling off his bike or sliding back on climbs, while his teammates are charging ahead.

  7. My feeling is wiggo is just a little off the pace this year both physically and mentally. Whilst he was unfortunate at trentino the tantrum with the bike strikes of more underlying issues, specifically the promotion of Chris froome and playing second best this year. Whatever he says in public this is hard for anyone to take. So whilst I think wiggo will push nibali I think the italian has the far greater hunger and that will win out in the end.

    • Agreed that at the very top level in sport it sometimes comes down to a simple question of ‘who really wants it most’? Agreed that the answer is probably Nibali.

      • Can;t understand why everyone is counting out Ryder. I would put my money on the defending champion. Might even see a guy from the break in Pink before the stage 8 super ITT. Then it goees on Wiggo or Ryders shoulders

    • Yh I see what you mean about the mentally part. I remember after his mechanical at Romandie last year he was much more composed, although that was in a TT. Maybe the 2012 Wiggo would have calmly got a bike switch instead at Trentino?
      Still, can’t see past him or Nibbles.

      • There’s always the possibility that this was because he had been battling with saddle-sore the whole week, finishing a course of antibiotics just days before all the hard work ending because of a mechanical. He was quoted as almost wanting a DNS on one of the earlier stages.

  8. ”Sky will be keen to let lesser riders go up the road to mop up the time bonuses”
    So in a way the presence of Team Colombia works in Wiggins’ favour?

    PS Love the boxful of black kittens image, verily you are the Salvador Dali of cycling metaphors…..

  9. Most teams seem to be beaten into whimpering submission by Sky before the race has even begun. I sincerely doubt if the likes of Scarponi and Basso will dare take on Sky – they’ll probably try and hold 6th place or something equally tedious. Basso is a funny one – he never has any form but can usually be guaranteed to be in the elite selection in the mountains. Ditto Scarponi. But neither can seem to attack anymore. Nibali however clearly has the balls and was pretty much the only rider to resist Sky in last year’s TDF.

    Gesink? Please, the dude was like 10 minutes behind at Romandie. Sanchez yes, the guy has a lot of talent and is not far removed from a TDF podium. But his team sucks. He managed his good TDF finish riding in tandem with Contador, but this time even Nieve and Anton are absent. He’s got a slim chance of overall, decent shout of a podium. Betancur and Pozzovivo could make an entertaining and potent 1-2 punch for Ag2r.

    Carlos has shown pretty mental form this season and I simply can’t see any scenario where the likes of Evans, Basso and Gesink don’t lose loads of time to him in the mountains. Betancur has the vigour of youth and is not weighed down by the interminable doubts and minor injuries that seem to hinder the aforementioned quadruplet. He rides in a manner suggests he’s not short on confidence and he may not actually be aware that he’s probably not good enough for a top 5. I’ll put my neck on the line – Betancur will own Gesink in the overall.

    A point I made in another article on here, and one that merits repeating – yes Nibali couldn’t really dislodge Sky in the TDF last year – but Sky’s team was stronger and Nibali’s much weaker. Astana have a pretty solid line up now. You have to respect Bradley because hes’ the reigning TDF champ, and that perhaps makes him a very slight favourite. But I think Nibali is going to greatly enjoy the challenge of making Bradley uncomfortable in the mountains. If he really gives it both barrels (which I hope and believe he will do) then Bradley will be in trouble. They’ve got unfinished business from last year’s tour and even from Trentino. This is a rivalry.

    Plain and simple logic tells me this – Wiggo is better in the TTs, Nibali is better in the mountains. This race has more mountains than TTs. Nibali will win. All I hope is that both riders give it their best shot and battle epically.

  10. It’s a shame Thomas De Gendt isn’t taking part. 3rd in the GC and what I thought was an imperious win at the top of the Stelvio should have boded well for this year, but he’s apparently saving himself for the Tour?

    I want Wiggins to win, but it’s one thing having a team with Richie Porte and Chris Froome (GC contenders in their own right) carrying you around the Pyrenees, it’s another to expect the same of Uran and Henao on the more variable gradients in Italy. However I also think that this is Wiggins’ best chance of a Grand Tour victory this year, because the Tour will see Contador return, and Froome vying for leadership, which is never pretty.

    Nibali will cause Wiggins problems, Astana are a more focused unit than Liquigas last year, and he’s due a result. But I also believe last year’s Tour gave Wiggins a psychological edge over Nibali, and this might show again in the Giro.

    • Wow, have we come so far that Richie Porte is called a GT contender…….Richie Porte???

      I will have some of what Sky is having.

  11. It will be intriguing battle, I have always wondered why Sky don’t try and get one or two riders into the breaks especially on Mtn stages, every team looks to them to do the pace setting. Why not put Uran or Henao in the break, easily capable of winning stages themselves, taking time bonus’ etc.

    Ryder’s form from LBL looks very good, I think he will go well.

    The time bonus’ will make it very tactical.

    For me Wiggins for the Win, hopefully Cadel can get on the podium and Ryder to be there as well. Nibali to miss it altogether. I don’t expect Cadel to be that strong.

  12. It’s a shame Ulissi isn’t riding for Lampre. He’s looked impressive this spring. Is he being saved for le Tour? Time to move on from Scarponi, really, isn’t it?

  13. I am excited to see Ryder this year. He can tt fairly well (better than nibbles), can climb and showed some promise when he rode away in lbl. Not to mention he can descend far better than wiggans, so a Ryder/nibbles attack over the top of one of the steeper pitches could prove quite difficult for the sky boys. The fact a punchy purito cound not dislodge him last year suggests he may fair better with the styles of wiggans and Evans.

    Regardless I find the way Eurocentric press ignores him rather shocking, and see him at least as viable to beating wiggans as nibbles is. Will be a good three weeks!

    • He’s two kilos lighter as well which should count, plus a lot more confident.

      One problem for the media is interviewing him. I don’t mean this in a disparaging way but he’s a quiet guy without controversial views. Getting a quote out of him is not easy for the interviews so he can get ignored by the media.

      • What can I say? He’s Canadian and his boss is the ever politik Vaughters. Zabriskie is probably more fun to interview but abstract humour only goes so far to defer answering tough questions.

        Best interviewees – retired guys, guys without a mic and notepad in front of them, and guys with 2 shots of tequila in them.

  14. I will go with Wiggins, not because of him being a racing cert but because of his big stage race experience and the fact that I don’t see anyone there capable of beating him. Nibali is excellent but I don’t see him having the whole round package to crush Bradley. Love the Giro and in some ways its far better than that French one.

  15. I’m just happy Grand Tour racing is back. I’ve been watching GT ’12 reruns and it’s time for new material and stories!

    Cycling is still a team sport. If Wiggo’s/Nibble’s lieutenants aren’t up to snuff – they’ll be left all alone to cover for themselves.

    Also, one bad crash [knock on wood that everyone is safe] and everything changes.

    Here we go sports fans!

    • Yes, the scenario can change at any time. Like I said above it’s hard to get an accurate weather forecast for the weekend so what happens in the race is bound to be a surprise. At least we can only hope it turns out this way.

  16. People keep talking about Wiggins taking time in the mountains in the tour, but lets be honest, he only did this because all the other rivals knew that they had to attack from so far out in order to try to gain the time needed that they lost in the 100+ km of time trialing. With more summit finishes and fewer individual TT km’s, Wiggins is in a tough spot. Sky is sending a weaker team and they will be forced to try to hold off all of the other teams attacking on every mountain stage and for 2 weeks. They, and Wiggins, won’t be able to do it

    • Everyone seems to be saying that Sky are sending a weak team, but really it looks pretty strong.
      There’s no pretensions of a sprinter, so everyone’s working for GC.
      From last year’s tour team, Porte, Rogers and Froome have been replaced by Zandio, Uran and Henao, which I suppose is where the weakness is percieved. – But Uran and Henao were both in the top ten at last years’ Giro and Henao especially has had a strong start to the year.
      Sure there’s no Froome – but given the current media-enriched friction, that may not be a bad thing.

      • That’s one of the points I was trying to make above, the Tour’s mountains are generally longer and steadier so you can set tempo with riders like Rogers or Porte and benefit from sitting tight on the wheels at 25km/h on a 6% slope. In the Giro the slope could be 9% and you’re doing 18km/h and so there’s less benefit having a mountain train and you need stronger climbers rather than rouleurs/climbers.

  17. “One big difference this year is amount of foreign contenders. In recent years the Giro has looked like the Italian stage race championships…”

    Which Giro are you talking about? Trentino? Let me remind you of last year’s podium consisting of zero Italians. Or the year before, where just two Italians made the top 10 (1st and 2nd, but still…). 2010 was very much an Italian affair, but then again, the 2009 edition was not.

    • Good point, it’s just at the start of the race the list of contenders has looked very Italian, albeit with some obvious selections. But still, it’s a long way from the 1990s when in one year 14 Italian teams started the race.

  18. Everbody is talking of the TT’s and high mountains.. but the race has enough punchy finishes and if you add the time bonushes at the end then they seem very important. Do not forget that Nibali & Scarponi are very good in such finishes and will attack here.. Stage 4 for example is a place they should attack in order to gain time on Wiggins before the TT…

    Key for Wiggins and Sky is no lose any time before the TT.. and maybe be already ahead of the others after the TTT..

  19. My money is on Sir Bradley. Just because he has turned out to be one of the smartest bike riders around led by a not lesser smart entourage and him having the biggest engine. I agree that his style of winning GTs is very calculated, controlled and not very entertaining but that’s what Indurain’s was, too.
    Wiggo has proven that he can be extremely focused when you give him a target and that he really needs a target for his own mental health. So I expect his shape to be as competitive as it was last year although we haven’t seen much of it so far. And given that he won’t have his biggest adversary in his own line-up and the more relaxed atmosphere at the Giro I see him being even more performant than under all the pressure he had at the TdF last year. He doesn’t seem to like or benefit from exterior pressure in order to perform to his maximum.
    Let’s hope all favorites keep the rubber side down, then Ryder will probably be his biggest threat whereas Nibali in my eyes isn’t smart enough to win against those guys in a three-week tour. I’m pretty sure he would not even have won in Trentino if Wiggo had not had his issue with the bike. Nibali’s racing style is by far the most entertaining for us tifosi but in these days where you can’t rejuvenate over night making use of every method the modern medecine offers the accumulated waste of energy of this style of racing will eventually cost him. I think his biggest problem is that in his self-perception he sees himself as an even better bike racer than re really is. That’s why he reacts so huffy when he thinks that anybody has not shown him the respect he deserves. If he had an even bigger engine an attitude like that would win him more races with spectacular performances. But especially the younger history has told us that rather cold-blooded riders win grand tours and not hotheads when there is a level playing field in terms of performance.

    • I agree to a point, but I think that firstly Astana look to be the strongest team that Sky have come up against in recent history (altho Saxo weren’t bad in the Vuelta), and secondly that Nibali could use that explosiveness to mop up enough time bonuses to make up for TT deficits. It only takes 2 or 3 20 seconders to make a decent difference. Lucky for Wiggo that Purito and Pisterolo aren’t here tho, as I think he can out diesel Ryder/Evans etc etc.

    • In what way have you seen Nibali race “not smart”, LBL ’12? I look at last years Tour and remember Nibbles dosing out his efforts as calculated as Wiggo. Whereas Sir Bradley puts in time in the TT’s, Nibbles attacks on downhill sections and punchy climbs. That is why I love the Wiggs v. Nibbs battle. Also, Nibali has proven his class in stage races and GT’s alike. Not many guys in today’s peloton with his palmares. So maybe not self-perception but well deserved self confidence.

      • Hi Gregario,
        thanks for your reply.
        I think his move in LBL 2012 was actually one of his smartest move. This year he also made a great move that won him Tirreno. But last year in the Tour? He tried to escape on the descent from the Grand Colombier only to find out that his team mate Sagan couldn’t hold on and help him after the descent and that the finish line is still sooo far away. Nibali was so cooked and disappointed when he reached the finish with Wiggo & Co. that he later came up with that story that Wiggo had looked at him disrespectfully. The same is true for that last stage (?) in the Pyrenees when he attacked in the descent of the Col de Mente. That was a predictable waste of energy that he could have used later in the mountaintop finish when Froome and Wiggins disposed of him rather easily.
        Or in the Giro 2011 which Contador won. Nibali attacked in the second to last descent of that ultra long stage. He then got caught and passed in the following climb by not only Contador but also some other men because he was so exhausted by his attack.
        That’s why I think that he has proven many times that his racing is not controlled by his head but powered by his anger and his overestimation of his own capabilities.
        But maybe that has changed since he moved to Astana. We will find out soon.

        • Gregario and Anonymous,
          Can’t say that I completly agree or disagree with either of you, however I do take issue with one aspect of both of your arguments. As fans we seem to judge all tactics as smart or dumb based soley on there results. Announcers do this all the time. If a breakaway attempt works; genius, if it fails; frivolous waste of energy. If you have a chance to get away from a rival with a much stronger team and TT and bridge up to PETER SAGAN how could you not. Because they got tired it was seen as dumb. Sometimes riders just don’t have it that day. It drives me nuts when we say things from our couches like “he made a mistake by not staying on so and so’s wheel” when sometimes guys just can’t do it. But back to Nibali, I respect his style because although his moves don’t always work, he makes moves that if successful will actually win him the race. Racing to win is a lot different than racing for a high finish. He takes chances and against the likes of Wiggo and Contador that is smart racing.

  20. I am a little puzzled by all this talk of Astana’s strong team. Don’t get me wrong it is pretty good but Sky’s is clearly way better. Wiggins has three riders supporting him who have finished in the top 10 at the Giro in the recent past along with one (Cataldo) who finished twelfth. In contrast I believe that nobody on the Astana team except Nibali has ever finished that high in a grand tour. If Nibali wins, and he may, it won’t be because his team is stronger.

    It is hard to see past the two big contenders in what should be a fascinating duel though. The way the race is structured with the team and individual time trials up front means that Wiggins is likely to have chunky lead over his rival after the first week meaning Nibali will have to attack in the mountains. Based on last year’s Tour the question is whether Nibali is capable of dropping Wiggins.

    I think the analysis above that Wiggins could take three minutes in the long time trial is fair and I expect the differences in the Team and Mountain trials to be minimal so how does Nibali get that back. Given some of the punchy finishes and his better kick he will get about a minute in time bonuses meaning he has to take 2 minutes plus on the mountains. Unless Wiggins blows up that is realistically getting gaps on two or three of the mountain top finishes which is doable but will require him to ride more aggressively and better than he did at the Tour last year and Brad to a notch or two below.

    My head is saying Wiggins is the more likely winner but as a fan of the Briton, my deeply pessimistic heart thinks that the steeper Giro climbs might see Nibali put enough time into him. Still a very exciting race in prospect with two likeable favourites so let’s hope it lives up to the expectations.

  21. A lot of comments are mentioning that Nibali is the more explosive rider and that time bonuses will assist him in the win.
    First of all, if the bonuses are the same as last year, they won’t apply to the mountain stages, just the sprints and short sharp finishes where they’ll either be mopped up by Cavendish/Degenkolb or Bentacur/Uran/Heanao.
    Secondly, Nibali is one of the least explosive riders in the peloton. Look over his palmares, there’s two grand tour stage wins (both solo) and no one day victories of note. He doesn’t go for the long distance attack in LBL and Lombardia for the scenery.

      • What are your thoughts on bonus seconds? I see more justification for them on flat “sprint” stages, as a way of keeping the interest of potential GC contenders, rather than them just being a day to keep out of trouble. This could even work in 7-day stage races as a way of giving sprinters a better chance of GC contention, with the time bonuses helping to offset losses on summit finishes etc.

        I’m not quite as keen to see them on summit finishes; these stages generally provide selection and time gaps anyway. Whilst they do incentivise uphill sprinting in the final 500m of a stage if gaps are not already established, they seem to skew GC more in the favour of climbers. Whilst there’s an argument that climbers are generally more exciting riders with more panache (and that it’s therefore a good thing to see them having a better chance of overall victory than the diesels), it does seem to be a bit of an unnecessary extra, much in the way that I would disagree with adding a 20-second bonus for being the fastest man round a TT stage – the nature of the TT has already meant there will be time gaps, so adding additional time bonuses seems excessive.

        • I don’t like bonus seconds as a rule. I think the winner on GC should be the one who rides the course in the shortest time and bonuses distort that. I can see the argument for them on short stages races, especially those like the Tour Down Under without really selective stages, but for Grand Tours I don’t see the point.

          • i like time bonuses. Typically in a GT w/o bonuses, whoever wins the prologue keeps it until the mountains. Boring

            No bonuses in the mountains. I do like them oin uphill finishes that are cat 2 or smaller.

      • When though? Adam makes a fair point that his palmares do not indicate a rider with an intimidating kick. Nor does Wiggins’ obviously but it is hard to see Nibali regularly outkicking other climbers such as Henao who may be present at summit finishes.

        • I agree. And even Nibali knows that he has no sprint and is not explosive. Don’t remember where I read him saying that but I bet you’ll find that quote or interview on the internet rather quickly.

  22. From Wiggins’ BBC interview:

    “I’ve come off those silly [ovalised] rings now; I’m back on the normal o-rings, and it’s been a really good transition really.”

    That with going back to mechanical shifting, he must be making the sponsors squirm a little!

  23. Am off to italy for 10 days – miss saturdays stage due to travelling but after that its Giro heaven. If you have never watched the Giro live….do it before you die…..for me is the best of the grand tours, passionate fans, great course, beautiful start and finish towns and Gazetta from front to back with the Giro…takes the same to read the paper as to ride the stage almost !!!

  24. I’d like to see an exciting version of the Giro in 2013. Next would be a Nibali victory as Italian cycling needs a boost and those who race to win rather than not to lose, need some encouragement as well.

  25. Nibbles is certainly more punchy that Wiggo but there are other riders with more punch who will keep him away from the time bonuses I feel. I also suspect that we are going to see Wiggins diesel Nibali off his wheel on more than one occasion in the mountains.

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