Giro Stage 17 Preview

A speedy sprint stage to Switzerland. Normally this kind of stage sandwiched between the mountain stages would be reserved for the fast men but there are not many sure-fire sprinters left in the race and many riders will fancy their chances in a breakaway.

Steven Kruijswijk

Stage 16 Wrap: a crazy stage. On the way to the Mortirolo Astana’s David Malacarne crashed and it caused a split in the bunch with Alberto Contador on the wrong side after a puncture – not the first time Contador’s had problems from bad meat. Astana and Katusha started driving the pace. It was an idiotic idea, as if Astana should seek to profit from Contador’s misfortune and especially because Fabio Aru has been getting slower every day so his chances of staying clear of Spaniard on the Mortirolo were slim. An enraged Contador set his team to chase and once on the Mortirolo went solo in search of Aru, displaying that carnivorous rictus as he weaved up the road, standing up on the pedals for most of the climb, his front wheel weaving left and right to lessen the gradient. Contador caught Aru and Landa and sat behind them. Aru was climbing with his head dipping down, a sign of fatigue. After getting his breath back Contador jumped clear to leave the Astana leader more sardonic than Sardinian. Mikel Landa was given permission to mark Contador and they joined up “human coathanger” Steven Kruijswijk who can now hang the mountains jersey on those wide shoulders. Aru was left to fend for himself. Landa took the stage win, dropping Contador with ease. Can he do the same again in the mountains? It’s worth trying but he benefited yesterday from sitting on for a long time. Landa might have won the day and took a clear win but others like Kruijswijk, Amador, Trofimov and Hesjedal deserve credit for their hard racing.

The Route: the stage starts with the 6km climb to Teglio and an average of 7%, enough to force an early selection of stage hunters but they’ll have their work cut out on the main Adda valley roads. Indeed the sprinters need to contest the two TV points to bolster their lead as Alberto Contador still has the arithmetical chance of beating them all for the points jersey. The Croce di Menaggio late on is an easy climb, 3km at 6% and won’t be enough to eject the sprinters.

The Finish: the race rushes into Lugano via a small climb, not steep with 2km at 4%, especially as the sprinters left in the race are handy on short climbs and it’s probably not hard enough for Philippe Gilbert to do what he does. To reward any breakaway there are two hairpins on the way down with 3km to go to stretch things out before a flat run to the line littered with street furniture.

The Contenders: this would be a sprint stage if there were enough sprint teams. But with the exit of André Greipel and Greg Henderson plus Michael Matthews too the balance of escape artists versus teams wanting to set up a sprint has changed and tilted to the fugitives.

As it’s hard to pick who will triumph in a breakaway, pick from 40 names who are far down on GC but still have the strength to barge clear. Otherwise the default picks are the sprinters with Giacomo Nizzolo surely due a stage. He got chopped to bits in the finish in Jesolo but has the leg speed to win. The chopper that day was Sacha Modolo who is another obvious pick. Elia Viviani has a clear run and he’s been working in his climbing so the route should be fine for him. Moreno Hofland is a classy finisher but hasn’t been getting the final kilometre right, the same for Luka Mezgec. Given the absence of sprinters Katusha’s Sacha Porsev and old man Alessandro Petacchi too could be in the mix.

Nizzolo, Moldolo, Viviani
Hofland, Mezgec, Porsev, Any Breakaway Hero

Weather: better weather returns with a sunshine and a top temperature of 25°C.

TV: the feed starts at 3.00pm CET with and the finish is forecast for 5.15pm Euro time. Cyclingfans and both have links to pirata feeds.

The Giro is: not only on TV. Everyone has their preferred TV commentators, each to their own. RAI do a good job on TV and like other host broadcasters their output is superior to the international feed because it has additional input from moto commentators, just as Sporza has “Wielerman” Renaat Schotte on a motorbike following the spring classics. If you can try to find the ESPN Latin America coverage of the Giro during a mountain stage to listen to the commentary, they’re passionate about South American r-r-r-r-iders and r-r-r-oll their R’s theatrically for Andrrrrey Amadorrrr and it’s always Darrrrwin El Puma Atamapumaaa and Carlos Betancur is Banannnn-ito, it’s great. Italian radio is good but the live coverage on Rai 1 is not continuous, they’ll cut to the Giro and then play some music or discuss the news before returning to the race again. But the radio coverage is enjoyable thanks to ex-pro Massimo Ghirotto on the moto, his emotional, passionate voice sees his vocal chords straining as much as calf muscles on a rider.

84 thoughts on “Giro Stage 17 Preview”

  1. Not sure what kind of Mexican supplements the Astana boys are on, but they are riding hard for quite a few times already. I don’t think they’ll have anything left anymore.

  2. Well hopefully Steven Kruijswijks only supplement is the ” boterham met pindakaas”
    After Mollema and Geesink, who not always fullfilled the Dutch dreams of a top ten Grand Tour contender, who knows how Steven will fair. A pity he lost 8 minutes in the first two days of this Giro.

      • He first made a name for himself in the Giro when he and Mollema were team mates at Rabobank and both were lively on some mountain stages but struggled for results/headlines since. He’s doing very well but probably still needs a result so his name stands in the record books rather than “just” being a the breakaway king. This isn’t meant to dismiss his works, just that the mountains jersey will be a reward to keep.

        • Kruijswijk is remarkably strong in this Giro, but it is not a complete surprise. He finished 8th in the 2011 Giro in similar style, although he wasn’t (able to) attack on so many days. But he had a very strong last week, just like he has this year. According to his coach Louis Delahaije his natural ability to recuperate after intense exercise is extraordinary but he has been plagued with injuries in 2012 and 2013. He lacks the explosiveness which is why he often can’t respond to attacks while they climb. Louis in fact stated in he Dutch media before this Giro that he expected Kruijswijk to be able to finish top 10 and finish very strongly. He was right!

  3. As he was dropped by Contador, Hesjedal, Kruijswijk, Trofimov, Amador and finally his own teammate, I wonder if the thought crossed Aru’s mind that Astana’s plan to make the first week of the Giro as hard as possible, hammering away all day to pick up a handful of seconds, was really that good an idea, at least from his perspective. How would his fatigue be now if his team had just sat up on a few earlier stages?

    • Probably he was thanking his team they played it like that, because on the contrary he would feel the menace of struggling to make a top-ten which would be awful, given the expectations on him.
      Remember what I commented when most people were saying “much effort for a few seconds”?
      I observed that there’s quite a good bunch of contenders for the GC, in a Grand Tour, and you must have all of them out if you want to win or step up the podium.
      They got a few seconds on Contador, indeed, but what about Kruijswijk and Hesjedal, for example? Hesjedal was six mins back on GC at the end of the first week, Kruijswijk ten-and-half a minute.
      Trofimov was more than three minutes back, Amador two and-a-half like Caruso and König.
      Give them back that time difference (in the famous La Spezia stage they were all down from nearly a minute to 8-10′; even on the climbs they would have reduced time losses with an easier race), and give a look to the GC.
      Yes, things would have gone differently on the whole, but there would be much more pressure on Aru and Astana. They couldn’t be focusing themselves just on attacking Contador, they should be controlling breaks, too, and thinking about defense.

      My guess (just a wild guess) is that Aru isn’t in top form. Not being able to race just before the Giro hindered his preparation (besides the physical troubles he had). The team knew. They also knew that Contador couldn’t enter the race in top form, nor could he reach a full 100% because of his Tour project. And they knew that many observers deemed the race as back-loaded, thus planned to enter relatively low on form in the first week to grow on with a slow build-up to endure the slaughter of teh third week. Add to that the fact that when you don’t race as a preparation you’re at least favoured in “freschezza atletica” (freshness?), even if you lack depth.
      Hence they played their card trying to make out the best from the sparkling muscular freshness of Aru during the first week, cleaning out rivals from GC, then just hoped his natural endurance, climbing propension, third-week recovery – and guts – would keep him afloat to the end.

      Maybe it will work, maybe not, but it’s far from being nonsense (if things were like that).
      From my experience, anyway, I wouldn’t say that an easier ride would have helped him much more, even if I want to stress that we simply can’t know.
      When you’re short on form depth, you just can’t dig deeper than a given power output, if it was pure fatigue he would have gone sinking on Aprica (which I don’t rule out he may do soon, because of the huge fatigue he has accumulated yesterday!).

      • Your theory could be true, as with many things we don’t really have all the information required to make an informed judgement, but I still think that the satisfaction of distancing Kruijswijk, Trofimov and Hesjedal in week one probably is no consolation for watching Contador dance away. Also, since every Grand Tour is back-loaded, it’s probably impossible for a GC rider to ever build up enough of a time buffer in the early stages to counterbalance third week suffering.

        I’m saying this because the Aru of 2014 was a remarkably savvy Grand Tour rider for such a young guy. Attacking where he could win a stage and put the hurt on his opponents but other than that riding within himself and conserving energy. Perhaps something is very different this year like you suggest, but on the other hand why change a winning formula?

        • Because of the troubles in the prep. You know, there’s a reason if even the less racing riders try to be there in the prep races – still not in top form – when they are going to aim at GC in a GT: Armstrong himself always had his Dauphinée before the Tour! Exception must be programmed and calculated (i.e., if you’re going for the doppietta and so).
          We’ll see how Aru ends the Giro, but the time differences he put on the rivals during that first week are very competitive in terms of personal effort vs. time gained. It’s not about satisfaction. It’s about the pression he would have had on him with those guys nearer. Not only psychologically but also strategically.

          In a monstre stage like yesterday top-form, well-rested riders barely put 2′ on the likes of Amador, Trofimov, Hesjedal. Not to speak of Kruijswijk. Even imagining – which I think isn’t just realistic – that Aru’s lack of form when compared to Landa and Contador would have been compensated by avoiding the hard ride in the first week, he would have stayed, at best, with them.
          Hence, if we at least accept that he has even some lesser problem because of his not-so-perfect Giro approach, now he would be in bigger troubles, GC-wise.
          Neither Landa would be so well-placed in GC, allowing interesting team tactics on a stage like Friday’s.

          Note that I’m not saying they did good or not. If I knew, I would be sitting in a team car, or, even better, working for some betting company. We’ll see. I just say that it’s no nonsense, for what we’ve seen till now.

    • Sorry, befuddled by regional patriotism. Intended to write Adam Hansen! That assumes that Contador and Tinkoff-Saxo will allow the crumbs of a stage win to fall to a rouleur in the break coming in to finish in Alberto’s home town

  4. Massimo Ghirotto………I remember that name! To put it politely he was not my favourite cyclist in 1988 when he beat my fellow countryman Robert “wrong-turn” Millar atop Guzet Neige! – but I am sure he’s a good commentator!

  5. I’m so happy all those who predicted Astana would just ride around were wrong. Now they have place 2 AND 3 and made an isolated Pistolero put some serious work in yesterday. Great TV and Fabio Aru’s getting a reputation as a guy who TRIES to win rather than races not to lose, exactly what I like to see, even when things don’t go so well. I’m hoping for some tag-team action from them on the remaining stages. W Inrng! W Il Giro!

  6. It was a stage almost too painful to watch. The sad view of Contador literally pushing his last team mate up Mortirolo. Astana and Katusha destroying their reputation as classy, fair play teams. Poor Aru getting crucified for his errors. There were bright moments like Contador’s mountain TT, Kruijswijk’s great ride or Hesjedal’s efforts but all in all in my personal view Lande’s big day had a sour aftertaste.

  7. Speaking of commentators, is anyone else in Aus wishing that Tommo and Henk Vogels were doing the bulk of the commentating rather than Matt Keenan and the other guy?

    • Hmmm I don’t know, Tommo has a habit of stating the obvious/asking obvious questions which is perfectly acceptable as an interview technique but would not instill confidence in commentary. Him and Vogels (to a slightly lesser extent) also seem a bit too prone to fanboy-ing out for my preference, and I can handle that in interviews/post-race commentary but I don’t think I could for a whole stage.

      Whatever kvetching I have about the SBS Giro commentary (and I’d really have to think to come up with a serious problem I have with it besides ‘shoveled too much coal into the Porte hype train’) is offset by the convenience of watching the whole race without having to fight with Hola or pirate streams. (And by not wanting to start an internet fight about commentators)

      Also, I enjoy Keenan’s obscure AFL references!

    • I’m from Aus but not there at the moment – eight years OS.
      My understanding is Tomo knows nothing about nothing. For example, way back when, as Stu O’Grady was in yellow he actually asked Lance if he was worried about Stu.
      Has his understanding of cycling improved?

    • I don’t think I’d watch any cycling if the only option was Matt “Bloody” Keenan. Super Rugby and Eurosports HD cycling are the only reasons I subscribe to Foxtel. Sean Kelly burbling on about the “Motorola” beats Keenan reading from his Big Boys Book of Cycling for entertainment value any day

      • Kelly mangles plenty of names, he’s not very excitable, and his accent isn’t for everyone (although I have a soft spot for it because I grew up 25km away and you *never* hear an accent like that on Irish TV, which is full of people who sound like Declan Quigley or worse).

        His reading of a race is unparalleled though – he’s so good at predicting what’s going to happen five minutes before it does, and he’s good at gently correcting the main commentator when they say something ridiculous.

        • The other thing to remember with Kelly is that he’s been there and done it ALL, and to a massively high standard. You have to respect that experience and achievement.

        • Agree, I didn’t mean to sound negative about Sean Kelly, he adds more than anyone else to the coverage and the tortured syntax etc is part of the charm. eg he picked that Ivan Basso had donated his wheel to Contador from a nano-second view of a Tinkoff-Saxo rider fiddling with is bike on the side of the road yesterday. He really is the Voice of Cycling for discerning English speaking ears these days.

    • as far as I’m concerned: in a word, no. Keenan & McKenzie are doing a great job, refreshing change from all the others going around. Only Backstedt & Lloyd are equally interesting and informed. Their ability to include details about bike set-up, respond to tweets and allow each other to finish sentences…..there are many reasons I enjoy them. Henk & Tomo do a good job of the anchor roles, I don’t think I’d change a thing to be honest. Robbie Mac on the back of a moto perhaps?

      • +1 Keenan and McKenzie’s commentary on the Giro has been great. Agree that Keenan has stepped up this year with the added content (and obsession with OGE’s footwear selection.) But Tomo and Henk mangle even the anchor role – Hank credited Sky with winning the TTT last night alongside a multitude of other errors. Tomo doesn’t appear to be a student of the sport at all and his ability for stating the obvious is astounding.
        +1 for Magnus. He made some great tactical calls before they happened in the Spring Classics (?) earlier this year.

        • Couldn’t agree more, Keenan and McKenzie are a really good, fun, friendly, natural and calm commentary presence, letting the race play out in front of you rather than telling you how the race is playing out (yes, you David Millar, never again please). They’ve reached the commentary goal in our house as they send the missus to sleep as soon as they’ve been chatting naturally for 20 min.

  8. Excellent racing. Vintage Giro, whatever happens from now on. Real racing. Lots of developments. Man chasing man. The strength ranking completely re-shaken between the first and the third week. Visible, almost measurable attrition. Loving it.

  9. Just reading the velonews write up of yesterday, do they get a treat every time they use the word “polemica”? I swear it’s been in every single Giro write up they’ve done for the last 3 years!

    • That publication’s had a love/hate thing with the Giro since it was taken over by that British fellow so many years ago. He’s long gone of course but these days it often seems like they’re writing their reports after watching TV and monitoring the internet rather than being here in-person.

      • “Bottom feeding” as they call it. It’s a problem for a lot of the Formula 1 “news sites” as well, and is how the erroneous rumours get spread around in that sport – seed it somewhere and watch it spread.

  10. I guess Aru’s gastrointestinal problems before the start of the Giro were real and my guess is that they have contributed to the “drained battery”. Of course Astana’s hard racing took its toll as well. Anyone care to share his thoughts on my speculation?

    • Something on that above.
      I think that it wasn’t as much the physical problem as the consequences in terms of prep and the weight loss. Aru looks just too skinny and when things get cold and complicated and last that long you may suffer a bit more than desired. I know every person has a peculiar morphology, but just look at Landa’s nearly “rounded” face (when compared to the marked cheekbones of many colleagues), then give a look at Aru’s lanky built. Weight loss, when well managed, can help a lot, but it also makes you more prone to the risk of declining form, especially if it wasn’t a controlled thing.
      Just as the “Astana’s super-performances” you must put that into perspective: there’s a midpoint between being utterly surprised because Aru is able to race three weeks after a bowel infection adn expecting it won’t affect him in any possible way.

      • GeorgeY- gabriele offered extensive thoughts on that precise subject earlier in the thread (not that we are expected to read everything he posts, natch). It has been clear since Aru’s illness was announced that his Giro preparations were affected. gabriel does his usual good job clarifying the issues involved there, distinguishing the effects of the illness, from the effects of missing training and race days etc. while also trying to account for the positive results gained from (forced) recuperation. This other stuff he mentions about skinniness is a subject for a different day.

      • To me, Porte and Froome look unnaturally skinny when compared with, say, Nibali, Contador, Quintana. P and F’s looks the result of diet, etc. – they look like lollipops. And their health seems to suffer.

  11. I am not sure why so many are hung up on Katusha and Astana lighting out and trying to make it hard for the Contador. They are also in Italy to win, right? If every team waits for every rider we don’t have racing we have a ‘no drop’ group ride. In any case Contador once upon a time won the TDF by not waiting on the Port de Balès….race to win, or just ride.

    And INRNG, why no love for Landa? He pulled Aru for many Km’s and then still had the juice to pull a stage win out of his hat. He had his team leader behind him, thus was not obliged to help the on the last climb to Aprica. I am NOT a fan of Astana as a team, but they are ripping the hell out of this race and a bit of credit is certainly in order.

    Epic stage, truly entertaining to watch.

    • It’s one thing to race against your rivals but not when they’ve punctured, there’s an unwritten rule not to profit from someone else’s mechanical misfortune. Of course it’s unwritten, unenforceable and open to interpretation, suspension and more which makes racing more interesting.

      As for “no love”, Landa did a great ride but did get a good tow in the finish. Apparently Contador wanted “The Dutchman” to win for all his work and tried to chase down Landa but didn’t have the legs to shut him down.

      • Weren’t Astana in something of a Catch 22? If they wait for Contador they risk handing Trofimov the stage and possibly start him on a route to the podium. Good to see all the love in the Eurasian Union, though 😉

      • My impression grows day by day that Inrng is not a fan of Contador at all and that’s o.K. with me. But one has to note how he has obviously learned his lessons in many respects. He behaves like a real champion. It was as obvious as his frantic chase up the Mortirolo we would witness that he wanted to give Kruijswijk the stage win for his great performance and collaboration. It’s not only a sign of good sportsmanship but of course also something which might (not necessarily will) pay off at some later point for Contador or his team mates. You can never have too many “friends” in that cruel sport even though they are not allowed to give you their wheel when you need one.
        Landa probably did what his team ordered him to do but his post-stage statement with regards to their intention when driving it before the Mortirolo also showed that he very much agreed with that rotten attitude. He did not make friends with anyone yesterday neither with his ride nor with his statements and looked way too good in the interviews after he won such a cruel stage. This will probably backfire at some point in his career IF it continues for much longer. After seeing him yesterday still “breathing through the skin” on the Mortirolo and later on the 15% ramp up to Aprica I think he has become a high priority target at least for WADA.
        He had a ride as easy as a ride winning this stage can be so it was no wonder he had more in the tank than Contador and Kruijswijk even if he’s clean. But still he could have conformed to team orders by winning the stage while still showing more respect for the performances of the riders he benefited from. As it was I can hardly think of a more disgraceful way to win a queen stage.

        • I wonder if Nibali was cringing a bit, figuring that if he needs to call in a favor during the TdF, his only allies might be Katusha.

          The unwritten, “sporting” thing to do would have been Astana telling Katusha to cool their heels ’til Contador chased back on.

        • STS- I agree about Inrng, Contador, and rough tactics by Astana. But the direct accusation of Landa is unnecessary. It’s Contador who is the unrepentant doper, in spite of your rightful praise of his professional comportment. And “unrepentant doper” is an objectively fair description of AC, which may have something to do with Inrng’s apparent ambivalence towards the rider who is the best stage racer of his generation.

          • Dear Foley,
            if you consider this an “direct accusation” I can’t help you.
            I try not to apply double standards. There was a time some years ago where probably more than 90% of the field were “unrepentant dopers” (your words). So most probably everyone who won a grand tour during that period did something to enhance his performance beyond training. Some of them were caught and punished, most were not. Maybe – that’s only my assumption – the difference between your and my attitude is that I was never in doubt about what was going on. Consequently I was not disappointed when some of it became public but rather relieved. So maybe that facilitates getting around with it.
            Those knowing what was going on could tell when something was “not normal”. And seeing Landa with his mouth shut on the Mortirolo comfortably following a grimacing Contador and Kruijswijk who were really going for it and even drinking during some steep sections made me wonder. (Have you ever ridden the Mortirolo?)
            I just wanted to remark that I’m pretty sure that those in charge of hunting “dopers” also noticed those signs.
            I could do very well without another prominent doping case and I would like the thought that Spain has found a promising successor for Valverde, Contador and Purito when it comes to riding for GT GC victories. But for now doubt is the prominent feeling that comes up.
            Is it right to utter those thoughts when a performance seems to be too outstanding? Well that’s certainly up for debate.

          • STS- Never ridden the Mortirolo no. I guess that probably means I am not one of “those knowing what was going on [who] could tell…” who was doping and who was not. I wish I had that power. Sorry for calling your accusation “direct.” I thought it was an OK word to use after you used “WADA” and “disgraceful” in reference to Landa. I don’t think we disagree on much, it’s just that you were attacking one rider and praising another, but one is a proven doper and the other is not…

          • Dear Foley,
            Let’s try to keep the discussion friendly. It’s much better in order to find out where we really disagree.
            I asked whether you have ridden the Mortirolo only because it’s such a steep climb that you’ll have a hard time grabbing your bottle and drinking. I always found I had to choose the moments and places where I could do that especially when racing up climbs like this. But Landa did it with such an ease it almost looked like that he wanted to show how comfortable he still is when following the two fastest man up that climb.

            And “disgraceful” was only meant for the way he raced by sitting on the wheels refusing to pull when everyone was aware of the fact that he was the new leader of Astana in this race. It was not meant as a judgement about his possible doping.
            I mean you can race like that when your captain is going to come from behind and if he doesn’t come sprint for the stage win because your team wants you to. Professional riders will understand why you were urged to do this. It’s only when you are either one of the greats or a very self-assured sportsman that your team will not blame you for giving the stage win to some competitor who deserved it more.
            But the way Landa did it is considered rat-style. Sitting on the wheels for such a long time and attacking them with some 5 ks to go to not only win the stage but also take time out of them is …, well “disgraceful” when you were hiding behind the (implied) lie that you’re waiting for your leader.

      • Agreed INRNG, and that unwritten rule is one of the many things I love about cycling. However, Contador ignored it in 2010 with Schleck, so case of “hoisted on his own petard”? Regardless, he fought back and from what I’ve seen in the press has not commented that he was treated unfairly. Like that he responded with his legs.

  12. Astana’s tactic was unlikely to work, but at least they tried. A bit dodgy on the ethical front and perhaps the gods punished Aru for that.
    Their tactic of riding hard may now be coming back to haunt them, although Landa is still looking good, and 2nd and 3rd is still decidedly possible. That’s probably better than they could have expected before the race.
    I’ve been particularly impressed with the tactic – as pointed out by Gabriele a couple of days ago – of using different riders on different days, so that they always had strong riders on any stage. Other teams – T-S and Sky, for instance – should take note.
    This doesn’t prove them to be clean, but does show that there always being Astana riders at the front is not proof of anything suspect going on.

  13. Unusual to see a young rider with few palmarès, ride so strongly at the end of a hard stage, particularly in week three of a grand tour. Given the team, its history and the apparent ‘ease’ with which the win was achieved. It’s unfortunate, but conclusions will be drawn as to its legitimacy, as with all performances well outside the bounds of normal.

    • Eyes must be kept on him, sure, and feel assured UCI & WADA will (neither I would be surprised if they found something, indeed)… but no performance “outside the bounds of normal” (?!). He climbed the Mortirolo on a steady pace, below his top (’cause Aru was weaker than him), with just an acceleration to close up on an already tired Contador. Then, he sitted all the time on the wheels on a climb which rewards hugely that kind of situation.

  14. to me Landa has looked several degrees more comfortable than Aru for several days. At least now he is clear of him in GC, Astana can refocus away from the young Italian and let him off the leash. Dubious or not, he’s the best chance we have of stopping this turning into a Contador procession for the remainder of the race.

  15. Just a guess, but I think the remaining teams with a guy in the top 10 will continue to hit Contador & Tinkoffs hard to try and drain him for the TDF. The Giro is gone, but there’s a long game to be played.

  16. For french speakers I highly recommend watching BeinSports with Emmanuel Barth and Cedric Vasseur as commentators, they are fun and are able to make a pancake flat stage enjoyable. I wish France Televisions hire them to take over from Thierry Adam and his victim Laurent Jalabert for the races broadcasted by the french public tv….
    Landa enjoys “la forme de sa vie”, the way he is able to drop everyone including Contador is… incredible even after working for Aru. I’m no fan of the latter but the way he battled yesterday shows that he is a hard man and it was great to watch!

  17. Can someone with the appropriate experience enlighten me? Surely it is much harder dragging your team mate up a climb (having to vary your pace to suit him, looking round all the time) than it is to drag one of the opposition up and Aru’s group were well over halfway up the Mortirolo, if I remember correctly, when Contador caught them. Landa’s was ride of the day, for me.

    • Can’t agree. The pace was quite steady, and no pressure to accelerate. What you say would be true with the old-time cassettes, being forced to get stucked in a low-speed grinding your gears, but nowadays it’s really no problem. Then, Aprica benefits hugely those who’re sitting on wheels. Great performance, anyway. I’ve been “waiting” Landa for years, now I hope he didn’t climb too many steps at once. You can see him at unease because of a situation he’s not used to manage, he’s been too naif both during the race and after.

        • It was one of the most astonishing performances I’ve ever seen from a neopro. He was working as a gregario that time, too, then for Samuel Sánchez 😉
          It was a multiclimb-stage and he went on the attack from far away with his captain and another couple of Euskaltel riders; they were caught near the last climb, where he imposed, all by himself, a selective rhythm until only five or six riders were there. But then Samuel told him he didn’t feel good enough and let him go… Time to catch breath and Landa delievered an impressive attack which left the rest working together to try and follow him. Purito and Cobo caught him inside the last km. Cobo started a killer progression which let Purito behind, but not Landa, who launched a sort of sprint which would have been “too long” on a flat terrain, some 200 mts. to go or so, and just freezed Cobo who lost the wheels and crossed the line with a small gap, too. I sort of thought it was going to be a breakthrough performance, remembering Landa from his junior time and the good results he had in Avenir and Isard, too (battling with the likes of Quintana, Talansky and Slagter)… but it didn’t happen. I saw him showing up in some prestigious top ten from time to time, but I supposed he was going to be just the next Basque disappointment.
          Purito was sort of shocked at the time , not a word about Cobo but he acknowledged that Landa was some “huge talent”. Funny as everyone seems to be saying the same, Martinelli (last year, not last week), Brailsford (today), Porte (after the Trentino), I hope it’s not some code message… (it would be strange from Martinelli, obviously, and also from Purito, I’d say).

  18. People talk about an unwritten rule in cycling about not attacking a misfortune, if that rule were to applied to other sports we would have seen Vettle and Rosberg gifting back the lead in Monaco to Hamilton last weekend, but they didn’t, they took their chances because they knew that earlier in the race Hamilton had the luck of traffic to allow him to build up his lead, which was then blown by team tactics.

    When riding in a one day race you attack when someone has a slide on the cobbles or needs a new wheel so why not apply this to grand tours?
    Please don’t talk to me about ‘sportsmanship’ as I can still remember Contrador (on Astana) and Valverde (on Caisse d’Epargne) tag teaming Cadel Evans at every turn in the 2009 Dauphine and when they had finally neutralized Evans chances over the final climb on the way to Grenoble they both slowed and pointedly shook hands in front of Evans, again nothing wrong with the tactics but the pointed f-you handshake was to my mind not sportsmanship.

    As for commentators, cycling needs some commentators who are not all positive in their comments, like him or loath him at least the football analyst you can view in the link below speaks his mind and can make you think.
    Can we have some of this in cycling?

  19. The numerical superiority for stage racing is really only a recent thing i.e. Postal and Sky, most GC winner before that have always been isolated in small groups and coped well, trains are good for the flat stages and don’t mean as much in the mountains (i.e. smart riders sit on).
    However everybody needs help and it was interesting to see contador rest between groups with those he had helped in other races, as well as gifting the ‘dutchman’ with the mountain points in exchange for being dragged to the end. This looked much more credible than some of Pantani’s attacks, where he charged through all the groups with no respite!
    However I agree it is unusual that Astana always have numbers at the front but they do swap personal and its a strong team. I would be more concerned if they able to take minutes from Contador or even drop him otherwise I have to conclude that their performances are credible

  20. Did a double take during the Mortirolo as I though Lotto NL Jumbo had signed Mike Cotty from the Col Collective! Dead ringer. #finallycrakedthebigtime

  21. Impressed by Hesjedal’s aggression during the race. Less so by post-race complaints over the GC riders not giving the breakaway more leeway. Keep racing hard, Ryder!

  22. I expect if Hesjedal continues to ride well he could possibly go top 5, as he is known to perform better towards the end of Grand Tours, that was essentially the strategy that helped him win the 2012 Giro (although he only had Rodriguez for opposition).

    One of the biggest surprises of the Giro has been the lack of Italians on GC. Aru has had a lot of focus, but the Vuelta and Giro have tended to be more nationalistic in GC make up than the Tour, but it seems to be changing, with 8 different nationalities in the top 10. I guess this is due in part to Pozzovivo’s crash, Italy’s declining teams and the continuing globalisation of the peloton.

  23. Honestly thought yesterday’s stage might make INRNG’s shortlist for highlights of the year, but looking through peoples’ comments, maybe not.

    Astana were indeed idiotic, but watching Contador’s solo climb past everyone- whether you like him or not – and the racing of Kruijswick, Hesjedal, Amador, Trofimov, made it a gripping stage.

  24. I for one found the stage great. Memorable. Don’t know what else we’ll get this year, but for me this is very probably an highlight. If not, well, even better, can’t imagine the fireworks we need to overcome this. Two and a half an hour or so of thrilling action, with a great deal of different themes, more stunning performances from such a variety of riders you barely had cameras for them all. Wow.
    The emotive Contador with a broken voice and a shade of tears in the eyes in post-race interviews was notable: you think he had enough years to “get used” to the emotion of cycling, but apparently he’s still deep in love with his sport.
    Aru’s was my ride of the day. Not to crack in those circumstances deserves utter respect from whoever rode a bike. 1’55” down on Contador on top of the Mortirolo, 2’13” in Aprica after riding that infamous climb – Aprica, I mean! – all alone. Finding yourself alone when you know that your rivals aren’t at the base of that climb, even more so since it was because of a mechanical, is one perfect image of cycling desperation. Not being able to get to the little group there ahead is even more tantalising – in the most dantesque sense.
    Hesjedal looks like he’s dedicating his whole Giro rides during the last two years to an attempt of making me forgive him for the 2012 Giro 😛 Well, he’s being hugely successful.
    Kruijswijk is another rider I’ve been following for long, like Landa. Like Hesjedal, you can see how there’s not only one way to have a good GC, that is just tucking yourself in the best men group until they drop you (as late as you can endure) on the last climb. Going on the attack soon, even if you’re among the strongest men in the race, is an option, too (assuming you’re allowed to). And, besides making your day, that benefits the sport.

  25. Clearly INRNG is not very much a fan of Contador. I expected a higher praise from him after his Mortirolo climb, that was, like Robert Millar wrote, “of biblical proportions”, and i will be remembering it as one of the most epic moments in cycling in recent history.

    About Mikel Landa suspicions, just one comment… look at who had he behind in the race. Was it such a surprising perfomance going clear ahead of Andrey Amador, Ryder Hesjedal, Damiano Caruso, etc… ?

    It was not like he smashed Nairo Quintana, Nibali et al…

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