Giro Stage 16 Review

As we wait for photos of today’s stage to be made available to accompany the review of today’s stage the painting above by Pieter Bruegel can serve as an illustration in the meantime. It was a battle from the start to the finish where Steven Kruijswijk came out on top.

Dutch fans who have been biting down their finger nails can relax after today’s showing. As the attacks flew Kruijswijk was quickly isolated and began to respond to every move in person. How long could this personal defence last? Was he using up too much energy too soon? He was tested and l’Olandese Volante, the Flying Dutchman, finished second on the stage and gained a minute on his nearest rival Esteban Chaves. Those hoping to put Kruijswijk under pressure saw their plans backfire.

Chaves had a stressful day at work. When the moves went on the Mendelpass he wasn’t there. Instead Kruijswijk, Nibali and Kangert, Zakarin, Valverde, Firsanov, Jungels, Ulissi, Lopez and Dombrowski. Kangert set to work for Nibali while behind Orica-Greenedge Amets Txurruka and Ruben Plaza and if they did a valiant job they just could close the gap on the valley roads but they did well to limit it and on the Fai della Paganella climb he took off to try and close the gap.

Valverde Andalo Giro

Valverde won the day. In one of those ironies that only cycling can throw up he won exactly 10 years to the day Operation Puerto went public, as if the past can sometimes cast a long shadow. Looking ahead he and told RAI television that he’s come to Italy to win a stage and finish on the podium. He’s done the easy bit now and could well enjoy Thursday’s finish in Pinerolo too. A podium finish is going to be a big ask even if he sits third right now. Friday and Saturday’s high altitude crossings maybe less suited to him with Vincenzo Nibali and Ilnur Zakarin both within 90 seconds on the general classification. Maybe Valverde can find ways to out-psyche Nibali but the Russian is looking lively again.

Still 68km to go

The club of those who want two week grand tours may include Vincenzo Nibali tonight because the longer the Giro goes on the more time he’s losing. It’s painful to watch at times, his efforts don’t work and it’s happening right in front of his fans and all while a mooted Bahrain-backed team is being built around him. The prince bankrolling the team may wonder if he’s getting the best money can buy. Still back to the subject of the day and Nibali deserves credit for trying, he’s been the instigator of the moves and it was his attack on the Mendelpass that blew the race to pieces. He is a grand tour contender but more than often he’s also a catalytic agent in races who enlivens the action but falls out of the results. Yes he slipped down the rankings today but his efforts today made the stage more exciting and more fundamentally he’s made Kruijswijk look better, he and his Astana team tried to make the maglia rosa suffer but the Dutchman fought back and won.

While a few may want shorter grand tours surely everyone wants shorter stages. Today’s 132km dash to the Brenta Dolimites was explosive from the start. They’re like nouvelle cuisine dishes though, packed with freshness and intensity but not something to serve up every day. It’s the addition of long stages that provide the contrast and distance is only one component, today’s stage was made great by the incisive climbs.

The Giro isn’t over and Kruijswijk’s got two giant mountain stages to contend with but his ride today will give him confidence and push back his rivals. Chaves had a hiccup and will be looking over his shoulder to protect second place while Valverde may want a podium finish but Nibali and Astana will continue with the fireworks and Zakarin looks sharp and ambitious again.

Top-11 on Stage 16

Top-10 Overall after Stage 16

103 thoughts on “Giro Stage 16 Review”

    • As all kids of a certain age who used to browse Woolworth’s LP shelves will know, that painting was used for a Black Sabbath album.
      Just looking this up, the painting is by Peter Brueghel the Elder (The Triumph of Death c1652).
      I never knew this until just now, but spent many a long hour minutely musing over it as a kid, usually sheltering in the store from rain and cold or bunking double German lessons!
      Inner Ring is a metal fan, we’ve already had the Van Halen link earlier.
      The Jam / Two Tone / Soul man myself, still am haha.

  1. Is that Nibali being beaten with a stick on the right? The skeletal figure is certainly reminiscent of Vino.

    I was going to say something about how good these short hilly stages are, but I suspect inrng is correct to point out that it’s all about balance. That’s one of the things that makes inrng a necessary read.

  2. “…. surely everyone wants shorter stages.”
    NO WE DON’T! Those may be swell for La Vuelta but let’s not start putting things into a formula or we’ll end up with Velon running the show. People with attention spans measured in seconds have NFL and the like where every play is interrupted by advertising spots so they can crack open another watery beer or visit the toilet to get rid of the last one.
    I’m getting very tired reading ideas on how to “fix” pro cycling when it’s only too obvious the problems are the continuing doping scandals/UCI’s stupid globalization scheme combined with the worldwide financial crisis. By the time the sport’s fixed the first two the third one may have fixed itself. Mucking things up in vain attempts to woo the social-media “fans” with short attention spans will just screw things up for the hard-core, long-term fans…who I don’t think are limited only to old-farts like me?

    • A propos of this comment the Tour de France Twitter account tweeted a picture during today’s Giro stage of a 1926 Pyrenean stage of the Tour which took 17 hours and 12 mins.

      And they say short stages are good!

    • i do think that every GT should have one like this in the last week. At least until it becomes formulaic (if it does). And every GT should have an epic long stage like Saturday. GT winner needs to reward a complete rider and short and long stages give that.

      In any case it’s not about attention span – we get to see about the same amount of each stage anyway.

      • I’ll bet there are over 30 types of GT stages. I think that each organizer should, by individual or committee, try to design the most interesting GT that they can. Designing a GT is an art; the course, once run, is a collaboration, a finished piece to be critiqued and enjoyed in hindsight.

        No two are alike.

      • “….we get to see about the same amount of each stage anyway.” is not entirely true and even if it was ,the length of the day’s stage has a lot more to do with the sporting challenge involved than just what we see on TV.

      • very much agree. Long stages and short stages are important. I think Valverde’s recovery today and in the tt were due to the length of the effort more than anything else.

    • If you read to the end of that paragraph, you’ll see that our host isn’t advocating *only* shorter stages, but their inclusion in a mix. I’m not sure the teams have either.

      • His wording is ambiguous, and while trying to appear balanced, intends to generate a certain perception.
        Nobody is against certain short stages, but the question is about the decreasing mileage standard. Who wants today’s winners to look like dwarfs compared to champions of the past, who won much longer and more demanding races? I don’t, and I don’think they themselves either, if they gave it a good thought.
        As for yesterday, it was not better than Saturday’s much longer stage. And it’s very disingenuous to pretend that yesterday’s developments are chiefly due to short mileage, when we all know it’s all about teamless, isolated leaders.

        • The short distance is a factor as it encourages the big names to attack early. We’ve see this in the Tour de France before too when short stages have been used, you might remember Contador and Evans going up the road on the Télégraphe/Galibier in the 2011 Tour de France. A grand tour of 120-150km stages wouldn’t work but a couple of short mountain stages can be very good to watch.

    • Thinking about it, one group that probably doesn’t want shorter mountain stages is the grupetto. It must be hell to stay within the time limit on a short, fast stage like today.

  3. This was the kind of ride I have expected from Firsanov after the spring he had. And Zakarin will put a big fight to get onto the podium in the Alps, should be a good battle for second and third now that pink is all but gone.

    We saw a hint of the collusion everyone was talking about when Gazprom-Rusvelo’s invitation was announced when Zakarin turned round to wave Firsanov away from working with Nibali.

    A great stage.

    • ‘We saw a hint of the collusion everyone was talking about when Gazprom-Rusvelo’s invitation was announced when Zakarin turned round to wave Firsanov away from working with Nibali.’

    • ‘We saw a hint of the collusion everyone was talking about when Gazprom-Rusvelo’s invitation was announced when Zakarin turned round to wave Firsanov away from working with Nibali.’ – only just caught up with the Giro (last 3 stages) and having seen this, was scandalised, but not at all surprised. Teams who are linked are not allowed to race in the same races. These two teams are linked. This proved it. (It’s at 15km to go.)

  4. The painting is by Pieter Bruegel The Elder not by Jeroen Bosch.
    Bruegel was born in North-Brabant, as is Kruiswijk, but made his greatest succeses in Belgium as a (sort-of) Belgian. Sadly we cannot say the same of Kruiswijk.

    Damn you lucky Dutchmen.

  5. Is this perhaps where we recognise that Nibali, whilst undoubtedly one of the better GC riders of his generation has been exceedingly fortunate to win each of the grand tours he has won? Particularly with regard to the level of opposition he has had to beat? obviously you can only beat whoever is competing against you, but by the same token maybe he isn’t all he’s cracked up to be.

    • I think you’re right, for me he’s a volatile rider rather than a consistent one, brilliant and exciting when things go well – his 2013 Giro, Lombardia last October – but can suffer too and people do have high expectations and it’s noticed when he falls short. He can still achieve things in this race, may ride the Tour de France and the Olympics road race course in Rio is ideal for someone like him too.

      • Wow, a couple of days ago Valverde was written off and look where he is now. Chaves lost some time today, Valverde says he’s no good at altitude a few days before mountain stages with summits over 2700 meters while the Dutch superman’s just one crash, bad meal , mechanical failure or screwed up feeding schedule away from disaster. Don’t forget what happened when The Condor flew away from Uran a few years back. I think it’s a little early to be declaring winners and losers.

        • Well, nobody is declaring winners or losers. But Nibali’s failures are noteworthy. Of course he is a great rider and has a great palmares, but what Jason and inrng were saying is that he is often put on about the same level as Contador and Froome at GC and Valverde as a complete rider. And it seems obvious to me that it is not the case.

    • That’s relative, isn’t it? You can say Froome only ever won, cause he is in the richest team and has the right nationality. With the exception of maybe Contador, you can find a “but” or “if” for every current GC rider/winner and reduce/attribute their success to something different than themselves.

      To say a rider has won ALL three Grand Tours, because he got lucky each time is to me shockingly disrespectful. Even to win one GT is a huge task on so many levels. We don’t know what goes on behind the scenes in Astana and what we will see, when Nibali finally changes team. Hopefully he will be happier again. And hopefully this translates to happier riding, too. Seeing those old Liquigas pictures at the Giro brought home the fact that he looks like a very unhappy man. A negative environment takes a lot of energy away and he looks exhausted now for quite some time.

      • Is it any coincidence that in each of his GT wins that (arguably) none of the top two even three GC contenders have been in direct competition against him?

        I don’t think so. To claim that the atmosphere of the team is what’s contributing to his poor performance is to take away from the fact that Kruijswijk has quite simply been better. I for one believe that this is simply the emergence of someone who is better than him and other riders have been as well who, notably, were not around when he did win his GTs.

        Nibali is good, don’t get me wrong and as I earlier said undoubtedly one of the better GC riders of his generation – but I do think that there has been a fair amount of luck involved (as there is in all GT wins!), which is allowed to be pointed out when comparing different GC riders against each other and their relative abilities!

        • You would have to be cold as ice to not be affected by the Astana soap opera. I don’t think that’s the only issue, but it’s not the least.

      • The richest team And the richest girlfriend. Don’t underestimate the contributions of Michelle Cound (way) behind the scenes. And I don’t mean that in a good way.

      • I think Nibali is in many ways a greater rider than the other GT riders of his generation. They may be better pure GT riders but have any of them won a monument (Rodriguez and Valverde OK, but not quite of Nibali’s GT pedigree). He’s also came second in LBL (to Iglinsky, since convicted of doping). He rides Milan San Remo agressively most years. Great ride on the cobbles the year he won the Tour. Performs in all weather. While Contador rides with panache too I don’t think any of the others have as broad a palmares and ride with such panache. I would prefer this grit mixed with some disappointments rather than the laser guided TDF focus of Froome (and Armstrong and Indurain before him) and other GT specialists.

        • But see, that’s a different thing and something I agree on. He’s a superb allround rider who also happens to be attacking and entertaining. But his reputation as GT racer is overrated for me and that’s my point.

          • Well, I can’t answer all the nonsense one by one, hence there’s a longer post below.
            People appear to be victim of a certain weakness in terms of middle-term memory, besides lacking perspective.

            Is Evans a decent GT rider? Is it Valverde? Is it Purito? Or Andy Schleck? Or Carlos Sastre? Or Denis Menchov? Or Ivan Basso? I’m speaking, beyond any doubt, of the best GT riders since the Armstrong era.

            Nobody among them has a career-long performance record comparable to Nibali, nor the same high-level consistency.

            I’m not speaking of those “lucky victories” of him, I’m speaking of the global sum-up of all their results in the final GC of the GTs they entered.

            I’m quite sure that Contador is way better than Nibali.

            The only other two candidates are, well, a pure talent who’s so young that he’s finished in his career less GTs than Nibali had *six years ago*and *the strange case of Mr. Froome and Master Froome*, that is, another rider whose career totally lacks the depth which would allow to see things in perspective. Without starting a debate about doubts and miracles, I thinks that’s enough to say that he was near to victory (podiuming) less times than Nibali, until now, and a lot about his place in history will be determined by the next three or four years.
            Anyway, a career curve so different from Nibali’s that any judgement about their comparative rating should wait (will he go on with the same 25% abandon rate he’s shown in the *best part* of his career?).

          • Sastre’s an interesting comparison. It may be a naive exercise, but if you look at the GTs where all the riders ahead of him had a doping violation – often in the same season – you start to think that his palmares could have been very good indeed.

          • @Nick
            Sastre was really good, IMHO, doing a lot of “doubles” and performing decently (or great) in both GTs. Abandoning like… once?… in a huge number of finished GTs.
            Besides the doping thing, I suspect he maybe lacked a bit – just a bit – of competitive *killer* attitude, you can see him racing a lot as a gregario (which was maybe a consequence of his stance about doping, too – and/or that stance was a consequence of his attitude?).
            He had some of Nibali’s qualities, that ability to perform greatly when the effort goes very prolonged and a parallel lack of pure kick, at the same time enjoying a good 20′-30′ performance peak which makes you good in some ITTs, too. He was less good on the flat or rolling terrain, and when general bike handling is concerned.
            He’s commenting on the Spanish TV, if I’m not wrong, and when I happened to listen he looks like an intelligent person (sometimes it looks like he’s making hidden ads for some specific bike brands, but I’ll forgive him 🙂 ).

        • I would have to disagree on Indurain being laser guided to the TdF. He had 2 giro victories and he always was there or thereabout for the WCRR – and off course the WCTT. Admittedly he kinda focused on tdf after Berzin beat him on the third giro attempt.

    • I don’t necessarily disagree, but perhaps it’s more a case that Nibali’s peak GC shape is more elusive than others, most notably Contador and Froome.

      Although I suppose this kind of underscores why the latter are such impressive GC riders.

      • When you spend all year up a volcano and only pop down to do the Tour and the Vuelta it’s a bit easier to manage your ‘peak’. Nibali, as others have said, has won all 3 grand tours and has 3 monument podiums including a win. Plus he has victories in other stage races and one day races. Nobody has that breadth of palmares except him. Froome gets carried to within a km of the mountain top finishes at the Tour and then he does his spinny leg act, he’s also got a handy TT. But he can’t even control the Vuelta so what chances of him doing anything at the Giro with his bike handling and all these descents. Horses for courses, and Froome it seems only has one course.

        • “Froome gets carried to within a km of the mountain top finishes at the Tour”.

          Rubbish. When is this false nonsense going to die the death it deserves? Ventoux 2013. Le Pierre St Martin 2015. I could go on. Froome attacks kilometres out and leaves people for dead. Col du Beal 2014 in the Dauphine is another example. Froome and Contador toe to toe over about 6 kms. Fantastic stuff to which both contributed equally.

          Then people with more bias than sense come along and say he was carried to the finish. If that’s all he was how would he ever win a race? And what’s stopping the rest taking him on? Its riders who make the race.

          • Sky have the reputation of riding like this but Froome is a more attacking rider, see his recent ride in Romandie for example where he tweeted a barbed message about this. That said the mountain train technique is very effective and Sky will use it if they can.

  6. Ah, Vincenzo, Vincenzo. It was clear to me back in the Giro del Trentino that you weren’t at the races. Just as with the Dauphine prior to the Tour last year, your weaknesses were shown up and the excuses started to flow. I wonder, Vincenzo, how history will view you? To your fans you are brave and buccaneering, an animator of races and a winner of not a few. To your detractors you are a chancer who flatters to deceive with your 200 meter attacks and your inability to beat Horner in the La Vuelta and Wiggins in Le Tour. To such people your 3 GT wins are a matter of good luck and weak fields and then will say you never beat the best toe to toe on equal terms. I suspect its a bit of both Vincenzo. But what is clear in this Giro is that Kruijswijk and Chaves are much stronger than you. Zakarin is 7 seconds behind you on GC. Will you even make the podium?

    • RonDe – People have good days and bad days – he is the one that is making this a race and fighting on. Being a couch potato critic is easy – riding one of these stages let alone 20 of them with out a slip is not easy, especially year in year out. Keeping perfect health has a lot to do with luck…. or in the previous generation outside help.

      Enjoy the race for what it is.

      • I doubt any of Nibali’s critics are belittling the task of even competing in these races. I myself could barely ride a single stage at any pace and I’m quite happy to admit to that. I am “merely” a viewer and a supporter, otherwise known as one of the people who help the sport exist at all. Needless to say, such viewers have different points of view. And if they didn’t comments sections such as this one would be mighty boring. As such, I’m not sure what we are seeing with Nibali here is a case of a “bad day”. It seems to me that the last 3 stages have been 3 “bad days” in a row now. He just hasn’t got it and his phantom attacks should be seen for what they actually are: bluffing.

    • Hummm… yes… since the guy is 24 years old he’s never finished worse than 7th place in any of the GTs he entered (2015 Vuelta apart as a peculiar case) and he’s got a record of *70%* final podium placing.
      Throughout some ten Giros, Tours and Vueltas – quite evenly distributed (with a narrow prevalence of Tours). Besides last Vuelta’s shame, he *never* was unable to finish any GT. Not even when he was 20-something.
      That’s what you call a “chancer”. Pure chance has got a certain statistical consistence, hasn’t it?

    • Yes, I believe you are the only one. Perhaps your TV needs some adjustment? Italian National Team director Davide Cassani said on tonight’s Processo that Nibali has trained exactly as he did for his 2013 victory, but that’s no longer good since he’s three years older now. He said The Shark needs more racing instead of training…and Valverde’s current position in the Giro backs up that idea. He also mentioned a change in crank length – in a less than positive manner. Even with all that I don’t think The Shark will stop trying unless he’s physically ill and simply can’t continue.

  7. I’m not usually an avid fan of the Giro, what with my work (bicycle shop owner) taking over my life every May and June. But given the formula that the Giro organisers follow, or rather don’t – with big(gish) mountains early on, ITT’s thrown in here, there and everywhere, and more rest days than I have over the same three week period, an average Giro (is there such a thing?) is far more interesting, nail-biting and entertaining than the Tour nowadays, ESPECIALLY this one. It is a pity I think, that so much emphasis/kudos/prestige is put on the Tour as when looked at from a purist’s stance the Giro, and Vuelta for that matter, can have me ignoring the phone calls that are coming into my shop. (NOT all of them but maybe one or two). Vive il Giro!

    • The Tour’s luster might be lost, if Cookson has anything to do about it.

      I do wish they would make it a little more interesting. It’s become the GT of the non-riding fan.

  8. “…a team time trial with different jerseys…” was Sean Kelly’s verdict on today’s stage. More short mountain stages gets my vote.

    • I savour Sean Kelly’s contributions: he has genuine experience: not much gets past him. He may not be the world’s most loquacious man, but I think his authenticity is a breath of fresh air. And I appreciate him *even more* every time he doesn’t translate something that doesn’t need translating.

      Now, if only RAI could be encouraged to use use wider shots of Nibali when he is on courageous lone breaks: then we could see if the mixed TTT was up against a ‘one man derny attack’. It may be my old eyes playing tricks on me, but often times when the close up shot is focussing on Nibali’s determined and unhappy expression, it briefly appears that there is an Italian journo crew on a motorbike, right in front and just out of shot…

  9. Today was a gas. I, for one, am in favor of more GT mixed stage types. Add a cobbled stage, a Strade Biache stage, a Tro Bro Léon dirt path stage, a short mountain stage, and uphill TT, a long-ass roller. Anything to make a more rounded GT than the high-mountains-decide-everything tours of recent years.

  10. Hey, quick question, how many times has a team “bookended” a stage like Valverde and Betancur did today? is it common?

  11. Nibali… he’s approaching the end of his top-level career? Perhaps. We’ll see. It wouldn’t be that strange for a rider who’s made a final 7th place in the TdF’s GC when he was 24 and who won his first Pro Tour race when he was 21 (Gp Plouay, with riders like Flecha, Pozzato, Chavanel, Ivanov, Kolobnev, Gerrans making the top 20 behind him).
    People who speak about “luck” simply don’t have much of an idea.
    To put it down in sort of a paradoxical way, I’d say that when you’re consistently in the top part of the final GC of any GT you enter… well, I’d say it would be kind of bad luck if you never won any of them.

    Nibali participated in 14 GTs along his career. Before last Vuelta’s shame (a shame, indeed, if you consider the kind of record that such event was spoiling), he finished *all of them*.

    His *worst* final placing to date was 20th in his first TdF ever… age-wise he was a U23 ^__^ And, that same year, he had just been 11th in the Giro.

    Since his 24th birthday, he entered 11 GTs, two for year in four out of six seasons. He finished 10 of them (ouch, that Vuelta), his worst final GC was a 7th place. 70% of times he was on the podium.
    How the hell do you expect he never wins one? Yeah, it can happen, but if you’re *always* among the best and tend never to fall out for whatever reason, it doesn’t look like “luck” to me.

    The marvellous post-2011 Froome, who’s got an impressive score, indeed, has also got a 25% abandon rate. He could finish 2 GTs in a single season only once, in 2012, and won neither of them.

    All in all, Nibali has got a total of 7 podia in GTs, Froome’s got 5. If you’re more often thereabouts, it’s just logical that you might sometime meet more “favourable” conditions and win, especially if you aren’t that prone to chest infections, fractures and whatever. But I wouldn’t call that “luck”.

    It’s pretty laughable when people say things like “the top three GT riders weren’t there when he won his GTs”.
    Well, guess what? In 2010 when Nibali was podiuming in the Giro and winning the Vuelta, Froome was “abandoning” (to use an euphemism) the Giro as his best GT score of the year. Oh yeah, the guy was making a beautiful top-40 placing in the Giro the year before, when Nibali wasn’t there, since he was preparing to crack his first TdF top-ten with 24 years of age. Nairo Quintana was doing great things… in the Tour de Porvenir 😛
    The careers have different phases, some riders are younger, some others do enjoy curious mutations, you simply can’t ignore those factors: before the 2011 Vuelta you could put Froome in whatever GT you wanted, he was simply useless.
    Besides, as long as I know, in 2014 both Froome and Contador “were there” in the TdF, on the start line… if you don’t get to the finish line, and not because someone hit you but because your own errors or fragility, well, that’s not about luck, that’s about the qualities which enter in the mix that defines a cyclists and which eventually determin his palmarés.

      • Yes, but that was probably also an error (or sort of “a decision”) by the team: your leader’s wheel must be covered, especially during the first stages. Besides, I’ve got some *bad* thoughts about those fractures, both then and during last Vuelta… Huge respect for the rider’s grit hanging on, especially in the last case I’m referring to, but perhaps – just perhaps – those events aren’t purely random, given that both accidents didn’t look horrible per se.

          • Excuse me but where’s the conspiracy talk? Searching a competitive edge by means of losing weight entails taking certain health related risks. One such risk is a greater susceptibility to bone fractures because you tend to lose a certain amount of protective “bounce” and because your bones do in fact become more “brittle”.
            (You can if you wish draw certain parallels to cases of old age infirmity or osteoporosis. It may sound rather exaggerated but when things are taken to extremes there are often extreme consequences.)

            Or are you referring to the point about lack of sufficient protection for their leader? I don’t think it is at all “conspiracy talkish” to point out that it is not the customary team tactic and that it was quite probably a result of a sort of decision by the Sky management to use their riders in some other manner – and that the tacit risk simply materialized.

          • Heitor, perhaps you should have a look to scientific papers about the relation between cycling, especially but not exclusively high-level cycling, and osteoporosis.
            Or, if you prefer reading newspapers, do you remember what did Boardman say about his bones, the effects of training on hormones…?
            If you also think that corticosteroids (which Chris needed for therapeutical reasons) can strengthen that risk I think you’ve got enough issues to address before you even start to “address the rest”.
            Maybe along the way you’ll also become aware of the consequences of lack of information on people who accuse others of conspiracy talk.

        • Sean Kelly has often commented upon how easily current pros suffer fractures in fairly innocuous crashes, compared to his era. He puts it down to the extra emphasis these days on body weight and diet, there’s less padding and reduced bone density these days. Seems sensible to me.

    • Thank you, Gabriele, for using the word “nonsense” in your comment further up. I tried a few words till I settled on “shockingly disrespectful”, because I didn’t want to get too blunt.

    • Gabriele,
      First, lets be clear, what Nibali has achieved is impressive vs any avg human being. I am a huge sport fan and cycling is one that I admire the most, so his achievements are, in any measurement impressive.
      But I guess what we are arguing here if is he one of the top ones of this sport…
      You are one of the few I always read in this blog (and quite often I agree with you), but I guess what puts Nibali in a different level (and lower level vs the top ones of his generation) is:
      – His actually not a consistent rider: Although you pointed out well his GT podiums, in most of other important races (Romandy, Dauphine,…) he is far from a contender. Usually not even a top 10, while Contador, Quintana and Froome (and also Wiggo) and other GT riders are much more consistent. Seems to me Nibali needs a lot of effort to get in shape and to perform in the higher levels
      – Also true that head to head with Contador, Froome and Quintana he lost almost all of them – I can remember one good Tirreno-Adriatico (2013?) where he bit Froome, but that’s pretty much it (but I guess you may have some other few examples). I cant remember he attacking and dropping the top ones (but I can remember plenty of Quintana, Contador, Froome…)
      – His is one of the worse strategists in the field – I am impressed by how often he tries something that completely back fires on him – in this Giro it happened already 3 times and many times in other races. Some say he “animates” the race and he tries… for me this is just poor strategy
      I see him as a consistent GT rider, a very good one day rider, but I cant see him as one of the greatest of his generation. Even Valverde for me is a much more complete rider (15 out of 16 top 10 GTs; 7 podiums – and always head to head in the strong field ) plus one of the greatest one day racers of his generation.
      Indeed he has a longer track record than Quintana and Froome and there still a lot to come, but hard to see him at the same level of the top ones of his generation. I think what we generally look for to consider someone one of the “top” is actually some one of a kind performance, and for me he is more a consistent top finisher in GTs – I can see him in the same level of other very good riders (Purito, Evans,…), but not in the same level of Quintana, Valverde, Froome and Contador.

      • Razorback, you make some interesting points, which I see as different from the “luck” thing.
        Still, there are several problems in what you say.

        1) What you call “important races” aren’t necessarily more important than others, really. Sky’s preparation gave them some interest, but Romandie matters… well, very little – while the Dauphiné is a very relevant race, for sure one of the best short stage races, but its position in the calendar makes it all about how you decided you’re going to enter the TdF.
        The Tirreno, since it became a proper short stage race with TTs and serious uphill finishes, is more of a probing test (as it is, say, the Vuelta al País Vasco, to name something Nibali didn’t win).

        Froome’s palmarés in terms of short stage races isn’t any better than Nibali’s. They’re quite comparable, indeed. Quintana’s is similar to Froome’s and Nibali’s, perhaps slightly better thanks to quality over quantity… what’s impressive is his young age! No problem on my part acknowledging that Nairo is a “fuoriclasse” and that he’s got all that’s needed to end his career on a different level than the other guys we’re speaking of – but now is now, and whatever could happen in the future. Ullrich anyone?
        Valverde’s is – surprising – a little worse than Nibali’s (a lot of Spanish races most of which, in these case, are really second-level): and he’s hugely more suited to these races, where he can take advantage of his fast sprint and where you don’t often have a series of “tapponi”!

        Then there’s a question of perspective. For an Italian rider, the Giro del Trentino nowadays matters way lot than Romandie, and the level of the race has become decent in the last 5-6 years. And there’s a problem of specific cycling know-how when you need to judge a rider as a fan: some race are really unimportant from a marketing POV but they can say a lot about rider’s talent; an easy example – which doesn’t directly favours Nibali – can be the Vuelta a Burgos (both Quintana and Valverde won it, Nibali didn’t, but he fared well a couple of times, I believe).

        All this without even starting to consider how the decision to race in important Classics might affect your short stage races dedication: maybe it isn’t pure chance if the rider who, among the four, has got the less shining victories in that sense is Valverde. The same applied to Nibali, but was compensated by his superior talent in stage racing when compared to Valverde (who is greatly superior in one-day races, if only he tried more of them more often! But, know what?, his GT palmarés would have worsened…).

        Your first point simply doesn’t stand, or, better said, is heavily biased by the selection of your sample of races.

        2) The second point is biased by your personal concept of “what is it to be strong in a GT”. You apparently reduce it to “dropping people”. Well, it is much more than that. It is winning GTs and/or collecting podia (as a clue that maybe you could as well as win, in that occasion, if the conditions ended up helping you). If you reduce it to “dropping people”, you’ll struggle to understand why, dunno, Porte, who dropped big guys several times, hasn’t shown anything in a GT until now.
        You must be there year after year and a certain span of years is required to fully understand what’s your true dimension. If Kruijswijk goes on to win this Giro and nothing else, it doesn’t matter that he dropped Nibali several times this year… he’ll always remain a lesser GT rider. Quite obviously.
        Being a top GT rider means keeping your level troughout several seasons to grab the occasions you can have and to compensate the bad seasons or negative performances which inevitably happen.
        I’m perfectly convinced that Quintana has the potential to be fully wieghed as a stronger rider than Nibali: nowadays we simply can’t be sure. The two never faced each other on the top of their respective condition… and I’d dare to say that they never will, given Quintana’s age. Hence the only way to appreciate who’s best is to wait and see how Quintana’s career goes on.
        More or less the same can be said about Froome, whose career, for whatever reason, really started in 2012. During Nibali’s best years, they didn’t face each other many times: in 2013 Froome beat Nibali in Oman, but, crucially, Nibali won the Tirreno. In 2014, Froome was again better in Oman, and Romandie, too, but lost to Nibali both during the Dauphiné and the TdF. I don’t consider the abandoning a *bad luck* thing, and, however, Froome had been dropped by Nibali a couple of times already (fracturing was indeed a *good luck* thing for Froome, it helped to foster his winning image).
        There’s another huge problem in what you say: what’s “being dropped”? They all were dropped by Nibali in 2015, and on a high-mountain stage, too. Here it is the typical videogame deformation of many fans: you’re stronger when you drop someone “head to head” in a single climb, that means you’ve got a better “climbing” score. Luckily cycling isn’t just like that, even if modern cycling has tried to transform itself that way. If a rider can go alone far from the finish line and the supposed best climber Chris Froome can claw back just 30″on him on the last climb, despite going full gas, and, more than everything, despite having been sharing the work with other riders for the previous tens of very hard kms, well, he dropped the other guy. We could as well have a look to the average watts/kg expressed by them in that stage since Nibali went… he was “stronger” than the rest.
        “Being a strong rider” implies very different characteristics: it’s obvious that if you’re just stronger on a single climb and the course plus your team allow you to take advantage of that… well that helps more than being able to ride strongly from far out, which is risky because it gives a chance to the other to ally and limit you, maybe even without a direct personal effort. But, luckily for the spectators, cycling still leaves a little space to different kinds of victories and riders, also because, as we all can see, the TdF way has become pure boredom.

        3) The third point is directly related to what I’ve been writing above. What you call “bad strategy” is trying to get the best of your qualities (this Giro, he just burnt himself out in the Dolomites stage and hasn’t been able to bounce back from that from a psychological and physical POV).
        If a rider has got a “good” or a “bad” strategy is a results of his characteristics: if he can win, his strategy is probably as good as it can be. Funny to see how people say that Valverde has a “bad strategy” for doing the contrary of Nibali. In a race you don’t know what will pay off.
        Note that this point of you is contradictory with the rest: if Nibali isn’t as good as his palmarés says, his strategies must be good, all in all; if Nibali has bad strategies, he must be really strong, to win so much with so many wrong decisions on the road.
        Both options are wrong: Nibali is an experienced cyclist who has a set of qualities which allow him to perform well in GTs, especially under certain conditions, which he obviously tries to make happen in the races. He’s been good, apparently, since he took enough advantage of that to the point he claimed a notable set of victories.

        Valverde isn’t even near – and he’s one of my favourite riders. I don’t know how can you say that he was “always head to head” with the best of a strong field in GTs, because that’s precisely what he never has been. Perhaps only last year (barely so)? He collected a lot of podia (and just one victory) in the Vuelta, 5 out of the *six* he has got (Wikipedia or whatever is still wrong about 2005). He’s precisely a top-ten Tour rider and a Vuelta specialist, taking advantage of a course which is becoming more and more suited to him. His only podium outside the Vuelta was half a miracle, the strongest team and the strongest climber working for him to achieve that goal – that helps. I really hope that he goes on to stay on this Giro’s podium or even to win (I also root for Kruijswijk, Nibali and Chaves, imagine that, an Urán , and Atapuma… I don’t dislike so much Zakarin or Jungels or Amador, either, ah ah ah ah! And nothing against Majka or Pozzovivo), but if he hasn’t found a long-life potion, he’ll remain way inferior to Nibali in GTs as a whole.

        • The real question is: do the shorter stages stimulate longer comments and vice-versa?

          (only joking, I do appreciate your analyses. I also half-expect that you compose these maratonas on a smartphone, where you can only see the last 5 lines’ worth of typing!)

        • Just a few notes:
          – Agree the Romandie may not be a top race, but my point is in the main races where the top one are leading to the TdF, Nibali quite often is not even close to podium. It is vary rare to see him fighting for podium in 1 week stage races, while Quintana, Froome, Contador are much more relevant and consistent (and also some few others)
          – I don’t think “dropping others” is the only measurement for a “great rider of a generation”, but the fact that Nibali struggles to do it, shows his relative form to the others. Even your example is questionable, as Nibali attack at TdF was on stage 18 or 19 when he was mostly out of contention and in the next day he lost >3 min to Quintana that adds to my point of poor strategy.
          – To your point on strategy, I never said that he is a poor rider or lucky rider. All that I mention if that for his level (a top rider, but not the best of this generation), he probably could get better results if he played smarter (may be less fun for the audience though)

          Anyway, I don’t think he is a lousy rider or lucky, I just think that is good one, but far from the best of his Tour contenders: Quintana, Contador, Froome or other great ones in other races like Valverde, Bonen, Cancelara, or the sprinters (I am not trying to compare them, just saying that that is a very top level of cycling that for me are one notch above everybody else)

          • 1 – Nibali’s podia in short stage races: 15 / Froome’s: 10 / Quintana’s: 13 (I could be wrong, since I did the maths in a hurry, but this is the situation, more or less). Contador is on a different level, from every POV, I agree about that, and he’s got more than 25 of such podia, indeed.
            2 – What you call “form” is probably nothing more than a 5′ wattage peak, a 15′ one in the most favourable case. Which has something to do with form… but not that much – and it isn’t necessarily proportional to other kinds of climbing performances over different times or with different continuity, on the top of not being an absolute data, either (with equal “form”, Froome has clearly got a better 5′ peak than Quintana under certain conditions, but not in others… and same goes with Nibali, Valverde etc.). But I’m already very competitive in the longest post contest hence I won’t insist further.
            3 – That’s a mere conjecture, the contrary could be easily defended (if he’s a on a lesser level than the “top guys”, well, he appears to have won more than them, which can only mean, being a long-term phenomenon, that his strategy was effective; if he’s got such a palmarés playing “the wrong way”, he must be several steps above the rest… which I don’t believe).

            He obviously is a better GC rider than the others you name, while still being at least a bit competitive in the Classics, what the others GC athletes above aren’t. That makes a huge different, if it was easy you’d see a lot of riders doing that – and you don’t. This is more than enough to place Nibali among the top.
            Besides, you can’t judge a rider from a couple of seasons, you must consider his whole career.
            It’s pretty clear that Nibali was on a lesser level in 2015, when compared to his previous performances (there are data to look at, too)… and even worse in this Giro. That lesser level brought him on a final 4th place in the Tour’s GC, which isn’t bad, considering the troubles he had with team support (compare that with Valverde). The Toussuire performance was absolute level: from behind they were chasing, no doubt (did you even see that stage?), the captains were covered, and, all the same, only Quintana and Froome could take some time back on the final climb (some petty 30″ in Froome’s case, I’m not sure if Quintana could get one minute or something less), Pinot, Valverde, Contador they went on losing more time to Nibali. And on the Alpe there was clearly a problem with an untimely flat. After that tragic first half of the Tour, Nibali made his way from 23rd to 4th in GC. Without being perfectly fit, in a hard fought TdF.
            However, no need to insist: Nibali isn’t clearly on the same “historical” level as Boonen, Cancellara or Contador, but neither are Quintana (for now, he’s got the skills to get there – but he must do it before being places there), Froome (he can get there, perhaps, if he proves able to sustain a long sport-life) and probably not even Valverde (excessive specialisation in terms both of winning Monuments and collecting high results in the GTs, Valverde he’s great rider but he’s only *huge* in the Liège and in the Vuelta).

      • “But I guess what we are arguing here if is he one of the top ones of this sport…”

        Are we really arguing? Some just don’t get that a man with his palmares is one of the top ones of this sport. period. Unless you made up some own weird categories of top ones of this sport. Like. they are all a bunch of losers cause no one beat Merckx.

    • +1 Grazie for refuting so much nonsense, though reason and fact have a tough time cutting through the “my guy’s better than your’s!” rhetoric. Luckily, that’s not often a problem here at Inrng as most of the inane fanboy stuff gets posted elsewhere.

      • Nibali has his faults, but saying that he won all three GT’s by being lucky is really too much!
        Yes, he makes daring attacks that often backfire but when they succeed he is a supreme winner.
        Yes, he is not consistent but 100% consistency has often proved to be nefarious.
        So I do admit that I like him very much because he is human, IMHO perfectionism has put a huge dent in the sport we all love.

  12. I am with John on the stages. Essentially I believe Sky / Froome make the Tour less exciting than it could be if it had a variety of stages like the Giro is attempting. That way we wouldn’t just see a high tempo going in to most climbs from one of the most detested team in the world (well besides in the UK).

    • Stage 19 of the TDF last year was an 85 mile mountain stage very similar to this Giro stage. It was very similar with Nibali winning from long range and Sky obliterated by attacks and Froome isolated (holding on for 3rd, but dropping time).

      We seem to have this view that the Froome and Sky in GTs = boring racing and that the TDF stages are all the same, but the last few years it has seemed different to me. I agree that 2012 and Wiggins was super controlled, but 2013 Sky were under a lot more pressure and Froome had to do lots of solo defence and 2015 was no walk in the park by a dominant team. The 2014 Vuelta I thought was cracking as well.

      I think we too often forget about the actual races and resort to stereotypes.

      • Totally agree. Often am absolutely surprised how – especially in the last years – people can for example say the Tour is boring. It often seems the labels and personal preferences count more than the actual racing. The now approved narrative is: The Giro is the cool race for the “initiated”. The Tour is the boring official race and it is fashionable to be against it. And the Vuelta is for those who love the underdogs. In some way these labels and narratives are unavoidable in a sport like cycling, with it’s hundreds of different contests (races), but on the other hand it is kind of sad and unfair, because every narrative is mostly just that: A tale.

      • Froome have been stereotyped as a Wiggins-like rider as well, and his improvements as an all-rounder have often been overlooked: the 2013 Froome would not have won the 2015 tour, but when 2015 came around Froome was winning GC by correct positioning on the crosswind stage, riding well on the cobbled stage (looking like Bambi on ice, but it worked) and keeping up with Nibali on the dangerous Col d’Allos descent. This was not a stereotype Tour de France, it was an edition with a higher diversity of challenges and Froome took one step up in many performance categories to win it.
        One way of putting it is that course was designed for a successful defense by Nibali yet won by Froome, perhaps first sign that Nibali was no longer the supreme all rounder amongst the great GC riders. Astana might have brought him his greatest victory, but it doesn’t sound like a team with a good atmosphere and it does not look like Nibali is the kind of personality that thrives in those conditions, and I doubt he can win another important race with that team. (He may still win an important race this year, with his national team….)
        Back to the development of Nibali vs Froome as all rounders: this is still advantage Nibali but Froome’s remaining weakness relative to Nibali as an all rounder is in cold temperatures and adverse weather, plus the curious fact that he seems unable to finish a one-day race. Given that there are still challenging days ahead up to 2700m in this Giro, Nibali’s tolerance for bad weather may still be a factor, although I wouldn’t count on it, as the new extreme weather protocol might have canceled that advantage, and the only pro stage race Kruiswijk has won so far was the Artic race.

        • +1
          I quite liked last Tour, and agree with what inrng says above. We need not to choose! Your analysis is good, from my POV, even if it leaves aside a couple of points (which don’t change the general picture).

          The LPSM stage was the perfect Sky-Froome stage and it was placed and built in such a way there wasn’t anything the rest could do. This is something which I generally don’t like, but it was fine, imagining that Froome could have lost time on the pavé, for example, and considering that it cuol foster – as it partially did – good racing in the following stages. It was like having a big flat TT when you’ve got a known strong team or rider for that, in a sense… (I’m not saying “it’s the same”, look at Quintana, it’s the same *concept*). Most people, and me too, now think that’s good course-design, even if it’s a shock when it happens and a huge psychological blow for the others.

          The second point you left out is the depressing way Movistar played out its Tour. Not only they didn’t take advantage of the aggressive racing by Contador and Nibali (who didn’t ally between themselves, as both regretted afterwards), a decision which would have granted a very high chance of Quintana winning (with Valverde well far from the podium), but they also helped to block those moves from scratch, which really made little sense in the big picture.

          However, I must say that from the Vuelta 2014 I consider that Froome stepped really up as a rider. His 2013 impressed because a couple of monster performances which also looked dubious, but it has been overrated possibly because of the lack of condition of Contador who has been used as a benchmark. That year’s top-ten is really poor (lots of gregari), and Quintana was a TdF debutant (!!!).

  13. Really delighted to see how Kruijswijk is racing. Marking all the right moves and showing so much strength and confidence. I haven’t been able to truly believe in a Dutch victory in a grand tour GC since I started watching cycling in the mid 80’s, but it sure looks like he is going to pull it off. Hup Steven!

      • Indeed. Or French, Japanese, Mexican, or anything else not Dutch. That would make it quite hard for me to indulge in the only bit of nationalism I actually enjoy, which is rooting for fellow countrymen in sports events. What exactly was the point you were trying to make?

  14. Stages like today are so brutal. There aren’t many other sports I can think of where you can literally look you opponent in the eye, whisper to your team or those around you that someone looks weak and then stick the the knife in.

    That point where Nibali was dropped and Zakarin peered down from the corner to look back on Nibali, saw he could not respond and so twisted the knife. It is then the slow death as they leak seconds, whilst still battling against the inevitable.

    • This for me is what sums up what was so interesting about the stage.
      Most of the politics and allegiances are a lot more low key and often unseen by the time most coverage kicks in on a long stage (even watching live coverage on ES, you join after the break has gone and everything has settled down). Yesterday was different. You joined coverage before anything was settled plus I believe that the top 10 (or at least 6) were close enough in timings that anyone of them felt that breaking the pink was possible, potentially without a huge risk to their overall aspirations if it didn’t come off, hence all the politicking and attacking taking place in front of us – it was fascinating to watch. However, if the pink jersey was more secure, with several more minutes plus a strong team would the same thing have happened – probably not because the strong team would have kept it pegged and the cushion of the lead would have absorbed the majority of attacks.
      Even after it all, the top 6 are still pretty close with some big stages still to come, the question being what yesterday has done to them psychologically. Have those below the top 3 started to settle for a podium or do they still believe they can take pink. I for one can’t wait to see what unfolds over the coming days

  15. Chaves performance was strange yday, to miss or seemingly ignore the early move, and then be the quickest up the final climbs… I assume it was an early stage rest day blockage thing?
    Valverde breathing down his neck now which can’t be a nice feeling. Let’s hope he gets it back together for the last two big stages which should suit him if his legs hold out ok. How old is he btw? – I’m convinced he’s only 16…

    • The only “strange” thing was missing the move.
      It’s just logical that he made the best time on the last ascent, since before that he had spent a lot less than the contenders (not entering the battle of attacks and counterattacks on the Mendola and then racing in a more protected position on all those exposed kms when it mattered a lot).
      It’s so logical that one could even think that it was a *genial* idea by the team car… or he just missed the move out of lack of experience. Or, as you say, he wasn’t physically ready for such a burning start.
      He’s born in 1990, I think, magical year… same age as Quintana. But he lost one year of career because of an accident and the subsequent complex recovery process.

  16. also – any colour on the Dombro situation yday – did he just lose the wheel and p*ss himself off, or did he get called back by his team and have a public sulk as a result?

    • ok, so I answered my own question….
      @joedombro explains: “I did feel like a had a shot and then I saw the break ride away from me. It sounds stupid to make it to the break on the climb and get dropped on the flat, but that’s what happened. It was a little bit of it was inexperience.
      “It’s better to sit last, last wheel even if Valverde and Nibali want to scream at you. If you sit behind the guys rotating, they keep opening a gap and trying to make you get in the rotation and then you’re just jumping around. I should have sat very last wheel. They can yell all they want but they know I know I have no reason to pull. They want to win the jersey. I’m here trying to win a stage.
      “Let’s be honest, I’m not as strong guys like Nibali and Valverde. If they’re trying to win the Giro, I have every right to sit on and try to go for the stage. It was just a stupid mistake on my part.
      “The good thing is that I’m going super well. The last two days suit me more than today. We’ll see if I can pull something out.”

  17. As great as today’s stage was, surely the best stage so far was the marathon one, no? You could just as well say that all stages should be long. In fact, I cannot remember a single GT stage that was longer than 6h, which wasn’t great.

    The greatest asset the short stages have, is that the start of the stage is either televised or soon after it, and that riders aren’t afraid to invest their efforts early on as they don’t have to pay as high an interest in the end. Therefore I think short stages can be great as well, but they require a design that utilizes the advantages it has, so an interesting/selective beginning, a middle part that doesn’t favor chasing from a big bunch to close things down, and an end that isn’t the hardest part of the stage, so waiting isn’t the best strategy.

  18. Been trying to work out where Kruijswijk and Chaves would slot in vs the expected Tour top 10. If you used Nibali and Valverde as a benchmark you would put them up with Froome, Contador and Quintana…. but I don’t think Nibale or Valverde are at their best so slot them in somewhere amongst Pinot, Van Garderen, Porte, Barguil, Bardet, Thomas….??

    I have no idea, love this sport.

    • I think they might find their ‘weaker’ teams a bit more of a problem in the Tour if they got into the top 3 positions that needed defending.
      Yesterday was interesting in that regard, in that the nature of the stage – and Nibali’s early attack – negated the strength of Movistar and Astana to an extent so that it was more man-on-man from an early point onwards… Scarponi has looked pretty strong before, but was notable by his absence yday I thought… perhaps it all comes back for the last 2 big stages. I really really hope the weather doesn’t muck them up…

      • Lotto Jumbo has a fairly poor team in this Giro because they totally focus on the Tour. I go to a Jumbo supermarket almost daily. The only sports marketing you see there at the moment is for F1 driver Max Verstappen’s racing event next week. But in July they have TdF stuff all over the store. The fact that their signature color is yellow probably just adds to the general TdF craze. If he wins this Giro I would not be surprised if Jumbo steps up sponsorship to allow the team to get some more support for Kruijswijk in the Tour. Cycling is already sort of mainstream sports in The Netherlands but if there’s a genuine contender for winning the Tour there will be tons of media attention. And with guys like Gesink and Kelderman they already have a some strong climbers available.

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