Reflections on Stage 10 – 2013 Giro d’Italia

Stage 10 – 2013 Giro d’Italia
Distance: 167km, Cordenons – Altopiano del Montasio

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1. It was disheartening to see Ryder Hesjedal implode yesterday on the first climb of Cason di Lanza. As mentioned here, he had been suffering of bad legs. The drop meant he finished more than 20 minutes down on the stage winner Rigoberto Uran thus slipping out of the general classification contenders’ group. Last year, he won the Giro with panache and I rooted for him throughout the race. I desperately wanted him to defend his crown and mimic the likes of Binda, Bartali, Coppi, Merckx and Indurain. Sadly, it will not happen this time.

2. But then every cloud has a silver lining. And it was true yesterday too when the current maglia rosso passione wearer Cadel Evans was seen matching every pedal stroke of Vincenzo Nibali on Altopiano del Montasio. Before the Giro, Cadel had suffered bad results at Tirreno-Adriatico and Criterium International. His main stated aim for the Giro was to get back in form and prepare for Tour de France. But as we saw at Giro del Trentino, Cadel was slowly getting back his climbing form and with no general classification expectations, he has really flourished in the race. He has been the revelation of the race and with Hesjedal dropping out of contention, the Canadians on the roadside will be cheering the helium-voiced man.

3. The composition of the break yesterday was mind-boggling. On a difficult mountain stage, it comprised exclusively of sprinters and rouleurs. I don’t know what Jackson Rodriguez of Androni-Giaccotoli was thinking when he was pushing like mad at the front. It was never going to work with his limited climbing prowess. His teammate Franco Pellizotti also tried to break free on the climb of Cason di Lanza but slipped on the descent. That was the end of a valiant effort but may be forgot that what goes around comes back around.

2013 Giro d'Italia - Stage 10 Profile

Reflections on Stage 8 and 9 – 2013 Giro d’Italia

Stage 8 – 2013 Giro d’Italia
Distance: 54.8km, Gabicce Mare – Saltara

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1. This individual time trial stage was included in 2013 Giro d’Italia to lure Bradley Wiggins who romped to victory in 2012 Tour de France thanks mainly to his chrono performance on Stage 9. But unlike the Tour, the parcours of the Giro time trial stage was hilly and definitely not suitable for Wiggins who prefers flatter terrain. Wiggins had already lost some time on previous stages and was under enormous pressure to perform. The tag of pre-race favorite to win the individual time trial only worsened his cause.

The luck has evaded Wiggins since the beginning of this Giro and he once again found himself on the wrong side of it when he suffered a puncture starting on his new TT rig, Bolide. Despite the bike change, Wiggins produced a great performance to eventually finish second, 10 seconds behind the stage winner and former teammate Alex Dowsett of Team Movistar. A stage where Wiggins was supposed to put minutes into his GC rivals, he could only muster to claw back few seconds from the race leader Vincenzo Nibali of Team Astana.

2. Vincenzo Nibali on the other hand suffered no mishaps and produced a performance which was to be expected given the hilly parcours. Nibali was not too shabby in the individual time trial at the 2012 Tour de France and his performance on Stage 8 was indicative of all the hard work being put in by him and his team. He finished just 11 seconds behind Wiggins and moved in to the race lead before the race enters the high mountains territory. The biggest loser of the stage was perhaps Ryder Hesjedal who lost around two minutes to Wiggins and Nibali. Just as the parcours suited Nibali more than Wiggins, Hesjedal was expected to finish somewhere in the region of his rivals. It was a huge blow for the Garmin-Sharp team and their hope of defending the maglia rosa.

3. The hero of Stage 8 was undoubtedly Alex Dowsett who spent hours in hot seat after setting the best time early in the day. Dowsett had spent two years at Team Sky working as a domestique and when Team Movistar offered a place with more opportunities to win races, he didn’t hesitate to leave. Dowsett was vindicated after he beat a very strong field of riders to win the stage. This win will give him more confidence for the rest of the race. I’m sure we will see him on the podium again before the end of this season.

Stage 9 – 2013 Giro d’Italia
Distance: 170m, San Sepolcro – Firenze

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1. The stage was always going to be a legbreaker after the long time trial of Stage 8. As it was the last stage before rest day, small teams were expected to animate the racing to meet their first week goals of the Giro. Pirazzi mopped up most of the KOM points on offer and finished the stage in the maglia azzurra. Two team Colombia riders made in to the breakaway but were unsuccessful to deliver the result for their team. Carlos Betancur who is carrying good form from the Ardennes Classics and Tour de Romandie thought that he had won the stage, oblivious of the fact that Maxim Belkov of Katusha had already won. Belkov had hit out before on the climb of Vallombrosa and soloed his way to win the stage.

2013 Giro d'Italia - Stage 9 Profile

2. The drama has been unrelenting at 2013 Giro d’Italia and Stage 9 was no different. The jagged Apennine terrain of the inland Italy combined with heavy rains once again provided a stern test for the riders. Bradley Wiggins lost contact with peloton 30km before the finish. But with the help of his teammates he managed to rejoin and rolled in with the Nibali group. Ryder Hesjedal further lost a minute on his GC rivals and slipped out of top 10 in the general classification. Losing time back to back on two stages means that all is not good with the defending champion. He couldn’t have asked for a better timing of the rest day but his bid of winning the Giro will be tested on Tuesday with a mountaintop finish.

2013 Giro d'Italia - Stage 10 Profile

3. Stage 10 is the first challenge to test the climbing form of the riders. Cadel Evans who is currently sitting second in the general classification will be thoroughly tested and I doubt he will be able to cope with steep gradients. The stage will be the most interesting for Ryder Hesjedal who will at least like to finish in the Nibali group. Although if he wants to have any hope of defending the jersey, he will have to attack on the final climb of Altopiano Del Montasio.

Reflections on Stage 6 and 7 – 2013 Giro d’Italia

Stage 6 – 2013 Giro d’Italia
Distance: 169km, Mola di Bari – Margherita di Savoia

1. On that day in 2011, Wouter Weylandt lost his life on a high speed descent at the Giro. The organizers have now retired Wouter’s race number 108 permanently from the race. It’s a great gesture from RCS sport and as a fan I respect them for the decision. Cycling is the only sport where athletes, race authorities and fans manage to sustain a close bond. Any of these entities can act in a manner which can influence the sport directly – cue the EGM called by Irish Cycling due to the concerted efforts of Irish cycling fans especially Cillian Kelly of the Irishpeloton fame.

2. The stage was pancake flat and was not to be missed by Mark Cavendish to prove yet again that he’s the fastest man on a bike. It’s remarkable that Cavendish wins the flat stages in grand tours with the surety of a setting sun. At every flat stage, Cavendish is always the favorite rider and he hardly fails to deliver. He’s the best sprinter I’ve seen in the business and has exceptional ability to handle pressure. On every flat stage, he’s challenged by the up and coming riders who are no slouch by any means but Cav beats them almost nonchalantly. Omega Pharma-Quick Step team has to be commended for their almost perfect leadout but Cav still had Viviani and Goss to beat. It will take a couple of more years before anyone can challenge Cavendish for the title of world’s fastest sprinter.

Stage 7 – 2013 Giro d’Italia
Distance: 177km, San Salvo – Pescara

1. This stage had the parcours like the teeth of a hacksaw.

2013 Giro d'Italia - Stage 7 Profile

A stage with some part of the same route was included at Tirreno-Adriatico this year where Chris Froome lost time on his general classification rivals. It was the case of deja vu for Team Sky as their leader at the Giro, Bradley Wiggins also lost crucial minute and 24 seconds to Vincenzo Nibali and Ryder Hesjedal. In the final 20 kilometres, the inclement weather closed in on the peloton. Sir Wiggo has not looked terribly comfortable whenever the weather has gone bad during the race. Yet again he was forced to call upon his descending skills on the wet surface but was caught wanting. He slipped, got bruised and trundled at the finish line some good time behind his general classification rivals.

2. If there was drama on this stage, the hero was certainly Adam Hansen. The peloton’s very own system administrator went up in the breakaway and managed to make it stick till the end, that too solo. Hansen is an affable guy who is loved by his teammates and fans alike. We can’t forget the shenanigans he pulled off at his team’s pre-season training camp. But it’s also clear that he has been putting in solid efforts on his bike. The Australian dropped ex-doper Emanuelle Sella on the steep climbs around Pescara on a wet and soaking finale to take his first grand tour win. Hansen finished all three grand tours last year and he wants to repeat the feat this year again. Will it make him the first rider to finish six grand tours in two years?

Reflections on Stage 5 – 2013 Giro d’Italia

Stage 5 – 2013 Giro d’Italia
Distance: 203 km Cosenza-Matera.

1. There were only two Cat 4 climbs in yesterday’s stage but Stefano Pirazzi of Bardiani-Valvole was eager to mop up the mountain jersey points on offer.

2013 Giro d'Italia - Stage 5 Profile

Pirazzi finished second last year behind Matteo Rabottini who also won a mountain stage. It was naive of Pirazzi to spend energy on going for points on Cat 4 climbs. He should save his energy for later, for more mountainous stages which will be targeted by other mountain jersey aspirants.

2. Giovani Visconti of Team Movistar was the second to take mountain points on at Montescaglioso. The Italian continues to hold the maglia azzurra by the skin of his teeth.

3. Omega Pharma-Quick Step was seen earlier in the stage driving the pace which indicated that Mark Cavendish was in good climbing form. But despite his best efforts, Cavendish wasn’t able to maintain the tempo and was dropped on Montescaglioso. It was disappointing to see Cav losing out on contesting the sprint and repeat the stellar performance he produced on Stage 1. Today’s stage suits him better and we should definitely seem him duke it out with other fastmen.

2013 Giro d'Italia - Stage 5 Profile

4. Yesterday was yawn of a stage and the action picked up only at the ascent of second Cat 4 climb. But even if the parcours was not that exciting, the fickle spring weather added drama to the stage when riders were greeted with slick roads of downtown Matera. Luka Mezgec of Argos-Shimano slipped on the last corner which impeded the rest of the bunch on the finishing straight. Marco Canola of Bardiani Valvole tried to go solo but John Degenkolb was strong enough to haul back the Italian. Degenkolb was completely exhausted after the stage and this photo by Jered Gruber shows how much Degenkolb was in the red zone. It was some terrific bike racing by the German.

6. There was flash flood at Matera and at a point during the race it appeared that the video equipment at the finish will be washed away. But the organizers managed to arrange machines to pump away the water and manage smooth end to the stage. Doff of the hat to Giro organizers who have already faced inclement weather at Milan-San Remo and Tirreno-Adriatico.