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.
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.
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.