Giro d'Italia logoVeloVeritas sage and pundit, Viktor isn’t a fan of the high mountains; especially ascents such as the Vuelta’s Angliru or Bola del Mundo because they don’t actually go anywhere, but Michael Rogers didn’t seem to mind.

At least the Zoncolan is a through road and like the mountains or not, Stage 20 of the 2014 Giro d’Italia was a real spectacle.

That final horrible grind up the mountain didn’t affect the GC much at all but Michael Rogers’ (Tinkoff & Australia) ride was wonderful to watch.

It looked very much like he had the better of fellow breakaway survivor Francesco Manuel Bongiorno (Bardiani & Italy) anyway, but we were denied their duel going any further by the moron who gave the man in green a push.

Already sitting close on the wheel, Bongiorno touched Rogers back tyre and had to unclip to avoid a crash – his rhythm and concentration broken the Italian couldn’t get back on terms with Rogers and it was left to the 34 year-old former Junior Points Race World Champion from New South Wales to take his most spectacular victory in the grand manner, alone, arms high in the air.

Michael Rogers
Mick Rogers takes his second stage. Photo©Gian Mattia D’Alberto

It was nice to see Franco Pellizotti in second spot; despite the ‘doper’ tag his case was not a black and white ‘kitting up’ issue and Liquigas were keen to take him back after his suspension but couldn’t due to ever more – and rightly so – onerous rules about top tier teams signing riders with ‘previous.’

Michael Rogers
Franco Pellizotti. Photo©Gian Mattia D’Alberto

Bongiorno was third and wept after the finish – no one can blame him.

Micheal Rogers
Manuel Bongiorno didn’t need the problems provided by idiotic “fans”. Photo©Bardiani

It wasn’t just the Bardiani man who had problems with crazed fans; Rogers had to fight them off – and you didn’t need to be much of a lip reader to see what Rogers had to say to his new ‘friends’ – whilst even the maglia rosa wasn’t exempt as a huge man draped in a Colombian flag almost decked Quintana.

And those were just the incidents which the cameras witnessed; there would be many more, no doubt.

The message to the organisers has to be that when the race returns to the Zoncolan – as it surely will – then they need more barriers and/or more marshals to stop the ‘crazies.’

As an old friend of mine used to say; ‘you should never drink on any empty head.’

Michael Rogers
Huge numbers of people on the Zoncolan. Photo©Marco Alpozzi

Quintana was impressive – and so were his Movistar team.

Michael Rogers
Nairo Quintana has the race all but won. Photo©Gian Mattia D’Alberto

Road captain Fran Ventoso in particular demands a lot of respect.

He’s gone from pure sprinter – with stage wins in the Giro and Vuelta as well as many other lesser stage races such as the Ruta del Sol and Circuit de la Sarthe, not to mention one day races such as Philadelphia and Paris-Brussels – to ‘not to be messed with’ Movistar road captain.

Ventoso’s career hasn’t been a smooth progression; he was with Saunier Duval and got some good results, including a Vuelta stage win.

But the results stopped, they emptied him and he spent three seasons in the lower divisions – one with Andalucía and two with CarmioOro where he picked up a lot of good results and was snapped up by Movistar.

And it’s a move which neither party has regretted.

Michael Rogers
Francisco Ventoso is a wnner in his own right. Photo©Fabio Ferrari

Igor Anton too was impressive, riding himself into the ground for Quintana on the Zoncolan – the Basque has won on the Zoncolan and was well placed to win the Vuelta a year or two ago until he crashed out.

But back to Quintana, whilst he has the natural advantage of his tiny size giving him an excellent power to weight ratio for the climbs he still has to get through the team time trial, individual time trials and sprinter stages in one piece.

But that’s where Ventoso comes in…

And wouldn’t it have been nice if Quintana had let Uran finish in front of him? – but that’s called ‘class.’

Quintana doesn’t have that yet, just raw talent, power and street wisdom.

Michael Rogers
Quintana leads Uup the final climb. Photo©Fabio Ferrari

Aforementioned Rigoberto Uran (QuickStep & Colombia) was impressive too; he knew that there was no point in even thinking about attacking Quintana – the job was to keep Aru in his box.

Michael Rogers
Fabio Aru gulps air at the top of the Zoncolan. Photo©Fabio Ferrari

With Poels riding brilliantly and then Serry easing back from the break to help Uran, they did the job to perfection.

A few years ago, they’d have ‘topped up’ Fabio Aru (Astana & Italy) from the fridge and he’d have been on the offensive on the Zoncolan.

For me, to see him hanging on for dear life on the climb was a much more satisfactory proposition – my eyes believed what they saw.

But Aru is one for the future, as long as we can keep him out of the Versace and Lamborghini showrooms.

Pierre Rolland (Europcar & France) will finish fourth in Trieste – a dogged ride by the Frenchman and so good to see a man from the home of the world’s greatest race in the frame in a Grand Tour.

I didn’t tip him for the top ten but I was glad to get that one wrong.

Michael Rogers
A big day and the contenders’ last chance to sort out the GC. Photo©Marco Alpozzi

Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R) in fifth spot rode a solid but uninspired race, promising much in the first half of the race but ultimately defending rather than dictating – but again, good to see a French team in the thick of it.

Rafal Majka (Tinkoff & Poland) was wilting in the last week but hung on for sixth; one place up from last year.

A great Giro for Oleg’s boys – a top ten and two excellent stage wins.

Michael Rogers
Wilco Kelderman. Photo©Belkin

In seventh spot we had a surprise from Wilco Kelderman (Belkin & The Netherlands) again, a rider I didn’t foresee getting this kind of result – but a good ride and again, believable to see him fray round the edges in the last week.

Cadel Evans (BMC & Australia) was eighth after leading the race in the first week; finishing in the top 10 of any Grand Tour is hardly failure – but a podium placing is now surely just a dream given that there’s still Contador, Froome, Nibali, Rodriguez and Valverde out there with the likes of Aru, Majka and Kelderman on the way up?

But one thing, you can’t fault the man’s grinta.

Michael Rogers
Cadel Evans benefits from some crowd protection. Photo©Marco Alpozzi

Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin & Canada) won this race in 2012 but this year’s race could hardly have started in worse fashion for him – that terrible crash in the Belfast TTT.

He fought back gamely but the last two days haven’t been happy ones – but again, no ‘too good to be true’ stuff in the last week.

Robert Kiserlovski (Trek & Croatia) was tenth – and not a bad Giro for the US team with Arredondo the King of the Mountains and winning a stage.

One stage left, for the sprinters into Trieste; and more French adulation from VeloVeritas – Nacer Bouhanni (F des J & France) is still in the race, we like him.

And so are fellow fast men Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek & Italy), Elia Viviani (Cannondale & Italy) – and Ben Swift (Sky & GB).

Can the Rotherham man with the cute bulldogs save Sky’s Giro?

I’d like to see it – mostly just for how much it would annoy Vik.

Ciao, ciao.