It’s a cliché for sure, but ‘it’s the riders who make the race’ – no Contador, Froome, Nibali, Sagan, Valverde or Wiggins in Italia but we have an excellent contest on our hands.
Enrico Battaglin took a brilliant Giro stage win for the second year running:
- Pro Continental wildcards Bardiani-CSF on budget of two bob: TWO.
- World Tour Team Sky on budget of £27(?) Million: Nil.
There can only be one winner and that was Enrico; but there were other men who were outstanding on the day.
Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R & Italy) is looking more dangerous by the day, his team is committed and strong and he looks the least stressed of the ‘Bigs’ – and that mountain time trial must have a big red ring around it on his programme.
Nairo Quintana (Movistar & Colombia) was looking much more like himself today – he’s been ill but is obviously well on the mend, albeit Pozzovivo does look better.
Danilo Hondo (Trek & Germany) would look cool in the Sahara and today was no exception; in the break, gauging his efforts on the climbs, coming back up on the descents and there for king of the mountains team leader Arredondo very late in the day – and all the while without a hair out of place.
A few years ago, Dave and I were driving up l’Alpe d’Huez the day before the Tour stage, to do a l’Alpe preview – there was the usual cross section of humanity grovelling up the hill on all forms of bicycle.
But only pros look like pros; ‘who’s the boy in the Skil gear?’ we mused, drawing up alongside him in the car.
Albert Timmer was the answer, a cool guy, the team had a training camp atop l’Alpe and he had to ride up it every day to finish his ride.
It was great to see Albert (Giant & The Netherlands) making the race today and even getting back to the leaders in the finale after his solo bid ended.
It was good to dream for a minute or two that Albert could win – but on the subject of dreams, it’s over for Ivan Basso (Cannondale & Italy.)
And was all that effort really worth it for a handful of seconds for Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin & Canada) surely he’d be better forgetting the GC and hunting for a stage win – which there was no way he was going to achieve, today.
Also getting it wrong today was Nico Roche (Tinkoff & Ireland) what was he doing wasting all that energy in attacking on the second climb?
Bjarne Rijs doesn’t make mistakes very often but shouldn’t it now be, ‘all for Rafal’ and no wasteful heroics?
But if you have a motivated man like Roche champing at the bit for a stage win it must be hard to slap him down.
Similarly it was very surprising to see Manuel Quinziato (BMC & Italy) in the break – you can’t hedge your bets if you’re serious about winning the GC, which Evans patently is.
You can say what you like but Armstrong and Bruyneel but they wouldn’t engage in frivolity like that unless the GC was as good as won.
On the subject of GC, the big question to ask about maglia rosa Rigoberto Uran (QuickStep & Colombia) is; ‘was today just an ‘off’ day or has his climbing suffered at the expense of his improved riding against the clock?’
We’ll know tomorrow – but he did not look good as he crawled across the line in his lowest gear.
Wout Poels was there for him at the death, so he wasn’t isolated – he just didn’t have the legs and lost time to all of his GC opposition.
The future generation of stage racers is developing nicely with Tinkoff’s Polish star in the jersey of best young rider, Rafal Majka stealing seconds from both Uran and Evans to consolidate his third spot.
Both Wilco Kelderman (Belkin & The Netherlands) and Fabio Aru (Astana & Italy) didn’t miss a beat either – a solid showing by the three ‘Giovanis’ – as the Italians title the young riders.
Before the start my favourites were Quintana and Uran; after the first week I would have said Evans then after the time trial it would have been Uran – but now?
Pozzovivo – if only we could get him looking better on a time trial bike…