One of the standout performances during the 2013 Giro was Alex Dowsett’s (Movistar & GB) winning ride in the brutal Stage Eight 55 kilometre time trial ahead of all the ‘Bigs’ - to prove categorically that there is; ‘life after Sky,’ Dowsett has shown his class over the years, shining in each level of his career.
It's one to bore the grandchildren with - the day you were right there when Nibali joined the Greats on the Tre Cime di Lavaredo. 'Epic' doesn't do it justice; there was a full fledged blizzard raging for the finale - it was as if the Giro organisers had tee-ed it up. But it wasn't just Vincenzo who deserves the plaudits, every finisher down to last man home, Sacha Modolo deserves huge respect. We drove race route and the raging melt waters on the way up the valleys gave a clue as to what was coming.
The original plan for the stage 18 mountain time trial was to do a 'tech' piece on the bikes the top ten would be riding for the 'chronoscalata.'But with the number of Tifosi around the buses and the fact that the 'Bigs' kept themselves out of the way 'til the last gasp, we shelved that one. So we decided to do a piece on the aspects you need to make a time trial - percorso, hardware, fans . . .
In the 'small world' file, there we are near the top of the final climb on the way to Caravaggio - which would be Cav's undoing - when this lady hear our Scottish accents and asks us if we know La Favorita Pizzeria in Edinburgh? Well! Are they no' just about to open a branch in Portobello, just round the corner from me?
It transpires that it's her brother, Davide's business. Cue smiles all round and photo op with Sarah and hubby in 'see you Jimmy' wig.
Wednesday morning, 09:55 the 'Milano by-pass' average speed around 10 mph. You only think you've seen traffic jams 'til you come to Northern Italy. And it's not helped by the fact that everyone thinks that it's their private fiefdom; the standard of driving is dire. We arrived late on the Monday rest day and after much messing around at the airport deciphered that our hire car was through an agency, so we had to tour the car hire offices 'til we got the right one.
I didn't get much opportunity to see stage 15, it was a long day for VeloVeritas - Alford and back, and then all the editing and formatting that it takes to put a piece together. But it was another tough day in a tough Giro - albeit the 'Bigs' declared a cease-fire. You'll hear no complaints about that from Giovanni Visconti, Movistar's former three time Italian champion who grabbed the Spanish team's second win of the race in fine style.
Sky did well to pull Wiggins out of the race when they did, starting Stage 14 today could have seen him contract pleurisy if he’d ridden. There’s still a long way to go but Nibali looks like it’s his race to lose. However, the ‘Forum Dwellers’ are at it already; when I was looking on CN for the full stage result I stumbled upon the forum bittie at the bottom.
GreenEdge and Cannondale learned again that those who live by the sword die by the sword, Having slyly left Patrick Lefevre’s men to do the lion’s share in bringing back the break of this longest day of the race, they formed their trains late in the tappa; hoping to exploit a Cavendish whose team was all used up.
Mark Cavendish, there's little left to say, really. He's the best roadman sprinter in the world - and his partnership with Steegmans is developing into something special. It's not as if anyone is going to lean on Big Gert...
Ryder Hesjedal is one of the nicest professional athletes you’ll ever meet, polite, grounded, sincere, soft spoken and likeable. To see him languishing in the gruppetto with Cav, yesterday was really quite sad. He was strong at Liège, paving the way for the win which took Dan Martin from ‘up and coming,’ to firmly, ‘arrived!’
The Giro isn’t over for Bradley Wiggins, but every day he has like today makes it harder to envisage that he’ll make the podium in Brescia. He lost time again today as team mate Uran launched an attack with five miles to go and no one could get him back; the plan looked to be that all Brad had to do was sit on the other GC riders as they chased Rigoberto Uran.
The Giro d'Italia – if it ended right now it would have been great, aggressive race, but the fact is that there are still two full weeks to go. I did a race preview for, ‘a well known North American website’ so thought I’d take a rest day wander back and see how my tips for the top are doing...
Known as one of the strongmen of the peloton, today Adam Hansen shook off the company of his five breakaway companions one by one and battled hard in the pouring rain and on glacial road surfaces to take a fantastic solo win on the Giro d’Italia’s seventh stage, finishing over a minute clear of the small group led in by Italy’s Enrico Battaglin and Danilo Di Luca.
The Italians love a good 'Giovani' - Under 23 rider. Today's Edinburgh edition of the Gazzetta deals with Battaglin's fine Stage Four win. The Italian journo's are already thinking about when he's going to buy a Lambo/date a model/move to Monaco and they can say; 'he's not serious!'
There are aspects of the sprinting phenomenon which is ‘Cav’ that don’t rest easy with me. The baby and Paul Smith on the podium, mouthing off about his team, the swearing... But when I see him sprint, I could forgive him just about anything. He has the coolness under fire, the spacial awareness, the grinta and the raw speed – but most of all he wants to win so badly.
There’s a great Spanish movie from 2001 starring Max von Sydow called ‘Intacto.’ The premise of the film is that for some people luck isn’t a matter of sheer chance; it’s a commodity which they possess and which they can trade – or steal. Argos fast man John Degenkolb may be one of them. Granted it wasn’t luck that he was actually in the group of 95 which contested the finish – which is more than can be said for Cav, Gavazzi, Goss and Modolo.
Just when I was about to write that there are few fairy tales in Grand Tours, as ‘re-born’ late escapee and former Baby Giro and Giro winner, Danilo Di Luca succumbed to a group of men desperate to put an end to their pain in the closing metres of the tough 246 kilometres from Policastro to Serra San Bruno, Stage 4 of the Giro d’Italia, up popped 23 year-old Enrico Battaglin.
I was the one who said that the Giro d’Italia doesn’t have a great field – but the fact is, ‘so what?’ It’s only stage three but already the ‘Bigs’ are at it, knocking lumps out of each other. I was thinking of an ABC of ‘key words’ for each of today’s protagonists – for big Ryder Hesjedal it was ‘aggressive’ but maybe it should be ‘anxious?’
Sky’s Salvatore Pucccio pulled on the pink jersey at the end of the second stage TTT as specialists Garmin never got to grips with the tricky parcours and Sir Brad got his Giro campaign off to a great start. Pucci is 23 and doesn’t have much of a pro palmares – but he’s a worker for Sky, not a winner.
Goss had a perfect lead out on Stage 1 of the Giro d'Italia; Viviani can beat his ‘bars all he wants - but Cav is King. The QuickStep boys did their job early but it all went mass critical on that last lap. Steegmans was with Cavendish coming into the final, then seemed to have a mechanical - it was all down to Mark.
One of VeloVeritas’ functions it seems is unlocking the memories of those stalwarts – like our own mentor and soothsayer, Viktor and indeed, our editor Martin - who beat a path in the 70’s and 80’s to the legendary Mrs. Deene’s boarding house in Gent (and later in Zomergem) to show those Belgies how it should be done. The latest epistle which came our way was from Norman Gower.
When Scottish Cycling Endurance Coach and seven times Scottish Road Race Champion, Evan Oliphant gets in touch to tell us there’s a junior rider named Callum Thornley that we should be speaking to, we snap to attention.
When Jos Ryan of the David Rayner Fund gets in touch then we know it’s not just to ask how we are. ‘Have you been keeping up with our rider, Toby Perry’s performances in Spain, he’s just had his second win?’ Fortunately for us, we could reply in the affirmative.
If you watched Stage One of the Giro on Eurosport or GCN then you’ll have heard that someone had the great idea to recruit British professional rider, Dan Bigham to join the commentary team as a ‘chrono specialist.’ Here at VeloVeritas we thought it would be good to put to Dan all those sad questions that trouble bike obsessives like us.
John Watson started racing at 18 years-of-age in 1966, his first race was a ‘25’ which he won with a 1:00. By the following year he was National ‘100’ Champion; in 1968 he went to the Mexico Olympics; in 1969 he set a 12 hour record which stood for a decade; 1970 saw him set a ‘50’ record which sliced nearly four minutes of the previous fastest time for the distance and lasted for 13 years, win the BBAR, get fourth place in the prestigious GP de France time trial and get offered a place with ACBB.