Brutal Giro grinds on
Make no mistake this edition of the Giro has provided a challenge unequalled by a grand tour parcour for decades. In some respects it is simply too tough. The Grossglockner turned into the Grossflopner perhaps due to the shadow of the mighty Zoncolon rearing up over the horizon. This mountain is surely the equal of anything in pro-racing, it is unrelenting torture. Nibali tried bravely to test Contador as did the ever gallant Scarponi but the Spaniard is that bit too strong, too fluid, too classy. He wouldn’t have minded the partisan boos of the Tifosi as he crested the finish line behind Igor Anton. Nibali may have been left cursing the cancellation of the Monte Crostis descent but the truth is Contador looked capable of clawing time back on the ascents, and the Crostis descent looked terrifying even for a descender of Nibali’s quality. I think the DS’s were correct to pressure the organisers into a cancellation.
The following day saw the Queen stage to Gardecchia over a sawtooth profile. Stefano Garzelli (as predicted by Corinthian) chose this day to make his bid for stage glory. It was an epic effort on a stage of biblical proportions. I wish he had the strength to hold off an impressive Mikel Nieve whose victory completed a fantastic double for his Basque team. It will be interesting to see how Euskaltel go in the TDF with the brilliant Samuel Sanchez as road captain.
Nibali deserves huge credit for the scintillating downhill attack he launched to distance Contador and genuinely pressurise the pink jersey wearer. His style is simply astounding, he literally passes others at double the speed with twice the control. Magnificent. However, with cycling what goes down invariably goes up again and Contador would exact his revenge on the final climb. Seemingly with a slight Spanish alliance from Arroyo and Rodriquez he plowed on towards the summit with Nibali gamely limiting his losses. The most interesting subplot was Michele Scarponi who seemed to benefit from the ensuing tussle riding steadily to reel Contador in and secure second on GC. Scarponi will not have given up the Maglia Rosa yet, but at over four minutes adrift of Contador it will take a spectacular crack.
In the young rider category Kreuziger has his hands full with Kruijswijk who has been superb to date. Kreuziger seems to have found his limit and although he makes the selections it looks like a podium place in a grand tour is beyond him. Elsewhere John Gadret and Hubert Dupont of AG2R have been exceptional. If Gadret rides the TDF he must be a solid bet for best French rider. He also has a real chance of a podium at this Giro if he can remain aggressive. Other notables include the constant suicide attacks of Hoogerland. Kiryienka continues to impress but suffered on the road to Gardecchia.
The torture will continue apace as the riders face more arduous hours in the saddle. It seems that the teams will have little say in the GC as Liquigas appear as ineffective as Saxobank, yet this is a race for individuals in the mould of the great pre-war Giri. Contador continues to set the benchmark with Scarponi emerging as his closest rival through his pure bloody-mindedness. Nibali will have to suffer like never before to cling to the podium but should see off Gadret et al in the end. Expect Contador to hammer in the final nails during the mountain TT.