Tag Archives: Giro d’Italia 2013

Nibali and Cav the men of a hard mans Giro

Sunday was a victory lap for Vincenzo Nibali. He coasted into Brescia with the Pink jersey over his shoulders and over the line to seal his victory in this years Giro d’Italia. The only thing that really stood in his way today was a crash that wouldn’t allow him to finish; his two consecutive wins on Thursday and Saturday gave him a commanding lead that was never going to be in doubt today.

Not that an uncommanding lead would have been challenged on the final day. So long as the last day of a Grand Tour is a road race it’ll tend to go uncontested by the big favorites. The only way we might have seen Nibali in the mix was if he were to dare to take on Mark Cavendish for the Red jersey points prize which Nibali was in the lead of going into Sunday’s stage.

Of course he would never have stood a chance against Cav in a bunch sprint … not even the other sprinters can hold a candle to the man from the Isle of Man, and so Nibali didn’t risk it. He respected Cav’s sprinting enough through these three weeks that seen Cav win five stages (including Sunday’s) to understand that Cav was the more deserving winner of that prize. Pink is more Nibali’s style.

This race itself will go into the history books as one competed for in some of the worst weather conditions in the history of the Giro. Those conditions ended the hopes of pre-race favorite Bradley Wiggins — first the rain rendered him inable to descend and then he took ill — while defending champion Ryder Hesjedal also went home early. The lasting image will be Nibali on Tre Cime di Lavaredo riding away from the opposition to win the stage solo in the driving snow, but all in all I wouldn’t say it was an epic Giro from top to bottom.

Sure Nibali and Cavendish were the men of the race, winning seven of the 21 stages between them and splitting the GC and points jersey, but the loss of Wiggins and Hesjedal took a bit of the fight away (despite what I’ve already said before that I think Nibali would still have won on this form) and the weather robbing us of some big mountain climbs and an entire stage on the final Friday. Not to mention it came on the heels of last years Giro in which Ryder Hesjedal overcame Joaquim Rodriguez on the final days time-trial to win the race by a mere 16 seconds.

Still, the Giro continues to stand up against the Tour de France as an example of how great a race can be with aggressive riding. The prestige of the Tour often lends to defensive, cautions riding by its favorites, not willing to risk too much in case they lose it all and it becomes about marginal gains. It’s one reason why I hope Nibali changes his mind and decides to ride the Tour.

And one final thing abou the Giro. It’s a tour for the hardest of men. They may have been given a day off on Friday but you’d have been a maniac to think they should have raced on that day. Given the conditions they did race in from driving rain to driving snow, over some of the toughest climbs you’ll see in any cycling race, it’s a testiment to the toughness of cyclists that 168 of the 207 completed it. Good weather is a luxury here and you can see why many think it has become the toughest stage race of the lot.

2013 Giro d’Italia Final General Classification

1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana in 84-53-28

2. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Sky at 4-43

3. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC at 5-52

4. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-Merida at 6-48

5. Carlos Betancur (Col) Ag2r La Mondiale at 7-28

6. Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-Merida at 7-43

7. Rafal Majka (Pol) Saxo-Tinkoff at 8-09

8. Benat Intxausti (Spa) Movistar at 10-26

9. Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Vini Fantini at 10-32

10. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r La Mondiale at 10-59

Points classification: Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep)

Mountains classification: Stefano Pirazzi (Bardiani Valvole CSF Inox)

Best young rider: Carlos Betancur (Ag2r La Mondiale)

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A scene for the ages: Vincenzo Nibali rides alone through the snow to an epic win at the iconic Tre Cime di Lavaredo

nibali-trecime

The defining image of the 2013 Giro d’Italia and one that’ll go into cycling history. Photograph: Sirotti

Yesterday I previewed this stage by talking about the day in 1968 when a young Eddy Merckx made the Tre Cime di Lavaredo climb iconic by attacking alone in the snow and riding to glory in what was his first Grand Tour victory. I titled that article, ‘Memories of Merckx’. Fast forward 45 years and we had a real flashback as to what that day must have looked like, just in the place of Merckx in his World Champions jersey was Italian Vincenzo Nibali in the Pink jersey ramming home his dominance over this race by doing just what Merckx did and soloing to victory in the most atrocious of conditions for a win that will go down in Giro legend. It could well be titled, ‘Shades of Merckx’.

Unlike Merckx in 1968, Nibali had no need to go on the attack to try and seize the race. He was already four minutes in charge before the day began and could simply have marked his rivals up the climb for glory. But true glory doesn’t come about by doing that … sure he would be the winner and he’d have the stage win from the day before and he’d still be a great champion, and many others would have gone conservative, but Nibali knew that to become a true legend he would have to destroy his rivals and win upon that famous mountain. Being the first to the top in the Pink jersey would truly mark his authority and doing it in these conditions would make him a hero in his home country.

He attacked with 2.5 kiloemtres to go on gradients that pushed 18% at times and rarely fell below 10%. His attack was more a turning of the screw than an out and out acceleration, but when he moved, nobody could follow. With the snow falling and the conditions getting worse and worse near the top he continued to build an advantage. The rest behind were in another race. Surrounded by wild, passionate and at times over excited Italian fans — some clearly drunk and topless in the sub-zero temperatures running alongside and leaving me watching in fear that one was about to fall under the wheel of Nibali — the 29 year old pressed on.

On the line Nibali had only put 16 seconds into Fabio Duarte in second with fellow Columbians Rigoberto Urán and Carlos Betancur finishing with him. Maybe he tired towards the end but it was more likely the pressure coming from behind that seen him lose a little time towards the top. Urán was trying to gain time on Cadel Evans to move into second overall, something he achieved, and Betancur was looking to make up a few seconds on Rafal Majka in the young rider competition, something he too achieved. To look at Nibali though, it’s safe to say he perhaps also just sat up to enjoy the final yards and the crowds cheering him on and that if he needed to, he could easily have won by a lot more.

The entire days stage had come down to this climb after four mountain passes were taken out of the route due to the weather and with everyone having an extra days rest when an epic mountain stage was cancelled, also due to heavy snow, and the riders didn’t sell us short. Everyone’s legs were fresher than they might otherwise have been had they fulfilled the entire route and it made for a great finish today with Nibai proving the strongest as he has done throughout this Giro. I’ve said before that even had Bradley Wiggins and Ryder Hesjedal still been in this race, I doubt either would have beaten Nibali on this form.

Tomorrow they ride into the finish and Nibali will do so as the winner, though don’t expect the race to be uneventful. The points jersey is still very much up for grabs though all it requires for Mark Cavendish to win it is for him to win the final stage. Nibali moved into the points lead today after his victories yesterday and this afternoon by 128 points to Cavendish’s 117 with 25 up for grabs tomorrow. Cavendish should do it for it’s unlikely Nibali will contest the sprint, but then again, stranger things have happened. It was thought Evans would be Cavendish’s biggest rival for that jersey this morning but the Australian suffered another bad day by his standards finishing 14th, one minute and thirty seconds behind Nibali and gaining no points on Cavendish who himself had taken both intermediate sprints before the climbing began.

It hasn’t been the greatest Giro of all time, not as a whole and thanks mostly to the weather interrupting climbs and an entire stages, as well as the early departures of Wiggins and Hesjedal, but today’s victory by Nibali ensures that the 2013 Giro will have created a legendary image in the races great history.

Let’s now hope Nibali reconsiders his decision not to ride the Tour in July, for on this form it would be great to see if he could make a run at the double.

Stage 20 result

1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana in 5:27:41

2. Fabio Andres Duarte Arevalo (Col) Colombia at 17 secs

3. Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky at 19 secs

4. Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Col) Ag2R La Mondiale at 21 secs

5. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana at 44 secs

Others:

14. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC at 1-30

General classification after stage 20

1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana in 79:23:19

2. Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky at 4-43

3. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC at 5-52

4. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-Merida at 6-48

5. Carlos Betancur (Col) Ag2R La Mondiale at 7-28

Memories of Merckx at Tre Cime di Lavaredo

TreCimeDiLavaredo

Despite the route being changed tomorrow and a number of the climbs being taken out, it’s still set to be an epic stage in the Giro d’Italia thanks to the races finish at the iconic Tre Cime di Lavaredo. It’s a climb made famous by a young Eddy Merckx who won up there in 1968 en route to crushing a field of established veterans by 5 minutes overall.

An extract from the book, “The Story of the Giro d’Italia”, Volume 1 tells the story of that day on stage 12 when Merckx — at just 22 years of age but already the reigning World Champion and winner of the Paris-Roubaix, not to mention past winner of the Milan – San Remo (twice), Gent–Wevelgem and Flèche Wallonne — announced himself to the world as a Grand Tour rider and one capiable of winning every kind of race in what would become the greatest cycling career we’ve ever seen. As you’ll see, the conditions then sound very much like the kind of conditions we can expect tomorrow…

Through cold rain and snow (one journalist called the conditions “Dantesque”), clad in a short-sleeve rainbow jersey, wool cap, thick gloves and shorts, Merckx plowed ahead, catching and dropping the break that started the climb with a nine-minute lead. He went on alone to win at the top of Tre Cime di Lavaredo by 40 seconds over Giancarlo Polidori, the only survivor of the initial break, and 54 seconds over third-place Adorni. Further down the mountain there were those who couldn’t take the bitter cold and became little more than pedalling zombies.

The ease with which he ascended the day’s stiff slopes left his competitors shaking their heads in disbelief. One newspaper writer said Merckx had “climbed like a pursuiter”. He had left Motta and Zilioli more than four minutes behind while Gimondi conceded 6 minutes 25 seconds. Merckx later wrote that he rated the 1968 Tre Cime di Lavaredo stage win as his best-ever day in the mountains and one of the three greatest points of his career along with his 1969 Tour de France victory and gaining the World Hour Record.

Merckx took the maglia rosa that day and would keep it until the end of the Giro. It was his first Grand Tour win … He would go on to win another 11 over the next six years.

There’s nobody like that in this years Giro and we arrive at Tre Cime di Lavaredo on the penultimate day of the Giro with the general classification seemingly won, but that doesn’t mean we can’t expect to see fireworks. Will Vincenzo Nibali ram home his advantage and in the spirit of Merckx, go up the climb alone to victory? Or will someone else ride to glory and etch their name in Giro legend? It’s going to be worth watching.

Stage 19 cancelled; A good time for a positive drug test for Di Luca then?

There was two big pieces of news coming out of the Giro today. The first, which should have been the most important — and was so to me — was that the days stage had been cancelled due to terrible weather across the mountains in which they were due to travel. Freezing temperatures and snow left the race organisors with no choice but to call off what would have been an epic day of racing. Mark Cavendish — fighting to hold onto his Red points jersey from Cadel Evans — will have been delighted, while those climbers still looking for a stage win will have been disappointed. The other news was the positive drug test by Danilo Di Luca.

Positive test news is normally reserved for rest days when the media are looking for a story, but given that non had surfaced in the two rest days of this years Giro it seemed only fitting that this story would break on the day of an impromptu rest day thanks to the heavy snow.

Di Luca has had past issues with performance enhancing drugs and has recently come off the back of serving a suspension. Some poor team — Vini Fantini — believed in second chances and gave the Italian another shot, clearly believing that at the age of 37 he would have moved on from the dirty game and just enjoying his twilight years in the peloton. Well, today they were bitten hard and reacted with grave disappointment. So upset that they didn’t offer Di Luca a ride away from the Giro, telling him to find his own way home.

Di Luca’s positive was for EPO and it’s a sign of the times that a number of his opponents took to Twitter to voice their anger. Andre Greipel, Alex Dowsett, Nicholas Roche and Geraint Thomas were among four doing so. Thomas went as far as to call for a life-time ban for those caught using EPO and other blood doping products. It’s hard to disagree with such a stance on the most evil of performance enhancing substances. Even good old Lance Armstrong weighed in saying, “Knowing I have 0 cred on the doping issue – I still can’t help but think, “really Di Luca? Are you that f***ing stupid??”.

Still, those out there who love a good drug scandal in cycling because they love the doping angle more than they love the sport itself, were jumping for joy at this one and using it yet again as a stick to beat cycling with proclaiming that this was proof that nothing had changed and the drugs still ruled the professional peloton despite many signs to suggest otherwise. It’s amazing how by picking and choosing certain little numbers and facts you can try convince yourself that cycling is still a mess. Anyway, that’s an argument for another day.

It just bothers me that this is what will make the headlines in the sport right now when it should be a side story to what has been great about this years Giro. Di Luca is no longer a big fish in the cycling game, he’s a has-been, a washed up aging pro coming back from a suspension and who was clearly desperate to land a contract. I actually feel a little sorry for him because he clearly has a problem and like any addict, it’s no laughing matter. Di Luca is addicted to the fact that he believes he cannot compete in cycling without using drugs and that he couldn’t have gotten his contract and ride in the Giro without it.

We seen him on the attack at times in this years Giro despite the fact he’s 37 now and had little to no racing in his legs so far this year. It raised eyebrows, not just with fans but in the peloton. It’s why nobody was shocked today to learn he had tested positive. Mind you, the positive is from way back in April (not sure why it takes this long?) but that was is preparation time for this race. Thankfully he never won a stage this year but don’t be fooled into thinking because he didn’t win and because his attacks were never successful that those who reeled him in and beat him must be suspicious themselves. The simple fact is, Di Luca is not the rider he was when he won the Giro in 2007 — likely via drugs. You could put me in front of the peloton loaded to the gills on EPO and every other drug known to the testers, but the bunch would still haul me back.

As a result of this positive test, more people are asking questions about the man set to win this years Giro, Vincenzo Nibali. That is kind of understanding given what cycling fans have seen from past winners of Grand Tours and it’s not surprising given that such questions about the winners seem par for the course in modern cycling, but it’s still a little unfair.

I have no concern about Nibali. He’s always been a supreme talent and until now there has been no evidence against him whatsoever. If we’re going to question everything we see and believe there’s no future for clean cycling then we might as well find another sport to watch. until such times as Nibali fails a test or is implicated in something, then I can only admire his riding and achievements. And besides, with Bradley Wiggins and Ryder Hesjedal leaving the race early, it’s not as though Nibali has been up against a talent laden group of contenders this year. (I should point out that given the way he has ridden I still think he’d be in Pink today even with Wiggins and Hesjedal around, it’s just been that kind of a Giro for a man on top form).

And to dispel this myth that Nibali has made some meteoric rise from nowhere to this all conquering cyclist here in Italy 2013, let’s remember that he was third in the Giro in 2010 aged just 25 and won the Vuelta that same year. He was second in the 2011 Giro, third in the 2012 Tour de France and had podium positions at Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Milan San Remo that year. And regarding his time-trial last week: He was third at the Junior World time-trial championships in 2002 and third in the U-23 World time-trial championships in 2004. At the 2011 Giro he was second in a similar time-trial stage behind Alberto Contador. Is Nibali on drugs or has he been on drugs? I’ve no idea. I doubt it but I certainly wouldn’t stake my savings on it either. But he’s always been a good rider and until which times as some proof surfaces, what’s the point in throwing up flags?

Unfortunately I’ve gotten off on a bit of a tangent here when the subject was Di Luca’s positive test and the fact the pitchforks and torches are out against for the entire sport of cycling. For those who want to tar it with the one brush — something Di Luca has a large part of the blame for, for giving these folk the ammo — let me ask a question: Would we prefer they didn’t catch the cheats and instead buried their heads in the sand like almost every other sport as cycling did in the 1990’s and 2000’s?

You’ll never get rid of cheating entirely, but cycling is doing more than most and catching Di Luca and announcing a positive test from April in the thick of the Giro proves cycling is not shying away from the issue that’s prevalent in all other sports.

Nibali storms to mountain time trial victory

Baring a collapse of epic proportions, not seen by a Grand Tour leader since Floyd Landis at the 2006 Tour de France, Vincenzo Nibali will this weekend pick up the trophy as the 2013 winner of the Giro d’Italia. Today, tomorrow and Saturday were to be his final test, but this afternoon when he stormed up the climb to win the individual time-trial by 58 seconds over his nearest rival, Samuel Sanchez, he ensured the next two days would be a formality.

The result increased his lead in the general classification over Cadel Evans to 4 minutes, 2 seconds with Rigoberto Uran in third at 4’12”. Evans had a terrible day by his standards finishing 25th more than two and a half minutes behind Nibali. Having started three minutes up the road from the Italian, Evans was another few hundred meters away from being caught and passed. All Evans can really do now is keep the pressure on, try and attack and hope that a disaster befalls Nibali. That’s not likely to happen though and the real battle is for podium positions. Michele Scarponi is the man outside the podiums looking in, just 1’02” behind Uran.

Sure it would have been nice to have seen healthy Bradley Wiggins and Ryder Hesjedal at this stage of the Giro to see what kind of challenge they could pose to Nibali and it sure would have added more spice to the mountain time-trial, but you know, Nibali has just looked a class apart in May 2013 and despite Hesjedal’s form a year ago and Wiggins’s form in last years Tour, this is Nibali’s Giro and I’m not sure anyone would have beat him in his current form.

Tomorrow’s mountain stages were designed to hopefully see the final fight for the Pink jersey but things don’t always work out that way. We were treated to a fight to the final day last year, but this time one man has crushed the field. These final mountain stages will be a victory lap for Nibali from which he can defend, conserve and maintain his lead. Or maybe he’ll want to ram home his dominance and go for another stage win and extend his margin of glory.

The Giro weekend (and first two days of this week): Nibali strengthens his lead

We went into the weekend with the Giro d’Italia still very much hanging in the balance, albeit with Vincenzo Nibali looking comfortable, and we’ve come out of it with Nibali even more in charge despite little chance in the overall.

Simply put, Nibali has done what’s required to keep his rivals behind him, to keep them from gaining time on him and he’s ticked off three days of racing, including today (Tuesday), putting him closer to his dream of winning his national tour.

Saturday’s stage was perhaps the most decisive and since it put Nibali more than a minute ahead of everyone else it may be the stage we look back on as the one that really did seal the race for him. That said, there’s still a lot of climbing to come … the hardest stages lie ahead and the Italian won’t be able to relax yet. He looks good but one bad day might yet swing this race and rivals such as Rigoberto Uran will be pushing the agenda and trying to force a mistake the rest of this week.

Saturday’s stage was epic, despite the fact we seen virtually none of it. It’s amazing what you’ll sit and watch and how little you’ll see but how exciting that will make it. All morning (as it were in Canada), I sat watching the mist at the top of the days final climb, the Jafferau, in between reviews of past stages, as we waited for the race to reach the first live camera. Awful weather conditions had meant the race had skipped going over Sestriere and that none of the cameras could relay the pictures onto our television sets. As such the commentators could do little more than tell us what was being said over race radio and what the scenery would look like without fog.

Still, as the tension built and the riders hit the final climb the excitement grew. There were conflicting reports as to who was leading? Were the break still ahead? Had Nibali attacked? Was Evans with him? Were they leading? Or had one of them actually cracked? The camera got 400 metres down the mountainside from the finish line and was trained on the mist as the headlights from official car and police motorbike came through. It’s amazing how far ahead of the race some of these vehicles are and every time you see a light you think a rider will be tucked in behind that motorbike.

For someone this was going to be their, “It’s Stephen Roche … It’s Stephen Roche” moment. I almost wanted the commentator to do his best Phil Liggett impersonation circa the Tour de France, 1987 and start yelling that just for the sake of amusement.

Then suddenly a light and what looked like a cycling jersey and then what looked like a Pink jersey. It was Vincenzo Nibali … it was Vincenzo Nibali following Mauro Santambrogio and they were ahead of the rest. Santambrogio took the stage, Nibali second and with it a time bonus. He had gained on his rivals: Uran lost 30 seconds, Evans 33 seconds, and Gesink over four minutes back. The win vaulted Santambrogio up into fourth overall 2-47 behind Nibali. Evans had dropped to 1-26 overall but still in second place.

What drama for such little seen action. It just goes to show you that in sport it’s the tension as much as the action that can provide the drama and the spectacle.

Sunday was another classic … a ride to the summit of the Col du Galibier. Movistar’s Giovanni Visconti won in the snow and while everyone crossed the line in drips and drabs none of the top contenders lost time to one another with Michele Scarponi leading in a group containing Nibali, Evans, Santambrogio, Uran and Robert Kiserlovski, 54 seconds behind Visconti. The difficulty of the stage was probably best highlighted by the time tap to the 75 man strong Grupetto which ambled home in exhaustion almost 28 minutes down.

Monday was a rest day (how dare they!), and today another hilly stage. The worst climbs were far enough out that no serious damage could be done and while Benat Intxausti won the stage from a three man break 14 seconds ahead of the Pink jersey group, it was Saturday’s winner, Mauro Santambrogio, who really lost out dropping 2 minutes and 10 seconds to Nibali. It drops him back to sixth overall now with Scarponi vaulting up to fourth and Przemyslaw Niemiec — who finished with Intxausti — into fifth.

Tomorrow is as flat as it gets baring a fourth cat climb 17 kilometres from the finish and the only launching pad for someone to spoil another Mark Cavendish win. Thursday is an uphill time trial and then two days with serious climbing follow to fully sort out this race once and for all. It’s going to be a great final week.

General classification after stage 16

1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana in 67-55-36

2. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC at 1-26

3. Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky at 2-46

4. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-Merida at 3-53

5. Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-Merida at 4-13

6. Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Vini Fantini-Selle Italia at 4-57

Reigning Giro and Tour champs abandon

The year of 2012 was a special one for both Brad Wiggins and Ryder Hesjedal. That year both of them won their first Grand Tours and rode themselves into the annals of cycling legend. Things couldn’t have went better. Fast forward into 2013 and both of them in their first bids to extend their Grand Tour victories have had a nightmare … a nightmare that seen the pair of them retire from the race on the same day.

Hesjedal had come in as defending champion, determined to repeat and having built his season around the Giro. Wiggins was Tour de France champion and had arrived in Italy seeking the possibility of the Giro-Tour double and requiring a big Giro to prove to his team that he should be the leader in France and not Chris Froome whom they are leaning towards.

Both looked solid enough in the first week. Wiggins’s Sky team won the team-time-trial and Hesjedal was attacking the rest on the first day with a steep hill. Then at the time-trial things began to come a little undone for both.

Wiggins still managed second, but he wasn’t his usual dominant self and he only gained a handful of seconds of Vincenzo Nibali, while Hesjedal lost more than two minutes leaving him with an uphill battle going into week two.

Yet try as he might to regain lost time, Hesjedal could not find the power to go with his will whenever it came time to attack or follow attacks and he steadily lost time until earlier this week when he conceded more than twenty minutes and with it his title. He really should have went home then but he wanted to honour the Giro as defending champion as best he could and so he rode on.

Wiggins had crashed the day before the time-trial on a wet descent, injuring not a body part, but his confidence. From then on anytime the race went downhill in wet conditions — which appeared to be virtually every day — Wiggins would lose time to the main pack and have to work extra hard just to stay in touch. It was a disaster and it was energy spent he didn’t need to be spending.

Things only got worse for Wiggins as he picked up a bug that had been travelling around the peloton and it worked its way into his chest. He lost more time yesterday dropping out of the top ten and it seemed his time competing in this years Giro was all but up. And so it proved to be. Overnight the Sky doctor checked Wiggins and recommended he be pulled from the race. When the riders took to the start line in Busseto this morning, Wiggins was nowhere to be seen. He had gone home.

And who could blame him? Riding day after day in what was miserable rain-soaked stages would do nothing to aid in his recovery. He was already out of contention and if he has any aspirations to showing up in France and challenging Froome for the leadership of the team then continuing to make his weakened body suffer more would be madness.

Hesjedal’s condition is more unknown. He isn’t feeling the effects of a bug and cannot put his finger on why he has suddenly lost the form he believed he had coming into the event. Ever since the time-trial he hasn’t felt right and isn’t improving. Long down in the general classification he too was a no-show at the start line this morning and will head home determined to figure out what was wrong with himself while switching his attention to July’s tour.

The whole thing is a real shame for cycling fans.

This weekend the race goes into the high mountains in the Alps and this is truly where we’ll begin to see the Giro won and lost. This was the weekend I thought we would really see Hesjedal and Wiggins lock horns in the Pink jersey fight. Sure we’ll still have plenty of action with those left at the top of the GC, but let’s face it, having everyone healthy and attacking one another would have been far better.

Before the race began I had picked either Hesjedal to Wiggins to win this years Giro. I seen it as the show down between the 2012 Giro champion and the 2012 Tour de France champion so it was very strange waking up this morning to find out that both of them had left the race little over halfway through for reasons of health and form.

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As for the stage itself … well, it was a flat stage so you can insert the usual script: Small break goes clear early, builds big lead, gets caught near the end, Mark Cavendish wins bunch sprint.