Tag Archives: Ryder Hesjedal

Scintillating weekend of summit finishes at the Vuelta

What a weekend of racing that was at the Vuelta and as I sit here writing this on a Monday morning I know that the best is yet to come…perhaps today as they tackle what some see as the Queen stage of this years Vuelta.

Saturday was especially exciting for the Canadian viewership as Ryder Hesjedal got himself into the days break yet again and this time was able to make it stick. Every since his GC ambitions faded, Hesjedal has been on the attack anytime we’ve seen a stage with hills. This time they gained enough of a lead to stay clear on the final climb — a short but brutally steep rise — and when Oliver Zaugg attacked it looked as though the big Canadian was going to fall short. But as we seen in this years Giro when Hesjedal’s diesel engine kept him coming back to the wheel of a flying Nairo Quintana on stage 16 in which Hesjedal just lost out, he once more hauled his way up to Zaugg and then blew past for his first individual Grand Tour stage win since stage 12 of the 2009 Vuelta.

Later that day, in Hafjell, Norway, Canadian Catherine Pendrel won the woman’s mountain bike world championships with another Canadian, Emily Batty, finishing in sixth. With the Tour of Alberta also in full swing and full of Canadian riders, it was quite the day for cycling in the Great White North.

The following day it was Przemyslaw Niemiec who won the stage, like Hesjedal, emerging from the days break but further down the road — and not much further — it was Alberto Contador who remained in control of the overall lead, though only by 31 seconds and nobody looks heads and shoulders better than the rest. Someone, if not all of them, are due a bad day along the way but nobody looks like they’re ready to surge clear and destroy their opposition.

Right now it’s between the Spanish Armada trio of Alberto Contador, Alejandro Valverde and Joaqium Rodriguez, with the Kenyan-British contingent of Chris Froome hanging on for dear life. And it’s Froome who looks like he might get better in this final week more so than the rest. He came into this Vuelta clearly off form and it has shown as recently as this weekend when he was often hanging off the back of the final selection of GC contenders, following his power metre and riding steadily.

The rest might come to rue not taking the chance to bury the Sky rider when they had the chance yesterday but while they played a cat and mouse game of attacking and then slowing to watch one another, Froome dangled off the back, clawing his way back on when the Spaniards sat up. It only cost him 12 seconds to Valverde and Rodriguez, and 7 seconds to Contador, on the line when a more sustained effort might have seen him lose a lot more.

People will say it was Froome’s reliance on the power metre that allowed him to do that, but it was as much the others watching one another and Froome riding it steady that kept him in contention. That said, there is the possibility that the rest couldn’t maintain a sustained effort and that Contador’s attacks over a 20 metre stretch of the climb before sitting up were the best he could muster in the hopes to crack his rivals. Did Froome know their surges couldn’t be sustained and that if he kept his cool he wouldn’t lose too much by the top? With a 1 minute, 20 second gap to Contador overall you get the feeling that Froome, if he can find his best form, is still very much in the mix with the toughest stages still to come.

A quick look at the top six on general classification shows just how close the racing is, especially between the top four, after those two summit finishes on the weekend:

1. Contador (TCS) in 58h31’35”

2. Valverde (MOV) +31″

3. Froome (SKY) +1’20”

4. Rodriguez (KAT) s.t.

5. Aru (AST) +2’22”

6. Uran (OPQ) +2’57”

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Quintana does one of the great rides in the most brutal of conditions to win the stage and move into the Pink jersey

Nairo Quintana, pre-Giro favorite who looked to be in a little trouble just a few days ago, pulled out what will surely go down as one of the great rides in the history of this great race to win stage 16 and turn a 2 minutes, 40 seconds deficit to fellow Colombian Rigoberto Uran into a 1 minute, 41 seconds lead in this race in one of the most difficult, yet brilliant, stages of cycling you’re ever likely to see.

The 139 kilometres they raced may not have sounded extremely challenging but when faced with the three climbs they had to go over — the Passo di Gavia, the Stelvio and Val Martello — there was no doubt today was always going to be one of the hardest stages. But only when the weather was factored in did the stage go from tough to brutal and left many debating whether they should just cancel the stage as the snow fell and the temperatures plummeted.

There was talk for a while that the descent of the Stelvio had been neutralized by race officials, though that was later denied, yet confusion reigned and is likely to reign into the night as to how it was supposed to be raced. Naturally therefore the stage was blown wide open on that Stelvio descent with Nairo Quintana, Pierre Rolland and Ryder Hesjedal going on the attack in tricky conditions while their rivals felt the need to exercise caution. It’s not yet known whether those left behind thought racing had ceased — though no doubt many of them will claim they did — while those who took advantage will claim it was game on for an epic encounter.

While the weather may have played a big part in the staggering fact that only 36 men finished within half an hour of Quintana, there is little doubt that it was his pure ability to also go uphill in these conditions that truly swung the balance of this Giro.

When himself, Hesjedal and Rolland hit the bottom of the Stelvio they carried a two minute advantage over the rest … a lead so great on a descent that it has fueled the argument that the race had been neutralized but left me arguing that upon seeing these three contenders head on down the hill why wouldn’t you go with them and debate the neutralization later? If indeed there was any agreement to ‘take it easy’ which given the official results would suggest that officially, there was not.

It mattered not however, because once they all got off the descent and the charge up to Val Martello began, Uran, devoid of team support, followed the Tinkoff-Saxo team as they tried to haul back, without success, the deficit to the three up the road, who were quickly reigning in the loan survivor of an earlier attack, Dario Cataldo, and gunning towards stage glory. Rolland and Hesjedal have been fine opportunists in this Giro, using every chance they can get to take back time and it was no great shock that in the midst of this confusion they would be seeking the advantage. And why not Quintana too, who has hooked up with Rolland on a few occasions now in this Giro, to get in on the act and take back from Uran what he had lost in the individual time-trial last week?

If their lead was two minutes going onto the climb, then it says something to Quintana’s form as this race progresses that he only increased that with pedal stroke, coming home more than four minutes ahead of Uran. That Quintana put two minutes into Uran alone on the climb when he came into the stage 2-40 off his lead, suggests that had he waited on the descent, further conserving his energy, he might well have overturned that 2-40 on the climb to Val Martello alone anyway.

I find it hard to argue that the best man isn’t tonight in the pink jersey. Especially when you go about acquiring it in such fashion.

And make no mistake about it, Quintana didn’t ride the coat tails of his fellow escapees here, the lions share of work was done by the Colombian as Hesjedal and Rolland fought to hang on. On several occasions Hesjedal was dropped when the gradient percentage ramped up into double figure only to claw, in true diesel fashion, his way back on when it leveled off a little. It looked for a while as though Rolland would take the tow to the top and out sprint Quintana for the stage, but surprisingly it was he that fell away first as Hesjedal continue to go mind over body to keep on the flying Quintana’s wheel.

Into the final kilometre and things kicked up again and this time Quintana shedded Hesjedal for good, winning solo, though only 8 seconds up on the Canadian. Rolland rolled in 1-13 behind with Wilco Kelderman the first of the chasing pack to come home 3-32 down. He was followed in by Domenico Pozzovivo at 3-37, Fabio Aru at 3-40, Rafal Majka at 4-08 and Uran on the wheel of Sebastian Henao at 4-11. Struggling more still in the conditions was Cadel Evans who finished at 4-48 but has done just about enough to maintain a podium position in the general classification.

Quintana now leads that classification over Uran by 1-41 with Evans at 3-21. Rolland has jumped into fourth, five seconds behind Evans and should continue to move up, while Majka sits fifth at 3-28 and Aru in sixth at 3-34.

And following his inspired ride to stay as close to the wheel of Quintana as possible, Ryder Hesjedal moved into the top ten overall in 9th place, 4-16 down though I can’t help think what might have been had stage 1 not gone so badly for his Garmin team?

That wet day in Belfast, Garmin lost 2-31 to Movistar when Dan Martin slipped on a manhole and brought down the majority of his team forcing the likes of Hesjedal to wait until the minimum compliment of riders could get themselves together and finish as a team.

But had Garmin remained upright, they were on pace to set one of the better times and Quintana’s Movistar team finished 55 seconds behind the winning time posted by Orica Greenedge, as such, Garmin might well have put 30 seconds into Movistar. A lot of if’s and but’s here that mean nothing because crashes are a part of cycling and the times all count, but without that stage 1 nightmare that also took Dan Martin out of the Giro, Hesjedal might have been going to bed tonight a single minute off the race lead with five days to go.

And one minute that includes the 41 seconds lost to Quintana in the individual time-trial, though that was a straight up battle in which the time swings went fair and square.

Of course, what is still to come in this Giro favours Quintana so a one minute deficit to the young Colombian may not have changed the direction in which this race is headed anyway, but it’s nice for Canadian cycling fans to speculate what might have been. That said, the potential podium is still a very realistic possibility, stage 1 crash or not, because Hesejdal today sits only 55 seconds behind a tiring Cadel Evans in 3rd.

Six men abandoned the stage (including Thomas Dekker, Alessandro Petacchi and Michele Scarponi), which given the conditions and the 167 that started (Edvald Boasson Hagen did not take to the start) it’s surprising that it wasn’t more. I’m not exactly sure what the cut off time was, but I have to figure discretion will be shown by the race referees, especially given this whole ‘neutralized’ debate, not to mention the fact that if the cut off was 30 minutes, only 37 men would be taking to the start tomorrow.

It was one of the great rides today by Nairo Quintana … attacking on the descent in freezing conditions and blitzing the final climb as a chasing pack of high quality riders only continued to lose time to him. It was the stuff of Merckx and it was the stuff that very well could win him the 2014 Giro d’Italia.

Result:

1. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) in 4-42-35

2. Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin Sharp) in 8 sec

3. Pierre Rolland (Europcar) + 1-13

4. Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) + 3-32

5. Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R La Mondiale) + 3-37

6. Fabio Aru (Astana) + 3-40

7. Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) + 4-08

8. Sebastian Henao (Sky) + 4-11

9. Rigoberto Uran (OPQS) + s.t.

10. Cadel Evans (BMC) + 4-48

Overall:

1. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) in 68-11-44

2. Rigoberto Uran (OPQS) + 1-41

3. Cadel Evans (BMC) + 3-21

4. Pierre Rolland (Europcar) + 3-26

5. Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) + 3-28

6. Fabio Aru (Astana) + 3-34

9. Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin Sharp) + 4-16

Hesjedal also used drugs … years ago

It’s been over a week now since the Ryder Hesjedal used performance enhancing drugs bombshell dropped on the cycling community and upon the Canadian sports landscape. At the time I remember being surprised, but hardly shocked. Surprised that it could be this good Canadian boy who we know has rode for the Garmin team this past five years, but not shocked because this is a rider who did, after all, ride in ‘the era’.

The revelations that Hesjedal may have used Performance Enhancing Drugs came by way of the latest disgraced former cyclist turned tell-all-athor, Machael Rasmussen, who claimed that he showed Hesjedal how to use EPO. He confirmed that he never saw Hesjedal use the drug and so it left the door open for Hesjedal to use that famous cyclist-caught-in the-headlights tactic and to deny, deny, deny. But full credit to the Canadian. He didn’t try hide from it, he didn’t threaten legal action against Rasmussen, but instead came out later the same day and held his hands up. He admitted that in 2003 he used EPO but has not used it since … certainly not during his run at winning the 2012 Giro d’Italia.

Hesjedal’s statement in full:

Cycling is my life and has been ever since I can remember. I have loved and lived this sport but more than a decade ago, I chose the wrong path. And even though those mistakes happened more than 10 years ago, and they were short-lived, it does not change the fact that I made them and I have lived with that and been sorry for it ever since. To everyone in my life, inside and outside the sport – to those that have supported me and my dreams – including my friends, my family, the media, fans, my peers, sponsors – to riders who didn’t make the same choices as me all those years ago, I sincerely apologize for my part in the dark past of the sport. I will always be sorry.

Although I stopped what I was doing many years before I joined Slipstream Sports, I was and am deeply grateful to be a part of an organization that makes racing clean its first priority and that supports athletes for telling the truth. I believe that being truthful will help the sport continue to move forward, and over a year ago when I was contacted by anti-doping authorities, I was open and honest about my past. I have seen the best and the worst of the sport and I believe that it is now in the best place it’s ever been. I look at young riders on our team and throughout the peloton, and I know the future of the sport has arrived. I’m glad that they didn’t have to make the same choices I did, and I will do everything I can to continue to help the sport that I love.

The question now is: Do you believe him?

The natural answer among many cycling fans will be, no way. No way did he simply try EPO in 2003, experience the benefits and then just leave it behind. And that is probably true. Hesjedal likely continued using it for a while, but still within what I like to define as ‘the era’ – that being the days when performance enhancing drug use was rampant in the sport. In 2008 Hesjedal joined the Slipstream team – now known as Garmin – and that has long since been known as a team that promotes clean riding within. Sure it has hired its fair share of former users of PEDs, but it offers them a fresh start if they do indeed ride clean and abide by their own internal testing program.

To me this story of a week ago changes little. It’s not something I didn’t know about cycling in 2003. What matters is whether Hesjedal has been racing clean in the present day and that’s something that you have to judge for yourself. I like to believe that in 2008 when Hesjedal signed up with Jonathan Vaughters’s outfit, that was the absolute latest point in which he would have stepped over that line.

The sport is trying to move forward and with that in mind I’ve little interest in looking way back into a dirty past.

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.

Nibali in control; Sky split team leadership; Hesjedal loses over 20 minutes

It was a sad sight for Canadian cycling fans watching Ryder Hesjedal trudge over the finish line today with his hopes of retaining his Giro gone in the wind of his rivals some twenty minutes further up the road. In what was the first foray into the mountains, Hesjedal blew to pieces while Nibali gained more time on the others and Rigoberto Uran Uran (he’s Hungary Like the Wolf!) took Hesjedal’s place as one of the overall contenders.

It’s hard to know what’s up with Hesjedal because he looked strong in the first week of the race right up until the time-trial on the weekend. I can only assume he’s picked up some kind of a bug or that he simply just doesn’t quite have the form he hoped he might. Or maybe he’s the only one riding clean!

According to his team he’ll spend tonight considering his options … either to stay in the race and work for a stage win, or to go home in search of his form ahead of the Tour de France. I hope he goes with the former but would certainly understand his decision to go with the later. Hesjedal is a man of great pride and quitting the race he won just twelve months earlier won’t come easy.

20 minutes and 53 seconds was the exact time lost by Hesjedal on the stage won by Sky’s Uran. The Colombian attacked on the final climb as part of a tactic by Sky to try and split their GC contentions between two riders making it even harder for Nibali who so far has looked very much at ease.

By attacking Uran forced the hand of Nibali’s Astana team to take up the chase. In doing so it left Sky with the option of Wiggins counter attacking should Uran be reeled in. As it turned out however, Wiggins cracked a little himself on the steepest part of the climb and Sky will be glad Uran stayed away, albeit only by 31 seconds over Nibali on the line. Wiggins lost 37 seconds to the Pink jersey.

So, are Sky all behind Uran now or will they continue to run with split leadership? Well, given that Wiggins is still only 2 minutes, 5 seconds behind Nibali overall — and more importantly, just one second behind Uran — with all the major climbs still to come, it would be unfair to rule him out of contention yet. He may not quite have the form he hoped he would but that isn’t to say it won’t arrive over the next ten days or so. If it does then he could yet be a threat and himself and Uran can take the fight to Astana.

And let’s not rule out Cadel Evans either. He’s just 41 seconds down on GC after fighting back to regain contact with Nibali and then clinging onto his coat tails over the final kilometre to finish with the same time.

Hesjedal may be gone, but Uran is now in the mix and this Giro is stll wide open despite how comfortable Nibali looks. They only need look at how quickly Hesjedal fell apart to understand that any one of them could crack themselves and as such the pressure must remain high.

Thoughts from the rest day

How dare the riders of the Giro take a rest day after cycling 1,398.2 kilometres in just nine days! What do they think they are? Exhausted?

Alright so maybe a day off will do them good and do the racing good once they hit the mountains, hopefully that little bit fresher. So until the racing resumes tomorrow, he’s a couple of quick thoughts:

RYDER HESJEDAL TENDS TO GET STRONGER

He was lucky in many regards yesterday when he appeared to crack on that final short climb … because it was sort. Had this been a serious climb and not just a bump in the road by comparison to what is to come, he may have lost major minutes as opposed to the single minute and six seconds he did lose to Nibali.

Hesjedal is famous for coming good in the later half of three week Grand Tours and if he truly can regroup during tomorrow’s rest day he might yet find a way back into this race what with all the big mountains still to come. Still, a 3 minute, 11 seconds deficit to Nibali overall is a big ask for anyone to overcome, but don’t count him out quite yet.

Hesjedal is an aggressive rider and if he does recover back into form you can expect to see him attack virtually every day the race goes upwards. He’ll either put his rivals in trouble or he’ll blow to bits. Either way he’ll not go down without a fight.

EVANS IS IN STELTH MODE

With all this talk about what is wrong with Hesjedal, why Wiggins cannot go down hill, and whether Nibali can stand up to the pressure of being an Italian in the lead of his home tour, Cadel Evans is ticking along nicely with little to no attention on him. He sits just 29 seconds behind Nibali in the GC and could yet prove to be his biggest rivals. He has no trouble going down hill and has rarely looked in trouble.

I say rarely because there was one stage last week when he got distanced briefly but was able to work his way back on by the finish. Actually, he even gained time that day finishing second to take a time bonus.

He won’t stay hidden forever though. Heading into the mountains he’ll come to the fore and either prove what I have been thinking for a while, that at 36 years of age now he won’t have the legs to win another Grand Tour, or serve me up a dish of humble pie by showing there’s life in the old dog yet.

Wiggins and Hesjedal have a lot of work to do, but Evans is poised nicely and must be enjoying the lack of the spotlight.

SKY’S COLOMBIAN CHALLENGE

Yesterday when Wiggins was dropped yet again on a wet descent, Sky took the interesting approach of leaving the Colombian pair of Sergio Henao and Rigoberto Uran in the front group while the rest of the Sky team went back to help their leader. Henao and Uran are still in the top ten overall and Sky are figuring that if Wiggins is truly going to lose serious time on descents that perhaps it’s a good idea of have a second or third card to play, just-in-case.

Both can climb well and both are at least capable of stage victories. With lots of climbs to come they will be a huge asset to Wiggins but likewise they could be dark horses themselves should the Englishman crack. Sky are one powerful outfit and can attack you from many angles. It wouldn’t surprise me to see one or both of them win a stage and perhaps be used to set up a counter attack for Wiggins by attacking Nibali themselves on the lower slopes of some of the bigger climbs.

An epic solo ride, Wiggins struggles and Hesjedal cracks in more dramaat the Giro

With about sixty kilometres to go and in the pouring rain, Maxim Belkov of the Katusha team, clearly decided he had seen enough. At that moment, at the top of the second to last climb he said goodbye to his fellow escapees and pressed ahead down the descent. It was wet, slippery and dangerous and thus inviting to anyone with true grit of which Belkov had plenty. The others couldn’t go with him and by the bottom he had already forged a two minute advantage.

The Russian isn’t much of a climber, but he can clearly hang tough when he needs to for he had gotten to the top of that previous climb with what was left of his twelve man break and then on the final climb he was able to go up with enough pace to keep a gap that had only been increasing to the foot of the climb and once he went over that, there was no doubt the victory would be his.

Indeed, so impressive was his descending skills that he only would have needed to go over the top a mere ten seconds ahead of the man behind and he’d have left them behind on the way down.

That kind of riding takes supreme confidence, but if you have it then you can do some serious damage on a day when the rest are cornering timidly. Belkov stayed clear to the line winning what is sure to be one of the finest solo victories of this years Giro.

And talking of cornering timidly. If anyone was unsure as to what the weakness of Bradley Wiggins might be before this Giro, then they know longer need to question it. The man, as things stand, simply cannot go downhill when it’s wet. His crash a few days ago shattered his confidence and that only carried into today. By the bottom of that second to last climb from which Belkov built his victory, Wiggins had lost a minute to his main rivals. It just goes to show how big a roll confidence plays in sport and how so much of it is mental as well as physical. If you don’t have it between the ears, chances are it doesn’t matter how strong you are in the legs.

Still, Wiggins was able to chase on once things levelled out and get back on terms with the main group ahead of the final climb. Disappointing for him that he had to exert that energy just making up lost time rather than building an advantage. It was much the same yesterday in the time-trial when he raced only to win back time he had lost on wet descents the day before.

But when all was said and done Wiggins didn’t lose any time and remains just over a minute behind Vincenzo Nibali in the general classification. A man who did lose time however was Ryder Hesejdal.

The defending champion proved that while time could be lose on wet downhill sections it could be made up again easier than time lost on climbs. Hesjedal had no problem staying upright and in the mix when the road went downwards, but when it surged up on the final climb Hesjedal called for reserves from the power supply in his legs, and there was no response. Was he tired from the time-trial in which he also struggled, was this a sign that he didn’t quite have the form we thought he did in the first week, or was it just a bad couple of days that with a rest day tomorrow he could find a way to recover.

So tomorrow they rest and then they hit the mountains.

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Amusing moment of the day:

If you started watching this race looking for a Wiggins – Hesjedal rivalry, or perhaps a Nibali – Evans one, then you were looking in all the wrong places. How about Robinson Chalapud and Stefano Pirazzi.

Both were in the days break and both clearly wanted the King of the Mountains points. When Pirazzi won the sprint to the top of one climb, Chalapud alleged that he cut him off and for a moment it seemed the two might come to blows on the descent. Then on the next climb the pair attacked one another relentlessly in a game of cat and mouse not seen since Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck in the Tour de France several years ago. Indeed, so determined where the pair to get one over the other that they came to a virtual stand-still on the road, with neither wanting to take up the pace.

By the top Pirazzi had finally distanced Chalapud, or so he thought. As he cruised to the top he looked over his shoulder only to suddenly see Chalapud closing fast desperate to spoil his party. Pirazzi accelerated and took the points, but what their little game allowed was for Belkov to remain in close contact behind so that by the time he went over the top he could pass them both and press on in the down hill to his famous victory.