May 25, 2014

Simple Skimishes and Who Will Win the Giro

Stages 14 and 15 of the Giro are in the books. And leader Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) has successfully defended his pink jersey going into the rest day. At the same time, there is reason to worry with four big mountain stages remaining, starting with Tuesday's insane climbing spectacle up the Gavia, Stelvio and Val Martello. Below is a look at the GC race, in two parts. Part 1 is rankings of the two climbing stages this weekend. Part 2 is who is most likely to win the race overall (hint, Uran is the pick though the rest of the race will reshuffle). The riders in question here are the 10 best non-domestique riders on GC after Stage 15 (Uran, Evans, Majka, Aru, Quintana, Pozzovivo, Kelderman, Rolland, Kiserlovski, Hesjedal as no other non-domestiques other than the ancient and and fading Basso are both in the top 15 and on one of the World Tour teams)

Weekend Climbers Rankings (number in parenthesis is time lost to top climber)

Fabio Aru, Astana (0, top climber) - A stage win and 4th amongst the GC contenders on the other stage. Aru is now a top contender if he can keep this form up.

Pierre Rolland, Europcar (5") - One of his energy wasting attacks actually worked on Stage 14 and he then was amongst the leaders again on Stage 15. He really needs some schooling in cycling tactics and to learn how to time trial at least a little bit (it is a talent but Rolland seems like he has never worked on it at all sometimes).

Nairo Quintana, Movistar (18") - Seems to be getting over his injuries and illness. Still, while he has looked better the last two days, he doesn't seem to have form like last year's Tour de France.

Ryder Hesjedal, Garmin-Sharp (52") - The 2012 winner lost a bunch of time on both time trials (over 3 minutes in both the Team Time Trial after the Dan Martin crash and on the individual time trial), but he has looked very good climbing, especially when he worked with Rolland's long range move on Stage 14.

Rafal Majka, Tinkoff-Saxo (1'01") - Majka has done a good job of limiting his losses. It just seems he has no legs to attack at all from the GC group.

Rigoberto Uran, Omega Pharma-Quick Step (1'03") - Uran has, like Majka done well limiting his losses. Given the time trial upcoming and Uran's climbing chops, he seems to be saving himself for Stage 16 and the Mountain Individual Time Trial on Stage 19.

Dominico Pozzovivo, AG2R La Mondiale (1'13") - Pozzovivo had looked like the best climber in the race until he inexplicably popped on Stage 15. Some were saying he was looking like the favorite before that. If he finds that form for Stage 16, who knows.

Wilco Kelderman, Belkin (1'17") - Kelderman isn't going to win. He isn't going to contend. But he is only 23 and he is going to do well in the future. Leading the GC team is a good experience for him here. It would help if top lieutenant Steven Kruiswijk (one of the better climbing domestiques in this race) hadn't crashed out.

Cadel Evans, BMC (1'29") - As expected, Evans is unable to climb like he once did. He will fight for the podium (likely unsuccessfully) in the mountains ahead.

Robert Kiserlovski, Trek (2'03") - The results already confirm the pedigree that he is the weakest of the GC contenders. Only good positioning, a stronger team time trial and a decent if not great individual time trial are keeping him on this list.

GC Power Rankings going forward (in order of most likely to win the race)

Uran - He is the leader and he gave up only a minute to Aru over the weekend. If he repeats that performance and aces the time trial again, he wins the race.

Aru - After the big attack today, Aru has emerged as the biggest competition for Uran as he looks capable of taking time on the remaining mountaintop finishes. It all depends on the rest day and how he and others recover. I still think he has a bad day in him (not an explosion, but something like Pozzovivo's Stage 15 time loss).

Quintana - The most talented, but I think he is weakened by his injuries and lacks the form needed to make up big time without help (If Quintana catches Uran on GC, it is likely he drags Majka or Aru with him and finishes second anyway).

Pozzovivo - The most explosive climber with Quintana not at 100%, this gives him a chance. The problem is the time loss on Stage 15. That is a troubling sign if not for the first day after the rest day, then for the other big mountain stages at the end of the week.

Majka - Remember that this is most likely to win. Majka is probably the rider most likely to finish on the podium other than Uran at this point, but I don't think he has the attacking ability needed to actually take the time necessary to win this race.

Rolland - Might have the best form in the field. Still, he wastes energy on longer range attacks that are doomed and he will hemorrhage time on the TT, even with it being a climbing TT.

Evans - This became a very long shot the moment he was dusted by Uran in the time trial. At this point most of the GC men do everything Evans does equally or better with the exception of positioning on flat stages (in other words Evans needs another pile up on Stage 17 to get him clear).

Kelderman - The experience will be good. Not quite ready yet though there is talent there.

Hesjedal - Too far behind and too much of a grinder to make up nearly 7 minutes. Even when he won two years ago, he did so without attacking on any stage until the final climb up the Stelvio (and that was a desperate charge to keep Thomas de Gendt from stealing the race for himself and Joaquin Rodriguez).

Kiserlovski - Read what I wrote about him above. He will likely finish at the back end of the top 10 because of a total lack of other contenders (all of them are already crashed out) unless he has a total implosion (possible on the Val Martello or Zoncolan stage).

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