Jun 2, 2014

10 Thoughts on the Giro

Nairo Quintana is the future of Grand Tour cycling
Quintana is only 24 and he now has a second place in the Tour de France and a victory in the Giro d'Italia. If, after his break, he can enter with great form, he has a good chance to win the Vuelta (the parcours favor his strengths in the mountains). Going forward, he may not beat Chris Froome and and in form Alberto Contador, but those guys are older than him and he is good enough to compete with them on mostly equal terms. If nothing else, expect Quintana to win at least 4 Grand Tours in his career, but don't expect another Giro. The Giro takes too much out of riders before the Tour and the Tour is the goal...

Fabio Aru will win the Giro before his career is over
... unless you are Italian. Aru, the 23 year old Italian that finished on the podium, will be pressured to target the Giro nearly every year, like Vincenzo Nibali has been. Expect a very similar looking career when everything is done, though Aru is unlikely to ever win the Vuelta (like Nibali did against a historically weak field in 2010) as many more Tour de France contenders that are better than Aru are showing up with good form carried through the Tour. Still, Aru was one of the revelations of this Giro after helping Nibali win last year.

The mythical high mountain passes should only be used for summit finishes

After the Gavia/Stelvio stage turned into a debacle for the second straight year, many are saying the high mountain passes should be excised from the race. That would be a shame though something needs to be done. With that in mind, we should look back to the penultimate stage in 2012. That stage crossed the Mortirolo and then finished atop the Stelvio and is one of the best Grand Tour stages in recent years. The reality is that snow is a much bigger problem on a descent. We learned that in 2013 with the well received snowy finishes atop the Galibier and Tre Cime di Laveredo. So why not stick to the shorter and smaller in height climbs that avoid the snow this time of year until the finish, where worse conditions are fine with no descent?

Monte Zoncolan needs to be earlier in the race
The Zoncolan is a ridiculous climb as it is. Nobody is able to attack and it ends up a grind most of the time. It is a great spectacle, but that kind of finish is not what the Giro needs. It's placement earlier in the race (stage 14) in 2011 would have been great had Alberto Contador not already destroyed the field by an epic margin. Something like that and it allows the grind to matter as there is time to regain time after the Zoncolan. Having at the end means nothing unless the top two competitors are within 30 seconds, a very rare thing in Grand Tour cycling.

Diego Ulissi is not a Grand Tour contender, yet. And he likely will never be.
After Diego Ulissi's surprising showing over the first 12 stages, there is a though he could be a Grand Tour contender. That is nonsense. He has never shown anything in the high mountains (and winning the easiest cat. 1 Giro in years is not showing anything) nor has he ever climbed particularly well in the 3rd week of a Grand Tour. He is a great stage hunter and if he can manage the distance better in the future, he could be the next great Italian classics star for races like Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Il Lombardia and the World Championships. Still, I just don't see him as a Grand Tour kind of guy.

The old guard has collapsed
Cadel Evans - 8th place after leading early in the race. In the past this would have been a podium barring a crash.
Michele Scarponi - Crashed out yes, but he's on a team with Nibali and Aru. He's the 3rd Italian wheel on a GC based team that only needs two wheels.
Ivan Basso - A diesel climber with an average engine and no time trial should be a domestique, Basso's fate after one last 14th place hurrah in this year's Vuelta.

The Giro is too difficult for the mythical Giro-Tour double
Look at the last week. Gavia, Stelvio, Val Martello, Monte Grappa, Zoncolan. That is ridiculous on its own before you throw in the other climbs in the final week. The Giro is difficult. It should be difficult. But if it really wants to draw the Tour de France contenders to attempt the double, it needs to ease off a bit and it needs a real time trial. Not the hilly nonsense we have gotten the last two years (along with a mountain time trial).

Teams need to have a backup plan
Katusha - Lost Joaquin Rodriguez and were invisible after that.
Team Sky - Lost Richie Porte before the race. Had no GC option and a bunch of stage hunters that aren't used to stage hunting.

Contrast those teams to the teams listed below
Giant-Shimano - Marcel Kittel won two stages in Ireland and left the race ill. Still contested the sprints well and won the final stage behind Luca Mezgec.
Astana - Entered with Scarponi as leader. Exited with Aru on the podium.
Tinkoff-Saxo - Co-leaders Majka and Roche were expected to contend for the podium. Majka finished in the top 10 while Roche lost 15 minutes because of the mega crash on stage 6. Still, Majka finished in the top 10 and Michael Rogers won two stages including the prestigious Zoncolan stage.

There needs to be a process for Pro Continental teams to qualify for Grand Tour positions
The Italy Tour idea from the Giro is great. Given that, Androni earned its place one way or another. But why were Bardiani, Colombia and Neri Sottoli? Yes, all ended up contributing to the race somehow (Bardiani most notably with 3 stage wins). Still, the best teams should be represented at Grand Tours. And that is not the case. Neri Sottoli did have Matteo Rabottini, but that is it and he alone did not merit inclusion considering the doping scandals the team brought upon the race last year. Looking ahead, Bretagne-Seche has no business in the Tour de France. They are only their because they are French. If Grand Tours want local representation that is fine, award the best Pro Continental team from its home country. Heck, reward the best two (except in Spain where there is only one in Caja Rural). But make it at least somewhat difficult so there are not 1-3 teams that are nothing more than cyclo-tourists, hoping to hang on at the back of the peloton.

The Giro made a great decision doubling the points for flat stages
Over the past few years, the Giro had treated sprinters like a disease. Long gone were the days of Alessandro Petacchi winning nine stages in one Giro like 2004. Instead Mark Cavendish needed a minor miracle to win the points jersey last year and he had been the first sprinter to win it since 2008. This year, the Giro gave the sprinters some help. First, there were more pure sprint stages as opposed to the hilltop finishes that were not summit finishes. In addition, the points were doubled on the pure sprint stages, keeping the GC guys out of the fight. The result: a red jersey competition that went to the last day with Nacer Bouhanni racing conservatively to ensure he didn't crash to win the jersey. Can't ask for much more than that (ok maybe a tie where both men in contention have to race for the win on the final day).

Follow me on twitter

No comments:

Post a Comment