The first rest day in any Grand Tour is one of the major boxes that every rider in the peloton looks forward to ticking. The 2013 Giro’s first week has not been simple; bad weather, nervous riders and a tough parcours has taken its toll on the peloton. Lets look back at who were the winners and losers within the General Classification contenders during that testing week, plus look forward to the week ahead and how that might affect the current general classification.
Winners and losers:
This Giro started with two main contenders, two heavy weights who were thought of as the key riders for the race; Wiggins of Team Sky and Nibali of Astana. Whilst Wiggins is a calculated racer, strong at time trials, Nibali’s strength on the climbs and natural attacking style, has been bolstered by his move to Astana, working hard to improve his ability against the clock.
It is clear, as the riders take a break from racing, that Nibali is the biggest winner from the first week of the Giro. He has performed well, controlled his effort and gone on the offensive when possible. The predicted losses during the time trial of stage 8 did not materialise, putting him in a strong place for the following week. With his strong team, Nibali has to control the race and it is for the others to attack to catch him, but the big question is whether his team has the ability to achieve this.
Wiggins has had a difficult week; crashes, bad luck, bad weather and what looks to be not 100% form all leaving him with a deficit to Nibali. Many believed that his plan was to take as much time as possible during stage 8’s time trial to have a buffer in the high mountains. This did not materialise. Currently sitting in 4th place Wiggins will have to go on the attack in the mountains. The big question is, whether he has the form to do so and also whether a wet high mountain descent could cause the end of his Giro challenge.
For the outsiders the biggest winner from week one has been Cadel Evans, BMC. Having not shown the same form that won him the 2011 Tour de France, Evans is back. Evans’ aggressive riding style and great bike handling sees him sitting in second place, which makes him potentially the biggest threat to Nibali. All he needs to do is stay in contact with the leaders next week and then strike when those around him are suffering.
The biggest loser from week one from the wider group of favourites is Ryder Hesjedal. Last year the tall Canadian did not miss a beat. Stalking the leaders the whole race, counting seconds like a pro. This year he has been in a less comfortable position. Losses in the team time trial were regained by an attacking ride on the next stage. Even larger losses during the stage 8 time trial were compounded on the 9th stage when he lost contact with the leaders. Now sitting in 11th place the reigning champion has over three minutes to make up on Nibali. A large amount, but with the hard week ahead anything is possible, but only if Hesjedal is at his best.
Giro week two:
As a summary there are three high mountain, two flat and one medium mountain stages that faces the Giro’s peloton in the second week of the Giro. Straight out of the rest day the riders are in the high mountains, with the finish of this stage up the 1100+ metres (to climb) Altopiano del Montasio. A tough day in the saddle after a rest day, where riders can suffer to get back into the routine of racing, which is compounded by a section of 20% on the final climb! This is another major shake-up point of the race, with those behind Nibali having to go on the attack. If the weather is bad then Wiggins could lose more time on the technical Italian descents. The first stage of week two will show us clearer who is in contention for the Maglia Rosa in Brescia at the end of the race.
The medium mountain stage on the 15th could be one for a long break, if the leaders have done battle the day before, then they will look to recover from their efforts. It could also be somewhere for a rider such as Hesjedal to try to catch those in front of him unawares. The past week has shown us that a medium mountain stage in the Giro can sometimes have more impact than a high mountain.
It is at the back end of the second week when things get really interesting. Stage 14 has another mountain top finish. The first half of the stage comprises of roughly 70 kilometres of gradual climbing to Sestiere. Then the final climb is the short and sharp climb to Bodenachia. 9% over 7.5km with a section at 14%, a perfect climb for a rider like Nibali on a good day, but hell for anyone hanging on.
This is followed by an iconic day. Stage 15 and its summit finish on the Col de Galibier. Yes the Giro has decided to go into France for the end of its second week. The Col de Galibier is a monster, with a summit at 2642 metres. It is also a French climb, meaning something a lot less steep than found in Italy. This is another key stage, but could also see someone like Wiggins go on the attack. With its less steep grade it suits the power of Wiggins who we are sure has been simulating the effort needed on this climb during his training for the Giro.
For the two flat stages, fingers-crossed Omega Pharma will deliver Cav to the finish line, because his chances for stages are now becoming fewer and farther between.So stay tuned to the race for pink, because there is plenty still at stake and the GC will be a different sight when the riders roll into their second rest day next Monday. There are many mountains to climb and descend between now and then. With all the drama they hold we are sure as hell looking forward to the show!
Author: Phil Gale