PavÃ© would like to thank Laekhouse for supporting our coverage of the 2011 Giro d’Italia.
While it’s been overshadowed by the death of Wouter Weylandt, the first several stages of the 2011 Giro have had plenty of excitement to offer. Stage 5, over the Strade Bianchi, was won by Peter Weening, who bridged to the break of the day – BMC’s Kohler – with AG2R’s John Gadret before attacking both and soloing in, despite pedaling squares up the final climb. Behind him, savvy GC candidates treated it like a tough, Italian one-day, fighting to stay at the front as a few riders (Thomas Lofkvist of Sky and Michele Scarponi of Lampre) attacked and splintered the field. Most of the GC candidates finished in the front group eight seconds behind Weening, including Vincenzo Nibali, Alberto Contador, Scarponi, Joaquim Rodrigues, Roman Kreuziger, Denis Menchov, Igor Anton.
Can Igor Anton redeem his bad luck from the Vuelta? Last year, he won two stages but crashed out while wearing the leader’s jersey. What are his chances for a podium finish?
Notably absent from the finishing group on Stage 5 was Carlos Sastre, who finished :28 behind. He also lost time on the team time trial on Stage 1 and after flatting on Stage 3. He now sits over 2:00 behind the leader on the GC, and about a 1:30 behind top GC contenders Nibali and Contador. Is this a perfect sign of Sastre’s complete and utter inability to compete for the GC of Grand Tours? He does them backwards – rather than gain time at every opportunity, the rule of thumb of stage races, he seems to lose time on fairly innocuous stages, putting himself behind the 8-ball early. With Menchov within :30 of Nibali and Contador, expect Geox to ride for Menchov, and Sastre to continue losing time until he’s got a long enough leash to go for a stage win. Geox could really use a big victory.
Speaking of needing a big victory, will Katusha gun for stage wins, or go all-in on Rodriguez’s GC hopes? It seems as if they need to do both – somehow – to salvage their season at this point, without spreading themselves too thin. Can they redeem themselves?
Stage 4’s neutralization reduced the already few opportunites for sprinters to compete with each other. Stage 2 saw some Petacchi/Cavendish drama, which is as fine an opportunity as ever to link to Cyclocosm.com‘s terrific video, The Rules of the Bunch Sprint. With Friday’s Stage 7 ending on a climb, Saturday’s Stage 8 will be an opportunity for Mark Cavendish to let his legs do the talking – though now that he’s on Twitter, he’s got one more opporunity to let his mouth do as much (or more) talking as his legs.
How long will it be before Mark Cavendish withdraws?
Next Friday, Saturday, and Sunday capture the Giro in a nutshell – three brutal, major mountain stages, back-to-back, without a rest day interrupting them. Hopefully it will make for good viewing, but as two of the stages thus far have been marked by solo breakaways – Sebastian Lang of Omega Pharma-Lotto on Stage 2, and BMC’s Martin Kohler on Stage 5 – it seems like many riders are a bit confused still as to how to race this Giro d’Italia.
With so few sprint stages in this year’s Giro, we wonder what will come of the many hilly stages – will long-shot, top-ten GC hopefuls make daring moves and animate the racing? Or will the riders race conservatively, knowing that there are brutal stages to come?
Many teams have brought their B-Squad, saving their A-team for a Tour de France without Alberto Contador. This may lead to some young up-and-coming opportunists racing hard for outside chances at top-ten placings or stage wins. Who are you keeping your eye on? I’ll be paying attention to Radioshack’s young pair of Tiago Machado and Bjorn Selander, Sky’s prodigy Thomas Lofkvist, and Tour Down Under winner (and multiple Track World Champion) Cameron Meyer. Who are you watching at the Giro?