PavÃ© would like to thank Laekhouse for supporting our coverage of the 2011 Giro dâ€™Italia.
Hereâ€™s this weekâ€™s Monday Musette:
1. Iâ€™m going to go out on a limb and declare Saxo Bankâ€™s Alberto Contador the winner of the 2011 Giro dâ€™Italiaâ€”at least until we hear otherwise. After three spectacular days in the Dolomites, the Spaniard has a firm grasp on the maglia rosa and shows no sign of falteringâ€”especially with two individual time trials in the raceâ€™s final week.
Whatâ€™s made El Pistoleroâ€™s performance all the more impressive is the relative absence of any noticeable team support. Saxo Bank has more than enough horses to drive the bunch early, but in the mountains, Contadorâ€™s been largely left to fend for himself. With form like this, itâ€™s hard to doubt his chances at winning all three grand tours.
2. On the other hand, the battle for second place between Lampreâ€™s Michele Scarponi and Liquigasâ€™ Vincenzo Nibali is shaping up to be one of the most exciting of the race. In fact, dating back to this yearâ€™s Milan-San Remo, these two seem to have a penchant for one-upping one another. Even though he sits about a minute behind his compatriot, I still give Nibali the edge as heâ€™s a better time trialist. That said, Scarponiâ€™s also seeking a stage win and will go all-out to get one. Nibali has fought valiantly, but proven vulnerable uphillâ€”look for this one to go down to the final weekend.
3. The battle for the Giroâ€™s white jersey as Best Young Rider is intriguing as well. Astanaâ€™s Roman Kreuziger is the current leader and favorite, but Rabobankâ€™s young Dutchmen Steven Kruiswijk has been gaining steam as the race progresses. Kruiswijk currently sits 2:16 behind Kreuziger but has looked stronger than the Czech on several occasions. At this point, one good or bad day should be enough to put this one away.
4. Kruijswijkâ€™s performance begs the question: are we about to witness a renaissance of Dutch GC riders? With Kruijswijk, Robert Gesink, and Bauke Mollema all displaying some serious grand tour potential, the future looks bright for the land of gouda cheese and windmills.
5. And speaking of orange, Euskaltel deserves mention for taking the first and second Giro stage wins in team history thanks to Igor Anton and Mikel Nieve. Now both riders sit well within reach of high results on GCâ€”Nieve even has a shot at the top-5.
6. Mini-Discuss: Are you a fan of John Gadret? Why or why not?
7. Congrats to Karl for winning our first contest by correctly predicting that Stefano Garzelli would the first rider over the Passo Giau, this yearâ€™s Cima Coppi as the highest climb of the 2011 Giro dâ€™Italia. Karl gets the t-shirt of his choice from Laekhouse. In fact, Sundayâ€™s contest worked so well that weâ€™re trying it again this week. Stay tuned for details.
8. As for my thoughts on the Amgen Tour of California, head over to Bicycling.com later today to read my thoughts on what turned out to be a highly competitive and compelling race. While the bulk of my opinions have been reserved for Bicycling, I can say that if you live overseas and are looking for a terrific cycling-related vacation, consider making the trip to California next May. Just check the weather reports for any northern stages before you leave!
9. Lastly, our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Movistarâ€™s Xavier Tondo. This seems to be a particularly difficult month for the sport. And while itâ€™s easy to get caught up in television reports, flaming motorcycles, and meat on a fishing line, letâ€™s never forget: these men are mere humans, theyâ€™re lives are no less valuable than our own.