Weekend Preview – Giro, Belgium, and Bayern

Pavé would like to thank Laekhouse for supporting our coverage of the 2011 Giro d’Italia.

Fotoreporter Sirotti


Here’s a preview of this weekend’s main events:

1. I wonder if this year’s Giro d’Italia has passed as quickly for the riders as it has for the fans? Regardless, the season’s first grand tour ends this weekend with what looks to be a spectacular mountain stage and long individual time trial in downtown Milan.

Tomorrow’s 242-kilometer trip from Verbania to Sestriere looks straightforward enough: 195 kilometers of flat roads followed by two major climbs, the last of which marks the end of the Giro’s final road stage. That said these two climbs—the Colle delle Finestre and the Sestriere are anything but usual. The Finestre was first used in the 2005 Giro d’Italia and it’s two main protagonists then—Danilo Di Luca and Jose Rujano—are both riding this year as well. Rising out of an Alpine valley, the climb is perhaps most famous for its final 8 unpaved kilometers—a surface that should produce serious time gaps and stunning racing for fans.

After a descent that could favor those willing to take a few risks, the riders will tackle the final climb to the ski resort at Sestriere. Ironically, Sestriere was the scene of Lance Armstrong’s mountain stage win in the 1999 Tour de France—a rain soaked victory that saw him seize control of the race for good.

Saxo Bank’s Alberto Contador requires no such heroics. With more than a 5-minute lead on his nearest rival, the Spaniard can ride comfortably, knowing that it would take nothing short of a major collapse for him to lose his maglia rosa. On the other hand, the battle for second and third is alive and well, with two Italians, Lampre’s Michele Scarponi and Liquigas’ Vincenzo Nibali, separated by less than a minute. Look for Scarponi and Nibali to use the Finestre’s ascent and descent respectively to try and launch their final bids to be #2. Other riders to watch include Androni’s Jose Rujano (the stage winner here in 2005), Katusha’s Joaquin Rodriguez (a rider trying to salvage a rather lackluster race for his team), and Acqua & Sapone’s Stefano Garzelli (the current leader of the KOM competition).

In Sunday’s 31.5-kilometer time trial in downtown Milan, Alberto Contador will put his final stamp on what might just be one of his most convincing grand tour victories. As for the rest of the podium, if Scarponi and Nibali are still close, the stage favors the rider from Liquigas. Scarponi will need the ride of his life to defend any advantage smaller than 45-seconds. As for a stage winner, watch out for Saxo Bank’s Richie Porte (his form is improving) and Garmin-Cervelo’s David Millar (one of the Giro’s most aggressive riders) to battle for victory.

2. As for the Tour of Belgium—the other national tour wrapping-up this weekend—a familiar rider is now wearing the black jersey as race leader: Omega Pharma-Lotto’s Philippe Gilbert. Depending on how motivated he is, tomorrow’s Stage 4 is not a day that should challenge King Phil—a mini-Ardennes classic with several climbs including the Mur de Huy, the Stockeu, the Haute Levée, and an uphill finish. If he’s there at the end—and it’s hard to see any reason why he wouldn’t be—look for the day and the overall title to go to Gilbert. And if all goes well for Belgian fans, Sunday will see Quick-Step’s Tom Boonen take the stage and points title.

3. Germany’s Bayern Rundfahrt concludes this weekend with an individual time trial Saturday and a Sunday stage that will likely end in a field sprint. HTC-Highroad’s Michael Albasini won today’s Stage 3, winning a 9-man group sprint to the take the day and overall race lead. As the gap to the main peloton was over 5 minutes, look for one of today’s escapees—whichever has the better ride tomorrow—to take the overall victory Sunday. My money’s on Saxo Bank’s Nicki Sorensen, a talented time trialist who should take the lead tomorrow and defend it well Sunday. My sentimental pick: Garmin-Cervelo’s Andreas Klier, although a win for Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas would be nice to see as well. These three men all sit within 12 seconds of Albasini and appear to have the best chances to win the 2.HC event.

4. And finally, the US Professional Championships take place Saturday and Monday in South Carolina with all of the country’s best riders participating. In Saturday’s time trial, I see David Zabriskie taking the win over Levi Leipheimer and Taylor Phinney. On the other hand, national championship road races are always tough to call—look for the Radio Shack and Garmin-Cervelo to do the lion share of the work while the smaller teams do their best to upset the apple cart. In the end, fitness and experience will rule the day—in other words, look for Chris Horner to add the stars and stripes to his ATOC win. Garmin-Cervelo’s Andrew Talansky and BMC’s George Hincapie will round out the podium.

And there you have it—a quick rundown of what to expect this weekend. What are your picks and predictions?

And in case you have yet to do so, enter our Laekhouse Colle delle Finestre Contest. Guess the first rider over the Finestre and win a t-shirt from Laekhouse!

About Whit

My experiences might easily fit many cycling fans' definitions of “living the dream.” Since getting hooked on the sport watching Lance Armstrong win the 1993 U.S. Pro Championship, I've raced as an amateur on Belgian cobbles, traveled Europe to help build a European pro team, and piloted that team from Malaysia to Mont Ventoux. As a former assistant director sportif with Mercury-Viatel, I've also seen the less dreamy side of the sport – the side rife with broken contracts, infighting, and positive dope tests. These days, I live with my lovely wife in Pennsylvania and share my experiences and views on the sport at Bicycling Magazine, the Embrocation Cycling Journal, and at my own site, Pavé.
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11 Responses to Weekend Preview – Giro, Belgium, and Bayern

  1. Gadi says:

    Dear Whit ,
    Maybe it's about time you'll give us you view – but in a wider
    prospect – regarding how big AC really is ( isn't it time for that ?)

    • Whit says:

      Hi Gadi! I'm happy to share my opinions on Contador. What do you mean by "how big he really is"?


      • Gadi says:

        Sorry for the delayed responding :
        I meant how big a rider is he in your opinion ( although I know The Pave is more Classics and US races inclination journalism …. )

  2. jmg says:

    So, maybe I missed this, but what is the rational for holding the US National Championship the day after a grand tour finishes? I know we'd like to have a current Captain America jersey on display in France, but doesn't this timing just seem to favor a more provincial field who recently completed a minor, regional tour? Is Chris Horner really the best American on the road right now?

  3. cthulhu says:

    1. AC wins on Saturday. After giving presents to Rujado and Tiralingo, he will show who "le Patron" is. As for Sunday's TT, I hope Gretsch has survived his first GT quite well and, with a bit of luck, will surprise us.

    2. OPL days in Belgium. Tomorrow Gilbert will secure the overall win and Greipel grabs his second stage on Sunday. Anyway, I'm looking forward to watch the finale in Eupen.

    3. I believe Albasini can manage to hold onto the overall victory in Bavaria.

    4. Same question as jmg, why this strange date. If the feel like changing the date, why not onto the same weekend(s) as the Europeans use to determine their national champions? There ain't no other racing happening anyway. Too bad for King only to sport the Stars'n'Stripes for only half a year.

  4. Nora says:

    Thanks for yet again a great preview. Some news regardish Giro and US National championships:

    – Sudays time trial in Milan has been cut to 26 km. http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/giro-ditalia-forced-to-change-milan-time-trial-course

    РHorner and Leipheimer are not taking part of the US national championships,but are focusing on Tour de Suisse and Crit̩rium du Dauphin̩. http://velonews.competitor.com/2011/05/news/date-change-improves-u-s-pro-time-trial-field-but-not-road-race-field_175787

  5. Houston says:

    Chris Horner is not participating in the championships

    • Whit says:

      Great comments, everyone! Thanks for reading and providing updates as at the time I went to "post" things were a bit different.

      Regarding the US Nationals, I imagine that the organizers were hoping many of the top Americans would stay and compete after the ATOC. But as we've seen with Horner and Levi, that's not the case. By the way, I can't believe their not competing. As if one weekend of racing will interfere with their prep for the Dauphiné and Suisse!

      US Nationals used the be the first weekend in June in Philadelphia, but were moved as the date conflicted with the Giro–among other reasons. As for the reason why they don't hold them on the same weekend as the rest, I think it's because many riders would prefer to fly back for a weekend, and then return immediately to France to contest the Tour.

      For my money, I'm rooting for George now. I like seeing the stars and stripes in the Tour, and feel he's in good form following ATOC.

      Thanks again for reading and commenting! Enjoy your weekends!


      • ctulhu says:

        And if the make him such a bad ass Captain America outfit again I want that too. Best national Jersey last year in my opinion.

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