Pavé would like to thank Laekhouse for supporting our coverage of the 2011 Giro d’Italia.
Did the 2011 Giro d’Italia turn out to be a great edition worthy of the 150th anniversary of Italy’s unification? Or was it a political flop that drove riders, teams, and organizers to agony? Here’s a special Giro-edition of Pavé’s favorite game: Win, Lose, or Draw.
1. It’s hard to imagine a bigger winner than Saxo Bank’s Alberto Contador. Even with seemingly little preparation, thanks to the ongoing discourse on his doping allegations, Contador triumphed over a field of aggressive contenders in an extremely difficult Giro. Yet, he himself remarked that his 2008 Giro d’Italia win was his most beautiful of all.
2. Italian contenders Vincenzo Nibali and Michele Scarponi put on brave shows even when it was becoming clear that Contador was unbeatable on any terrain. I was particularly thrilled by Nibali’s impressive display of descending skills. Time and time again he would lose minutes on the ascents only to regain them on the descents. With age on his side, look to Nibali to make a strong showing in the future.
3. Basque squad Euskaltel-Euskadi had their best Giro d’Italia ever with back-to-back wins by Igor Anton on Zoncolan and by Mikel Nieve on Val di Fassa. After years of searching for the next great Orange-clad mountain goats, they might have found two great ones.
4. Smaller Italian teams such as Androni Giocattoli and Farnese Vini measured-up to their main objective of the year with Jose Rujano and Angel Vicioso scoring wins for Androni (even if the latter was shadowed by the death of Wouter Weylandt) and Oscar Gatto surprising the sprinters with his uphill prowess on behalf of Farnese Vini.
5. Last but not least, this year’s Giro represents a win for the mountains. Many had feared that GC contenders and stage hunters alike would take a pessimistic approach, self-neutralizing a race many thought would prove too hard. But in almost every mountain stage this year we saw multiple battles between GC contenders and stage hunters alike. John Gadret, Stefano Garzelli, Jose Rujano, Jan Bakelants, and others put on fantastic performances, animating each stage from start to finish. Yes, we lost the sprinters, but with the final stage in Milan being an ITT, there wasn’t much for them to hang around for anyway.
1. After leaving high-profile rider Filippo Pozzato behind in order to bank everything on Joaquin Rodriguez’s GC hope, Katusha came home from this year’s Giro with little to show for its efforts. Team manager Andrei Tchmil may be doing a bit of damage control by espousing the “fffectiveness of team strategy,” but such a non-result cannot be hidden from view. Most tellingly, botched bike changes during the TTT meant that Rodriguez started the race already minutes behind on GC. Can Tchmil manage a team with true grand tour aspirations?
2. Geox-TMC did little to show the world that it deserved to be invited to the Tour de France, never really factoring in the 3-week event. The team still salvaged an invitation to the Vuelta, but it’s anyone’s guess as to how they’ll perform in Spain.
3. Last but not least, it goes without saying that the worst moment of this year’s Giro was Wouter Weylandt‘s untimely and unfortunate death. His constant laughter, on-the-bike grin, and charming spirit will certainly be missed.
1. Another notable Italian of Nibali’s vintage is Farnese Vini’s Giovanni Visconti (who not too many years ago was heralded as Paolo Bettini’s successor). Riding for a smaller Italian team means that the Giro d’Italia is the biggest show of the year. Perhaps his temper got the better of him, but taking his hand off the bar TWICE to push a rider off his line is understandable justification for relegation. The man to benefit was youngster Diego Ulissi, a great talent in Lampre’s long line of protégés—someone I look forward to watching in future races.
2. Although I can understand that sprinters are not suited for this year’s tortuous mountain climbs, the massive defection of sprinters including Alessandro Petacchi, Mark Cavendish, and many others still seems a bit weak to me. To be fair, even the GC contenders seemed content to settle with a cease-fire on the penultimate stage, allowing breakaway rider Vassili Kiryienka of Movistar to dedicate his win to recently deceased teammate Xavier Tondo. Kiryienka has been steadily improving and I expect him to figure in future stage races and hilly one-day events.
So those are our picks—what about you? Share your Win, Lose, or Draw contestants below.