May 20 2010
Lest I fall short of my own impeccable standards, I must discuss the Giro at least once today. And there is, frankly, still a lot to talk about. Specifically, yesterday’s GC reshuffling.
The finger-pointing began as soon as the riders crossed the line. This is the juncture where I’d normally poke fun at Cadel Evans for whining, but after seeing the man’s face when he staggered across the line, that’s just not going to happen. Anytime you see riders rocking the baggy coats, it’s not for style—it’s for not freezing to death.
I’ve heard riders complain about conditions before, but never in the terms that came up yesterday. The train of haggard human wreckage that trickled across the finish line on Stage 11 was enough, at least for a few hours, to inspire faith in clean bike racing.
How’d it happen? Here’s my take—the field splits. It’s a big group. Everyone sees it and thinks “eh, they’ll never let it go.” The break gets a bigger gap, CerveloTestTeam, Sky, and SaxoBank realize the move has a chance of staying and go all-in driving it.
According to Vino’, Astana, BMC, and Acqua e Sapone did do some chasing, but 56 riders can put out a fair number of watts. Working with a reduced team on a senselessly long stage with a few KOMs, and in miserable weather, plus a looking at some upcoming stages not exactly tailored to their stengths, Astana pulled in the colors.
BMC, itself down to five riders, certainly wasn’t going to do the laundry for Vino’, and Liquigas, whose GC men Basso and Nibali seemed best placed to profit over this weekend’s misery, weren’t going to be suckered into tiring their squad out before the big event. Besides, Liquigas had two riders the breakaway—even if they missed the stage win or the maglia rosa, the completely reordered GC might just play out in their favor come Verona.
And so 56 riders pulled clear, and most buried themselves the for the cause, before a handful of gut-wrenchingly exhausted attacks and counters—the most painful-looking since Ian Stannard’s ill-fated moves toward the end of Gent-Wevelgem—sent Evgeni Petrov across the line. 46 minutes later, the last bunch rolled in, leaving us with one of the most upended Grand Tours since Jens and Oscar flew the coop in 2006—and we all how that one turned out.
After all that, today was custom-tailored be a classic piano-style stage, but while you might have gotten a different impression from Robbie McEwen, it still refused to follow the script. Vino’ sensed weakness and made a dash for time with 12km to go. While it put Cadel back into BEAST MODE, Vino’ only managed to gain ten seconds, and his manuoever ended up giving Italy a reason to celebrate, and the rest of us a welcome antidote to the big story of the day.