Monday, 14 May 2012

Giro Round-Up: 9 Down, 12 To Go...


A weekend can change a lot in a stage race and although I've been craving the final week to hurry the hell up, I have to admit that this weekend saw some great racing in the Giro with plenty of surprises keeping things entertaining. Aside from the Giro there's been more goings on in the RadioShack Nissan camp, and you may have noticed that I haven't mentioned much about the Amgen Tour of California which started on Sunday, well, erm...yeah.

The weekend got off to a flyer as we embarked upon our first summit finish of the Giro on Saturday. A long 19km climb levelled out and finished with a steep 1.6km rise to the finish - perfect Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) territory - but it wasn't to be. A surprise attack from Michele Scarponi meant that he was pipped to the line only by faithfull Astana domestique Tiralongo who took a fine victory. Scarponi was the big winner though, asserting his authority on the race and clawing back precious seconds on his close rivals.

Sunday bought another big climb towards the end, followed by a flat 4km run in - whoever went over the top first would inevitably struggle to keep the chasers at bay. A crucial steep section in the middle of the climb would provide the only chance of a decent attack, but even Pantani had a crack here in his heyday and couldn't escape his competitors so it was with much surprise that the tiny mountain specialist Domenico Pozzovivo (Colnago) used his featherweight figure to his advantage and took off, literally leaving the peloton half a minute back at the top of the climb. With a tiny frame comes problems of it own though, it may help a rider climb like chimp but when it comes to a descent or indeed the flat, they generally lack the power to ride away from the bigger guys in the peloton who's heavier weight becomes an advantage in these situations. As Pozzo stormed over the summit of the climb we merely sat and weighted for the remaining bunch to eat swallow him up, but it didn't happen. Turns out the little Italian has more bite than many gave him credit for, the time gap stayed static and Pozzovivo crossed the line 30 seconds ahead of his rivals, taking back some valuable time in the General Classification - if he keeps this form until the final week in the high mountains Domenico Pozzovivo will become a genuine favourite. His competitors expected him to lose mega time in the TT and to be blown out of contention in Denmark, but its going to take more than that to shed this aggressive little rider...

Today's stage was one of the last designed for the sprinters and with Sky and Origica-Greenedge keeping pace at the front it was almost a foregone conclusion but with cycling nothing is set in stone and a bit of dodgy cornering in the last 400 metres by Pippo Pozzato meant that Mark Cavendish, Renshaw and Matthew Goss were all put out of contention, Cav and Goss both ended up on the tarmac. A bitter pill to swallow after such hard work in the preceding 160km and with the next sprint stage not untill stage 18, a whole week on Thursday, it remains to be seen whether any of the sprinters will even still be left in the race.

In other news the Amgen Tour of California started on Sunday - the stages themselves are quite scenic but the GC may already be a foregone conclusion - a weak field mean Chris Horner has been touted as a certain winner for this years edition of what is largely a mundane affair. The fact that TV coverage doesn't start until after 10pm each night doesn't really enthuse me and maybe I should give this race more attention. Previous editions have however failed to inspire me, it's a little too 'American', though I don't mean that to be harsh, just that it lacks the character of the old European races, in much the same way as the far east. If there is one thing I'll say about this years race its this: Horner may well be the favourite, but there's a little sparkle in the eyes of one of Garmin Barracuda's finest young riders at the minute - watch out for Andrew Talansky...

Finally for those who have been keeping tabs on the Lance Armstrong affair over the last god knows how long, it's with interest that I keep one eye open on a current story gathering pace thanks to VeloNation regarding old US Postal Service chief and current RadioShack Nissan manager Johan Bruyneel, who has apparently been served with a Subpoena courtesy of the FBI this week. There's far to much to explain here so I'll leave you with the link to the story at VeloNation. With the recent Lance Armstrong confessions of sorts and now Bruyneel's predicament, there's plenty of speculation doing the rounds. I smell a rat, and wouldn't be surprised if a big story emerges sometime around the Tour de France...

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