Saturday, 12 May 2012

Stage 7: The Giro Finally Begins...

With the first Mountain Top Finish producing fireworks already, it's looking good for the next couple of weeks. Although the Giro has so far been a slow burner, stage 6 was much tougher than many thought which led to the first of the retirements, Thor Hushovd included. Today's stage 7 though really was difficult, up and down all day climaxing atop the Category 2 Rocca di Cambio - a 19km 5% climb, a slight descent with 4km's to go, and then a steep, sharp final 1.5km at 10% into the finish line. Michele Scarponi looked cooked in the recent Giro del Trentino, barely able to turn the peddles. Not so today though as the 2012 favourite made a surprise attack in the final kilometre, beaten to the line by Paolo Tiralongo, but still sending a clear message to the other favourites. Scarponi has arrived...

Paolo Tiralongo has long been a loyal helper in the mountains no matter which team he's been riding for so it was nice to see the Italian take a moment of glory as he rounded Michele Scarponi in the final 50 metres to take the win on today's Giro stage 7 leaving himself placed second in the overall general classification - however loyal helper he remains, as he will continue to ride as support for Roman Kreuziger who also looked quite comfortable today and sits only 30 seconds back in the GC.

More interesting than Tiralongos win was the move that lead to it coming from overall favourite Michele Scarponi. We didn't expect an outright attack from any of the GC guys until they hit the really tough stuff in the final week, but having found himself losing time in the opening TT, Scarponi always needed to drag back a few seconds to level the playing field between himself, Ivan Basso and Kreuziger - the fashion in which he did it though was quite out of character. Yes, Scarponi is a fantastic climber, but he's not usually a risk taker, or indeed an explosive climber. He prefers to grind his way up a mountain, sticking to a regular pace in much the same style as Ivan Basso. Today's finish looked more suited to another GC contender in the form of Joaquim Rodriguez who has a powerful kick on these sort of climbs, which we saw for ourselves recently when he rode to victory in this years Fleche Wallonne but as Scarponi jumped away it looked as though Rodriguez had no answer and in the end managed to roll in fourth, behind Frank Schleck...talking of which.

It was nice to see Frank Schleck finishing so highly, not just because he's been out of form and had little preparation coming into the Giro d'Italia, but more because it shows he has come here with Intent. Make no mistake, if Frank Schleck is feeling good come the final week, it wouldn't take much of an imagination to see him running away with it. For now though its just good to see that he has his head screwed on and is here to race.

Finally, another first for this years Giro d'Italia, we see a rider in the Pink leaders jersey who is actually capable of winning the overall... finishing fifth today was Garmin's Ryder Hesjedal who's been banging on the door of Grand Tour podiums for a few years. He looked Comfortable on the final climb and fifth was enough to see him zip up the pink jersey and take the lead by 15 seconds. Pressure will now be on for Garmin Barracuda as they will look to defend the jersey until, well, the end of the race. I sighted Hesjedal as a possible favourite before the Giro Started (HERE) and I will certainly enjoy watching him try to defend it...The Giro has begun.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post. Sounds like an interesting stage. I am intrigued to see what if anything Frank Schleck will accomplish over th next few days.