Giro 19: Vendetta Sarda

Embedded image permalinkHard stage again. Hard mountains and riders who are playing hard since the start of this race. A break-away has got a gap, they are: Betancur and Montaguti (Ag2r), Rutkiewicz (CCC), Ulissi (Lampre), Visconti (Movistar), Chaves (Orica), Kochetkov (Katusha), Van der Lijke (Lotto NL) and Kiryienka (Team Sky) who crashed yesterday but today is on the attack again. Team Astana is leading the chase again after a two days off: Contador taught them a hard lesson.
Embedded image permalinkBy the way this Giro rises again big questions about doping and antidoping effectiveness because 1. the start list was full of ex or suspected dopers 2. Team Astana's performance looks on a different level 3. Alberto Contador's performance also looks on a different level. Somebody start talking againg of a 'double speed peloton' and yep, that's the impression.
With Richie Porte out, Rigoberto Uran down and Fabio Aru oddly inconsistent the 'fight for Pink' is between the two Contador and Landa. But is there really a fight? Landa is very strong - too strong? - but Contador seems absolutely unbattable. As a result... well... that race isn't exactly thrilling. Crashes and other troubles plaied a bigger role that real attacks.
More interesting the 'fight for Blue': Betancur is in the break collecting point... The 'fight for Red' is going to be decided in Milano between Nizzolo and Viviani and that's exciting.
Saint-Barthélemy, 1st cat. climb - 16.5 km, 6.7% average, 13% max - Visconti goes solo. 78.4km to go. Visconti 8” on Kochetkov, Chaves, Kiryiekna, 19” to Rutkiewicz, 1’ to Montaguti, Ulissi, van der Lijke, 2’ to Betancur. Visconti caught by the first chasers, there are only four riders in front:  Visconti, Chaves, Kochetkov (Team Katusha) and  Kiryienka (Team Sky). Rutkiewicz is chasing while van der Lijke and Betancur - who got aflat tyre) gave up. Peloton at 3'43".
Embedded image permalinkVisconti conquers the KOM but in the peloton Intxausti beats Kruijswijk.
Descent. Rutkiewicz is back with the leaders. Intxausti and Kruijswijk joined van der Lijke about 1' ahead the peloton. Kiryienka doesn't look confortable in the descent probably due to a problem with his bike.
Col Saint-Pantaléon aproaching - (1st cat): 16.5 km, 7.2% average, 12% max.  The peloton pulled by Astana caught the first chassers. A strong head wind makes life hard for the break. First ramp and Visconti attacks again. Nobody can follow but Kiryienka and Kochetkov go on by a good pace. The rest is dropped and caught. Big selection also in the main peloton with the whole Astana in front and Contador on the wheels with only two mates - Basso and Rogers. Kreuziger got dropped and looks cooked. 
Embedded image permalink36 km to go also Kiryienka gets caught. Team Astana rises the pace. It's very hot and riders are throwing water from the bottles over their head. No shadow. 3 km to the KOM for Visconti who is suffering but keeps going. Kochetkov is at 1'16'' from Visconti, a decimated peloton at 2'11''.
Visconti conquers also the 2nd KOM, then Kochetkov, but from the peloton is 'fight for Blue' again: Kruijswijk gets off first but Intxausti beats him again. Descent. Visconti, virtual Blue Jersey, keeps going.
Embedded image permalink20 km to go, last climb to Cervinia1st cat, 19.2 km long with an average gradient of 5%, slopes up to 12%.  Pace has been CRAZY also today and Kochetkov gets caught. 15km to go Visconti is still solo with 1'38. The top ten GC riders are all in the front group but Amador doesn't look good.
Embedded image permalink10 km to go Visconti gets caught by a group down to 29 riders. 9 km to go Sioutsou attacks, Landa goes on conter and Contador follows. A small group forms including also Hesjedale, Konig, Aru, Kruijswijk and Uran. Hesjedale attacks but is caught.
8 km to go Aru attacks, Hesjedal goes on conter. The group explodes. Aru attacks again but Contador keeps Landa's wheel. Aru joins Hesjedal, drops him, goes solo. Kruijswijk and Konig are chasing, Contador doesn't work, glued to Landa's wheel. Uran, Nieve and Kangert try to bridge. Amador and Caruso instead are suffering at the back. Uran joins first and immediately attacks. Nieve and Kangert join too and go in front pulling the chase. Aru goes.
Embedded image permalinkAru wins solo. 2nd solo arrives Hesjedal. 3rd solo arrives Uran.

Alberto Contador:  
“The team was good today, and I kept an eye on my closest rival, Mikel Landa. You have to take a tactical decision in the end: Landa and Aru could have taken turns to attack all the way up the final climb. Obviously, I'd like to win a stage, but it is hard. The final group is always small and I don't have teammates with me because they work hard earlier in the stage, so the result today is perfect for me.
Embedded image permalinkAnyway, if you ask anyone what they would prefer, a stage win or the Maglia Rosa, they'll say the Maglia Rosa, so I'm very, very happy because I got through another very hard day. The final climb was tough, and Aru was strong and took a great stage win. He's now 2 nd in the GC, and I wish him a great future. Tomorrow the stage is really nice, with a very hard climb, perhaps harder than the climbs today. My job will be to withstand the attacks, and it might even be a day, where I will attack, you never know”. 

Michael Rogers:
“It was an extremely tough day and a fast start. A lot of the teams that are still looking for results set a hard pace and then Astana rode at a high hard tempo with the objective of winning the stage. In what regards our objectives, Ivan Basso and I were able to stay with Alberto until the final 9k where he could control the events himself.
Today, I consumed 6400 calories so it was a very, very tough day and the fatigue of the race is of course catching up with me and everybody else. We have two stages to go and we still have Alberto in a very good position considering the Maglia Rosa, so we will do our best tomorrow to protect that and keep it all the way to Milan”. 

Fabio Aru:
“To tell the truth, the pressure doesn’t affect me, it just gives me the strength and the focus to go on and do my work. I tried to hide it but I went through some bad moments before the Giro but I held on and I have to thank my family and my team.
I prepared well for this Giro, but I had some problems. But this stage win shows that I could handle it and it repays the faith of my team, who believed in me all winter.
This victory has a special taste because it’s really unexpected. I haven’t been good in the last few days, but I’ve stuck in there.
I was very tired in the days since the Mortirolo. I’ve slept a lot, had longer massages, I’ve gone to bed as early as possible… But you still wake up already tired, destroyed. But once you start the stage, you start to think you’re getting better. When you’re feeling bad, you give yourself intermediate goals, you tick off every 50 kilometres and so on.
Yes, Contador made no attempt to close the gap. You’d have to ask Alberto about that, I just tried to make a big attack. When I got across to Hesjedal, I sat on the wheel for a bit, then I attacked him again and it was basically a mountain time trial from there.
The suffering today in the last seven kilometres was equal to the suffering on the last 40 kilometres of the Mortirolo stage. I had to make the same effort here but I managed it better. This is a sport of suffering. It’s easy to win when you’re good, but much less so when you’re suffering. Nothing has come ever easy to me, but I’ve hung in there.
There’ve never been hierarchies on this team. Mikel’s very strong and he deserved his two stage wins. He waited for me on the Mortirolo, and I actually gave him the green light to go away and ride for himself because I wasn’t feeling good. The team never abandoned me, and in the end I’m paid to be a rider and give my best.”

Ryder Hesjedal:
“I think I messed up, I shouldn’t have tried to stay with Aru when he accelerated. That completely exploded me, where as if I didn’t go into the red, I think I could have got on terms with him and tried my chance in the sprint against him. It’s a little frustrating. I just like to be racing the way I’m racing,” he explained. I think my riding and performing is better than the result reflects. The result is just a product of racing this way. As I keep saying, I’ve won the Giro, so I’m not excited for fifth or seventh overall.
In the end everything happens for a reason. I could have lost no time in the first week and then been in the second week with a crash. There are so many things that go on in a race. Maybe if I had the legs to be on the podium, maybe you beat yourself up a little bit more.
I’m completely happy, you can’t control everything. I’m happy to be on the front in the third week. The field and the level is incredible here. Hats off to Aru and Astana, they’re unreal, riding all day like that. I’m just happy to be up there in the front.
I did Trentino and Romandie coming into this; that’s 31 race days with the weekend coming up. You get a load in your legs and I think I benefit from it. Now I’ll just freshen up and we’ll regroup and see what the plan is for the rest of the year.
You’re not doing a race until you’re out of the race. That was always the plan and is why I started the season a little slow, with the Giro-Tour in mind. It’s all going as good as it goes for that.”
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Rigoberto Uran:
"The last week is a week to try to get the best out of each stage. My goal was to try to do a good race and see what can happen. At the beginning I tried to also enter into a few breakaways, but they didn't let us go. I stayed there in the peloton until we reached the last climb here in Cervinia. I felt good and comfortable. When they first started attacking I responded. We were with six riders. But when they attacked again I couldn't follow. I decided to take my tempo and recover. I found on the road Amador, Nieve, and Kangert. We collaborated with Amador, but he lost contact with us on the climb. I was there only with Nieve and Kangert. They had a teammate in front, so it was clear they wouldn't try something to compromise that. So in the tunnel I attacked them. At the end of the tunnel I could see Contador and the others. I attacked my group and came back to the maglia rosa group. Then, when I arrived there, I knew Aru was already gone along with Hesjedal. At that point I did my best to play my card. I went immediately and I took a small gap. I really did everything I could and at the end I was 3rd. So, considering everything, I am happy. As I said already, the Giro ends on Sunday, every stage is an opportunity. Every day we will fight, even with all the problems we've had here in this Giro. To be honest I am happy I was able to stay with the best and finish the stage among the top guys of the peloton." 
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Steven Kruijswijk:
“It was very tough today. It was a long day with a lot of climbing. I tried to be with the best uphill again and was hoping to pick up some extra points for the mountain classification. That didn’t turn out exactly the way I wanted it to, but I was strong enough to finish fifth again in the end. That is the most important thing for me.
I want to finish top 10 in the general classification, either way. I will not be able to attack at the Cima Coppi, tomorrow when you look at that stage. I will be quiet and I’m going to try to follow the best climbers again.”

Embedded image permalinkFabio Felline:
“Today I passed close to my home in an area where I normally train and the uphill finish is also where I often stay for the altitude. For me it was important to make a good performance today, and see where my body may take me. In the end, it was for nothing, and maybe for others it made no sense, but yesterday I decided I would now make a decision day by day. Maybe tomorrow the breakaway may go and have the possibility to arrive at the finish, I don’t know, but so many times I don’t take a decision and wait and wait, and I don’t have anything. So today I decided to take a chance to pull.”

Leo König:
"It went well today. I had team-mates alongside me for a long time. I felt really good in the heat. I was worried about today as I didn't have a really good night last night. I was feeling almost sick from the last few stages. I'm really happy that it turned out this way and I think we did a really good job.
We need to take a closer look at the situation now. There is one big GC stage to go but let's see what happens tomorrow."

1 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 6:24:13
2 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team 0:00:28
3 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Etixx - Quick-Step 0:01:10
4 Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana Pro Team 0:01:18
5 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo
6 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo
7 Mikel Landa Meana (Spa) Astana Pro Team
8 Leopold Konig (Cze) Team Sky 0:01:21
9 Mikel Nieve (Spa) Team Sky 0:01:24
10 Alexandre Geniez (Fra) FDJ.fr 0:02:24
11 Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC Racing Team 0:02:27
12 Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar Team
13 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:02:49
14 Jonathan Monsalve (Ven) Southeast Pro Cycling
15 Yury Trofimov (Rus) Team Katusha
16 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Soudal
17 Darwin Atapuma Hurtado (Col) BMC Racing Team 0:04:43
18 Fabio Felline (Ita) TrekRacing 0:05:14
19 Amaël Moinard (Fra) BMC Racing Team
20 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli
21 Andre Cardoso (Por) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team
22 Kanstantsin Siutsou (Blr) Team Sky
23 Kenny Elissonde (Fra) FDJ.fr 0:06:52
24 Benat Intxausti (Spa) Movistar Team
25 Stefano Pirazzi (Ita) Bardiani CSF 0:09:03
1 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo 78:48:40
2 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:04:37
3 Mikel Landa Meana (Spa) Astana Pro Team 0:05:15
4 Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar Team 0:08:10
5 Leopold Konig (Cze) Team Sky 0:10:47
6 Yury Trofimov (Rus) Team Katusha 0:11:11
7 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team 0:12:05
8 Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC Racing Team 0:12:14
9 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo 0:12:53
10 Alexandre Geniez (Fra) FDJ.fr 0:15:07

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