6.04.2015

Giro d'Italia Sum Up: A Dettailed Analysis

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Steven Kruijswijk: best things in the Giro
Traveling with a grand tour is sharing a daily adventure, spending days with people you had never met before and that very often you'll never meet again - but there are fortunate exceptions – and living a collective life more intensely than your own's. For me it has been waiting for hours in places I would have never seen, beautiful places sometimes, sometimes... welll... not. But places I had the time to breath – at the barriers in the heat, in the early morning on a still deserted square in a small town watching workers bringing on the Giro or the Tour, and after, when they had already brought it away, in lonely night.
This year I decided to stay at home: no Giro, no Tour. No races to be honest because I just went to watch the Strade Bianche and a stage of Tirreno. No money, no time, no Andy. I still enjoy watching a cycling race and I really like writing of cycling but I must admit that my priorities changed. I dedicate more time to my son's racing and to my own riding. Study and Politics are getting my focus again.
And still – DANM – I was expecting more by this Giro. I'm disappointed. I liked the route – for a change – with his demanding first week, short transferts and many stages that on paper could suit the braves. I liked the fact the there wasn't one favourite for the final victory but a handful of names. I apreciated the open battle for the Red, Blue and White jersey between several good riders. It was going to be an unpredictable Giro.
Instead Team Astana killed the race and Contador killed Team Astana. As a result, we had a boring Giro, decided more by crashes, penalties and UCI points than by attacks, strategy and guts.
I believe in the explicative quality of data so here you have some numbers on display. Team Astana's dominance is obvious. Team Tinkoff weakness is evident and that's make Contador's victory look like a miracle, especially checking the gaps. Contador ALONE has defeated a very strong team Astana – to use an understatement! But Team Astana has been strong enough to put an insane number of riders in the final top positions, to collect an insane numbers of stage victories and to grab the White Jersey. I don't remember anything similar, not even in the CSC good old times (and you know how 'good' those times were!).
I say Team Astana killed the race because they systematically prevent any break-away to reach the line, lining up such a fire power that you can't really believe they actually didn't win the overall. But they didn't! The 2nd one in the final GC, Fabio Aru, has a huge gap from Contador and Contador's Pink Jersey has never been really in danger. I understand that Astana's strategy was to isolate Contador... but they should have realised – as everybody else – that Contador didn't really need anybody to keep his primate. I guess Astana will have to pay its arrogance in the next races, when alliances or even neutrality by other teams can come in hand.
Talking about Astana's strategy... or lack of it: assuming – and not believing – that they are all clean, Fabio Aru was recovering from dyssentery, had lost many kg and abandoned Giro del Trentino because of that, in the first weeks of the race he looked all but strong, often in troubles because of his team crazy pace. Mikel Landa looked very strong instead and probably the only one able to contend Contador's Pink. Still Astana's didn't want to win with him, they prefered to lose with Aru. I wondered why till when I read an article by Neal Rogers saying that Landa's contract with Astana espired without a new offer and that he already unofficially off to Team Sky. That makes sense finally: Aru would have kept in the team all his UCI points while Landa would have bring them away. What a lame story...
It has been thrilling watching Landa on the attack and I – brain off - have dramt of him riding solo till the line and winning with a big gap on Contador – and Aru. Unfortunately Landa has been stopped and anyway Contador wasn't that 'off' even in his 'off day'. It has been killing to see Contador NOT chasing Kruijswijk – as Indurain in the old good times would have done - and Team Astana doing so instead. It has been moving to see the other GC contenders in the race fighting like lions for a top five or top ten results, with no way to get a stage victory. Amador, Caruso, Geniez, Trofimov, Hesjedal, Uran, Konig... They deserve a bravo. It has been for them a true surviving race.
Before the start the big favourites were Richie Porte, Domenico Pozzovivo, Alberto Contador, Fabio Aru and Rigoberto Uran. Fabio Aru's condition had been questioned and his performance has been 'weird': inconsistent in the first weeks, solid in the last hard mountain stages. Somebody even said dyssentery was a very good preparation! 
Rigoberto Uran was sick but the team didn't tell it around, he was slowly recovering from bronchitis and I wonder why a sick rider is allowed to start in a three weeks race. His performance looks more 'normal': poor in the first weeks and a little better at the end. He fought for a stage victory but two 3rd places were the best he could get. Domenico Pozzovivo badly crashed out. That's a pity. Carlos Betancur did his best to save AG2R's Giro, was in several break-aways and fought for the Blue Jersey. But in this race there was no room for underplots. Richie Porte was in the shape of his life, coming from victorious races, motivated and well supported. Unfortunately Team Sky won the Bad Luck Award: he met a naif friend, a very strict Jury and a big crash all out the nutralisation zone. He probably met also his personal mental limit. Taking frustration isn't an easy sport. Do you remember Andy Schleck in Spa? He didn't accept that his Tour was over beacuse of a crash, and he won that Tour. But I'm far from saying Richie Porte is a pussy: cycling isn't a war. I don't see it like that.
It was quickly down to Alberto Contador and Fabio Aru. A duel. How cool. Unfortunately Fabio Aru didn't look a danger at all, in spite of his team. Contador crashed and rode some days with a dislocated (?) shoulder without any serious attempt by anybody to put him in trouble. Fair Play? Mah! Team Astana attacked him on a mechanical on the Mortirolo so I don't think that was the matter. By the way: Contador had few to say about it given his own behaviour in the famous stage of the Tour when Andy's chain dropped....
So where did Contador won his 2nd – or 3rd - Giro? In the ITT probably. He almost won the stage and inflicted his opponents big gaps they weren't able to reduce in the mountains. Of course things would have been very different with a competitive Porte in the ITT – but he had injuried his knee in the crash – with Porte, Pozzovivo and Uran attacking in the mountains day by day, allowing the break-aways to go and to take seconds on the line. THAT would have been a thrilling race.
The Fight for Pink being a no-real-fight, I focused on the Fight for Blue, more open and more interesting, with Intxausti, Visconti, Betancur and Kruijswijk giving it all at every KOM. They have been amazing, the Dutchman especially who in fact scored high in the final GC. Believing but not adsuming that he's clean, Kruijswijk has been the most exciting thing in the Giro. He had already shown a nice racing in the past, also in Italy, but now he looked a mature, strong, determined rider. Strong in his legs but also in his head. His team did its best to support his brave Fight for Blue but mostly he had to try on his own. I'm gutted he was denied a stage victory, the Jersey and a higher place in the final overall. Even the Combactivity Award, that went to Philippe Gilbert. Kruijswijk's results don't show his value. He deserved more. But that's cycling and I'm thankful he gave me something to jump on the sofa for. Team Movistar brought finally home the Blue Jersey with Giovanni Visconti, playing both his cards against its opponents who were isolated.
Another one I was cheering for was Leo Konig. In my opinion he has been oustanding. A bit like Wout Poels in the last Tirreno but in amore shocking way he got a late call to lead Team Sky and responded with class. On the monster climbs of the Giro's last week he climbed with the best ones, only dropped by Landa and Contador's last attacks. He manged himself wisely, avoiding to go in the red, gaining and keeping GC places day by day. Here I must add a little word for Team Sky DS who once again had to improvisate after he spent month planning. It's an hard life...
The Fight For Red was also engagging. No Cav, no Kittel, No Degenkolb. André Greipel scored a good point but wasn't in contention for the Jersey, so it has been an Italian Story. Manuel Belletti only managed a few four places and then abandoned with a microfracture. Elia Viviani was the absolute favourite and in my opinion it would have won without the usual Team Sky Bad Luck: the Porte's drama left Viviani without support twice – when he punctured and when he crashed – then a shocked team focused on defending Konig's GC position and again Viviani had to help himself, finally in Milano... Team Sky was leading the chase when suddenly everybody started puncturing, Viviani included, Konig included.... almost half peloton! What happened it isn't sure, maybe a bad joke. As a result no sprint and anyway no Viviani in the front row. He won a beautiful stage and I think he was the best sprinter in the race. Sacha Modolo and Diego Ulissi were having the best train and a team all focused on stages. Giacomo Nizzolo didn't win but calculated well and collected points at every intermediate sprint. As a result Team Lampre scored four stage victories but Trek Factory Racing brought home the Red Jersey. By the way: I expected more by Fabio Felline but ok, that was a nasty Giro.
A big disappointment has been the Fight For White. There were a few young riders in this Giro who were supposed to shine in the break-aways, especially in the mountains, but they have been crushed in the clash for the final GC. Formolo won a stage, BMC Kung set a nice attack but crashed out, Elissonde just worked hard for Geniez, Chaves tried but Team Astana put Fabio Aru so high that there was no fight at all.
As far as Teams are concerned, Astana and Tinkoff can't be completely happy: the first one failed to win the race, the second one won but looked inconsistent. In my opinion Team Sky did a good race, faced a very bad luck and all considered limited the losts. So did Etixx, to some extent, but even without Uran's illness its roster looked weak, especially in the mountain, that's hard to explain given that they didn't bring a sprinter. Movistar did great and moreover did it like a team as well as ORICA-GE: they  didn't have a true GC rider but did the best of it in the first week, BMC did definitely good Gilbert seems defintely back and Caruso held on the top ten – Katusha managed to get a stage with Zakarin ('weird' racing by him) and to keep Trofimov in the top ten. Kruijswijk made Lotto-Jumbo's Giro but also Hofland deserves a mention. Both young, both promising, they aren't top rider - so far - but  can achieve some nice results for a team that need them greatly. Lampre-Merida's target were stage victories and they got them, plenty of them. Modolo was expected, Ulissi a little less especially at the sprint. Coming back from a doping bann, Ulissi looks as strong as before, even more. It's an interesting rider - if clean - good climber, good sprinter, almost a finisseur but able to endure a stage races. Trek Factory Racing failed to win a stage but won the red Jersey: they can be moderately happy. Nizzolo's train works well but it isn't the best in the and that makes all the difference betwen 1st and 2nd place. Cannondale-Garmin managed to win a stage but failed to repeat in the mountains, in spite Hesjedal furiously tried. As a consequence he landed high in the final GC (5th!). A better cohordination between Formolo and Hesjedal would have been desirable but I know it isn't easy in Italy with an Italian rider. Lotto Soudal won a stage, or better André Greipel won a stage. That's all. Jürgen Van Den Broeck was quite disappointing, again. FDJ.fr spent all its Giro defending Geniez position in the GC, they were invisible, you even forgot that they were in the race... but in the end they kept that nice top ten place. Bardiani CSF won a stage and confirmed to be the best Italian Wild Card option, still they aren't as brillinat as last year. Androni Giocattoli animated the break-aways with Marco Bandiera... and that's all. Savio is happy. No doubt they showed the jersey. AG2R La Mondiale lost its leader Pozzovivo, Betancur did his best but their result in the race doesn't allow to smile that much. Finally some teams achieved basicly nothing:  IAM Cycling, Southeast, Team Giant-Alpecin, Nippo - Vini Fantini and CCC Sprandi Polkowice go home empty hands. Sprinters' teams can just blame themselves: there was a few and they wasted them. The others had few options because breaks didn't succeed.

FINAL GC
1 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo 88:22:25  
2 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:01:53  
3 Mikel Landa Meana (Spa) Astana Pro Team 0:03:05  
4 Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar Team 0:08:10  
5 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team 0:09:52  
6 Leopold Konig (Cze) Team Sky 0:10:41  
7 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo 0:10:53  
8 Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC Racing Team 0:12:08  
9 Alexandre Geniez (Fra) FDJ.fr 0:15:51  
10 Yury Trofimov (Rus) Team Katusha 0:16:14

STAGES
1 (TTT) - San Lorenzo Mare › Sanremo Orica GreenEDGE GERRANS Simon 17.6
2 - Albenga › Genova VIVIANI Elia MATTHEWS Michael 177
3 - Rapallo › Sestri Levante MATTHEWS Michael MATTHEWS Michael 136
4 - Chiavari › La Spezia FORMOLO Davide CLARKE Simon 150
5 - La Spezia › Abetone POLANC Jan CONTADOR Alberto 152
6 - Montecatini Terme › Castiglione della Pescaia GREIPEL André CONTADOR Alberto 183
7 - Grosseto › Fiuggi ULISSI Diego CONTADOR Alberto 264
8 - Fiuggi › Campitello Matese INTXAUSTI Beñat CONTADOR Alberto 186
9 - Benevento › San Giorgio del Sannio TIRALONGO Paolo CONTADOR Alberto 224
10 - Civitanova Marche › Forlì BOEM Nicola CONTADOR Alberto 200
11 - Forlì › Imola ZAKARIN Ilnur CONTADOR Alberto 153
12 - Imola › Vicenza (Monte Berico) GILBERT Philippe CONTADOR Alberto 190
13 - Montecchio Maggiore › Lido di Jesolo MODOLO Sacha ARU Fabio 147
14 (ITT) - Treviso › Valdobbiadene KIRYIENKA Vasil CONTADOR Alberto 59.4
15 - Marostica › Madonna di Campiglio LANDA Mikel CONTADOR Alberto 165
16 - Pinzolo › Aprica LANDA Mikel CONTADOR Alberto 177
17 - Tirano › Lugano MODOLO Sacha CONTADOR Alberto 134
18 - Melide › Verbania GILBERT Philippe CONTADOR Alberto 170
19 - Gravellona Toce › Cervinia ARU Fabio CONTADOR Alberto 236
20 - Saint Vincent › Sestriere ARU Fabio CONTADOR Alberto 196
21 - Torino › Milano KEISSE Iljo 185

JERSEYS
General Classification CONTADOR Alberto
Points Classification NIZZOLO Giacomo
Mountains Classification VISCONTI Giovanni
Youth Classification ARU Fabio
Teams Classification Astana Pro Team

AWARDS
Energy ARU Fabio
Combactivity GILBERT Philippe
Break-away BANDIERA MARCO
Azzurri d'Italia LANDA MIKEL
SPRINT BANDIERA MARCO

TEAMS
1 Astana Pro Team: 5 stages, 2nd and 3rd in GC, White Jersey, 1 day in pink, Team classification, Energy award, Azzurri d'Italia award, Cima Coppi
2 BMC Racing Team: 2 stages, top ten (8th), Combactivity award  
3 Lampre-Merida: 4 stages
4 Team Sky: 2 stages, top ten (6th)
5 Movistar Team: 1 stage, top ten (4th), Blue Jersey
6 Orica GreenEdge: 2 stages, 4 days in Pink
7 Team LottoNL-Jumbo: top ten (7th), Cima Pantani
8 Bardiani CSF: 1 stage
9 Tinkoff-Saxo: Pink Jersey
10 Team Katusha: 1 stage, top ten (10th)  
11 Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team: 1 stage, Top Ten (5th)
12 Trek Factory Racing: Red Jersey
13 Androni Giocattoli: Break-away award, Sprint Award
14 IAM Cycling: -------------------------------
15 Southeast Pro Cycling: ---------------------
16 Etixx - Quick-Step: 1 stage
17 Team Giant-Alpecin: ----------------------- 
18 Lotto Soudal: 1 stage
19 AG2R La Mondiale: -----------------------  
20 Nippo - Vini Fantini: ----------------------- 
21 FDJ.fr: Top Ten  (9th)
22 CCC Sprandi Polkowice 66:---------------

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