Giro d’Italia review and predictions
The 2012 Giro d’Italia is bubbling along, and unlike last year’s race where the result was a foregone conclusion well before the finish, this year’s edition is well balanced heading into the final week.
The general classification is taking shape, but with some epic stages looming over the peloton, expect to see some shuffling of positions.
The race started predictably enough with some familiar names standing on the podium after the sprint stages. The much anticipated battle between ex-team mates Mark Cavendish and Matt Goss has been fascinating to watch. Goss has pushed Cavendish, but Cavendish has proved his superiority by taking out three stages, none better than his stage 13 victory at Cervere.
With Orica-GreenEdge riding superbly to set up their man Goss, Cavendish threaded his way through traffic to come from a long way back to claim line honours. Goss, who looked to have had the race won, faded in the last few metres and sat up, falling back to sixth. It was a brilliant sprint, perhaps the highlight of the Giro so far, and confirmed why Cavendish is considered the best sprinter of his generation.
Not everything has gone Cavendish’s way however. Roberto Ferrari derailed the Manxman’s chances twice, once through poor bike handling skills and once through impeccable racing. In what has been the controversy of the Giro thus far, a Ferrari swerve wiped out Cavendish just as the stage three sprint in Horsens, Denmark, got under way. Goss went onto win the stage, giving his team its first ever grand tour win, while every man and his dog bayed for Ferrari’s blood.
The Italian sprinter won back some public support on stage 11 however, with a beautifully timed run for the line. With Team Sky positioned perfectly leading into the final corner, a Cavendish win seemed certain. But Sky’s rhythm was lost when Geraint Thomas misjudged a turn and dug a pedal into the bitumen. Ferrari swooped around the corner and found himself several bike lengths ahead and was never threatened as he headed for the line.
While it wasn’t quite a transformation from villain to hero, public opinion of him softened a little and another quirky chapter in the history of the Giro had been written.
The second week of the Giro has teased us with some mountains, but the real climbing is still to come. It was these lumpier stages however, that saw the general classification begin to sort itself out and provide clues as to who could potentially claim overall victory.
Joaquim Rodriguez and Ryder Hesjedal have been maglia rosa switching since stage seven and it is the Spaniard who takes a 30 second lead into the last rest day. But lurking in third place, at 1’22”, is Ivan Basso.
Basso won my favourite edition of the race back in 2010, his duels with Cadel Evans, Alexandre Vinokourov and Damiano Cunego producing some of the most dynamic racing seen in recent years. The two time winner of the Italian race will be looking to add a third title to his palmares but we may have to wait until stage 20 to see the Liquigas veteran flex his muscles.
“Here you’ll understand who can win the Giro,” stated Basso in a preview of the stage that ends with a gruelling accent of the iconic Passo dello Stelvio.
Rising over 1548 metres in 22 kilometres, the Stelvio climb, with its spectacular hairpin bends, should not be missed. It will be the last chance the climbers get to put time into their opponents before the final day’s time trial, so the racing should be explosive.
Rodriguez has ridden a wonderful race and I expect that he will carry his overall lead into the Stelvio stage. The race is his to be won, but he needs to keep a close eye on Basso who may just produce something special as he twists and turns his way up the mountain.