The Tour Take | Giro Opening Weekend

 

1. Does Rohan Dennis have a Grand Tour podium in him?

With Dennis leading the race now, it’s going be interesting to see how long he can stay in the mix. He has future ambitions as a GC rider (Tom Dumoulin/ Bradley Wiggins-esque ones) and BMC is here without any other more obvious goals than supporting him. This is a hard route, and probably not one that suits him with the number of steep climbs - he strikes as more of a Tour winner than a Giro one, but it’s a good test nonetheless. With Dennis likely spending a few days in pink, his Giro’s going to be a success either, but he’ll come home feeling good if he finishes top 10 or so on GC.

2. These are going to be some mighty dull sprints

Last year’s Giro sprints were dominated by Fernando Gaviria and QuickStep, winning four stages. We’re in a fairly similar pickle this year, as Elia Viviani looks fairly unbeatable. He got some fairly poor support in on Stage 2, yet still managed to win the sprint easily, and stage 3 was again so clearly the quickest.

It’s got a lot to do with the route – when it’s this hard and there are so few sprint days, why would any top-level sprinter turn up if they weren’t Italian? Without Viviani, these sprints would be fairly interesting thanks to a fairly even field of up-and-comers or experienced heads. Viviani’s presence blows that to pieces though, and if he loses any sprint stages it will be a surprise.

3. Chris Froome is having a really bad time!

Should Chris Froome even be at the Giro? Probably not. If we accept he’s allowed to be though, we can all sympathize that he’s in an unenviable situation. An incredible amount of scrutiny is on Team Sky, and it's been reflected in their woeful spring. The pending legal case would be the sort of thing that just makes it impossible to train freely in the run-up to this Giro, while he’s hardly going to relax the whole race. His crash on a relatively benign corner of recon for the opening ITT also has hampered him – his slowish performance in the race proper showed he was nervous.

To make matters worse, there’s confusion over whether he’s racing for anything at all. Giro director Mauro Vegni said he’s had assurances from the UCI president David Lappartient that Froome’s result would stand if he won here and was then found guilty in his Salbutamol case. The UCI clarified later that what Lappartient said wasn’t true. So who knows – this whole race could be pointless. A dog show all around.

Race Notes

• I don’t know anything about the Israel/Palestine conflict – plus there’s much better coverage of that elsewhere than what we could provide. But even I can see that the Giro probably should have just avoided it all.

• It hasn’t been the most interesting route in Israel either – Stage 2 was particularly dragging, (aside from the intermediate sprint drama in the middle of stage 2)

• It was a shame for Guillaume Boivin of Israel Cycling Academy to miss out on the KOM jersey, as Enrico Barbin overhauled him with 100m to go on stage 2’s only categorized climb. It would have been nice to see the home team hold a jersey on the last day in Israel.

• This was probably the highlight of the three days 

• Lotto Soudal has been renamed to Lotto Fix All, and they have new blue jerseys which aren't real easy on the eyes.

• Viviani has been the most underrated contributor to the Wolfpack’s dream spring, but the Italian has got eight wins this year!

• Sam Bennett feels so close to a Grand Tour win he can probably smell the champagne and podium girls’ lipstick. With good team support, if anyone’s going to beat Viviani, ill back it to be him.

Tonight

Stage 4 looks frisky. Only two category 4 climbs, but rollers almost the whole stage, before an uphill finish. The final incline in Caltagirone is almost a kilometer long, averaging 8.5% with a max of 13%.

 

The Pick

Could this kicker be enough to tempt a GC contender out to play? Pinot, Aru or Chaves might want to try and take back some time they lost in the ITT. Even if that happens, don’t expect any of the big boys to waste their energy trying from further out than the flamme rouge.  BMC won’t be keen on giving the Maglia Rosa away either, so it seems unlikely that anyone will be given a great gap. We’ll take a punt on Carlos Betancur – his relatively good ITT showed he has decent form. Movistar have left all the “big three” out of this year’s Giro, so stage wins will be the main focus for Movistar here you would have thought.

See you back at the social club,

Josh

Campbell Flakemore