The VeloVoices have been enjoying a long weekend on both sides of the Atlantic, with Panache sunning it up on the beach for Memorial Day while in the UK we’ve been wondering what that strange yellow disc in the sky is during the spring bank holiday weekend. But it was straight back to business this morning (with the exception of Jack, who’s on study leave) as we set to work dissecting the last three weeks at the Giro.
In the first part of this round-table we focus on the race and the riders, while in part two tomorrow morning we discuss some broader talking points.
Okay, gang, welcome back. Let’s launch straight in. What was your favourite stage or moment of the Giro?
Sheree: There were some cracking stages but if I have to choose one it would be Luca Paolini’s maiden win on his first appearance in the Giro (aged 36 years young!) on stage three from Sorrento to Marina di Ascea, where he threw caution to the wind on the descent to the finish line.
Panache: It’s got to be Adam Hansen winning that wet and wild stage seven with a solo attack to the finish. I always love it when the domestiques have their day.
Kitty: I agree with Panache: Adam Hansen’s win. Closely followed by Maxim Belkov’s solo win in the same conditions on stage nine.
Ant: Having waited an age for a glimpse of racing, to see Mauro Santambrogio and Vincenzo Nibali appear from the mist on the Galibier on stage 14.
Tim: Heh. What better pair to emerge from the mist than the fluorescent glow of a Vini Fantini jersey and the neon pink of the maglia rosa? My pick’s 100% sentimental: Cav dedicating his victory on stage six to Wouter Weylandt by stepping on to the podium holding dossard number 108 above his head, two years to the day after Wouter was taken from us.
What was your biggest surprise?
Panache: I still can’t believe that both Bradley Wiggins and Ryder Hesjedal abandoned mid-race. I’m also surprised that Movistar won four stages – incredible riding by them.
Ant: Samu Sanchez‘s poor form throughout the race. That did my Fantasy Giro team no favours!
Tim: (sighs) Tell me about it.
Kitty: I was not surprised by Wiggins – or Robert Gesink – abandoning the race. I guess the biggest surprise was the cancellation of stage 19.
Tim: Like Chris, I was also pleasantly surprised by how well Movistar did with essentially their B-squad. The same goes for Katusha, who also came with a weakened team after their initial exclusion from the WorldTour. Two stage wins and three days in pink for Paolini was an exceptional performance.
Sheree: I have to echo Tim’s comments.
And what was the one thing that disappointed you or that you wish had panned out differently?
Ant: I wish that some of the riders closer to the top of the GC would have had the legs and/or conviction to attack the race and challenge Nibali’s dominance.
Tim: In a similar vein, it was such a shame we lost two of the big favourites – Wiggins and Hesjedal – so early in the race. It deprived us of some potentially big showdowns and turned the second half into something of a one-horse race.
Kitty: I wish Vini Fantini hadn’t signed Danilo Di Luca. Oh, and I wish that Taylor Phinney hadn’t gotten sick and had to abandon the race.
Sheree: I would have liked to see Samu Sanchez get onto the podium or at the very least add a stage win to his palmares. That guy has more second places than I’ve had hot dinners.
Panache: I wish that the weather would have been nicer so that we could have seen the full stages. I also wish that I had selected Mark Cavendish for my fantasy team. D’oh!
Tim: (sighs again) Tell me about it – again.
As we often say, the riders make the race, but who exceeded your expectations over the past weeks?
Kitty: I figured Nibali would win but his time-trialling exceeded my expectations. It shows that working hard on something can be effective.
Panache: Carlos Betancur. Three second place finishes and one third place finish. That is an incredible performance by the young Colombian.
Tim: I’d echo both Kitty and Panache’s sentiments. Nibali’s prowess in the TTs was enough that I think he would have seen off Wiggins even if he had been in top form, and Betancur was a revelation because for a youngster with barely any grand tour experience he seemed to get stronger as the race went on, which is really unusual. Watch out for him – I think he may beat Rigoberto Uran and Sergio Henao to become only the second ever Colombian grand tour winner [after Luis Herrera at the 1987 Vuelta – Ed].
Sheree: Cadel Evans. I had thought he was going to use the race to find form for the Tour but he really did give it his best shot and it’s great to see him back at his best.
Ant: Adam Hansen! It was great to see him take a stage – a fitting reward for one of the peloton’s great troopers.
And who disappointed or under-performed the most?
Tim: Sadly, Samuel Sanchez.
Sheree: It has to be Danilo Di Luca and Sylvain Georges.
Panache: I have to say Robert Gesink. Hesjedal and Wiggins were both sick but Gesink just can’t ever seem to be consistent during a three-week grand tour.
Ant: I’m with Tim on this: Samu.
Kitty: I don’t have anything to add to what I’ve already said, really.
Outside of the GC battle, which of the other jersey competitions did you find most interesting?
Tim: Both the points and young rider classifications were fascinating because of the way they swung both one way then the other during the second half of the race. Obviously I’m delighted that Mark Cavendish took the points jersey …
Kitty: Man-crush! Man-crush!
Tim: … Because of the way he battled through the freezing conditions in the mountains, but it was great to see Betancur and Rafal Majka slugging it out day after day and both finishing high in the top ten on GC too. Two real stars for the future.
Sheree: The best young rider and the points classification were both absorbing contests but I love the fact that the Giro has loads of competitions – something for everyone.
Panache: Best young rider for sure. It came down to the second-to-last stage before we knew who has won it.
Ant: Same for me, without a doubt. Pretty much down to the wire, and a real battle on the Giro’s final climb to decide the winner. Fantastic drama.
Kitty: Best young rider. Both Betancur and Majka really rode like they wanted to win it. I love that.
Finally (for part 1, that is), pick your nine-man team of the race, comprising four GC men, one sprinter and any four other riders of your choice.
Tim: Nibali, Evans, Betancur, Benat Intxausti and Cavendish, for starters. Then Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s Iljo Keisse and Gert Steegmans for their sterling work in the lead-outs, veteran Luca Paolini for lighting up his debut Giro and finally Colombia’s Robinson Chalapud – partly because he was often active at the front of the race, but mostly because I love his name.
Sheree: Nibali, Evans, Uran, Sanchez and Cavendish. Then I’d plump for Giovanni Visconti for his two stage wins after constant griping from the Italian press that he’d only ever won the national jersey, Intxausti for finally coming good on his promise, Betancur for showing us he’s the real deal and Stefano Pirazzi for achieving his objective – the mountains jersey.
Panache: Nibali, Evans, Betancur, Uran, and Cavendish. I would also choose Steegmans because Cav needs to be dropped off perfectly occasionally. Then I would have to go with Visconti for his crafty breakaway awareness and Majka for running Betancur so close. Finally, I would take Mauro Santambrogio because you need a good headlight in the fog.
Ant: Nibali, Betancur, Evans, Uran and Cavendish. (I’m not breaking any moulds here!). My other four would be Adam Hansen, because every team needs a hardman, Iljo Keisse, because he’s just been outstanding in the OPQS train, Pirazzi, for the same reasons as Sheree and finally Darwin Atapuma for having the greatest name in the race (and being able to climb a bit!)
Kitty: Bloody hell, I hate these questions.
Tim: We’ll pencil you in for eight Iljo Keisses and a Fabian Cancellara, then?
We’ll be back tomorrow morning with part two of our round-table.