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Robert Millar

Robert Millar in the Tour de France

Robert Millar: Team Sky must get their confidence back

By:
Robert Millar
Published:
July 10, 2014, 10:15 BST,
Updated:
July 10, 2014, 10:19 BST

How Froome's departure changes the race dynamic

The decision to discount Bradley Wiggins from the Team Sky selection that was taken by Dave Brailsford three weeks ago isn't looking too smart this morning. He can take some solace that even the great manager's get it wrong , look at the position Brazil's Scolari finds himself in after the World Cup drubbing from the Germans but all the same there'll be lots of #toldyouso on Twitter for the next few days.

Of course it's not as easy as saying Wiggins would have had any better luck than Chris Froome had, and there's the nag that 2012 Tour de France winner doesn't like the rain either but you can't help think a stronger plan B of sorts might have been a wiser choice given the carnage of stage five. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Abandoning the Tour de France isn't a decision taken lightly by any rider. There are frequently tears involved because it means so much and when you're sitting in the team car you naturally start to wonder if you might have continued, maybe it wasn't that bad, maybe you ought to have been harder. Then you move the offending body part and the pain instantly reminds you that you had no choice. You might cry a bit more then.

So what now for Sky? Stage hunting or look after Richie Porte and hope he steps up. First they have to regroup, re-assess and get some confidence back from the disaster that has befallen them. It's not an easy thing to do when everyone came to do a job and then it all starts to go wrong. They can take heart from Porte who with the help of Geraint Thomas saw off Garmin's Talansky on the last cobbled section and put time into Contador and Valverde. But it's almost two minutes to Nibali and the Italian champion along with his Astana team is looking remarkably strong.

The Spaniards will be thankful they came out the day relatively unscathed health wise and still in the game, but psychologically they'll be wounded. However if they can stay safe and recover from the nightmare of the cobbles they might be back.

Chris Froome didn't have the luck that you sometimes need to survive and now that he's out that changes the tactics for everyone. One person’s misfortune can be another’s chance and now the Tour opens up as an opportunity for riders like Talansky, Van den Broecke and Pierre Rolland to show what they can do.

With Sky no longer needing to do the familiar high tempo pace setting on the mountain stages it'll be up to Astana to control the race and with a team of climbers at his disposal Contador is in a better position even though he lost time on the cobbles to most of his rivals. I'm sure he considers his chances improved against the remaining GC contenders in the long time trial at the end of the race now that Froome has gone. It's still a long way to the Alps and Pyrenees and there's plenty of kilometres for the Kazakh squad to be worn down by the pressure of defending the yellow jersey so the first skirmishes in the Vosges mountains heading towards the rest day will be interesting.

The Spanish aren't in such close contention that Nibali needs to panic if he has to let Valverde or Contador take back some time and he can afford to bluff in the medium mountains and then murder them all at La Planche des Belles Filles. Until then Astana can manage the situation with relative serenity.

As for Chris Froome, it wasn't what he was hoping for and you can only wish him and everyone else who fell a speedy recovery.
 

Robert Millar in the Tour de France

Tour de France: Robert Millar's week one survival guide

By:
Robert Millar
Published:
July 08, 2014, 22:48 BST,
Updated:
July 08, 2014, 23:44 BST

The golden rules for keeping out of trouble

Stay near the front. Drink. Eat. Wash new shorts before wearing. Put on suntan cream. Be at the front at the feed zone. Keep fighting for position. Slide back when the sprint starts. No talking at the back with your friends. No ice cream. No freezing cold drinks at the finish. Move up on a wheel. Stay out of the wind. Watch the favourites. No Coca Cola, chocolate, crisps or fried food. Stay off your legs. Don't drink too many coffees. Don't don't don't don't don't....

That's just some of the advice that is offered to you when you stick a Tour de France number on your jersey every morning and none of that sounds like any fun. And yet it is the best bike race you'll ever do.

However, there's one vital thing missing from the advice list that you're meant to have playing on a constant loop in your mind. Don't fall off. No one dares to tell you that in those very words but you know that's what the directeur sportif means when he says in the daily pre-stage meeting “Stay near the front and pay attention.”

He might as well say “good luck” but somehow that sounds less professional so he sticks to the time honoured phrases and we pretend it'll all be OK.

Even the organisers pretend. When the road book says there'll be dangerous corners, road furniture and pinch points what they really mean is DON'T FALL OFF.

Of course when you say to any of your friends “Oh, I just missed that crash yesterday” or “I haven't fallen off yet” you are pushing your luck to the limit.

But what happens when you do fall off? Well, that depends on your bounce-ability or lack of it. Just ask Mark Cavendish. Crashing is one of those things you are very likely to do at the Tour, once is about average, any more than that and you can complain.

The worst thing you can do is fall off on the first day and hurt yourself just enough not to abandon but still be in a bad way. The Tour isn't the place to be carrying an injury because the energy your body uses repairing itself is no longer available for recovery. I've seen it myself during the 91 Tour with Z.

One of our most trusted riders Atle Kvalsvoll fell heavily on the opening stage. Then a couple of days later I fell off (my fault by the way, as I touched the wheel in front) and ended up riding with a neck support.

The following days for both of us were about basic survival at the back of the peloton with the other guys on the team fetching water for us, getting food out of our pockets because we couldn't work our arms properly ... it was pretty desperate stuff. We would hang at the back, dodging the crashes and the panic braking. It became a game of surviving until we would be dropped near enough to the finish, not to be eliminated. Once out the back there isn't the nervous tension to deal with but it does your head in because physically you’re hurting yet not going fast. And you're out in the sun longer so the road rash you've picked up is literally cooking.

Then there were the consequences that caught up with us later as we were both out of contract at the end of the year and on sticky ground come negotiation time. Atle, I believe, ended up seeing a significant pay cut and I was shown the door. Professional cycling is a cruel world.

If you can keep upright all the other things on the advice list are a bonus. If you're riding for GC then you need team mates round you all day and only to make an effort when it becomes unavoidable. So you chose a rider, another favourite maybe or someone you can trust not to do something stupid and you make sure you can see them all the time. It begins to feel like stalking after a few days but it's what you have to do. Pre-radios, you had to remember to keep eating, drinking and be well-placed but nowadays the DS is on the radio with that good advice because even though you might not feel the need to refuel that day, it will be important for the next stage or when you dip into your reserves when the mountains start.

You wouldn't think it would be possible but occasionally everything goes perfectly. Those are the stages where you are in the wheels the whole day, take no wind and make no big efforts. In fact you can reach the finish and feel almost as good as you did at the start. It only happened to me once in 11 Tours.

We were going to Alencon in 1984 and that was a good day. Now that everyone has the team in their ear, the communications might be better but then they are more nervous too so you get the reminders. The feed zone is a classic example. It always speeds up because everyone wants their lunch, even though you can get food from the car, it still gets faster so there are four choices to be made: fight for the front and minimises risk, stay in the middle and hope you don’t get a musette in the spokes or hang back accept you might be sprinting with the bag on your back for 5km after the zone because of the accordion effect.

The easiest choice is not to take a bag at all and get your food before or afterwards but strangely not many guys do. It's the least stressful option and the first week of the Tour is all about controlling your nervous output.

Positioning is another thing you have to learn. Some guys can do it easily and some have to force themselves to stay in the front. As a GC rider, you can hang with the sprinters and have a good place, hardly use the brakes and take no wind but it'll cost you a lot of nervous energy if you aren’t that comfortable pushing and shoving, so you balance that with the physical savings. Come the last kilometers, you can slip back a bit from the madness when the lead-outs really start because then even your own sprinter will treat you with no mercy.

Also, in the first few stages, unlike normal racing, you can't count on moving up on the hills even if you're a climber. No one wants to give up their place so the big guys hang on for dear life and instead of dropping back they make themselves wider. As we've seen in Yorkshire the really populated climbs are just as dangerous for crashes as the town centre run-ins, so you really have stay near the front and pay attention.

And one last thing. Don't fall off.

 

Chris Froome (Team Sky) struggles to close the gap to Alberto Contador (Tinkoff Saxo)

Robert Millar blog: Froome and the Tour de France gunfight

By:
Robert Millar
Published:
July 02, 2014, 12:23 BST,
Updated:
July 02, 2014, 21:09 BST

A look at the challenges facing the defending champion

One thing Sky might want to consider obtaining for Chris Froome before he begins his Tour de France title defence in Yorkshire is the latest development in personal care, the Happiness Blanket. Unlike the one from last century by Charlie Brown, which just kept you warm and cosy, the new, all-singing, all-dazzling marvel comes with fibre optics and bluetooth technology to battle stress. I was thinking that once linked into the Sky bus mood lighting, Froome could have the perfect environment based on his brainwave responses – blue for calm, and red to prepare for some of the daily aggression he'll be receiving.

Every Tour is different – the riders, the route, the circumstances of the race dictate that – and for the dossard numéro un that's undoubtedly going to be the case. If he thought he was stressed during the last two editions, then this time around he's going to be in altogether much more toxic atmosphere.

Froome’s season up until now hasn't been that convincing, certainly not anything like as stellar as 2013 when he swept up all before him. Much like his predecessor Bradley Wiggins, the season after the big one hasn't been plain sailing. There have been glimpses of the Froome to be feared but they've mostly been in print. Sure, the first two days of the Dauphiné were impressive but then he fell off and the others pounced on his misfortune. Sky are being tested like never before as the rival teams have caught up in the planning department and they are confident enough to take the boys in black on.

Confidence might not seem like a characteristic lacking in Chris Froome’s make-up, but you have to wonder how much self-belief he's going to need to cover up that things haven't been going his way lately. With just 19 days of racing in his legs, will that be sufficient to beat Alberto Contador and the newly-crowned Italian champion Vincenzo Nibali? They'll both take any opportunity to attack Froome, whatever the terrain, and that's something which he is never going to have any control over.

Not that the Sky man won't do the same to them, he'll just do it less elegantly.

Froome's biggest problem, though, is going to be the constant bombardment from the media over the Tour de Romandie TUE. Every day there'll be someone wanting to know if he'll be using or has used an inhaler on the race, and if so, then, is that because he's got a touch of bronchitis, or is it exercised-induced asthma? And you can't blame them because the squeaky clean image of Sky took a knock when the affair emerged. Add in the Tramadol accusations from Michael Barry and there's smoke to be imagined by the pack of wolves that inhabit the press room, and they are at their happiest when there's a fire to report on and flames to be fanned. The Bradley Wiggins removal will be a topic when in Britain and if there's a weakness in the team it'll resurface for that occasion, but the drugs theme will be a constant nag.

The TUE ambiguity is another case of cycling shooting itself in the foot again with practices that appear distinctly questionable to the outsider. In the layman's eyes you're either ill or you aren't. Taking medication and suddenly being healthy enough to beat everyone looks bad.

The non-selection of Wiggins has, along with the timely publishing of Froome's autobiography The Climb, brought attention to the personality behind the calm, thoughtful exterior that the 2013 champion presents to the world. It isn't an entirely rosy picture either. Quiet and reflective on the outside, but hiding a ruthless streak and relentless need to succeed on the inside, it's the classic description of a top athlete, the ones who'll do everything they have to do in order to win.

Froome is no different in that respect, as almost everyone who inhabits the top level in sport has those characteristics, but it's not exactly a complete or likeable person that's been portrayed. Most authors try to balance the bad with something good, typically finding a story with an aspect of soft and cuddly to it. So when Froome tells us he grew up feeding his pet snakes with other people’s rabbits, it’s strange to say the least. I can understand the killer instinct when competition is involved, but I can't be alone in thinking the pet animal story is a tad bizarre.

You're also reminded of something lacking in the likeable stakes when watching Chris Froome perform. The dangling head, the flailing arms and sticky out knees I've seen in person and thought ‘how does that work?’ but clearly it does, or has up until now. Actually I thought something less printable but kids might be reading. Most people like a bit of style, a bit of flair and that's what Wiggo had in abundance for Sky the sponsor. By contrast, the images coming out of Froome and the cycling team are of a uncaring drive for results and a sense that you're only ever as good as your last race. I thought things had supposedly moved on from that American style of governance but apparently not.

Chris Froome still remains the favourite for the 2014 Tour de France but I can see things being much more interesting this time around. The Deputy might have run the old Sheriff out of town but there's still the gunfight to deal with.
 

Chris Froome (Team Sky) leads Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo)

Robert Millar blog: My analysis of the three Tour de France contenders

By:
Robert Millar
Published:
June 18, 2014, 16:07 BST,
Updated:
June 18, 2014, 16:18 BST

Scrutinizing the form of Froome, Contador and Nibali after the Criterium du Dauphine

It's a couple of weeks to go to the Yorkshire start of this years Tour de France and the big players for the overall victory have recently completed what will be their final race preparations at the Criterium de Dauphine. The situation report for the three main characters which I've called the three bears: Chris Froome, Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali, is looking much clearer.

Bear one: Chris Froome

Chris Froome started in the usual manner employed by Team Sky: win the time trial, dominate the first mountain stage and then control the rest of the race. However that plan was upset by two things. Firstly the other teams have had enough of being dragged around races by Team Sky and so continually attacked the race leader until he was isolated or with his teammates worn out. Secondly, Froome crashed hard and hurt himself. Just how much damage was done only Team Sky knows and they're not saying. But there must have been some consequences as he didn't look as strong on the last two days when Contador attacked and mugged him.

There is also a possibility that Team Sky told Froome to back off in order to lull his rivals into a false sense of hope at the Tour de France, so that Froome can come out and wipe the floor with them on the first crucial mountain stage. It's not unknown for teams to be that sneaky and though you might think it's the Dauphine and it's an important race, it's no where near as important as the Tour de France.

There several good points for Froome at the Dauphine. His time trialing was way better than either that of Contador or Nibali. Significantly so compared to the Italian. Froome's climbing skills, before his crash, was also excellent.

Team Sky was under pressure to perform and control the race but Richie Porte improved as the race went on and Nieve, Thomas and Kiryienka were solid throughout. At the Tour de France Team Sky can expect other teams with separate interests to get involved in controlling the race. So while they may have seemed vulnerable in certain moments, the Dauphine was a very harder situation to control.

Good points: There are still some unanswered questions on Froome's condition after his crash and his confidence may well be smarting from Contador's return to top form but he must be happy. Things could have been fare worse as he recovers and prepares his yellow jersey defence at home in Monaco.

Bear two: Alberto Contador

Alberto Contador showed he is ready to race and is in great shape. He might have messed up his final result at the Dauphine by staying with Froome too long on the final day and allowing Andrew Talansky too much of a head start but his confidence will be high nevertheless.

The impressive thing about the Spaniard is his willingness to attack whenever an opportunity arises, be it uphill or downhill. Contador is smart and raced accordingly.

The first two stages were probably his worst days, losing three seconds per kilometre to Froome on the flatter part of the time trial in Lyon will worry him slightly as will not being able to out sprint his main rival on the mountain top finish the next day. But after those two poor days, he looked mean and seemed to be recovering perfectly as the race progressed. Maybe Froome came to the start of the Dauphine in slightly sharper form but Contador finished his race in significantly better condition.

Good points: Contador's overall race was aggressive, confident and tactically astute. His climbing was excellent and he wasn't afraid of testing Team Sky when given the chance, though he'll need to fine tune his flat time trialing ability. However overall, the Spaniard moved up a notch in the stakes with his Dauphine performance.

Bear three: Vincenzo Nibali

Vincenzo Nibali was in all the right places at the right time during the Dauphine but he never seemed a true contender.

He lost just over twenty seconds in the opening time trial. That seemed a reasonable start to his race until you looked closely at his performance and realised he lost that amount in the last five kilometres. He certainly can't afford to do that in the longer time trials at the Tour de France.

His climbing ability was also average and the Sicilian is certainly not in the form we expected, given all the hype over his preparation at altitude on Mount Teide. Fortunately he hasn't lost his ability to read a race and knows when to attack. But he just didn't have the legs to make an attack and so when Froome and Contador opened up, the Italian was quickly found wanting. He was not isolated because he had Astana teammates around him and they won the team prize. I think he looked tired, dare I say jaded, perhaps over-trained.

I don't know what he has changed this year in terms of his preparation but it isn't working for him yet and with three weeks to go he must be slightly worried.

Good points: Nibali is tactically smart and knows when to attack, he is an excellent descender and also has a strong team that is dedicated to his cause. However he's looking frayed at the edges.

 

Bradley Wiggins (Sky) at the front of the bunch

Robert Millar blog: Man down

By:
Cycling News
Published:
June 07, 2014, 12:37 BST,
Updated:
June 07, 2014, 13:03 BST

Team Sky's decision shows a lack of respect for Wiggins

Is the 70th anniversary of D-day a good day to bury bad news of the cycling persuasion?

That's what I thought when I saw the ticker feed along the bottom of the TV news report from the Normandy beaches. There, hiding in amongst the stock prices and by-election results, was a tiny bit of sports info: Bradley Wiggins won't be at the 2014 Tour de France which starts in Yorkshire. It was if you weren't supposed to notice such a minor piece of news. It's D-day after all, it's about the landings, the veterans, the nostalgia and the sacrifices made. It's about respect.

Yet respect is not what springs to mind when I think about the Team Sky decision to leave Wiggins out of the Tour team. Again.

The irony isn't lost on me when Wiggins says it's Chris Froome's team, that he's the defending champion and so he gets to chose who is in and who is out. Well hello Brad! Team Sky didn't give you that choice when you won in 2012.

I'm genuinely surprised that the announcement has been made so early because now there's a whole month to mull over who said what, when, where and why. Maybe that's Dave Brailsford's plan; get it out the way, so that when the Tour starts it's old news. A whole month of speculation and analysis of Team Sky's politics and relationships. Fantastic. Stand back and watch the fireworks.

When Dave Brailsford courted Bradley Wiggins back in 2009 Team Sky needed him. Brailsford needed him. The Britishness, the image, the potential and the character of Wiggins was essential to sell cycling as a serious sport to not only to Sky but also to the nation. And that's what Wiggins the product delivered. He gave the whole Sky/British Cycling project credibility and the desired results. Now it seems all that is forgotten and the team management has decided that Bradley Wiggins isn't good enough to ride another Tour de France.

It's as if they didn't see the Tour of California where Wiggins was clearly the best rider there and back at a level which others can only dream of. So much is made of meeting the objectives at Team Sky but that's exactly what Wiggins had done this season.

Saying Wiggins isn't good enough to merit a place at the Tour is tosh, saying he's arrogant, disruptive and doesn't fit in the team is tosh as well. Wiggins the bike rider has been honed and crafted into the athlete he is today by the Team Sky/British Cycling system, the traits he's attributed with are the ones the famous system have allowed him to have. Now to accuse him now of being inadequate is pretty poor.

The real issue

We all know the real issue is the Froome/Wiggins relationship, or rather the lack of it. A rivalry which takes the well trodden path of teammates crapping on each other. The chosen leader struggling with the plucky newcomer is as old the hills but is usually contained with strong management until one of the contestants leaves and sets up elsewhere. If Chris Froome really is deciding the Tour team then that's hardly the strong leadership we've been told to expect from Dave Brailsford. In that case is it any less arrogant than Wiggins has been accused of? Something doesn't add up with Team Sky's defence.

What about the sponsors and fans in all of this? Yorkshire and ASO must have been counting on Bradley Wiggins being present and British fans certainly were.

Wiggins enjoys way more popularity than Chris Froome ever will, has more media coverage and an image that attracts and inspires. Dave Brailsford might like to think it's all about winning but Team Sky aren't buying Tour de France victories when they hand over the money they are hoping to sell subscriptions to their services. It's not hard to work out who has more kudos in that department. I've yet to see a Sky van or billboard with the Kenyan born Brit on it.

Chris Froome might be a better bike rider than Bradley Wiggins, he might be more considered in his interviews, never saying the wrong thing or swearing, but in terms of character it's the politician versus the rock star. PR spiel or an actual opinion, now there's an easy choice.

Call it what you like: rivalry, hatred or mutual dislike, but we all know the problems stem back to the 2012 Tour de France, when Froome dumped on the Wiggins parade and caused a rift which hasn't and won't heal.

Clearly Froome doesn't trust Wiggins not to return the favour at some point hence the separate race programs whenever possible and now the ultimate snub for the Grand Depart in Yorkshire. Things are pretty desperate when a national hero like Bradley Wiggins, first British winner of the Tour, one of the most successful Olympians, BBC Sportsman of the Year, honoured by the Queen, feted and admired throughout the land isn't at the start of a Tour de France in his own country.

It's pretty low to take that opportunity from him. The team can try to hide behind excuses and so-called reasoning but it shows a total lack of respect for what he has given to Team Sky.
 

Nairo Quintana flying high on his Giro d'Italia win

Robert Millar’s race analysis from the final week of the Giro d'Italia

By:
Robert Millar
Published:
June 02, 2014, 11:37 BST,
Updated:
June 02, 2014, 11:43 BST

From Val Martello to Trieste

Stage 16 to Val Martello

The stage that everyone was waiting for and justifiably so: Epic, historic, fabulous, the superlatives were flowing even before it had started but then the Giro awoke to find it was snowing. That ought to have changed everything, except it didn't and that's when it all went wrong for most. It will take more words than I'm allowed here so I'll serve up those judgements in a few days time. Suffice to say the ride of the day was Nairo Quintana's who went on to win the stage, take the race lead and put four minutes into Uran. Ably assisted by Gorka Izzaguirre and a Pierre Rolland who also had Romain Sicard to sacrifice along the valley to Val Martello the young Colombian seized his chance. That Ryder Hesjedal did as much hanging on as possible in the lead group shows he's experienced enough to not get sucked into a fight which wasn't his. Sky's Dario Cataldo who had been alone after the Stelvio was condemned the moment the GC battle exploded behind him.

In the chasing group squabbling amongst Uran, Aru, Majka and Kelderman saw them lose minutes when it could have been seconds but then it was more a day of survival than a day of racing and if you had recovered even slightly from the cold you were lucky. Cadel Evans fell apart again which was surprising as he normally copes better than most in crap conditions so this was the sign his form was getting worse. In dubious circumstances Quintana may have taken the race lead from his compatriot Uran but the recriminations had started before the jersey presentations had even begun.

Stage 17 to Vittoria Veneto

The picture of the day was of the team managers discussing the time they wanted back from Movistar after the Stelvio incident. They wanted 55 seconds. They all agreed as did the organisers, apparently even Eusebio Unzue agreed but then he would because the UCI rules said there would be no penalties or changes. That was the talking point, and never mind le bras d'honneur of Stefano Pirazzi as a victory salute. We know he is as crazy as a box of frogs anyway.

At least the sun was out, too late, and Bardiani got win number three after last year’s best climber outsmarted his breakaway companions with a well timed move at the 1km to marker. It was probably best to be in the 25 man escape and not to be pre-occupied with who did what or if they heard something or nothing about the Stelvio descent.

Maybe that was what Pirazzi's gesture was all about? Maybe he had had enough of the speculation overtaking the racing. If that was his intent then he's not that crazy after all.

Stage 18 to Rifugio Panarotta

At last Julian Arredondo got his tactics right. Often in the break and then launching his attack much too early he did the opposite and played, as Sean Kelly says, the waiting game. For someone riding his first Grand Tour he has learned very quickly, letting Duarte, Deignan and De Gendt beat each other up and then with 4km to go the blue jersey wearer left them all behind for a well deserved win.

Further down the climb Pierre Rolland let rip with an attack that saw off Cadel Evans and his podium hopes but he eventually paid the price for too much exuberance and Aru blasted past him to sneak a few seconds in the last 200m. At the end of this transitional day twenty odd seconds covered from third to sixth so the mountain time trial was looking like deciding who would be where on GC.

Stage 19 to Cima Grappa

Any doubts about who was the strongest rider were dismissed when the Maglia Rosa blasted up the Cima Grappa to take the stage win and another minute and a half from Rigoberto Uran. The big surprise was Fabio Aru who produced a fantastic ride and moved into the final podium position with Pierre Rolland beating Pozzovivo and a resurgent Franco Pellizotti making the top six of the stage. Majka lost over three and a half minutes but comparatively he trounced Evans, Kelderman, Kiserlovski and a tiring Hesjedal.

The GC podium places were looking decided but behind the top ten was still a fight that could go either way. Other notable rides: 20-year-old Sebastien Henao rode very well to an eighth place and Tim Wellens and Dario Cataldo obviously weren't worn out from their time in the previous day’s escapes because they still managed to make ninth and tenth respectively.

This mountain TT provided some interesting options in how to ride the course with some guys choosing full TT bikes and then a bike change after roughly 12 km on the first slopes of the climb itself or for those not wanting to risk a disruption to their rhythm the normal road bike with or without TT extensions on the bars. In the battle of the mechanics, OPQS and Uran showed how to do the bike swap smoothly and neatly whilst Movistar and Quintana wearing some rather dodgy long pink overshoes looked jerky and nervous. Not that it changed the result mind.

Stage 20 to Monte Zoncolan

This was always going to be the perfect stage for an escape with the GC locked down but then saying that only the strong would survive. From a 20 man break Mick Rogers proved his win at Savona was no fluke by grinding up Monte Zoncolan for a hard earned victory.

Bardiani's Francesco Bongiorno had been shadowing the Australian until 3km to go but then some nut case, dressed in a rainbow top no less, decided to help the Italian and promptly pushed him off. I despair of these idiots who think it's fun to get involved in the bike race by running alongside, in costumes or in some case with very little to hide their dignity. And it wasn't like this self elected world champion learned anything about his dumb involvement because four minutes later he was running in the road again. No wonder Rogers thumped a few of the over enthusiastic idiots as riding up a goat track is hard enough without having to deal with blokes in tutus screaming in your ear.

Note I say riding and not racing because when it's too steep like the Zoncolan you don't really race you just do what you can not to stop.
For the GC Quintana survived a scare of his own with a wobbly fan but still controlled Uran all the way to the top. Fabio Aru was hoping to challenge the Colombians but paid for his TT efforts and was looking vulnerable on the back of the GC group until he finally he got dropped with Rolland, Majka and Pozzovivo inside the last 2km.

Kelderman did enough to move up one place on GC to the detriment of Evans, whilst Hesjedal and Kiserlovski held their position despite the Canadian also having a torrid time. Only the spectators had a nice day out.

Stage 21 to Trieste

Giant-Shimano top and tail their Giro with Luka Mezgec doing what Marcel Kittel did way back in Ireland by winning a hectic bunch sprint. Even some bumping and barging from his contemporaries inside the last kilometer couldn't stop the Slovenian producing an impressive acceleration along the barriers to beat Nizzolo and Tyler Farrar by a bike length. Pre-stage favourite Nacer Bouhanni might have hoped for another win but he would have to be content with cementing his points jersey, in fourth place.

Luckily it didn't rain until the race was over though the circuit wasn't as technical as some of the other finishing laps had been it still wouldn't have been pleasant with water involved.

Predictably Movistar kept the race leader Nairo Quintana safe and sound all day even if GC hostilities were over and done with there is still reason to be attentive. So after three weeks of toil, drama and controversy finally it was Colombia celebrating one of theirs winning a Giro d'Italia and another, Arredondo, winning the King of the Mountains. There will be hysteria in the streets back in Bogotá that's for sure.

 

Author
Robert Millar

Robert Millar was one of the last pure climbers of the Tour de France, winning several stages in the mountain stages and finishing fourth overall in 1984. He is also the only English speaker to have ever won the prestigious polka-dot jersey climber's competition jersey.

Millar retired in 1995 but has continued to follow the sport closely. He was often critical of the media and quickly cuts through the excuses and spin to understand why and how riders win and lose.