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Giro d'Italia: it's become survival training

By:
Robert Millar
Published:
May 20, 2013, 9:22 BST,
Updated:
May 20, 2013, 10:29 BST
Race:
Giro d'Italia

Brutal conditions but Cavendish and Nibali impress

Michele Scarponi (Lampre - Merida) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)

Michele Scarponi (Lampre - Merida) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)

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I had hoped to write something witty and maybe slightly amusing for this blog but given the terrible conditions I couldn't. It seemed disrespectful to what has been happening weather wise and how the race has evolved as a result.

This Giro d' Italia is not really bike racing any more, it's become survival training. When it ought to be about who has the physical ability to still race after a fortnight, on the road the cold and the rain have turned proceedings into a bit of a farce. And I can't imagine anyone connected to the race is finding it funny or remotely enjoyable.

Three, four or five hours of being dowsed in cold water might be half expected in Flanders for something like Het Volk but in a Grand Tour, day after day, stage after stage, it's just brutal.

I'm not surprised Bradley Wiggins and Ryder Hesjedal went home and they might well be the lucky ones after this is over. The Sky rider looked ill at the finish of the stage Cherasco and last year's champion just seemed worn out after his promising start.

They'll both be disappointed at the moment but some things just don't work out as you would like. They won't be missing the frozen feet and hands once they've watched a few freezing cold stages from the safety of their sofas and seen the consequences etched into the guys faces.

There are no real secrets to dealing with the bad conditions despite the promises of waterproof this, wind-proof that, and thermal everything because once the water gets in, and it will, your resistance depends on your condition. If you have super form like Nibali has then you can tolerate it better, probably because you aren't quite flat out and breathing too deep too often. If you are just going over the edge in your condition like Wiggins and Hesjedal were, though for different reasons, then it starts costing you in vital energy and once that energy is getting used up to stay alive then it isn't available for the other part of the bike race, namely pedalling.

I can't imagine many riders will be doing a long ride on the second rest day and if they are ordered out the best thing to do would be to ride for ten minutes, find a nice cafe up a side street and then sit in the warmth until it's time to go back. Even better don't bother with the cycling part borrow a team car.

Mark Cavendish continues to impress me, the win he took on stage 12, the same day Wiggins cracked was earned the hard way, all stage paying attention, always in the right place despite the dreadful conditions and then when you thought he was too far back in the sprint, he takes it up from a long way out and it's game over. Next day same again though Nizzolo got close he wasn't coming past. He really is a tough cookie.
Two days previous to the Cavendish show Ramunas Navardauskas’ win at Vajont saved Garmin's race from being an utter disaster but the ‘get in the break and hope’ tactic is their only option now.

In the big mountains it looks like Nibali will be the one deciding the selection process, I get the feeling that if Evans or Uran can't follow his first acceleration then he'll open up the taps and be gone.

Like at Jafferau when Santambrogio survived and became an ally for the moment, anything similar to that on the next summit finishes and we could see something spectacular.

The most interest in terms of racing is going to be amongst the fourth to tenth players. They'll be the ones squabbling over the seconds, chasing each other down and one of those moves might just be the catalyst that Nibali is waiting for to show just how superior he is.

I just hope the climate changes and it becomes about bike racing again.

 

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.

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