Estonian champion key man for Astana at Giro d’Italia
The Estonian champion’s jersey has been a familiar sight on the front end of the peloton at the Giro d’Italia over the past week, with Tanel Kangert playing a vital supporting role in the defence of the maglia rosa of his leader Vincenzo Nibali.
After making his professional debut at Ag2r-La Mondiale in 2008, Kangert dropped back to the amateur ranks in 2010 before he was picked up by Astana the following year. His second coming as a professional has been rather more successful, and at this Giro, the 26-year-old’s stock has risen still further.
While a number of Nibali’s Astana teammates have struggled with illness on the Giro, Kangert has been his most reliable and prominent gregario. The Estonian shepherded his leader much of the way up to Galibier on Sunday, and has also had the wherewithal to help himself to 12th place on general classification as the race enters its endgame.
“I wouldn’t say I’m the most important guy or anything, it’s just that people don’t get to see a lot of the work that the other guys do,” Kangert told Cyclingnews. “We’ve got [Dmitriy] Gruzdev and [Andrey] Zeits who’ve been pulling every day for ten days but by the time the TV coverage starts, they have finished their jobs, so people don’t get to appreciate what they do.”
When Nibali joined Astana from Liquigas last winter, the expectation was that he would be flanked in the high mountains by Fredrik Kessiakoff and fellow Sicilian Paolo Tiralongo, but a combination of factors means that neither man has been able to serve as his last man on the climbs.
“In a three-week race you always have some minor health problems. It’s impossible to do the three weeks without any...
Matthieu Sprick of Argos-Shimano has suffered a cerebral thrombosis, also known as a stroke. He has been hospitalized, and the team reports that he is conscious and speaking, but “has some symptoms of paralysis."
Physicians described it as a “small cerebrovascular accident.” He will remain in hospital for an unknown amount of time for tests, observation and treatment.
The French rider had only just returned to training after recovering from a fractured bone in his foot.
He turned pro in 2004 with Brioches La Boulangere and joined Argos-Shimano in 2011.
Risk of ice and snow forces RCS Sport to avoid the high mountains
The organiser of the Giro d'Italia has confirmed major modifications to Friday's 19th stage of the Giro d'Italia to avoid the riders racing in the snow and the risk of ice on the descents.
RCS Sport made the decision on Thursday evening as temperatures fell and dark clouds covered the Dolomites in a thick blanket of bad weather. "We've opted for plan B. The weather is getting worse and we didn’t want to push our luck, risk the rider's health and that of the spectators," Race director Mauro Vegni told Cyclingnews.
"It's still be an interesting stage, allowing for long-range attacks and a good finale."
The original race route included the Passo Gavia (2618m high), where Andy Hampsten attacked in the snow to set up victory in the 1988 Giro d'Italia, the Passo dello Stelvio (2758m) with the 139km stage finishing at Val Martello.
The new 160km route starts as planned in Ponte di Legno but then descends east to Ponte Mostizzolo to tackle the Passo Castrin (1706m) and then climb to the original finish at Val Martello (2059m).
Saving Tre Cime di Lavaredo
RCS Sport confirmed that Saturday's final mountain stage is also at risk. The 203km route includes four high passes before the finish at Tre Cime di Lavaredo but they are currently covered in snow and with temperatures below zero.
"We're at least hoping to save the finish at Tre Cime id Lavaredo. We're monitoring the weather and road conditions closely and we'll make a decision when we can," Vegni said.
"Even if the weather is bad, a mountain finish is never really a problem. The problem is the cold and snow on the descents. We won't take any unnecessary risks."
Experienced Australian ready to fight for his podium place
Cadel Evans (BMC) warmed down on the rollers in a hotel room at the top of the mountain time trial course, getting the pain and suffering out of his legs and the disappointment out of his mind.
By the time he spoke to the media, the 36-year-old Australian had already begun to see the positive aspects to what had been a bad day.
Evans finished 25th on the stage 18 mountain time trial, losing 2:36 to stage winner and overall Giro d'Italia leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). Evans also lost over a minute to his podium rivals but managed to retain second overall. Rigoberto Uran (Team Sky) is third, 10 seconds behind him, with Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida) fourth, 1:12 behind Evans.
"Did I have a poor time trial? I'd say it was a very bad time trial, a lot worse than I expected," Evans said in Italian before later switching to English.
"Till this point I've made a few mistakes but nothing big. But when you're near winning, it's great, but perhaps that's when your hopes rise above your capabilities. But overall today wasn't what I was looking for or what I was expecting.
"As I've always said, I came to the Giro with high hopes but without expecting too much. Today I gave it everything but when we have a short stage, like at Bardonecchia or today, I'm not at the level of the best riders here. That probably comes down to my ability to recovery in third week. There were also a couple of things that haven’t been optimal for me outside of the racing that maybe compromised things a little bit."
As he traveled to his hotel, Evans tweeted: Uphill TT done here at the Giro: Nibali in a class of his own. Evans -if I may say so myself- abysmal.... #giro #goodtraining.
He is now 4:02 down on Nibali and praised the Italian's consistent...
Since taking control of the maglia rosa in Saltara on stage 8, Nibali had cautiously played a short game, pilfering seconds and time bonuses where possible, but otherwise preferring to control his closest rivals. The shackles were thrown off in dramatic fashion in Thursday's uphill test, however, as he produced a grand gesture to take stage victory by 58 seconds from Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and extend his overall lead to 4:02 over Cadel Evans (BMC).
Indeed, the raw statistics only tell half the story, and Nibali provided a visual demonstration of his pre-eminence as he breathed down the neck of his three-minute man Evans in the rain-soaked closing kilometres. The Australian finished the stage a lowly 25th, 2:36 down on Nibali and – it seems – out of the reckoning for final overall victory.
"I think that Cadel Evans has hidden in the peloton a bit so far, so I didn't really know his real condition," Nibali said afterwards. "I thought he might do a bit better today but he was my reference point out on the course, and when I realised I was catching him, it made me push a little harder."
While the Polsa time trial evaded definition – too steep for the outright testers but too shallow for the pure climbers – Nibali was simply on another planet. At 28 years of age, he is approaching the peak of his powers but he has nonetheless made a striking leap in quality since his move to Astana,...
Colombian further from Giro d'Italia lead but closer to second
It was a day of pluses and minuses for Rigoberto Uran (Sky) on stage 18 of the Giro d'Italia as he moved closer to guaranteeing a podium place but lost significant ground in the battle for the pink jersey in the mountain time trial from Mori to Polsa.
It was a time trial of two halves, too, for Uran. At the intermediate check after 9.5km, he was 1:20 down on stage winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and 48 seconds down on Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida) before he opened the throttle dramatically over the second half of the course, which included some slightly steeper sections.
Just as his now departed team leader Bradley Wiggins did in the Saltara time trial at the end of week one, the Colombian recouped ground in the closing kilometres and finished the stage in 6th place, 1:26 down on Nibali and just five seconds behind a flagging Scarponi.
"I knew what kind of a course it was," Uran said. "I tried to do the first part pretty tranquillo as I knew the second part of the course would be more difficult and I wanted to save myself for that."
As Uran was beginning his effort at the velodrome in Mori, 20 kilometres up the road the first drops of rain were beginning to fall on the finish line in Polsa. It was an additional difficulty on a nuanced time trial course that required a carefully dosed effort.
By the time Uran crossed the line, torrential rain was falling on Polsa, and he was in no mind to dally by the finish area to speak with reporters. Instead, he spoke while soft-pedalling up the hill towards the Sky team car while a group of reporters jogged after him.
"The weather didn't help at all either, it made it more difficult especially over the second part of the course," Uran said. "But I felt quite good...
Vande Velde, Kessiakoff and Popovych talk to Cyclingnews
The final time trial of this year’s Giro d’Italia took place on Thursday with the riders individually riding from Mori to Polsa for 20.6 mostly uphill kilometres.
While the likes of Vincenzo Nibali and Samuel Sanchez thrashed out the small matter of the stage win, and the Italian put yet more time into this GC rivals, the remainder of the peloton saw today as a battle of survival or a key opportunity to save their legs for the mountain double-header coming up.
At the finish line in Polsa, Cyclingnews caught up with Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Sharp), Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana), Koen de Kort (Argos Shimano), Yaroslav Popovych (RadioShack Leopard), Dominique Rollin (FDJ) and Cameron Wurf (Cannondale) about their day in the saddle.
Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) sat in the so-called hot seat in the finish area of the Giro d'Italia's mountain time trial for almost an hour as the provisional winner of the 20.4km race of truth, until last man off and race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) blasted home to take his first stage win in the pink jersey.
Nibali beat Sanchez by 58 seconds, turfing the Spaniard from the warmth of the podium area and forcing him to accept second place.
"It's a pity because I was starting to think I'd got it but it was mission impossible today. Nibali deserves his win, he's done everything perfectly and is racing formidably," Sanchez said.
"When you're in such good shape like he is, you can’t do anything. I expected the times to change a lot with the wetter conditions, and I didn’t think my time would hold out for so long. But I'm happy with my ride."
Second was finally a result to smile about for Sanchez. He was one of the five big-name favourites for overall success when the Giro started in sunny Naples on May 4. As the final mountain stages in the snow-covered Dolomites loom, he is only tenth overall, 9:34 down on Nibali.
He has rarely been in the thick of the action, losing time in the team time trial and on the key mountain stages. He was fourth in the cold at Bardonecchia but has been forced to ride on the defensive.
Boosted by his time trial performance, Sanchez is now hoping to snatch a stage victory in the final two mountain stages. He's acknowledged as the best descender in the peloton but will need to find his climbing legs for the mountain finishes in Val Martello on Friday and then at Tre Cime di Lavaredo on Saturday.
"My condition’s been improving, but Nibali’s on...