After seeing off the challenges of Bradley Wiggins and Ryder Hesjedal and edging ever further away from Cadel Evans and Rigoberto Uran, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) sits in a commanding position at the head of the overall standings with one week of the Giro to race.
For many in the Italian press, final overall victory is already viewed as an inevitability and the cry has gone out for Nibali to crown his success with a stage victory and a healthy dollop of spettacolo. Gazzetta dello Sport beseeched Nibali to imitate Marco Pantani by attacking on the Galibier on Sunday, while others are holding out hope that the maglia rosa will produce a solo exploit in the Dolomites next week.
Impressive though he has been, Nibali’s lead over Evans is still just 1:26, however, and the cold conditions experienced by the gruppo over the past ten days mean that the dreaded jour sans could arrive at any time. The Stelvio and the Tre Cime di Lavaredo may call out like sirens to be graced with a performance for the ages, but so far, Nibali has resisted the temptation to do any more than what is necessary to keep padding out his advantage in small increments. If Nibali sticks to that game plan and avoids flying too close to the sun in the final week, a first Giro victory should be his.
Evans hope of a Nibali bad day
In Cadel Evans’ succinct assessment, the first week of the Giro went slightly better than expected and the second week went slightly worse. As the dust settles on the second rest day, then, the Australian finds himself in second place overall, 1:26 off the maglia rosa of Vincenzo Nibali.
Australian avoids question about Tour de France team leadership
Cadel Evans (BMC) agreed to ride the Giro d'Italia just five weeks before the start in Naples, accepting he needed the extra racing if he was going to be team leader at BMC for the Tour de France and competitive against the likes of Chris Froome, Bradley Wiggins and Alberto Contador come July.
After a difficult 2012 and a nasty virus that wrecked his season, he started 2013 cautiously and was careful about his ambitions for the Giro d'Italia. He never predicted or expected that he would be second overall, just 1:26 behind Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). The dedication he showed in preparing for the Giro and his experience of Grand Tours have helped him survive and take advantage of two weeks of eventful racing, while others big-name riders' hopes have fallen away.
"My objective was to do the best I could. Going from there to second overall is not so bad," Evan said during his rest day press conference.
"Of course, me being the ambitious rider that I am, it's not impossible for me to win. But I'm a bit greedy and always ask more from myself.
"I see a really good Nibali and a good Astana team. He deserves to be in pink. He's been able to cover everything that has been thrown at him far. Compared to the other 12 Grand Tours I've done, it's been a real test of teams, of concentration, of bike handling, physical ability, of climbing, of being good on the flat, in the cross wind, in the heat, in the cold. It's been a test of everyone and everything in the race. It's been interesting to say the least. Now with a week to go, with a few more opportunities to go, we'll see where we go from here."
Asked if he can win, if he can pull back his 1:26 deficit on Nibali in the final week of the Giro, Evans was pragmatic but definitely not resigned to defeat or just a place on the podium.
The Tour of California is a wrap for 2013, and race organisers are patting themselves on the back for crafting a south-to-north course that challenged riders on each of the eight days of racing.
Medalist Sports managing partner Jim Birrell told Cyclingnews that his group had responded to previous feedback from the riders and team directors when creating the route, which featured two mountainous opening stages, three windswept transitional stages, an unusually long and difficult time trial followed by the first Northern California summit finish on Mt. Diablo and a fast finish into Santa Rosa.
"The fact that we had a new stage winner every day until this last day speaks loudly to how the competition and the courses were on a daily basis," Birrell said.
2009 Giro d'Italia winner Denis Menchov (Katusha) has announced his retirement with immediate effect. The 35-year-old was scheduled to ride this year's Giro but was ruled out with a knee injury.
"Then came the realization that it is time to stop my sporting career," said Menchov.
After missing out the Giro, Mechov had been scheduled to ride the Dauphine in June. The team has yet to make an announcement, but Cyclingnews contacted Hans-Michael Holczer, who is now working with the team for the second time, and he was unaware of the news.
Cyclingnews then spoke to Menchov’s agent Ramondo Scimone, who was able to add that “He’s already thought about stopping at the end of the year, but his knee problems have accelerated everything. The doctors were saying he’d also have to miss the Tour to make a full recovery. He’s decided to end it now."
Menchov turned professional in 1999 with Banesto and won the Tour de l'Avenir in 2001. In 2003, he finished 11th in the Tour de France and picked up the white jersey. Two years later, the Russian picked up the first of his two Vuelta a Espana titles, the second of which followed in 2007. A Giro crown was won in 2009, and Mechov finished on the Tour de France podium in 2008 and 2010.
His last significant win came on stage 20 of the Vuelta last year when he won atop Bola del Mondo. As well as riding for Banesto, Mechov also turned out for Rabobank, Geox TMC and Katusha.
Nicknamed the "Silent Assassin", Mechov also courted controversy. In 2009, he was called to Vienna, Austria, to answer questions in relation to the "Human Plasma" case and although he was never charged with a doping offence and denied all allegations, in 2012, in an extensive investigative...
It was a day of rest at the Giro d'Italia but there was no break from the obligations of the maglia rosa for Vincenzo Nibali on Monday as he held forth at a press conference at the Astana team hotel in Valloire, at the foot of the mighty Col du Galibier.
On paper, Nibali's lead of 1:26 over Cadel Evans (BMC) is far from insurmountable but on the road, the Sicilian has appeared impregnable since taking hold of the pink jersey after the Saltara time trial last week.
Nibali has spent much of the race quietly keeping home expectations in check, however, and although just six stages away from a maiden Giro victory, he was careful to stress the potential pitfalls in the race's final week as it snakes its way into the Dolomites.
"There are some very important climbs in the final week, with three tough days in particular: the Polsa time trial, the stage to Val Martello and the stage to Tre Cime di Lavaredo," Nibali said. "These are hard stages, so you have to be attentive, defend yourself and then maybe try and gain some time on your rivals if there's a chance."
The first of that troika of key stages is the mountain time trial from Mori to Polsa on Thursday. After beating Evans in the Saltara time trial and distancing him on the summit finish at the Jafferau on Saturday, Nibali was optimistic about his chances in the 20.6km test. "A mountain time trial is always difficult to interpret, but I would be more worried if it was a normal, flatter time trial because Evans has shown that he's strong there," Nibali said. "Still, he's strong in a cronoscalata too."
The Giro's tappone comes on the penultimate day, when the race crosses the Costalunga and Giau en route to a finish at the imposing Tre Cime di Lavaredo, which features...
Includes footage of Movistar training on Giro's second rest day
Eight days after Alex Dowsett opened Movistar's stage win account at the Giro d'Italia, Giovanni Visconti added an emotional second stage victory for the Spanish WorldTour squad as the 30-year-old Italian prevailed on Sunday's stage 15 with its mountain finish on the Galibier.
The stage win was Visconti's first of the 2013 season, and arguably the biggest of his career. The originally proposed Galibier summit finish was unable to take place due to snow, and the stage instead finished 4km from the top, next to the Marco Pantani monument. Visconti shares the same birthday as Pantani, albeit 13 years apart, and for Visconti to ride solo to victory was a special day in his career.
"I was born on the same day as Marco and so for me Marco is not a simple rider, a simple person. Marco is the legend, the story of cycling," said Visconti.
In this Cyclingnews exclusive, including footage of the Movistar team training on the Giro's second rest day, find out more from Visconti by clicking on the video below:
Recently retired German in new role with Garmin-Sharp
Andreas Klier recently brought his 17-year career as a professional cyclist to a conclusion, but the 37-year-old German has opted to remain in the sport with Garmin-Sharp and has brought his considerable experience from within the peloton to his new position as team director.
"I don't regret that I've stopped cycling, and I really like my new job," said Klier.
In this exclusive video with Cyclingnews, Klier discusses the highs and lows of his debut stint as team director at the Giro d'Italia where the US WorldTour squad achieved a morale-boosting victory from Ramunas Navardauskas one day after defending champion Ryder Hesjedal conceded more than 20 minutes to his rival overall contenders and dropped from overall contention.
Craddock headlines youth classification from teammates
For the second consecutive year, Axel Merckx's Bontrager development team has made the most of its coveted invitation to the Amgen Tour of California, with Lawson Craddock winning the Best Young Rider competition followed by teammates Gavin Mannion and Tanner Putt. The team also flew the Bontrager colors in four day-long breakaways and earned four top-10 stage finishes.
"I think we just missed one or two of them all week," Merckx said of his riders' breakaway efforts. "With Lawson's performance and the whole team in general - we finished sixth on team GC overall - that's pretty impressive. And we got the best young rider; actually we got the first three spots, so it's been a good week. It's been a really good week."
Belgian big man Jasper Stuyven, 21, finished fifth, ninth and 12th in the sprint finishes against WorldTour competition, and Craddock, 21, climbed his way to ninth on the extremely difficult ascent of the Tramway climb in Palm Springs. He backed that up with a seventh-place finish atop Mt. Diablo after attacking a select group of general classification favorites.
"I just recently found some climbing legs in me," Craddock said. "So I'm not used to climbing with guys like Tejay [van Garderen]. Going into the last kilometer I was surprised that I was still there, for one, but I was even more surprised that my legs felt really good. So I thought why not try a move. So I did, but I didn't realize it got so steep in the end. That's racing. It was just incredibly cool to attack that group."
With its success at the race over the past two years, Craddock said, the team has earned the respect of the other competitors, the race organizers and the fans.
"A year ago at this race no one knew who we were and people were doubting us," the young Texan said. "So to come here and prove...