After a first week of skirmishes, crashes and surprises, the Giro d'Italia heads into the mountains today for the first real showdown between the overall contenders.
The Alps and Dolomites come later in this year's race. First up are the far lesser known but potentially just as testing, Carnic and Julian Alps in the very north of the Friuli region close to Austria, with a stage to Altopiano del Montasio today and then stage 11 from Tarvisio to Vajont on Wednesday.
The Zoncolan is considered one of the toughest climbs in Europe but charismatic local organiser Enzo Cainero is saving a finish there for 2014. However the climb up to the Altopiano del Montasio is almost as tough, while the descent of the earlier Passo Cason di Lanza is apparently as testing as that of the Crostis.
Fortunately for Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) and any other riders doubtful about their descending ability, the weather forecast promises dry roads and the sun was out for the start in Cordenons. However coming after the rest day, the first mountain finish always provides a surprise.
The stage is only 167km long but include the 1,555m high Passo Cason di Lanza, the long, twisting and often technical descent and then the 10km climb up the finish, all packed into the last 50km.
The climb up to the Altopiano del Montasio begins in the village of Pian della Sega. The road has been resurfaced but climbs constantly at 7.8% for 6.5km riding up through the Val Raccolana.
Things get nasty at Sella Nevea after a series of tight hairpins. The gradient kicks up to an average of 12% for two kilometres with one section at 20%.
Fortunately the gradient eases back to 6% in the final two kilometres but that will only help the strongest riders pen the gaps on the struggles. Time bonuses of 20, 12, and 8 seconds will also spark late attacks and accelerations, meaning that this finish could see yet more major changes in the overall classification.
Stage 10 profile
Fight for pink
In the battle for the maglia rosa,Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) holds a 29 second lead over Cadel Evans (BMC), with Robert Gesink in third at 1:15 and Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) a further second in arrears.
Michele Scarponi (Lampre), who won the Giro in 2011, is at 1:24 with a clutch of climbers following on his coattails.
It should make for another tense and engrossing stage with no quarter given on the final climb as the pure climbers seek to push home their advantage against Wiggins.
Sky has promised they’ll go on the offensive though and with Rigoberto Uran and Sergio Henao in form, the likes of Nibali and Evans will be tested both physically and mentally as they pick out the correct dangers.
The Garmin-Sharp team bus at the Giro d'Italia is – not surprisingly – filled with Garmin navigation devices and Sharp appliances. The team bus driver gave Cyclingnews a tour of the luxury team bus, showing off all of its gadgets and tools.
The kitchen section include a microwave, from Sharp, of course, a coffee machine and a refrigerator filled with water. There is also Sharp music system, which can be used as is, or the riders can hookup their iPads or other devices.
In addition, there are three televisions in the sitting area, as well as storage space for the riders to store their gear.
Along with being a technological hotbed the team bus offers the riders sanctuary at the starts and finishes of major races. Join us on a tour of the bus.
Training, eating and massage for race leader Nibali
The first rest day at the Giro d'Italia is generally a fairly relaxed affair for the riders but for someone like Vincenzo Nibali, who is the current race leader, the day can include a packed schedule of activities.
Nibali took the race lead after an impressive fourth-place ride in the 54.8km time trial from Gabicce Mare to Saltara and relinquished the former wearer of the maglia rosa Benat Intxausti (Movistar) from leadership duties.
The Astana squad duly protected their leader's position at the top of the standings on a difficult Stage 9 but the end result gave perhaps a small hint of concern. The select group that contained nearly all the overall contenders contained just one Astana rider Tanel Kangert at the end of the 170km stage and with plenty of racing still to come his remaining teammates will need to remain on task and at the head of affairs if they are to keep the Italian from being isolated.
The following gallery is a collection of images of the Astana team and its team leader Nibali from the rest day in Italy. From breakfast time, light training, massage and a press conference, Nibali was no doubt happy when the official activities for the day were finally over.
Agency reviewing thousands of comments for proposed Code amendments
First-time doping offenders who are “real cheats” could face up to a four-year ban for a first doping offense, under the proposed amended Anti-Doping Code of the World Anti-Doping Agency. WADA has reviewed more than 4,000 comments from stakeholders on its proposed amendments.
Not only athletes would be subject to investigation and sanctioning under the new code. It would also cover “Athlete Support Personnel who are also involved in doping”.
The amended code will be put to vote at the World Conference on Doping in Sport to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, from November 12 to 15 this year. The new code would take effect in 2015.
The amendments also would take into consideration “the principles of proportionality and human rights”, and assist in anti-doping investigations, as well as emphasize “the concepts of smart test distribution planning, smart menus for Sample analysis, and smart sample storage.”
"It says to cheats: 'We're going to get you and deal with you even more effectively than we have in the past'," said Fahey, according to insidethegames.biz. "We're in business to protect the overwhelming majority of clean athletes around the world.
"The way you protect clean athletes and support them is to deal properly and effectively with the cheats."
American Tejay van Garderen (BMC) has been on the podium in numerous stage races, but has yet to stand atop the final podium in a major event since graduating to the WorldTour. His luck could be turning around, however, as the second Tour of California stage left him in what he called a perfect position for the overall classification.
Van Garderen lost contact with stage winner Janier Acevedo (Jamis-Hagens Berman) on the steep final climb at the Palm Springs Tramway, losing 12 seconds over the course of the final 500 meters, but said he had to make a choice at that moment to follow and risk going to far into the red, or let Acevedo go and limit his losses.
"The stage win would have been nice, and the [leader's] jersey would have been a nice gift, but what's important is to have the jersey in the end, and I feel very confident I can beat Acevedo in a time trial," van Garderen said.
After taking consecutive, frustrating podium finishes in the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado, being on the podium of the Critérium du Dauphiné and Critérium International, and taking the best young rider classification in the Tour de France, van Garderen has been touted as the rider to beat in this year's Tour of California.
Now with a 15-second lead on UnitedHealthcare's Philip Deignan, and a 33-second lead on the next well-known time trialist, Michael Rogers (Saxo-Tinkoff), more than a minute on Cameron Meyer (Orica GreenEdge) and Matthew Busche (RadioShack), and a host of lesser-known domestic riders in the midst, van Garderen is feeling confident of his chances.
"It's nice to get a little bit of a buffer between them," he said. "You can never count them out, Mick [Rogers] was a three time world champion, and there are good time trialers out there, but it's certainly good to be the best placed GC time trialer in this race right now."
Busche became his team's impromptu leader after both Andy Schleck and Haimar Zubeldia lost contact on the final climb, and he thinks Acevedo can still be counted as a favorite.
"I guess now by natural selection, I'll be the leader of the team," Busche said. "Tejay obviously is the favorite still. And I believe Acevedo won the stage, so those two will be the favorites for sure. I don't know much about Acevedo, but obviously Tejay can time trial like heck. And even Phillip Deignen. At the bottom he attacked and he rode a heck of a climb.
"I'm disappointed that I lost contact with those front guys. I gave it all I had, but it was brutal. So we'll see from here."
The stage was a big boost to the morale to the domestic US riders, in particular Haga, who came across in seventh, 1:13 behind Acevedo.
"I came off the lead group shortly before halfway up, and then I had to ride my own pace the rest of the way up the climb," Haga said, adding that maintaining his top 10 spot overall is a good goal.
When asked how it felt to be showing his back wheel to some of the top riders in the world, Haga said, "It's pretty awesome, I certainly wanted to do it. That's half of it, to want to and think you can."
Carter Jones (Bissell Pro Cycling) hung onto his polka dot climber's jersey Monday at the Tour of California after a brutal stage contested in triple-digit heat.
With temperatures topping 110 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the 200km stage, riders ascended two major climbs and more than 3,000 meters of elevation gain before arriving at the Tramway climb in the desert outside of Palm Springs. Jones finished 39th on the stage, 10:14 behind winner Janier Acevedo (Jamis-Hagens Berman), but he added two more points to his mountains classification lead over 5-hour Energy/Kenda's James Stemper on the Category 1 climb up to Mountain Center.
Jones took a solid hold on the jersey during Sunday's opening stage, which featured three KOM spots on the climbs of Mesa Grand, Palomar and Cole Grade. He slipped away early in the race with Stemper, Zakkari Dempster (Net App) and Marsh Cooper (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) for an all-day adventure on another brutally hot day.
"It was a super-hot stage, and they only let four of us go, so I knew it was going to be a long day and a lot of effort to put out there," Jones said. "Once I got in the break I decided that it was a good day to go for the KOM. And they gave us a big leash, so we were able to pick up all three of [the KOMs], which was nice."
The breakaway's leash extended to more than 12 minutes during the stage, and Jones picked up ultimate points on the final two KOMs after Dempster took the first and then faded from the group on Palomar. Jones ended the day with a three-point lead over Stemper and seven over Cooper.
"I wasn't surprised that they let it go out to 12 minutes, but I was surprised we had such a large gap over Palomar and then really over Cole Grade," Jones said. "We still had four or five minutes, and there were only 30 kilometers to go. There were only two of us by then, and we were starting to really wear ourselves down, but if we had had an extra guy or two it really could have been a dangerous move."
The move was actually plenty dangerous, with Jones and Stemper staying away until just five kilometers to go. Jones said he started dreaming of a possible stage win, or at least a podium, as they approached the finish in Escondido.
"Oh yeah, you always have to be optimistic," he said. "That's why you go out there and put out the effort. It's the closest I've ever come to the finish from a break in a race like this. So I was psyched."
But after Jones and Stemper were reeled in, eventual stage winner Lieuwe Westra (Vancansoleil-DCM) countered with Francisco Mancebo (5-hour Energy/Kenda), and the pair held off off the field to finish one-two. Jones finished with the main bunch, just six seconds behind the leaders, and got the polka-dot reward for his day's effort. Stemper earned the day's Most Aggressive Rider prize.
With a five-point lead over Stemper in the mountains classification after stage 2, Jones is now completely focused on holding his climber's jersey through the end of the race, forgoing other goals he had before the stage race started.
"I was really looking forward to the time trial before the race," Jones said. "We get to race against world-class competition, so it's a chance to see how I stack up. But right now the big priority is the KOM jersey. So I'll take the time trial how it comes."
Jones has a very clear vision of what will be required of him if he wants to earn the final polka dot jersey when the race ends in Santa Rosa on Sunday.
After two days of heat and climbing, the sprinters at the Amgen Tour of California are hoping for a respite from both the elements and from gravity during Tuesday's stage 3 route from Palmdale to Santa Clarita.
The 177.7 km stage with 2,700 meters of climbing could be considered a mountain stage, but the climbing is broken up and includes only one long, sustained grade. The last KOM on Bouquet Canyon Road comes 30 kilometers from the finish and should allow the peloton to regroup before the finale. A field sprint looks likely, even after Monday's slog through 110 degree heat. Forecasts for the 11:20 am start in Palmdale call for temperatures in the mid-80s, which are also predicted for the afternoon finish in Santa Clarita.
"Tomorrow is certainly not an easy day, but I still think it will be a sprint," Garmin Sharp fastman Tyler Farrar told Cyclingnews after the brutal stage 2 finish on the Tramway climb outside of Palm Springs. "It might be a tough day still, but it will be a sprint, and it's on the coast, so I think we're all hoping that it cools off a little bit."
The opening stage almost went to the sprinters after a tough day of chasing down a four-rider breakaway that was caught by a select bunch just five kilometers from the finish, but Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Francisco Mancebo (5-hour Energy/Kenda) escaped in the last few kilometers to take the top two spots. Farrar finished 67th on that stage, more than 10 minutes behind the winner, but his teammate Jacob Rathe finished sixth. Farrar expects another large group - but not the entire field - to come to the line again Tuesday.
"I think it will still be a little selective," he said. "It's not flat. It's not going over 15-kilometer climbs like we have the last two days, but it's still not easy. So we'll see."
Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies sprinter Ken Hanson was able to haul his "big carcass" up the final Tramway climb on Monday and lived to fight another day, but he was a little more ambiguous than Farrar about how things might play out Tuesday.
"Certainly the temperature should be a little more reasonable and not in the triple digits," Hanson said. "That will be a lot nicer. I think everyone will like that. Tomorrow is tricky. It could be a sprint or it could be a really hard day. It could be that a big breakaway stays away."
Hanson, whose teammate Alex Candelario finished seventh in the sprint at the end of stage 1, said he was looking forward to stages four and five more so than Tuesday's route.
"Stages four and five look like on paper that they should be kind of the classic sprint stages, so I'm looking forward to that," he said. "So I made it through today in one piece and I'm happy about that. I survived and I'm looking forward to those upcoming stages for sure."
UnitedHealthcare sprinter Jake Keough agreed with Farrar that stage 3 could come down to a selective sprint, but he's set his sights further down the road.
"I think the next two days are kind of maybe a selective sprint stage," said Keough, who added that the team worked well to lift Phil Deignan into third overall, and he expects that same team ethic to carry over to the sprints. "We're going to kind of gear up for maybe stages 5 and 8, which will be full on. I'm trying to conserve a bit. It's hard with the heat, but everyone's riding good and we're working as a team. For sure we'll be in with a chance."
Bontrager big man Jasper Stuyven, who finished fourth on stage 1 behind WorldTour sprinters Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-Quick-Step), said he had worked most of Monday for teammate Lawson Craddock, but he kept something in the tank for the upcoming sprint stages.
"Lawson was feeling really good, so I stayed with him all day and kept him in front," Styuven said. "I brought him to the front at the bottom of the climb and then just pulled off and rode in. But you couldn't really ride easy. It was brutally hot. But it was a good day, and I'm looking forward to the flatter stages in the coming days."
Of course, any sprinter hoping for a stage win will have to deal with the considerable skills of Sagan, who won the field sprint Monday despite having to fight back on after the climbs and then suffering cramps in the finale. But Sagan finished Monday's stage in 102nd place, more than nearly 20 minutes off the lead pace. Meersman finished Monday's stage in 81st, 15:28 down.
Philippe Gaumont is said to be brain-dead but kept alive by respiration machines. According to the French newspaper La Voix du Nord, the 40-year-old has been failing rapidly the last few hours and his family is gathering at his bedside.
It had earlier been erroneously reported that he had passed away.