Cyclingnews' analysis of the race so far
1. Joaquím Rodriguez's stage win in Assisi has not taught us anything we didn't already know. Heading into the race he was in form, the route suited him, and a number of his rivals had failed to show any consistency throughout year. But what's made Rodriguez's race lead possible hasn't just been the time bonuses (yes, they've helped) or the fact that three stages have been tailor-made to his qualities, but his and Katusha's ride in the team time trial. Finishing second, five seconds adrift of the well-oiled Garmin machine was as impressive as anything we've seen in the race so far. In a race where time gaps have been small but not insignificant all of the Spaniard's rivals would have been expecting Katusha to lose time in Verona.
However, after nearly 40 kilometres of time trialing Rodriguez leads the race by 17 seconds. Psychologically, for a lot of his rivals, it will feel like a lot more.
2. Like a scene from Top Gun we're still left with the question of who is the best, or more precisely, who is the strongest in this year's Giro d'Italia. Coming into the race it seemed we were deliberating on who might not lose the Giro rather than who would win, such was the unpredictable form displayed by a number of GC contenders.
But after 10 days of racing there are no major time gaps, with only Gadret in a slightly precarious position, but Rodriguez, Hesjedal, Kreuziger, Basso, Schleck, Scarponi and Pozzovivo all remain within 1:30 seconds of each other. Last year it was with 99 percent certainty that Alberto Contador would run away with the race. And so it proved. If there's any lesson to learn it's that inviting the number one stage racer doesn't necessarily provide you with the number one spectacle.
3. Without a win since a Tour stage into Redon last year, Tyler Farrar is enduring his leanest-ever spell. This year's Giro handed the American a crucial opportunity not just to break his duck, but also to seize an opportunity ahead of the Tour de France.
With no team time trial but Garmin having a number of opportunities for the top 10 placing Farrar needed a good Giro to stake his claim for a strong leadout. However when Vaughters comes to chalking up his nine for the Tour, he'll be reluctant to afford Farrar the maximum support his sprinter needs. It's catch 22: send Farrar with just Robbie Hunter to guide him and his chances of winning shrink, but sending four men to see Farrar scoop up nothing but placings [based on current form] will be nightmarishly frustrating for all concerned in the Argyle camp. All of a sudden June becomes the most important month in Farrar's season.
4. As for Ryder Hesjedal he suddenly looks like Garmin's best bet for a top placing in any major tour this year. More than decent against the watch, and an effective climber, Hesjedal made history when he became the first Canadian to wear the maglia rosa on stage 7 to Rocca di Cambio. A slight wobble on the Colle Molella will have been a concern but in relinquishing the lead to Joaquim Rodriguez in Assisi, Hesjedal can now escape the pressure that comes with leading a three week race.
Stage 12, which teases into the Alps will be difficult to control and on stage 14 to Cervinia, Hesjedal can concentrate on riding his race, rather than the one of Giro leader. A top five is well within sight.
5. You sniggered, admit it, when you heard that NetApp had been invited to the Giro. But the German team has risen to the occasion; Reto Hollenstein has been in breaks on two stages, while the team have scratched up a number of top 10 placings. The icing on the cake came today when Bartosz Huzarski finished behind the unstoppable Rodriguez. All that's missing now is a stage win in their first grand tour but the management can't ask for any more and if the riders continue to create opportunities for themselves their dreams may come true.
6. It seems like an eternity since Taylor Phinney won the opening time trial in Herning but the sight on an American pulling on a leader’s jersey at the start of a major Tour hasn't been seen since Christian Vande Velde and Garmin won the opening TTT at the Giro in 2008, and on an individual basis since Dave Zabriskie beat Lance Armstrong at the start of the 2005 Tour. As a nation the US is crying out for riders to develop at a fast pace - Horner, Leipheimer, Vande Velde, and Zabriskie could all retire before the end of 2013. But with Phinney, Andrew Talansky, Tejay Van Garderen and Tyler Farrar, the US has a handful of riders capable of filling any void left by the previous generation.
7. Whatever the final 10 days provides the organisers of the race can be commended for a number of aspects. The start in Denmark raised a few eyebrows when it was announced but in bringing the race to new shores it drew in huge crowds, a hefty amount of media attention, and showcased grand tour slickness at its best. The commemoration of Wouter Weylandt's death was both humble and respectful too.
8. Until stage 10 Frank Schleck had ridden an almost faultless race. Aware that he lacks a team capable of challenging Liguigas, Lampre and Garmin, he's allowed his rivals to keep him in contention while he rides himself into form for the final week. Like Basso, the opening uphill skirmishes have been about limited losses and both diesels will be licking their lips when the races hits the final week. If the loss of 26 seconds, plus time bonuses in Assisi, tally up to be his 'bad day' he'll threaten for the overall win.
9. We've barely seen anything of Roman Kreuziger but he lies 4th, 55 seconds down on Rodriguez. With Paolo Tiralongo interestingly placed in 3rd, Astana have ace up their sleeve if the Italian is sent on the attack.
10. Roberto Ferrari's decision to switch right, just as Mark Cavendish was opening his sprint has been rightly criticised. We'll never know what was going through the Italian's mind when he caused the crash, perhaps he doesn't know either, but calls for his removal from the race rang out through social media and seeped through into various editorials. To Gianni Savio's relief, the commissaires chose to relegate the Italian to last place on the stage. Quite rightly, the rules were applied, albeit with a light hand. Ferrari's punishment - regardless of whether you think he deserves it or not - will be drawn out and handed to him, not by his bosses or the UCI, but by his peers. Reputations are quickly made and lost within sport and next time there's a gap in a sprint, or when a commentator mentions sprint crashes all eyes will be on the Italian.
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