Giro d'Italia: Analysing the GC contenders ahead of the final week

Cyclingnews looks at the overall standings ahead of the mountains

As the Giro d'Italia enjoys its third and final rest-day, Cyclingnews takes a look at how the general classification contenders fared in a second week that included the Montefalco time trial and Oropa summit finish, and how it leaves them heading into the final week. 

Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb)
GC position: Leader
Second week performance: Imperious.

The Montefalco time trial that kicked off the week was Dumoulin’s chance to shine, and he didn’t let it slip. Question marks had lingered from the Tirreno time trial as to whether this winter’s climbing focus had hampered his rouleur qualities, but those doubts were blown away with a storming display that yielded greater gains than he’d have hoped for. If that wasn’t enough, he took victory again at Oropa, beating Quintana on a summit finish with a display where the 24 seconds he gained paled into insignificance compared to the psychological damage inflicted. Dumoulin has stamped his authority on the race in the past week with a show of all-round strength that suggest a Grand Tour title is a matter of when, rather than if - and this Giro title a probability, rather than a possibility.

Bidon half full or half empty? Leading the race by nearly three minutes, having won a time trial and a summit finish stage, Dumoulin’s bidon is overflowing. There is cause for caution, though, as he heads into the high mountains. Until now, as he has admitted, the decisive climbs have suited him – relatively short efforts at the end of otherwise innocuous stages. The high-altitude, multi-mountain stages of the final week are a different proposition entirely, so he is heading into the unknown, if you like, and memories of the penultimate day of the 2015 Vuelta won’t be far from the back of his mind. The optimism shines through again, though, when you factor in the final-day time trial – Quintana et al would need at least a minute and a half going into that. If Dumoulin can avoid cracking completely on one of the next five days, the Giro is his.

Nairo Quintana (Movistar)
GC position: 2nd 2:41
Second week performance: Humbling.

From leading the race at Blockhaus to second and almost three minutes off the lead in the space of a week – this has been a chastening few days for the pre-race favourite and, should Dumoulin go onto win the Giro d’Italia, it’s debatable whether the Montefalco time trial or the dismantling of Quintana on Oropa will be seen as the pivotal moment. The time trial was, of course, a huge setback for the Movistar leader, but losing on favoured terrain will have stung just as much and the moment in which Dumoulin caught Quintana before launching a counter-attack made everyone sit up and take notice. Yes, the climb to Oropa suited Dumoulin but few expected him to nullify Quintana so easily and then drop him before the line.

Bidon half full or half empty: Dumoulin certainly isn’t unbeatable and Quintana has a proven track record of getting the job done in Grand Tours. That said, it’s growing increasingly hard to envisage the Colombian gaining the four-plus minutes he will need before the final time trial. 

Thibaut Pinot (FDJ)
GC position: 3rd at 3:21
Second week performance: On the whole, disappointing.

The huge strides Pinot had made against the clock in the past 18 months did not find their just reward in the stage 10 time trial. The discipline had been a relative weakness for the Frenchman but it became a huge weapon last year as he won the Romandie TT and the French national title. So 19th in Montefalco, 2:42 behind Dumoulin, 35 second behind Nibali, and even three seconds behind Adam Yates, will have been seen as not good enough and something of a missed opportunity. That said, he remains in a podium position and his performances since have suggested he is a bona fide contender to stay there. He was aggressive on stage 11, and the best of the rest behind the front four on Oropa.

Bidon half full or half empty? Riding away from Nibali, perhaps his closest rival for the podium, towards the top of Oropa, was a nice boost going into the final week. His team looks strong and he looks to be enjoying the experience at the Giro, suggesting an implosion of the kind he’s suffered at the last two Tours de France won’t come to pass. He said his aim was the podium and he's in a great position to deliver. 

Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida)
GC position: 4th at 3:40
Second week performance: Discouraging.

Nibali bounced back after Blockhaus with a respectable sixth place in the Montefalco time trial, gaining time on all but two of his top 10 rivals, but the 2:07 conceded to Dumoulin only highlighted the first questions as to whether Nibali was racing for the win or the podium. If Montefalco signified a mini-recovery, then Nibali’s ride to Oropa, 7th at 43 seconds, was another nail in the coffin for those dreaming of a home win.

Bidon half full or half empty: “If Tom wins I can only go up to him, shake his hand and congratulate him. I can only give my very best. There's nothing else I can do." It doesn’t exactly sound like the Shark has much of appetite left, but the honest assessment at least demonstrates the enormity of the situation he now faces. The coming stages suit him far better on paper than they do Dumoulin but that notion is based off previous Grand Tours. So far in this race Dumoulin has outclassed and outfought the defending champion at every turn.

Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin)
GC position: 5th at 4:24
Second week performance: Encouraging.

After losing considerable time to Pinot and Nibali – not to mention Dumoulin and Quintana – on Blockhaus, Zakarin has reignited his bid for the podium in the second week. His performance in the time trial, 12th at 2:19, was disappointing for an all-rounder who considers time trialling a weapon, but a turn-around came at Oropa, where he finished 2nd, outsprinted at the last by Dumoulin. Taking bonus seconds into account, he put 41 seconds into Pinot and 49 into Nibali – a fine day’s work.

Bidon half full or half empty? After Oropa, you have to say half full. Zakarin said he specifically tailored his approach to this Giro so as to ease into the race and hit top form in the final week and, after Saturday, there’s no indication that he won’t hold his own in the high mountains – he won at 2000m at last year’s Tour de France. One worry might be the descending nerves he’s suffered since that awful crash on the Colle dell’Agenello that ended his hopes last year. If he can get down the many descents that await, a podium place is a realistic prospect.

Bauke Mollema (Trek Segafredo)
GC position: 6th at 4:32 
Second week performance: Fading.

Tenth in the individual time trial was solid enough but all that hard work was undone at Oropa, where the Dutchman was one of the first GC men to crack. Losing almost two minutes to Dumoulin was bad enough but the lacklustre display also dropped him from third to sixth in the standings. A spirited display on the road to Bergamo showed that the 30-year-old still has something in the tank but he looks like the weakest link in the top six.

Bidon half full or half empty: The 2013, 2014 and 2016 Tours all hold one thing in common in relation to Mollema: in each race he dropped down the standings in the final week, either due to illness, crashes or a dip in form. Although the 2015 Tour bucked that trend, it’s hard to see history not reverting to type in the Giro. With Pozzovivo hovering at less than 20 seconds, and Zakarin one place ahead and climbing better, Molllema has a real fight on his hands.

Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R La Mondiale)
GC position: 7th a 4:59
Second week performance: Respectable.

Losing a chunk of time in a time trial is par for the course for the featherweight Pozzovivo, and he was duly the weakest of the GC contenders, shipping 3:07 to Dumoulin. That said, he only lost a minute to Nibali, and less than that to most of the other GC men, most of whom are respectable time triallists, so it was no disaster. Disappointing but not disastrous was the story again on Oropa, where he was 11th, 50 seconds back on Dumoulin. The time gaps to the other contenders weren’t huge but with the exception of Jungels, more of a rouleur, and Mollema, who cracked completely, Pozzovivo was distanced by all the other big players.

Bidon half full or half empty? High mountains have been in short supply so far in this Giro, so the diminutive Italian will be full of hope heading into this brutal final week. He’ll be confident of putting more time into Jungels, while he will sense similar weakness in the man above him, Mollema. However, the many mountains to come can’t block out that final-day time trial, and you have to think he would need a minute on hand over the likes of Nibali, Zakarin, and Pinot if he is to stand a chance of breaking the top five to equal – or better – his best-ever Grand Tour finish. That's a tall order.

Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors)
GC position: 8th at 5:18
Second week performance: Promising.

The only GC rider - still in the race - to finish within a minute of Dumoulin in the time trial, which put the disappointing ride at Blockhaus behind him. Oropa was another setback but Jungels is nothing but determined and his stage win into Bergamo means his race will be a seen as a success.

Bidon half full or half empty: Only three riders inside the top 12 have won stages so far in the race, and Jungels, still in white, would have taken sixth, a stage win, and the white jersey if the scenario had been offered to him with six stages to go. One, however, fears for the 24-year-old given the time lost at Blockhaus and Oropa. With a resurgent Adam Yates now just 2:25 off the white jersey, the QuickStep rider could be locked in a real battle.

Andrey Amador (Movistar)
GC position: 9th at 6:01
Second week performance: Labored.

A solid time trial, coupled with a day in the breakaway in the Apennines the following day, have seen the Costa Rican establish himself in the top 10, even if he was knocked back slightly by Oropa losses. His performance in the break on stage 11, where he gained 1:37 on the maglia rosa group, put Sunweb under immediate pressure in their first outing in defence of the pink jersey, and his GC position means he’s in a good position to help stretch them to breaking point in the third week.

Bidon half full or half empty? Total optimism is made tricky by the apparent absence of weaknesses in the armoury of Dumoulin. That said, the Dutchman hasn’t been tested yet in the high mountains on multi-mountain stages, so perhaps tomorrow evening would see a better guage. Amador’s own chances of a top 10 finish will surely be sacrificed for Quintana but his personal standing at Movistar is only being enhanced. 

Steven Kruijswijk (Team LottoNl-Jumbo)
GC position: 10th 7:03
Second week performance: Steady.

Far more was expected of Kruijswijk in the Montefalco time trial, with 20th and 2:43 conceded to Dumoulin a significant blow to the LottoNl-Jumbo rider’s hopes and morale. His ride to Oropa was steady but unspectacular, depicting a rider who will take a pragmatic approach into the final week. While the top 10 is still occupied by a number of riders who are expected to lose more time, Kruijswijk will be looking to steady the ship and utilise his conservative approach as he looks to move up the standings.

Bidon half full or half empty: Repeating last year’s challenge was always going to be a tall order given the complexion of the race but it’s hard to see how Kruijswijk can take much from the race so far. A crash and some average performances in the mountains were not what he or his team hoped for but there is still every chance that the nature of the final week plays into his hands. A top five ride is not out of the question.

Adam Yates (Orica-Scott)
GC position: 11th at 7:43
Second week performance: Solid.

Yates lost 2:39 to Dumoulin in the time trial, which was to be expected. His time losses to the more confident time triallists of the top 10 weren’t too big, so he won’t have been overly disappointed. The 24-year-old looked strong on Oropa and took 6th, just behind Pinot and just ahead of Nibali, while he was in the thick of it the following day on the Lombardy-esque finale to Bergamo.

Bidon half full or half empty? Yates looks good physically and there are no grounds for a lack of confidence heading into the mountains. He should finish in the top 10 at this Giro, and beating Jungels to the white jersey is a realistic prospect. It would be solid follow-up to his breakthrough Tour de France last year, though it’s hard to embrace the half-full attitude when it’s always at the back of your mind that, but for unanchored bad luck, you should be fighting for the top 5.

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