Robert Millar: The Giro d'Italia final countdown
'The crazy thing about the Kazakh tactics is they are now hurting their own leader Fabio Aru'
Madonna di Campiglio, the symbolic beginning of the end for Marco Pantani and the definitive end of Richie Porte and Rigoberto Uran's 2015 Giro d'Italia aspirations.
If all had went well on the infamous climb for the Australian and his former Colombian teammate then Monday’s rest day would have been something to enjoy, regroup and plan ahead even if it was only for stage wins. As it is now Sky have pulled the pin – the king is dead, long live König, and Etixx-QuickStep now have to be seriously considering if they are going to let their respective leader’s miseries continue.
With the coming Tour de France in mind and facing over 100km of climbing in the third week, it would make perfect sense for Uran to follow Porte’s lead and pack his suitcase for the final time and head off to the nearest airport.
There's nothing much left for them to do in this year’s race but get more demoralised over how circumstances and luck have been cruel to their personal ambitions so don't be surprised if they are allowed to leave before they end up totally broken. At least they'll have the chance to re-build some confidence. Team Sky need a Richie Porte capable of fully supporting Chris Froome at the Tour de France and Uran has to sort out his health, neither are going to happen being dragged over mountains behind the Astana climbers.
The crazy thing about the Kazakh tactics is they are now hurting their own leader, Fabio Aru, more than they're damaging the rehabilitated Alberto Contador. They've succeeded in isolating the Spaniard by blowing out Kreuziger, Rogers and company but Aru's enthusiasm of the first week, where he attacked whenever possible, is coming back to haunt him. He's had a great race, had his day in pink but somehow I don't see him taking any time back from Alberto Contador in the coming mountain finishes, quite the contrary in fact.
Despite Mikel Landa looking strong the decision over leadership Astana DS Guiseppe Martinelli has to make over what happens next won't be as painful as his previous Giro visit to the mountain. Aru is Italian, he's popular, it's the Giro, end of discussion. Sure they'll want to press Contador as much as possible with a view to tiring him and thus helping Nibali's Tour hopes but that needs to be balanced against keeping Aru safe.
The immediate interest now is the third step on the podium, Landa looks the most likely candidate but the speed imposed by his team on the ascent of Mortirolo will probably decide that one. Though Movistar's Andrey Amador has been getting better and better, and I think we'll see some proper fireworks on the slog to Aprica, which may well see him slip back to fourth. Behind that the proper squabbling starts from Leopold König to Steven Kruijswijk, any one of them and the riders in between could finish in the top 10 come Milan.
As for the Dutchman from LottoNL-Jumbo, I can see him passing the three guys in front of him at the moment as he's still in good shape and also because Kreuziger has to work for the race leader, Van Den Broeck's time trial was his first and I fear only performance of note, and Ryder Hesjedal will inevitably be caught in the wrong half of any important split again.
The red jersey contest sparks back into action on Wednesday for the stage 17 visit to Lugano so Sky for Elia Viviani, Trek for Giacomo Nizzolo and to a lesser extent Bardiani with Nicola Boem will have to watch out they amass enough points while they can. Otherwise, Oleg Tinkov might start asking Contador to take care of that classification as well.
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Robert Millar was one of the last pure climbers of the Tour de France, winning several stages in the mountain stages and finishing fourth overall in 1984. He is also the only English speaker to have ever won the prestigious polka-dot jersey climber's competition jersey.
Millar retired in 1995 but has continued to follow the sport closely. He was often critical of the media and quickly cuts through the excuses and spin to understand why and how riders win and lose.