Tomorrow the shadow boxing must stop and the main contenders must start to land their blows. It is the first rest day of the Giro d?Italia and tomorrow is the time trial, a taxing 39-kilometre, uphill slog from Pesaro to Urbino.
We will know an awful lot more about who?s going to be in the shake-up for the maglia rosa tomorrow night than we do now, although the opening nine days have offered some clues.
A week tomorrow, the Giro will pause for thought again, by which time the riders will have climbed the Alpe di Pampeago, on Saturday, and survived the toughest stage of the race with its six climbs, including the Passo Pordoi, Passo San Pellegrino, Passo Giau and the Passo Fedaia.
Weather permitting, next Monday will see the mountain time trial to the Plan de Corones. By then, the top ten will have crystalized.
Before the Giro started, we stuck our necks on the block to predict the top ten. It seems an opportune moment to assess their progress and weigh up the chances of the riders who have ridden onto the radar in the past week and a bit.
|GIRO GC AFTER NINE STAGES|
How they stand overall
1. Giovanni Visconti (Italy) Quick Step 42-14-16
2. Matthias Russ (Ger) Gerolsteiner at 34sec
3. Gabriele Bosisio (Ita) LPR Brakes at 5-53
4. Danilo Di Luca (Ita) LPR Brakes at 7-27
5. Emanuele Sella (Ita) CSF Group Navigare at 7-32
6. Riccardo Ricco (Ita) Saunier Duval at 7-33
7. Felix Cardenas (Col) Barloworld at 7-46
8. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana at 7-46
9. Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas at 8-11
10. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas at 8-15
|THE FAVOURITES GC|
It is safe to assume the top three, Visconti, Russ and Bosisio, will not be a factor overall.
So, taking fourth-placed Danilo Di Luca as the ?real? Giro leader, how do the pre-race favourites and serious contenders stand against one another?
1. Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes)
2. Emanuele Sella (CSF Group Navigare) at 5sec
3. Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval) at 6sec
4. Alberto Contador (Astana) at 29sec
5. Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) at 44sec
6. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) at 49sec
7. Paolo Savoldelli (LPR Brakes) at 1-03
8. Andreas Klöden (Astana) at 1-12
9. Joaquin Rodriguez (Caisse d?Epargne) at 1-29
10. Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre) at 1-30
11. Gilberto Simoni (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni) at 1-46
12. Levi Leipheimer (Astana) at 1-47
13. Denis Menchov (Rabobank) at 1-49
14. Evgeni Petrov (Tinkoff) at 1-55
15. Juan Manuel Garate (Quick Step) at 2-23
16. Juan Mauricio Soler (Barloworld) at 2-52
17. Vladimir Karpets (Caisse d?Epargne) at 3-48
HOW CYCLING WEEKLY?S FAVOURITES ARE DOING?
|1 Andreas Klöden|
Germany / Astana
Overall 15th at 8-39
Pre-race odds 4.00 (favourite)
Odds to win now 5.50
Verdict The German has been extremely quiet so far and, unlike his team-mate Alberto Contador, has not so much as shown his face at the front yet. He must be considered the big favourite for tomorrow?s time trial, and with a deficit of just 1-12 on Danilo Di Luca, could catapult himself right into contention. Still the big question is whether he can cope with the three summit finishes.
Revised prediction Can still make the podium, no doubt. Could win it but there?s very little actual racing evidence to go on.
|2 Danilo Di Luca|
Italy / LPR Brakes
Overall 4th at 7-27
Pre-race odds 7-50
Odds to win now 4.50
Verdict His team, which on paper is made up of second string Italians no one else wanted, is riding remarkably strongly. And they?re doing it en masse too. Di Luca is jumpy. Riccardo Ricco has caused him the odd problem in the first week. Saturday?s uphill finish showed Di Luca at his worst and his best. Seemingly struggling right at the back as the pace hotted up, he suddenly appeared at the front and then attacked. Although he didn?t win it was astonishing stuff.
Revised prediction Isn?t going to give up his Giro crown without a fight. Surely he can?t match the real climbers in the mountains, can he?
|3 Gilberto Simoni|
Italy / Serramenti Diquigiovanni
Overall 21st at 9-13
Pre-race odds 12.00
Odds to win now 13.00
Verdict Hasn?t had the chance to show himself yet and has been pretty restrained, unlike Di Luca and Ricco, on the uphill finishes so far. At his age and with his experience, he probably knows it?s more beneficial to him to wait for the real mountains.
Revised prediction With the form of Ricco, the might of Astana and the fact so many powerful riders are so well-placed, the podium might be just out of Simoni?s reach. The first mountain stages at the weekend will tell one way or the other.
|4 Vincenzo Nibali|
Italy / Liquigas
Overall 10th at 8-15
Pre-race odds 17.00
Odds to win now 22.00
Verdict Has been allowed the luxury of a free ride so far. His team-mate Franco Pellizotti took the pink jersey, which allowed Nibali to sit tight in the shadows. However, it did mean his team had to do a lot of work for a few days, which may prove costly.
Revised prediction It?s looking good for him, particularly if the word that he?s improved considerably in the big mountains turns out to be true. Could make the podium if, as likely, he?s better against the clock than Ricco.
|5 Riccardo Ricco|
Italy / Saunier Duval
Overall 6th at 7-33
Pre-race odds 13.00
Odds to win now 4.25
Verdict Has ridden the opening week like a rider with ants in his pants. It?s hardly been the cool, calm, patient approach of a rider who knows he needs to shape the race in the mountains. Instead he?s been aggressive, loud-mouthed ? attacking Contador for having the temerity to come over here and win our stage race ? and lustful for stage wins. The time bonuses he?s grabbed for his two stage wins have ruled out the losses from the opening team time trial.
Revised prediction If you take the opening nine days he?s the winner in the making. He?s got Di Luca?s number, that?s for sure. But is it not all a bit too much too soon? One bad half-hour in the big mountains and all that jumping about in the first week will look like a waste of time.
|6 Franco Pellizotti|
Italy / Liquigas
Overall 9th at 8-11
Pre-race odds to win 20.00
Odds to win now 22.00
Verdict After a spell in pink, this Giro is already a success for Pellizotti. It?s likely he?ll now settle into a support role for Nibali.
Revised prediction Should make the top ten but is he a good enough climber and time triallist to trouble the top five? Probably not.
|7 Alberto Contador|
Spain / Astana
Overall 8th at 7-56
Pre-race odds to win 5.00
Odds to win now 3.75 (favourite)
Verdict It?s tempting to agree with Ricco. There?s no way Contador was on the beach before this Giro. He?s in tour-winning form and he?s not going to any lengths to disguise it. When he marked Ricco?s move the other day, he did so with the air of a man tagging along for the ride for a laugh.
Revised prediction An x-ray on his arm today (Monday) to assess the damage from the crash on Saturday, will determine everything. If his time trial position is hampered, it could set him back badly on Tuesday. If not, he and Klöden may well be able to tease and taunt the rest and launch the old one-two in the mountains. And that?s before even considering their third man, Levi Leipheimer.
|8 Denis Menchov|
Russia / Rabobank
Overall 23rd at 9-16
Pre-race odds to win 10.00
Odds to win now 18.00
Verdict If it seemed likely before the start, it?s now clear that Menchov is here to ride himself into form for the Tour.
Revised prediction He?s not going to win it, or get anywhere close. Don?t be surprised if he loses a lot of time on one of the big mountain stages, then, given some freedom by the favourites, tests his legs in a move later on.
|9 Juan Manuel Garate|
Spain / Quick Step
Overall 31st at 9-50
Pre-race odds to win Not listed
Odds to win now 100.00
Verdict After a promising couple of days very early on, he?s settled into a groove.
Revised prediction Not going to worry the real pink jersey contenders but could still ride his way into the top 10.
|10 Evgeni Petrov|
Russia / Tinkoff
Pre-race odds to win Not listed
Odds to win now 50.00
Verdict Done nothing yet.
Revised prediction Another who could cruise up the general classification in the next week, but he?s not going to win it.
|THE NEW CONTENDERS|
The first week has put some new names on the long-list for the podium.
The climbers Emanuele Sella and Felix Cardenas have gained the sort of time that could see them challenge for the top 10. Scandinavians Gustav Erik Larsson, Nicki Sorensen and Chris Anker Sorensen are dark horses.
Then there are the High Road youngsters Morris Possoni and Kanstantsin Siutsou. It?s not possible to look beyond them and the likes of Paolo Savoldelli, Joaquin Rodriguez and Leonardo Piepoli for the riders likely to round out the top ten.