Steven Kruijswijk is the man to beat
Just two days ago, Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) was only occasionally being discussed as an outside candidate to win the Giro d’Italia. Now he’s in the pink jersey, and it’s difficult to see how anyone is going to take it off him.
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The Dutchman may have been edged into second place on the stage for a second day running (this time from Gazprom’s Alexander Foliforov, by literally a fraction of a second), but today was a resounding victory in terms of his GC hopes – he put 32 seconds into Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), 40 seconds into Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) and a huge 2 minutes and 10 seconds into Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).
That puts him over 2 minutes ahead on GC, and, for now at least, he looks comfortably the strongest rider in the race. Over the course of the third week we’ll find out how well he – and his team – can cope with the pressure of leading and controlling the race.
Alexander Foliforov a surprise winner
One frequently mentioned stat heading into today’s stage was how the last three mountain time-trials at the Giro in 2014, 2013 and 2011 have all been won by the rider who would go on to win the overall. That won’t be the case this year, as 24-year old Russian Foliforov got the better of all the GC favourites despite being well over an hour down on GC.
Prior to today Foliforov was something of an unknown quantity to most cycling fans, having only made a few fleeting impressions through attacks earlier in this Giro and impressive performances at under-23 level, but victory on such a prestigious, competitive stage suggests he has a bright future ahead of him.
It was a good day for his Gazprom-RusVelo team all round, with Sergey Firsanov finishing fourth. Up until now the Russian team will have looked on enviously as fellow wildcard Bardiani-CSF picked up a stage win and Nippo-Vini Fantini held custody of the king of the mountains jersey, but now their Giro can already be marked off as a success.
Watch: Giro d’Italia mountain time trial bikes
Vincenzo Nibali had a nightmare
There was no doubt who today’s biggest loser was. Having been tipped by many to win today’s stage, Vincenzo Nibali instead finished way down in 25th, and slips to third overall on the GC on a day he had hoped to move up and potentially take control the pink.
The early time gaps indicated he was losing a lot of time to Kruijswijk, and he appeared to be having a stressful time on the bike, at one point swatting his arm out at one of the many over-enthusiastic spectators running alongside him.
Things got even worse when his chain slipped towards the end of his ride, costing him precious seconds and disrupting his rhythm, and further escalating what was already appearing to be a bad day. Now 2-51 down on GC, he’ll have to go out on the attack in the final week if he’s to win the pink jersey.
Chaves and Valverde still in contention
If Nibali finds he doesn’t have the legs, the onus will be on Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) to challenge Kruijswijk’s pink jersey.
Chaves followed up his superb performance in the mountains with a very solid fifth today, which keeps him second overall. Whereas yesterday he worked together with Kruijswijk, from now on he’ll have to perceive the Dutchman as his enemy rather than his ally, and it will be fascinating to see if he can drop him.
Valverde, meanwhile, appeared to be slipping into obscurity after being dropped in the mountains yesterday, but bounced back with aplomb today to finish third. He remains fourth overall, now 3-29 down, but will take confidence that yesterday was more of a lone bad day than signs of something more terminal.
What has happened to Rigoberto Uran’s time trialling?
On stage 12 of the Giro two years ago, Colombian climber Rigoberto Uran surprised everyone by trouncing the field in the time-trial to move into the pink jersey. Since then he’s been acknowledged as a quality time triallist, and always mentioned as a rider expected to gain time in races against the clock.
But at this year’s Giro he’s under-performed in the time trials, finishing way down in 64th in stage nine and faring little better today to managed 50th. Whereas his poor showing in the former could be explained away by a crash, his effort today is more baffling – he’s been climbing decently throughout the race, but seems to have lost his edge against the clock.