Giro still wide open after first week
After nine days of racing in the Netherlands and Italy, the 2016 Giro d’Italia is still well and truly up for grabs. Today’s long time trial was billed as a big shake-up for the top order of the generl classification, but in the end there was no change at the top: Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-Quick Step) retained the lead.
What was not expected was now the big pre-race favourites were so closely grouped together. Incredibly, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Mikel Landa (Team Sky), Steven Kruijswijk (LotoNL-Jumbo) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) occupied four consecutive places on the stage, from 19th to 22nd. Just 11 seconds separated them in the time trial, and now 30 seconds overall.
Let us also mention the continued impressive ride from Bob Jungels. The 23-year-old from Luxembourg elevated himself to second overall after placing sixth, and sits 52 seconds ahead of Nibali. Can he carry this form through into the mountains?
Mikel Landa: a long way from disaster
There was plenty of talk before the time trial that Mikel Landa would lose considerable time on the stage. This simply did not materialise, and Landa rode just as well as his big GC rivals.
It seems that the Spaniard’s preparation for the stage paid off, as he rode the route in the spring and has apparently had a video of the course to study. It was a case of homework – or Sky’s famous marginal gains – paying off as he finished just seven seconds behind Nibali and four seconds ahead of Valverde.
With the time trial out of the way, the remainder of the 2016 Giro plays more to Landa’s strengths and he is now improving after an opening week where at times he appeared to be fighting to stay in touch with his rivals.
Watch: Team Sky’s Dario Cioni talks about Landa’s time trial
A nightmare for Ilnur Zakarin
After the first time check where he posted a quick result, it looked as though 26-year-old Russian Inur Zakarin was riding himself into the pink jersey. But as the stage progressed and the rain fell, it all started to go wrong.
First Zakarin suffered from a mechanical issue, and was forced to change bikes. Then he crashed, again requiring a change of bike. Now on this third bike, and with a cut on his thigh and knee seeping blood down his leg, Zakarin fell again on the final, tight corner.
Those three stops saw Zakarin finish in 54th place, three minutes and 51 seconds behind stage winner Primož Roglič (LottoNL-Jumbo). He slipped from second overall to 11th.
The weather played its part
Rain once again played a part in shaping the outcome of a key time trial. When Ji Cheng (Giant-Alpecin) left the start ramp as first man off at 12.40pm the roads were still dry and conditions good. They stayed this way when eventual stage winner Primož Roglič started his run at 1.21pm and he set a time that would not be bettered,
At first, the heavy showers appeared to be localised along the course from Radda to Greve in Chianti country, but slowly and surely the entire route had a soaking. It was white road markings on corners that appeared to create the most problems, causing front wheels to lose traction and send riders tumbling.
It is a shame to see weather creating uneven conditions for the riders but, as they say, that’s bike racing.
Tom Dumoulin decided to play it safe
Dutchman Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) has had a great Giro so far. He won the opening stage to wear the maglia rosa, then re-took the race lead later in the week. He lost his position at the top of the general classification after Saturday’s tough stage, however, and today looked as though the previous week’s efforts had taken their toll.
He was billed as a favourite for the time trial stage win, but rainy conditions meant that he could not get near the ‘dry roads’ time of eventual stage winner Primož Roglič set earlier in the day.
With the long time trial now gone, there is perhaps little to keep Dumoulin in the race and it will be interesting to see if he continues, and how long for, after Monday’s second rest day. He has made no secret of making the Olympic Games time trial in August his major aim of the season.