There has been nothing but drama in the first week of the 2015 Giro d’Italia: crashes, injuries, solo wins, massive breaks, mountain attacks and sprint finishes.
It’s all a bit exhausting really, but thankfully Monday = rest day, allowing us to recharge our batteries and look back on some of the memorable performances of stages one to nine.
Rider of the week
Logic would dictate that the best rider is the one that’s currently leading the race. And when Alberto Contador is the man in pink after the first week it wouldn’t be outrageous to argue that he’s been the best.
But the thing is, he’s not looked all that great for large parts of the first nine stages. On the first day the Spaniard looked pretty ropey in the team time trial, struggling to hold his teammates’ wheels as they forged towards a great time.
He has his colleagues to thank for only having a seven-second deficit after stage one, but he was the best placed General Classification contender.
Then he attacked up the climb to Abetone to take the pink jersey and he looked great. But then he fell off and dislocated his shoulder the very next day and was forced to just ‘get through’ the next few stages.
Instead, Fabio Aru gets my nod as the best performer over the first nine days. The Astana rider gave up just six seconds to Contador in the TTT and has managed to get three of them back between then and now.
Contador made the move on stage five but Aru was able to mark him and even pip him to the finish line. Then on stage eight the Italian showed his attacking intent by laying down several efforts on the final climb to try and distance the Spaniard.
As is usually the case, the incumbent of the leader’s jersey will simply mark any attacks rather than setting the race alight himself, meaning we get to see Aru, one of the peloton’s most exciting prospects, showing what he can do in the mountains.
Unsung hero award
Anyone who rides on their own for most of the day is a bit of a hero in my eyes, but a couple of riders took attacking cycling to a different level on stages eight and nine.
Carlos Betancur will likely be making the most of his rest day (hopefully not at the buffet table) after two days straight in the breakaway, but LottoNL-Jumbo’s Steven Kruijswijk will arguably be nursing some of the sorest legs today.
Stage eight saw the Dutchman riding alone for a huge part of the race, breaking away after 20-odd kilometres and staying there until he was caught by Betancur and Kristoff Vandewalle.
But Kruijswijk didn’t like those two stealing his limelight, so he attacked again on the climb to Campitello Matese and looked as if he could be strong enough to go on and take a famous win.
As it turned out, though, the thundering pace of eventual winner Beñat Intxausti and his chasing partner Sebastian Reichenbach got the better of him. He was then caught and spat out the back of the peloton, scrambling to the line two minutes down.
While probably harbouring thoughts of comfortably pootling along in the peloton in stage eight, Kruijswijk was then sent out in the break again, which this time made it to the end.
His second-place finish was pretty inspirational for a rank amateur like myself to see. No longer can I complain that my legs ache after a slow 40-miler. “Would Steve complain?” people would say. No. No he wouldn’t.
Quote of the week
Talking of long, solo breakaways, Cannondale-Garmin’s Tom-Jelte Slagter gunned it himself with 60km left of a brutal stage nine and summed it up pretty well afterwards.
“You just have to manage your ride on feeling,” he said. “If you go too fast you f**k yourself, I was just trying to ride on the limit the entire time, that’s it.”
Photo of the week
Contador managed a smile on the podium after his crash on stage six, but his arms tell the whole story.
Such was his concern for his injured shoulder that Contador couldn’t lift his left arm high enough to put the pink jersey on, requesting instead to just hold it in his other hand.
At that point many people were questionning whether the Spaniard would even make it to the start of stage seven, but he soldiered on, taking only ibuprofen for the pain.
Stats of the week
Classification leaders after stage nine
General classification: Alberto Contador (Spain) Tinkoff-Saxo
Points classification: Elia Viviani (Italy) Team Sky
Mountains classification: Simon Geschke (Germany) Giant-Alpecin
Young rider classification: Fabio Aru (Italy) Astana
Stages completed: 9
Stages to go: 12
Distance ridden: 1484.6km
Distance to go: 2009.2km
Stage winners so far
Stage one: Orica-GreenEdge (Team time trial)
Stage two: Elia Viviani (Team Sky)
Stage three: Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge)
Stage four: Davide Formolo (Cannondale-Garmin)
Stage five: Jan Polanc (Lampre-Merida)
Stage six: André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal)
Stage seven: Diege Ulissi (Lampre-Merida)
Stage eight: Beñat Intxausti (Movistar)
Stage nine: Paolo Tiralongo (Astana)
Stage wins by nation (not including TTT)
Stage wins by team
Team Sky: 1