We’re only four days into the 2015 Giro d’Italia but already the big boys have come out to play. While in days two and three Tinkoff-Saxo were keen to set the pace, the teams of the other contenders also had their say.
Here are a few discussions that arose from the rapid ride between Ciavari and La Spezia.
1. Tinkoff-Saxo’s tactics
What on earth Tinkoff-Saxo are doing has been called into question a fair bit in the last few stages. With Alberto Contador the best placed General Classification contender after day one’s team time trial it was odd to see them dominating the peloton on stages two and three.
Some, like Philippe Gilbert, questioned whether the team could keep this up for the whole three weeks and on stage four they perhaps showed the added strain had taken its toll.
The pace of the 150km stage was relentless. A huge breakaway settled into a huge lead and the chasers were required to smash it out on the front of the peloton all day.
With Roman Kreuziger remarkably allowed to get in the breakaway it made no sense for Tinkoff to chase them down – the Czech was well placed to challenge for pink if the break had gone the distance.
Tinkoff were forced to plough their way through all of Contador’s helpers as the stage’s final climb approached. Mick Rogers was the last to crack, leaving Contador alone in a group of his rivals – all of whom had domestiques left.
The Spaniard clung on, however, but he will not want a repeat of his team’s decimation as the race goes on.
2. The rise of Davide Formolo
It’s hard to believe that Formolo is only 22. Tuesday’s win in La Spezia was his first as a professional, and what a race to do it in.
Many riders have been tagged as ‘Italy’s next big thing’ and Formolo is the latest to be lumbered with such a dubious honour.
His strength in the final 15km showed just why he’s tipped for greatness by those in the know. He rode away from a strong group of riders and then held his distance as the pack of GC contenders came thundering along behind him.
His prosecco-spraying celebration needs a bit of work – it didn’t quite have the verve and intensity of Michael Matthews’s yesterday – but that’ll surely come with a few more victories.
Formolo has been solid if not spectacular so far this season, but with his contract up for renewal at the end of the season this win in front of his home fans will do his negotiations no harm.
3. A boost for Cannondale-Garmin
They’ve not got the largest budget in professional cycling – some way off, in fact – but Cannondale-Garmin’s season has still been a bit of a disappointment so far.
The team had to wait until the end of March to notch their first win – only LottoNL-Jumbo had a longer winless streak – and Formolo’s victory is only their third of the season.
Not that their other two wins were much to shout about. Ben King won a stage of the Criterium International and Ramunas Navardauskas took the overall victory at the Circuit Sarthe.
Proving their riders can compete on the biggest stage will be a massive boost for Jonathan Vaughters’s team and watch out for them to challenge for more stage wins in the rest of this race.
4. The speed takes its toll
Right from the gun the speed on stage four was pretty rapid. Formolo and 26 other riders had to work hard to form a gap between themselves and the peloton.
From that point the chasing group had to up their pace to ensure they caught up – especially with the dangerous Kreuziger looking for the maglia rosa.
Astana started smashing it on the front forcing the incumbent pink jersey wearer Michael Matthews to drop off the back. Matthews is by no means a slouch, especially on the hills, but Bling couldn’t match the pace.
It’s pretty remarkable to see so many riders racing so hard this early in a three-week Grand Tour. It’ll be interesting to see who’s got anything left in the tank on weeks two and three.
5. Rigoberto Uran’s dwindling support crew
Etixx-Quick-Step’s Rigoberto Uran is among the favourites to win this year’s Giro, but with his team falling apart around him he will surely be a bit concerned about his chances.
On stage two he lost Pieter Serry in a crash caused by a spectator riding into the peloton and on stage four his merry band of helpers was reduced once more as Gianni Meersman dropped out.
Meersman was involved in a crash on stage three and still looked a little worse for wear on Tuesday as he dropped off the back after just a handful of kilometres. He made it back to lead the peloton for a couple of minutes before calling it a day.
With only six men left to call upon for the rest of the Giro, Uran and co will have to conserve their energy as best as possible to avoid leaving themselves exposed on the crucial stages.
6. Simon Clarke’s celebration
He tried to style it out in the post-race interview, but Simon Clarke clearly thought he’d won the stage, even though he finished a distant second.
Clarke will be hoping all evidence of him punching the air is swiftly destroyed, but you can watch the video of his embarrassing moment here.