Ugh, I'm having one of those weeks. You know the kind: when work becomes paralyzing (and worse, deprives you of wifi) while one of your co-workers goes to Italy to ride his bike and shout at racers and wear a cow costume? Yeah, that kind of week...
Before we get to the main course, a few bites of antipasti.
We will officially have a new winner of the Giro in 2013 -- Garmin-Sharp's Ryder Hesjedal announced his withdrawal from the Giro d'Italia moments ago. Via email from the Garmin-Sharp team:
"It's heartbreaking," said Hesjedal. "I want to be here for my team and for all the people who have supported me to get me here to this point. I built my entire season around the Giro and I came here feeling great, but I have been suffering since the TT. We're working on it, but we're not sure what's wrong. There's a virus that's been going around, so it could be that, or severe allergies, or going too deep on the TT combined with both – whatever it is, I'm only getting worse. Yesterday's stage was just too much for me, I fought to get through it and I know everyone suffered but after seeing the medical staff last night, I also know that its time for me to go home, get some tests done and get healthy again."
[Update] And now it appears Bradley Wiggins will withdraw today as well. No statement yet but everyone seems sure.
UCI president Pat McQuaid has taken advantage of the poor Swiss nation in which he's made his new residence to gain nomination for a third term as UCI president. McQuaid's nomination ran into trouble back in Ireland -- apparently any candidate for UCI president must first be nominated by his home federation. The Irish Federation had nominated McQuaid, but then reversed itself on procedural grounds. There's a lot more to the story, and you should ask Irish Peloton for details, but McQuaid insisted the holdup was purely procedural, while others who pushed for the reversal claimed there was more to it than that. No matter, though, because McQuaid duped the Swiss Federation into saving his ass.
OK, on to more pleasant subjects... the continuing technical problems plaguing the SBNation servers! Like the McQuaid story, this is about corruption (of files) and power (outages). Unlike the McQuaid story, this one is actually going to have a happy ending:
As SB Nation users, you have certainly noticed the significant performance drop across the network this week. The SB Nation team and all of Vox Media sincerely apologize for the site performance problems affecting your experience on our sites and communities over the past few days. We understand how frustrating it is for you. Given the nature of the issue, it is taking several days to fully restore performance completely. We have been working around the clock, taking incremental and comprehensive measures, to restore performance to normal levels.
Our approach to correcting the issues affecting the network has been two pronged: 1) improve performance as much as possible incrementally and 2) restore long-term stability to the system.
The first prong has been focused on improving the performance of logged-in users as these users have experienced the biggest drop in performance. Some of the improvements that we have pushed out to this point include:
- Page load performance for logged-in users, including lower error rates
- Commenting performance Logging-in
- Publishing content, including Fanposts and Fanshots
Some of these errors, specifically for logged-in users, may appear intermittently until we complete the necessary infrastructure work, but performance should be greatly improved from Tuesday evening and Wednesday.
We have all hands on deck to complete this work and will be performing maintenance after hours this weekend to restore full service to the network. Of course, we would like to do this work sooner, but we need to be extra careful and thorough in making these changes, so as to not risk new problems.
Again, we completely understand the frustration our users have felt over the past few days and will continue to do everything in our power to restore full service to the network and ease your frustration. We greatly appreciate your patience and understanding as we've worked through these issues and bring long term stability to the network. Thank you for your dedication to and support of SB Nation and Vox Media.
OK... now to the main course! It's been a revelatory week at the Giro d'Italia, or at least last week was. This week has mostly been about licking various wounds from last week and embedding the ongoing storylines a little deeper. Consequently, we know a good deal more about who's positioned to put the smack down over the weekend. Tomorrow is the annual OMIGOD It's Fausto's House! stage, but from there it's all business, so having a team intact is as crucial as ever. Your top five..
Completely intact? Check. Overall leader looking unperturbed at all times? Check. No major problems of any kind whatsoever? Check. OK, Agnolli and Aru both had their low moments, and Kangert's ability in the high mountains will be severely tested. But for the most part Astana have taken the front when they felt like it, and Nibali doesn't need everyone to be super awesome at all times.
OK, compared to expectations, it's been a dreary couple of weeks. Who knew that Brits could be undone by rain? I blame the excessive comforts of the team bus. Still, Sky have a great deal going for them, and if you subtract the top line from each team, they're probably stronger than Astana. [But you don't subtract the top line. That would be the guy they want to win, which is sort of the point.]
With Wiggins sinking fast, Uran inherits the team leadership, with Henao waiting in the wings. Uran has been plenty strong enough to justify his place (for now), and he has at his disposal not only his countryman (lying 11th) but useful Dario Cataldo and superdomestique Kanstantin Siutsou, who has wounded many a rival with his wicked uphill pacemaking. And who knows,
if Wiggins ever conquers his sniffles, he could be quite a help too.
Raise your hand if you saw this coming.
Liar. Nobody saw this coming. Nobody. Of course, by this I mean the remarkable challenge of Cadel Evans to Vincenzo Nibali's supremacy, whom he trails by a mere 41 seconds. And we all know that when Cadel is that close in a grand tour, he never loses.
OK, but it's been a stellar effort for the Aussie veteran, and there's no reason he can't will himself over the familiar terrain of the Alps in excellent shape this weekend. He has Santaromita and Albasini for uphill company most of the time, and Daniel Oss is totally awesome, for reasons that have nothing to do with the GC, but merit a mention anyway.
Mickey Scarponi is part of the chasing mini-peloton, unable to touch Evans and Nibali at the moment but still very much in contention. He's also got a nice group of homeboys in Stortoni, Jose Serpa and of course Przemyslaw Niemiec, who at 33 is on pace for his best grand tour performance ever. Lying seventh, and having handled the crono with aplomb, Niemiec moves into the dual-threat role for Lampre, provided anyone can believe that an Italian team with an Italian captain is willing to unleash a Polish guy on the Giro d'Italia.
Obviously there are a half-dozen teams doing something interesting, or with at least one GC story to tell, like Blanco, Movistar, Vini Fantini, etc. But AG2R have that little something extra. I'm talking, of course, of a Colombian climbing ace, this time Carlos Betancur. Oh, and Domenico Pozzovivo hasn't DNF'd, which means he's a lock for a top... oh, seven place. Hubert Dupont hangs around just long enough to remind us that we are watching a French team do well at the Giro d'Italia. Really, it's remarkable enough that they've made blue and brown look good together. This is almost too much.