I have written a record-few Power Polls in 2013 so far (my previous record low being 32, set in 2007), so it's time to get back to work, no? After going thru each of the teams' lineups and objectives last week, here's a brief ranking of the teams expected to contend for the overall. And by brief, I mean it.
Not on the basis of the first three stages, but Astana just look like a team that, in another year, would look like the team in charge. The team that would threaten to make the Giro less than interesting. Did they light up the road today? No, that was Garmin. But with Agnoli and Tiralongo to complement the young guns, all in very clear service of Nibali, this looks like the most coherent team.
2. Team Sky
Much ink gets spilled about the heartless killers staffing Team Sky these days, a veritable pletwals of a squad designed around a single leader (or two) who methodically devour the entire race. And in the 2012 Tour de France, that was very true. But there's something far more interesting going on here. Sky, unlike Astana, are not designed for Italy per se. Not to say they can't win here, but the tight, twisting roads of places like Marina di Ascea are not the wide pathways of the French Alps, or any other part of the Tour. Also, it's probably worth mentioning that Sky have Uran and Henao as their beaters this time, not the on-form Porte or the restless show pony in Chris Froome. They're good, they've been to the Giro before, but whether they can execute the Clampdown remains to be seen.
The TTT was a disappointing day and it's tempting to bust Garmin down a few more places here, but it's kind of a silly exercise (the TTT, not this poll). What can you learn about a short, hard paceline exercise over some tough climbs? Not much. Some guys had a good day with their positioning and others didn't. Garmin sported new wheels, but that didn't seem to matter. There's an article floating around somewhere containing a study about Mavic tires sapping 10 extra watts, in the name of reduced drag. If you must go pointing fingers... my point is, it's a waste of time and not terribly indicative of the team's quality. So Vini Fantini kept it tighter. Good for them.
What's a bit more meaningful is that Tom Danielson stayed with the front group and Peter Stetina the second one, giving Ryder Hesjedal two guys he can probably count on throughout. Christian VandeVelde was much farther back and might just be here to get in his miles, and the rest of the team is more useful in the lower slopes, but that's some experienced support.
Ugly descent today, and Blanco's status in this poll hinges on that not being a daily occurrence. But with three cards to play, even the descendants of Rabobank can't screw this up, right? Amiright?
5. Vini Fantini
I told you they'd be everywhere. Santambrogio won't convince me he can finish a massively hard three weeks until he does, but Taborre made a nice impression today, and Rabottini dropped eight minutes, a prerequisite to his inevitable solo stage attack.