I told you nothing interesting would happen today. I even predicted that Mark Cavendish would have a shot at victory today. Possibly the least impressive prediction in the history of the Podium Cafe, if not all of western thought. Speaking of predictions, whoever had "stage 6" as the point where Bradley Wiggins would start needlessly offending the host nation, congratulations. You win a free copy of "Dogshit," the sequel to Wiggins' "My Time" due in stores soon.
So let's turn to the real action: who's got a line on the Maglia Rosso Passione! I think Maglia Rosso Passione! should always have an exclamation point after it, not unlike Jens! Voigt. Not that the red jersey is as exciting as a typical Voigt attack, but it's Italy, and some words and phrases are supposed to get people excited, like Orlando Furioso! and Roma demolishes Lazio! So there you go.
Back in Douglas's maglia rosso passione! preview, he had Cavendish as the favorite somewhat by default, as the balanced nature of the race didn't really give anyone else a clear pathway to glory. Since that time, Cav has made it to the finale in time to win on two occasions, out of a possible three pianeggiante stages. He and Elia Viviani, his closest challenger, are clear of the field with 58 and 52 points, respectively. This should remain the case for at least another 18 hours... no promises after that. The poll:
1. Cadel Evans, BMC
Picking a climber to win the points competition is always tricky, but that's exactly what I'm doing. Evans won the competition in his last semi-interesting Giro appearance, albeit under different circumstances: he was world champion, his team was trying to impress people en route to a Tour de France wild card invite, he was three years younger, etc. Still, while Evans fancies himself a Tour contender this year, the fact that he's at the Giro makes me wonder if he's realistic about those chances. Anyway, the guy is extremely consistent, fights for high places and points when they're there, and my guess is that after a day in the jersey he has it in mind.
2. Mark Cavendish, OPQS
Of the four remaining pianeggiante stages, listed as numbers 12, 13, 17 and 21, there's only one day where we know Cav will not be unhitched from the peloton -- 21, assuming he's still around for it. No way does Cav make the line on time in stage 17, with a steep 5km climb 15km from the finish. Stage 12 is hard enough for a break to be left away, though the climbs are early on. Stage 13 has a couple climbs toward the finish that could cause him difficulty. By my estimation, he needs to get to the line and take a top-two spot in 12, 13 and 21 to be in range of the 150 points it'll take to win this competition. My guess? He falls short.
3. Elia Viviani, Cannondale
Not out of the question for the win, though we shall see how Viviani gets to the line in the coming stages. Unlike Cav, he was there in Matera, though the crash ruined a brilliant chance to propel himself into the jersey. Also, he probably won't beat Cav head to head any time soon. However, Viviani is the best-placed of the sprinters who can get to the line (just being Sagan's teammate gives you wings), and if that becomes the decisive factor, Viviani has a clear chance to win this thing.
4. Luca Paolini, Katusha
Paolini currently sits in third place on 35 points, 25 of which came with his stage win. So he's not really going for red, right? Er, he was 12th on stage 1, meaning he was sticking his neck out for points before he assumed the race lead. That lead will be gone either tomorrow or the next day and he can get back to chasing points, since he'll have nothing else to do. My guess is, he's the guy to watch on the pianeggiante stages that aren't really for the bunch gallopers. He won't win, but there's prize money for coming second or third in this competition.
5. John Degenkolb, Argos-Shimano
Degenkolb's win yesterday was a reminder that when things get strange -- as they so frequently do in the Giro -- the young German can handle it. Today was a reminder that he needs to calm down a bit in the big bunches. If he were sprinting as effectively as Viviani, I'd move him into potential winning position, based on his opportunistic win yesterday. But what the hell was he doing today? Also, has the movie Argo ruined this team's name for anyone else? I have a hard time finishing with "shimano" and not a physically impossible suggestion.