So before we lay the stage racing aside and focus on the classics for a month (yes I know technically there are the Catalunya and Pais Vasco sideshows but lets face it, they're secondary entertainment to tide us over between the monuments) here's a quick powerpoll on the top finishers from Tirreno -Adriatico. What can we expect from them and did we learn anything about them this week that we didn't already know?
Well, clearly the takeaway bit of news from Tirreno. This was the multiple GT winner we have come to know. Strong climbing, daring long-range attacks and a decisiveness and self confidence when it was needed. His attack on Passo Lanciano was impressive but what will have scared the opposition was the mentality he showed driving the pace to the final climb on Sunday. Gone was the self-doubting timid Contador and back was the aggressive and determined Contador that wins GTs. Does it mean he will be on level with Froome in July? There's no guarantee and as impressive as he was, Conta wasn't the superman who dominated at will in 2009. But Froome is clearly not having the dream season he had last year when everything (but Tirreno) went his way either. The Contador we saw this week might not be up to beating a Froome at a 100% but right now it feels like we might not see a Froome at 100% in the Tour.
Looking at the last few years the majority of the top 10 finishers don't go on to do the Giro d'Italia but those that do tend to do well. So in that sense the T-A is a decent predictor for Giro-success. So, with second places in the TdF and the Tirreno-Adriatico behind him the path to a Giro win seems well paved. Showing surprisingly strong timetrialing didn't hurt the overall picture either. Nairo is going to have a brutally strong Movistar behind him in May by the looks of it and it's hard to see what doesn't make him the stand-out favorite at this point? He looked to be following Contador with ease for the most part and really only let him get away once, on the way to Passo Lanciano. It might look like a massive miss but not necessarily in the context of a three week race and with a stronger team around him. In the end the weight of Podiumcafe expectations might be his biggest issue.
If you were the Tinkoff manager what on earth would you do with Kreuziger? He's been looking every bit as impressive as Contador up until this week, too good to simply use as a lieutenant in the GTs. On the other hand Astana tried him as a Giro-captain and he crapped out in some way or another. The loony Vuelta clearly doesn't suit him though so that is best left for Roche who can't seem to rev his engine before June anyway. I'm not entirely sure how Kreuziger's schedule looks to be honest. He'll be doing the Ardennes with some serious ambitions but after that I think the Tinkoff management is almost as unsure as I am. He will be the superdomestique in July for sure and question is if they won't leave it at that? The Giro is set for Majka with the support of Roche if I got it right and that leaves the Vuelta or perhaps a serious run at the Dauphiné or Suisse for Kreuziger . But who is going to commit an important rider to those races when it may jeopardize his July-performance? Anyways, I don't think I learned much this week, I just got more confused.
Stay healthy JC, stay healthy. Peraud keeps promising and promising but in the end it always fizzles. I know Ag2r aren't hard up for TdF options this year but Peraud's story of coming late to roadracing after a MTB career is pretty cool. Hopefully he will get another run at the Tour without the unfortunate crashing this time. He is a pretty complete rider in the old,slightly anonymous Ag2r mould. I'm trying to remember if I saw him once this week?
The Giro is suddenly looking like a lot of fun for Trek with wonderboy looking like he could have an exciting May. With Nairo a White jersey contender too that might be a bit tricky but Arredondo certainly looks like he won't embarrass himself in that competition.The kid is a fearsome climber and World Tour competition doesn't seem to phase him so if he can keep the steam up until May things are looking bright. Keep in mind though that the kid has never raced as intensely before as he has this spring. Add a Giro to that and who knows how he holds up.
As part of the hottest team of the spring he should have a fun Giro. I had him down as my favorite to win Tirreno but he clearly wasn't there yet. Surprisingly he wasn't really a player in any of the weeks decisive moves. If he is ever going to get on the podium of the Giro, this has to be his year though. Not quite sure what team Ag2r are bringing at this point but Pozzo looks like the sole leader. For him, having a rider like Quintana in the mix too must be a blessing since anything that can help wrest the race out of the hands of controlling teams like Sky (and in the past Cannondale) must be a bonus.
Kiserlovski is going to be the outright leader for Trek in the Giro but I'm not feeling the love. With every race we se him it feels more and more like he was the optimal mountain domestique but not a very convincing captain. His timetrial is mediocre and if anything, not improving. His climbing is excellent but he never seems to get the same quality results out of it as he did when he had a clearly defined lieutenant role. Coupled with Arredondo he does give Trek an intriguing lineup though.
Clearly Rodriguez will be top dog for Katusha but he and Moreno make for a nasty double-punch. His climbing wasn't quite up to snuff yet this weekend, not quite sure what happened to him on Lanciano and the results were a bit disappointing but count on him come May. After 2013 no one can really afford to underestimate Moreno either should Katusha use him as an attacker/decoy. He could end up causing Movistar and Sky a lot of misery in the end.
Donning the glorious pajama of Astana again, ready to party like it was 2006, is the man of a thousand silly faces. Still competitive, still a threat in the mountains, but it's hard to see what he will actually do for himself this year. He's there in the attacks trying like he always does but you get the feeling he doesn't worry the competition like he used to. Clearly it will be his job to be there for Nibali and in the Giro he will have Fabio Aru as a co-captain. Aru feels both more exciting and more likely to surprise and given the fact that Miki has to ride with one eye on staying fresh for July I don't see how he becomes a factor.
You gotta love it. Exiting climbing talent assimilated by the borg to serve the collective. Oh, the joy he will bring us as he taps out the tempo on the lower slopes of some of our favorite Tour de France mountains. Good times.
Leftovers and duds
Richie Porte - Looked on track until he wasn't anymore. No new info, he still looks a legit Giro contender but can he keep it together for three weeks and can he withstand the pressure from Quintana?
Cadel Evans - WTH happened there? As solid as he looked Down Under as worrying was his performance here. Is his heart 100% in the Giro? Is he trying to rule himself out of it? Maybe he will be fit in time for the TdF?
Chris Horner - He broke. Who saw that coming?
Robert Gesink - He broke. Who saw that coming?