[Title disclaimer: Flight of the Conchords is another subject not to get me started on.]
Verrrry intriguing course, which makes this a great time trial for us tifosi. It's easy to handicap a flat ITT, and even easier to figure out who'll win the Plan de Corones suffer-fest. This one? The two climbs:
- Monte di Colbordolo: 4.6km, 6% average, 10% max
- Ca Angelone: 1.2km, 9% avg, 12% max
Hm, CW says the hills shift the race back in favor of the climbers, at least a little bit. But I'm reluctant to give that thinking too much credence. However hard these climbs are, this is very much a flat-to-rolling course otherwise, where victory is a matter of combining power, rhythm, positioning, and the right mentality. Climbers who can't generally ride a time trial aren't going to suddenly sprout wings over 5.8km of a 40km course. It's just not much of an advantage. It is a potential disadvantage to pure power chronomen like Cancellara or Vlad Gusev, but they ain't here. [ed] Well, Gusev is, but you wouldn't know it.
The Stage Favorites
Andreas Kloden - The total package. Almost never finishes outside the top five. Plenty of climbing ability to get him comfortably up the two hills. Tanned, rested and ready.
Levi Leipheimer - Form is ever a mystery, but he seems OK. We all know what he can do when he's on, though he can have bad days against the watch, for some strange reason. Like Kloden, those climbs won't be even the slightest deterrence.
Denis Menchov - Same basic category: a guy with a long history of winning huge time trials, as well as enough climbing form to reduce those "barriers" to nothing.
Paolo Savoldelli - Won the final ITT last year, adding to his chronoman hardware, which contains a long list of top-5 finishes, particularly in Italy. I wouldn't put him ahead of the others here, but he'll be in the hunt.
Vlad Karpets - a year ago next week he was seen nabbing the overall at the Volta a Catalunya with a second-place ITT result, behind only Menchov by 4", on a course designed for climbers. He showed more class in the much longer, flatter Tour de France ITTs as well. So the pedigree is all there.
Other Possible Contenders
Gustav Larsson - Almost belongs in the first group, but he's consistently just a step behind. A lock for top, oh, 12.
Marco Pinotti - The Italian Championship was his only TT win of note over the last few years, but he's always around the top 10. The course being what it is won't hurt him a lick.
Marzio Bruseghin - First and fifth in the two Giro ITTs last year... though the latter is probably a more relevant comparison than the all-uphill Oropa event. And final ITTs are notoriously uncontested except by the handful of guys who still care at the end of week 3. Solid bet to be high on the results list regardless.
Jens! Voigt - Always up for a bike ride. Good course for him.
Vincenzo Nibali - Second to Pinotti at the Nats, and seventh on the long, rolling final Giro ITT. Definitely the right course for him.
Other GC Contenders
Riccardo Ricco more or less sucks at this discipline, or has so far. If he's learned a new trick, he may limit his losses, but all one can say at this point is that it's lucky he has a couple minutes in hand on most of the big names. Danilo DiLuca, by contrast, has a longer history of toughing it out and limiting his losses, despite not being a chronoman by trade. Evgeni Petrov and Franco Pellizotti are other contenders who could solidify their position. Sella, Simoni, and a handful of others could be in for long days.