This is the negative side of a potential point-counterpoint. If anyone wants to write the counterpoint, please do. Basically, today's stage felt like a letdown to me. After an incredible, nailbiting Giro, nothing really happened, and the competition is basically over. I'm not throwing the baby out with the bathwater, it's still been a magical three weeks. Just not the conclusion I'd hoped for. A few reasons...
Was it too hard?
Today's stage had all the majesty of an historic ride, to say nothing of the tight competition hanging in the balance. But then... nothing much really happened. But for some late attacks by non-threatening stage-hunters Sella, Simoni and Rodriguez, it was Gruppo Compatto among the major contenders besides DiLuca, who simply isn't cut out for winning on the Mortirolo. Understand, I'm not faulting people for lack of effort. Menchov tried, Ricco prodded, Simoni poked, Sella -- ever the animator -- sent out feelers. But in the end, the drama of the day before was not to be repeated. It doesn't make a ton of sense that Contador was simply better and couldn't be cracked, not after falling back on a lesser stage only 24 hours earlier. It makes a little more sense that Contador was good enough, and the Mortirolo was too hard for the challengers to get out of the saddle and fly away.
Triumph of the System
It's no big secret that I'm not an Astana fan. I don't harbor any ill will or suspicions; I just think their style isn't much fun. The Bruyneel system is based around winning the time trials and enabling riders to cover the competition in the hills. Don't get me wrong: I don't begrudge them their tactics, which have a marvelous track record. And when it was Lance, and I was rooting for Lance, I really didn't begrudge them their tactics. But while Postal gave us so many exciting days, fact is that Lance's last two Tour de France wins were dull as dishwater. And while they still commanded the audience's respect, I can understand why they weren't greeted with much excitement in Europe.
Contador has won this Giro without ever doing anything exciting. For all the tremendous excitement we've seen in the last three weeks, none of it was initiated by the guy who's taking home the biggest prize. Lord knows he has it in him; Contador was responsible for something like 80% of the excitement in last year's dramatic Tour, a true swashbuckler in the saddle. We know what a joy he can be to watch... when he's not in the lead. Did we see any of that in the Giro? He's excused, they pulled him off the beach and all he did was his best -- enough to win. I'm just saying, it wasn't that exciting.
Rinse... Lather... Repeat
My last concern, or disappointment, or whatever, is again with Contador. He's all you could want in a rider: gifted, dedicated, well-rounded, a class act, and with the character to overcome extreme difficulty. I like him, and more to the point I respect him. I'm just a little concerned that we might spend the next decade analyzing yet another Contador win, and I'd like to put that off a bit longer.
Contador beat the best of this year's Giro with no preparation and a broken elbow. He won last year's Tour against another set of contenders who were in top shape and their primes. He won the Tour on a chronoman's course, and won the Giro on an extreme climber's route. Unless there's an even stronger kid in the pipeline right now, or unless Basso comes back cleaner and as strong as ever, then Contador is probably going to be mopping the floor with the competition until he gets bored or 2018, whichever comes first.
It's the fault of the Italian riders, and maybe the national program, that they haven't bred any great climbers who can ace a time trial too. It's not Contador's fault that he has developed all his potential while others have not. His win in the Giro, barring something unexpected, is just and proper, another feather in the cap of a potential legend. It just wasn't as exciting as I'd hoped.