You've probably noticed the tendency in this space to tinker with certain article formats until they get overused. I'm digging the accountability moment pieces at present. Now, I didn't preview the favorites (Gavia can call herself out on the carpet if she wants), and my piece on the longshot guys contained more knavery than bravery (rim shot!), so I'll drag out my teams preview. This has been shortened by several underwhelming French, Spanish and Continental teams, and CSC, High Road, and Slipstream are also left out, for lack of anything interesting to add. Here is what I said about the teams that made the race:
Danilo DiLuca is a proud guy, and undoubtedly chose this LPR team on a condition that it be constructed around his ambitions to defend his Giro title. I don't know a lot of the names, but Pietropolli and Bosisio are very competent all-rounders. Pietropolli and Savoldelli can help LPR survive the TTT with DiLuca's standing intact (remember, Liquigas launched his bid with a TTT win last year). Spezialetti was one of Il Killer's lieutenants last year. If all that fails, or even if it doesn't, look for one (last?) ripping Savoldelli descent off the Mortirolo in stage 20.
Well, that last sentence didn't pan out, but LPR provided the race's coolest moment with its brilliant tactics on the Presolana. They certainly did their best to defend DiLuca's title. Not their fault that the guy isn't really a climber. Self-Rating: Bravo.
As well known as they come. In fact, not only do we know that they're a GC team, we know exactly how they plan to win it: by forming a train in front of their GC guy(s) on the mountain stages and driving up the pace on all the climbs before the finale. Bruyneel has little history of chasing stage wins or lesser jerseys if it in any way detracts from the pursuit of the yellow -- er, maglia rosa. The only question is whether Contador is ready to launch a winning bid, or if the leadership could fall to Klöden. And one other question: how will they handle the pressure of an early lead? The old Postal train didn't have to worry much during the flat transitional stages in France, but the undulating, unpredictable first two weeks could be a nightmare for Bruyneel here.
Well, the part about Contador was the issue hanging over the entire race. But that was about as obvious as death and taxes, and the rest of the Astana/Postal formula didn't really pan out: they won by not chunking the time trials and keeping Contador in shouting distance on the climbs he didn't ace. And they couldn't have cared less about controlling the race before the final week. Self-Rating: mezza-mezza (so-so).
Caisse d'Epargne: Contenders
Can José Rujano stay in contact during the TTT? Can they drag him up to the front of what will seem like a thousand classics-style bumpy stages with little uphill finishes and little time gaps here and there before the mountains? This is a great team: Arroyo, Karpets, J-Rod, Frankie Pérez, Pablo Lastras, Horrach -- probably my favorite team here -- and if Rujano can't ride the first two weeks efficiently enough to take advantage of his climbing, Unzue can turn to the best-placed of his half-dozen studs for results. Rodriguez especially looks like an ideal rider for some of the smaller end-of-stage climbs in the first two weeks. I hope they come out aggressively, this is going to be such a cool team to watch.
A better preview would have said "and if Rujano can't ride the first two weeks efficiently enough to take advantage of his climbing, then the team will quit and Rodriguez will go to work for Contador." Hey, is it my fault they had an Ullrichian run of luck here? Actually, yes. Self-Rating: Mi dispiace! (sorry)
Probably the best of the Italian non-PT teams aside perhaps from Simoni's outfit (yep, I didn't forget LPR). Sella has a shot at a podium place. Baliani is a cagey all-rounder who might be after the mountains jersey he just missed last year... if teammate Julio Pérez Cuapio doesn't nab it. These guys should be able to help Sella if he makes it to the Dolomites in position. Max Richeze is a top stage-hunter. But a complete meltdown in the TTT can't be ruled out.
First sentence was dead on, and one of the better calls I made all month. After that... well, the details were a bit murky. Sella didn't ride for the overall; he chunked the time trials and went stage hunting -- and for all my SELLLAAAAA moments, the fact is I don't make him the rider of the race. Stage wins count more when everyone is chasing you. Nevertheless, he was excellent, and Pozzovivo (left out here) was probably the revelation of the race. Self-Rating: Bravo.
Maybe I should switch to a numerical scale or something... Leakygas are also a step below Astana, but definitely one above Rabo. Pellizotti has a little more background at the Giro than, say, Menchov, not to mention crystal-clear ambitions. With help from Noè and Nibali and Carlström, they'll be heard from in the final week for sure. But I'd bet more on a podium and a Ciclamena (points) jersey than the Maglia rosa.
Whoa. For the record, I do not possess the Gift of Sight [see "Caisse d'Epargne"]. All that's missing is a reference to Jennifer Grey. Self-Rating: Grande! Bravissimo!
Saunier Duval: Contenders
Nobody likes Riccardo Riccò these days, it seems, but until he blows up he's a top-shelf threat to win. This is a veteran GC team: Cañada, Camaño, Pagliarini and climber/stage-hunter deluxe Leo Piepoli. But after being completely invisible this year, you have to wonder whether this is any sort of a cohesive unit?
Once again, I do not possess any supernatural powers. Really, if I did, you think I'd waste them on a team preview instead of the VDS? I mean, instead of investing DS Little Bear's college fund? Self-Rating: Grande! Bravissimo!
It's all about Gibo Simoni here. He's built himself quite a Swiss Guard of B-list climbers: Bertolini, Illiano, etc., while also adding some stage hunters in Hondo and Nardello. Nobody's plan is clearer: keep the old man safe and sound for two weeks, then see what happens.
This was a lay-up. We all knew they had a singular plan, given the more gregario-us nature of Simoni's support, as compared to, say, Pellizotti's. And we all knew the Old Man would be hanging around for the climbs. Self-Rating: Eh, bravo.
A very curious team... Soler says he's a stage hunter, but nobody in their right mind should believe him, lest he bag a stage and a five-minute gap in the process. I've mentioned Pfannberger as someone to watch, and Geraint Thomas is another stage contender. Pretty solid squad all the way around. Barloworld just re-upped their sponsorship for another year, and the team might/should be well motivated to pay them back.
Thud. So much for payback. OK, I get that Soler wasn't here to win, particularly once the crashes started, so perhaps the rest of the team's performance follows the same script. It's all about July. I don't give them a low grade so much as an incomplete. Hopefully their workouts in Italy will get them where they need to go. Self-Rating: Mi dispiace.
Quick Step: Stage Hunters
Bettini is il Capitano if he's fit enough to warrant any support. Alex Efimkin will follow the climbers around. Gárate might bag a stage earlier. But the guy the fans will be watching is wunder-ragazzo Giovanni Visconti. It's hard to be anonymous in the tricolore national champion's kit. There are a few stages he could bag.
I'll resist temptation to do a victory lap here; it's not that shocking that the team of Bettini and the tricolore would make an impression on the home fans. Visconti's turn in the maglia rosa was a surprise to all, but more the result of one escape, some decent defense, and a course where nobody else had even the slightest incentive to take over the race before the Dolomites. Self-Rating: Mezza-mezza.
Bruseghin, Bossoni, Spilak... surely someone will rescue their GC ambitions here? I'm pretty suspect of their chances for the overall, but you can bet someone on their roster will be hanging around.