Language is an important subject on the pages of the Podium Cafe, where people deploy cutting edge technology to demonstrate the pronunciation variances between, say, Flemish, Dutch and Frisian. Back in meatspace, however, sometimes a simple unspoken word can say it all. Particularly in Italy, where cutting edge technology is unheard of outside of the worlds of fast cars, nimble derailleurs, high fashion, and espresso. These are a people who deploy unspoken gestures of the face (and other body parts) with the best of them. Not that this stops them from speaking too, but hey.
Anyway, to demonstrate my point, I will now review the progress of each team still taking part in the Giro d'Italia. I will not insult you by reviewing the GC, or any other individual competition. Alberto Contador has rendered virtually every subject moot with his performance, save for the young rider, though even there AS.com has projected a holograph of 24-year-old Bert against the Giro and he has 7.30 on actual maglia bianca Roman Kreuziger. So yeah... teams. Each team will be given two facce ratings. Because teams are dynamic, and one face doesn't necessarily capture the full, shared Giro experience. Hopefully the faces themselves -- a surprised face, a tranquillo grin, and the unmistakeable visage of disconcert -- will tell you the whole story. In alphabetical order:
Acqua e Sapone
The team of Stefano Garzelli, dedicated to finding something for Garzelli to do.
On the one hand... Garzelli actually leads a competition, the KOM, by nine points over Contador. He also pocketed the Cima Coppi, which was rumored to be worth cash money, but in any case is usually a good indicator of green jersey success. Garzelli has just a few more climbs to get over to hang on, and with Contador not contesting the intermediates the old guy with a squirrel on his head has a chance.
On the other... Contador will have no reason not to win the last two stages, so unless Garz can win tomorrow, his points lead might not last. There aren't ample mid-race KOM points left. Also, Garzelli hates coming home without a headline, and for that he needs a stage.
Still with me? Settle in...
French teams usually aim low in Italy, not just because it's such a lovely place for a vacation but, well, there's that thing in July to save yourselves for.
On the one hand... France hasn't even had a top ten finisher in the Giro since Sandy Casar accidentally finished sixth in 2006. So if John Gadret hangs on for fourth, or (gasp!) jumps up onto the podium, he may have his passport revoked... which doesn't really work anymore in Europe. Good thing too, because Le Tour kicks off in Liege. Anyway, AG2R might have been happy with a stage win or two, so having one of those plus Gadret and Dupont storming every climb has to feel as awesome as it's looked.
On the other... Gadret is one of the worst time triallers in pro cycling, and while Nevegal papered over his issues, the final stage in Milan won't.
A true home team, organized around the goal of scoring pride points wherever possible. Stages yum, mountain stages Yum!
On the one hand... Jose Rujano has been the savior for Androni, going toe-to-toe with Contador on the first two mountain stages and recovering nicely today too. Also, his stage win on the Grossglockner climb saved the team from having to point to Angel Vicioso's stage win as its big success, earned as it was on a tragic day.
On the other... No big days (e.g., stages) for Ferrari or Sella. The latter, I think we can live with.
Their one big GC guy is home brushing up for the Tour. Their other big names are in California. Maaaa, ioooo...
On the one hand... BMC remain locked in a six-way tie for the Premio Fair Play competition! One of six teams not to run afoul of any rules, so far.
On the other... Matti Frank has the team's only combativity points. All three of them. When all else fails, shouldn't you at least be combative? Well, or polite, I guess.
Domestic-ish team (registered in Ireland, but come on) with a pretty solid profile for a climby Giro. Domenico Pozzovivo had given his approval of the course, while a nice contingent of sprinters and helpers gave them a chance.
On the one hand... Er... Manuel Belletti was third in the initial sprint stage. And they're among the most polite.
On the other... Pozzovivo lasted about as long as he did in the 2010 Giro, climbing off the bike on the queen stage to Val di Fassa. Maybe they should frame their results as "not bad for an Irish team."
Basque mountain squad... where would cycling be without them? Also, do they speak Basque during stages? I wonder about this. I mean, you wouldn't even need race radios. Nieve could shout "I will attack at the 15km banner" in Basque and apart from Anton nodding to him, nobody within 300 miles would have any idea what he said. Except for about 600 fans on top of the next peak.
On the one hand... They didn't merely check the "stage win" box; they did so on the two most fearsome stages of the Giro so far, and in the process put Igor Anton and Mikel Nieve into the overall conversation. Assuming they want to be included.
On the other... Aren't they supposed to be in training? This is lovely but it's a distant third in the team's grand tour priorities. Maybe they simply can't help themselves when the road goes up.
Good old Vinny from Farnese, never missing a chance to do... something at the Giro. Unlike their Irish cousins (Vinny is British, according to the UCI), Vinny & co aren't hemmed in by rosa dreams. It's stages and points.
On the one hand... Stage in box checked, way back in Tropea, when Oscar Gatto won that lovely twisting stage in Calabria. And, to defend their honor, they've got plenty of guys in on the combativity action. Your eyes don't lie -- they like getting guys in the early breaks.
On the other... Team leader Giovanni Visconti missed out in Castelfidardo and his stage win prospects are running out (though not exhausted). Andrea Noe had the distinction of being the oldest rider in the Giro in a while, but retired on the Zoncolan stage. And they're dead last, by a large margin, in the team classification. How do you spin that one, exactly?
We are Geox. Nobody likes us. We don't care.
On the one hand... Marcel Wyss is having a decent run. Also, I suppose there's a chance Menchov catches fire in the final week, it's more to his liking.
On the other... This team was supposed to come here and show us what they're made of. No July ambitions, a nice climbing squad, plenty of motivation. But maybe after all they've been through that morale was more fragile than it appeared...
At some point the "Manx Express" handle should maybe be ascribed to the whole team. Cavendish may be the driver, but nobody on die mannschaft ever seems to get left behind.
On the one hand... Cav got double quarry and they slew the Garmin hordes in the TTT. House money from there. So Sivtsov's game performance is gravy.
On the other... Another reminder that they are one of the best non-GC teams in cycling history.
Climbers... stage guys... who says you can't have it all?
On the one hand... Sixth in the team competition! Also, you will be heartened to learn that Joaquim Rodriguez is still in the Giro.
On the other... Man, does Di Luca look average. I'm sure it's just the long layoff...
Miki Scarponi's first real top-flight team in a while. Nice to see Lampre back in the maglia rosa game. I hear they have a sprinter now too, some young Tuscan kid.
On the one hand... Personally I don't rate Scarponi that highly as a climber, and watching him in action does nothing to change my mind. So his second overall placing is not without a fair helping of blood-and-guts. Petacchi has rarely been better in recent years: his third in Tropea, behind Gatto and Contador 5" ahead, was pretty awesome for a guy who supposedly can't climb. No surprise they lead the Super Team (points) gizmo.
On the other... How hard is it thse days for an Italian team with an Italian leader lying second to get the Spanish maglia rosa on a Danish team kicked out of the Giro on a technicality? This goes against everything I've ever read about cycling history. In fairness, Riis was never going to fall for the ice water treatment again.
De Gaas, a team for all seasons. The Contador matter, however, has plunged more than just Saxo Bank into uncertainty. In fact, compared to Liquigas, Saxo's job is easy -- keep racing until they tell you to stop. For Liquigas, Contador's presence at the Giro has complicated one of their two main goals of the season. The other is the Tour, and if Bert isn't in Liege, then they'll happily accept the Giro as the price for a shot at yellow. But what if Contador is still racing then too?
On the one hand... Maaaa... what are you supposed to do? Vincenzo Nibali has done everything he can, and in the process he risked second place -- thankfully, to another rider (Scarponi) who has taken plenty of risks. Anyway, no big complaints. Third in the TTT was respectable enough. Clean sheet in the manners department.
On the other... No stage wins. And Scarponi seems well determined enough to repel the Shark.
No snark here. I am surprised they can continue on after losing Tondo.
On the one hand... Some early success helps this modestly-designed team feel good. Seems like forever ago when Francisco Ventoso won the climby sprint to Fiuggi. He also took second to Cav on the post-Etna stage.
On the other... David Arroyo can't quite crack the top ten, a year after threatening to win one. No gifts, I guess.
Why do Belgian teams even come to the Giro? Usually just "to get to the other side," but they've made more of an adventure out of it than usual.
On the one hand... Bart De Clercq won gloriously on Montevergine, while Jan Bakelandts leads the TV competition and sits third for the maglia bianca.
On the other... Who cares?
New look for the baby blues. No more Contador pacifier to pop in the mouth whenever the pressure rises.
On the one hand... Their palmares aren't looking too shabby. Kreuziger does still lead teh maglia bianca, adn they've got a healthy lead in the team comp.
On the other... Kreuziger is on Astana because he didn't like sharing the stage with Nibali. Expectations are weighty, it seems.
Best cobblestone team in cycling. Not enough cobblestones in Italy. This can't be Quick Step's fault, right?
On the one hand... Well liked by the race jury, it seems. Also, Seeldraeyers has been respectable at times. At least, he's tried.
On the other... It'd be wrong to call this a failure. Quick Step have accomplished about what they set out to. I think they warrant a new visual.
If they came here loaded for action, they didn't exactly tip their hand about it.
On the one hand... Steven Kruijswijk, all of 23 years, is giving Kreuziger quite the run for his money in the maglia bianca, and may still catch him yet, though 2.51 is a lot and the chances of Kreuziger cracking again are diminishing. Pieter Weening's stage win and run in pink were another fantastic surprise.
On the other... Tom Jelte Slagter had a nasty crash with a soigneur in a feed zone, so it hasn't been all roses in Italy. Graeme Brown missed the early sprints before missing the first serious time cut (Etna). So much for the sprinter gig.
Everyone loves a dominant winner. Especially when he's here because his home federation cut him slack on the, um, rules.
On the one hand... Saxo Bank have charmingly embraced the bad-guy role. No, they couldn't get Michael Ball to redesign their kits in time, but check this out. In spots 1-21 on the Premio Fair Play, the scores range from 0 (happy face) to 170 (Omega). In last place is Saxo, at 1143. How do you get docked points in the fair play comp at a rate 10 times greater than the rest of the competition? Respect.
On the other... Contador has taken 99.9% of the fun out of this race.
On the one hand... No, seriously, who? Hm... the best I can say is that HTC haven't reached an agreement with Cavendish for next year yet.
On the other... Peter Kennaugh isn't ready for prime time yet. On the plus side, he's of legal drinking age now. Barely.
Stage win karma still proving elusive at times for the Gar-Velistas. But they've made things interesting, for sure.
On the one hand... Christophe Le Mevel and Peter Stetina have proven their worthiness in their respective roles, something that will come in handy for the GC team before too long. David Millar joined a short list of guys to wear all three grand tour leader kits. And Matt Wilson has a narrow 24 minute lead in the maglia nera comp. Jos van Emden may yet give Wilson a scare, and he'll have to be careful with time cutoffs next weekend, for sure. But so far, so good.
On the other... Le Mevel flirted openly with grabbing the pink, only to see Contador start his march to the sea ahead of schedule.
They must be up to something, I keep seeing their names in the news...
On the one hand... Dominant win in all respects in the other big May race. Also, Yaroslav Popovych has a commanding lead in the Premio della Fuga, for sitting in the most breaks.
On the other... So otherwise anonymous in this Giro that with their black shorts and two-color kit you might think there are some neutral riders sitting in the peloton, handing out energy bars.
It's fair to say that their relationship with the Giro is... complex. Sort of a mutual ad-meh-ration society at this point.
On the one hand... Did I dream it or was Matteo Carrara looking like a GC threat for a moment there? Also, has there been a single better moment in this Giro than when Johnny Hoogerland bridged up to a break, against all odds and wisdom, and then attacked it? That was awesome.
On the other...