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Giro Second Rest Day Roundup

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Finally, a chance for the riders to relax, and for us to take stock.

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Stage 9 is in the books, and it is a well-earned rest day for the Giro d’Italia field. We at the café don’t deserve a break, so we’ll use this time to check in on the overall state of the race before the live action returns on Tuesday. When I say well-earned, what do I mean?

  • Racing nine stages in two countries, with two sea-crossing transfers thrown into the mix;
  • Three sprint stages;
  • Three mountain finishes;
  • Two hilly finishes;
  • One short individual time trial; and
  • By my count, 1,517km of riding. I haven’t calculated the cumulative climbing, but it is, in metric, a shit tonne. Which means it is 0.98 British shit tons and 1.10 American shit tons. I’m embarrassed that I worked that out.

That’s a fairly well balanced race, so far, and the standings reflect that. As a reminder:

Overall:

  1. (S) Yates (Mitchelton-Scott)
  2. Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott) +0.32
  3. Dumoulin (Sunweb) +0.38
  4. Pinot (Groupama - FDJ) +0.45
  5. Pozzovivo (Bahrain) +0.57
  6. Carapaz (Movistar) +1.20
  7. Bennett (LottoNL - Jumbo) +1.33
  8. Dennis (BMC) +2.05
  9. Bilbao (Astana) +2.05
  10. Woods (Canondale) +2.25

Youth:

  1. Carapaz (Movistar)
  2. Lopez (Astana) +1.14
  3. O’Connor (Dimension Data) +1.16

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Points:

  1. Viviani (QuickStep) 178
  2. Bennett (Bora) 100
  3. Modolo (Canondale) 73

Mountains:

  1. (S) Yates 55
  2. Chaves 47
  3. Pinot 36

As they say in quiz shows, there’s still everything to play for. With that in mind, it is time for me to offer up a quick team-by-team assessment of performance to date. Then you guys can weigh in with all the stuff I’ve missed, particularly as someone who hasn’t watched as much as I’d hoped.

Team – Mitchelton-Scott

Performance to date: 11/10

Optimism for stages 10 – 21: High

Summary: Everything has gone absolutely as well as it could have been expected to, with riders sitting one-two in the overall and mountains competition, and two stage wins. Simon Yates has looked the most confident climber in the race, and he’s been assisted by a back-to-form Chaves, which is great to see, and a strong cast including Haig (I told you he was good), Nieve and Kreuziger. They’ll take some comfort from Yates “only” shipping twenty seconds to Doom in the opening TT, but it is no secret that they’ll need to gap him at some point in the mountains to make up for the longer TT on Tuesday week.

Yates wins at Gran Sasso

Team – Astana

Performance to date: 6/10

Optimism for stages 10 – 21: Medium-high

Summary: The bad news – Lopez shipped more time than was expected in the time trial, and then took a relaxed approach to placement in the peloton and to the importance of cornering in the early stages, giving him a two minute deficit before Etna. He’s climbed well enough but not at his brilliant best and hasn’t clawed much of that time back.

The good news is he’s got a strong team riding well for him and is climbing with the big groups. He’s been attacking but nothing has yet stuck. Still, it only takes a marginal improvement in his form and he’ll be able to ride away from the competitors. Whether that happens will determine whether we’re looking at a top ten or a top five. He’ll want to win the young rider’s jersey, too. Bilbao’s unexpected top ten position (so far) is a bonus.

Team – Team Sky

Performance to date: 6/10

Optimism for stages 10 – 21: Medium

Summary: I have a horrible feeling that this is going to be the first ranking that anyone looks at or comments on, and it is the one I found hardest to write. Froome is seven seconds ahead of Lopez on GC (he’s 11th overall) and is a much better time-triallist. So why am I more negative about his outlook? Well, it’s the climbing. He just doesn’t look explosive enough to cope with the coming steeper gradients. He never looks elegant, but this race just seems a little off. The team is strong on paper but Poels is still not fully fit, and Henao and Ellisonde are doing an awful lot of heavy lifting.

For all that, this is Chris Froome. He’s going to put in a strong time trial and he’s proved before that he can come into a race underdone and improve, and he can use today to ease the healing from his stage one recon crash. If he can be climbing well enough by Saturday to stay with the bigs, the climb to Gran Sasso will soon look like an early aberration. Poels is likely to improve as the race progresses, too.

Team – Movistar

Performance to date: 9/10

Optimism for stages 10 – 21: Medium-high

Summary: I said before the race began that I couldn’t understand why none of their big three were here, but that Carapaz would be the likeliest beneficiary. I still don’t understand, but goodness me, the young Venezuelan Ecuadorian has delivered in spades. In taking a stage and wearing white, he’s already exceeded expectations, but he finished fifth behind Yates in a stage nine finish that tested all the climbers. The next test will be whether he can keep this up for three weeks, but even if he doesn’t, this has been a huge win for the team.

Team – UAE

Performance to date: 5/10

Optimism for stages 10 – 21: Low

Summary: Fabio Aru. The boss said he’d win the overall, a prediction that I suspect he’d alter now. Hasn’t looked himself on any mountain stage yet and is two and a half minutes back with limited team support and fading hopes. He’s a superb climber and he won’t drop far in the classification, but it is hard to find a stage where you can see him moving back up the list of contenders. Seriously disappointing.

Team – Sunweb

Performance to date: 8/10

Optimism for stages 10 – 21: Medium-high

Summary: Dumoulin hasn’t raced much pre-Giro but calmed any nerves for his many fans with a win in the opening time trial. Since then, he’s been climbing anonymously and not looking brilliant, but he doesn’t need to. Just thirty-eight seconds back on Yates, and he’s got a long time trial coming up. His sole aim will be to limit losses in the mountains and dominate stage 16 a week on Tuesday. Oomen has been the pick of a supporting cast that has been okay, but not superb.

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Team – Groupama-FDJ

Performance to date: 9/10

Optimism for stages 10 – 21: Medium-high

Summary: Like Lopez, Pinot has been climbing well and making attacks that haven’t quite stuck, but might. Unlike Lopez, Pinot is a very fair time trialler and hasn’t lost any “silly” time in the hilly and windy stages, meaning he’s sitting just 45 seconds back on Yates. Another podium is definitely in play and it isn’t impossible that he’ll emerge as the winner. He’s getting decent support, with Reichenbach in particular looking like his form is improving.

Team – Dimension Data

Performance to date: 8/10

Optimism for stages 10 – 21: Medium-high

Summary: Seven virtual DSs were savvy or lucky enough to pick up Ben o’Connor. If any of them saw this season coming, I’d be astonished. After a fantastic Tour of the Alps, he’s outclimbed Louis Meintjes so far and sits 14th overall. Like Carapaz, we won’t know if he can ride this well for three weeks until he tries it, but it looks like his team have found a gem. He won’t turn 23 until the offseason. Meintjes isn’t too far back either, and between the pair of them hopes of a top ten and a stage win remain reasonable.

Team – AG2R

Performance to date: 6/10

Optimism for stages 10 – 21: Medium

Summary: How can I put this? They don’t… care. That’s the thing. This is a team that’s been going all-in to support Naesen on the cobbles, and then taken a serious crack at the Ardennes. They’re now drawing breath before going after the Tour in a big way. This isn’t their strongest team and they’re doing okay, if anonymously. Meh marks for a meh performance, when nothing more could be expected. Geniez tops their GC list, in 20th.

Team – Bora

Performance to date: 8/10

Optimism for stages 10 – 21: Medium-high

Summary: Sam Bennett won a stage ahead of Elia Viviani, and sits second in the points race, with a few more sprints to contest. That’s as good a return as they could have hoped for. Meanwhile, both Konrad and Formolo are climbing well. The latter lost time thanks to a difficult day on Mount Etna, but looked to be the superior climber this weekend. Either could pick up a top ten for a squad that continues to show strength in depth and to be competitive in every race they turn up for. With Majka and Sagan in California, anything that happens in Europe is a bonus, and it is happening.

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Team – Bahrain

Performance to date: 9/10

Optimism for stages 10 – 21: Medium

Summary: Domenico Pozzovivo finished tenth in the opening time trial, and that isn’t a typo. He’s climbing well, too, which is less of a surprise. He’ll need to stay consistent and to avoid meeting his Waterloo in the longer time trial, but he’s got an excellent chance of adding to his six previous GT top tens, and possibly picking up a first podium. I think he’ll manage the first but not the second. Support has been good, and as well as looking after Pozzovivo there are some stages coming up that might suit Mohoric or Bonifazio for stage-nabbing purposes.

Team – Canondale

Performance to date: 8/10

Optimism for stages 10 – 21: Medium

Summary: I’m not sure I fully understand why Michael Woods is hunting for stages rather than looking for a GC placing, but he almost achieved his goal in stage four, finishing second. Meanwhile, he’s holding a top ten place on GC and can reinforce that with some good climbing next weekend. Hugh Carthy looked decent in the break on stage nine having been rank bad before that, and Sasha Modolo has failed to shine in the sprints so far.

Team – LottoNL - Jumbo

Performance to date: 9/10

Optimism for stages 10 – 21: Medium

Summary: A stage win and a second for Battaglin is a good return from week one. There are more stages that will suit him, too and he can be thrilled with his work. George Bennett hasn’t set the heather alight (as they say around my way) but is a solid seventh in GC and will be looking to maintain that. Lots to like from a team of which not too much was expected.

Team – Androni

Performance to date: 7/10

Optimism for stages 10 – 21: Medium-High

Summary: The job of a crossword compiler, we’re told, is to enter a competition with the reader in which he loses, gracefully. Something similar can be said of Pro-conti teams in grand tours. Turn up, contest sprints, throw someone into the GC mix, hit every break… but don’t actually win. Well, Androni are fulfilling that brief excellently. Fausto Masnada’s ride on Gran Sasso will have plenty of viewers joining me on his bandwagon, and Francesco Gavazzi has looked sprightly at times. They’ll be in plenty more breaks and a stage win would complete a hugely satisfactory Giro for the boys in red.

Team – Katusha

Performance to date: 8/10

Optimism for stages 10 – 21: Low

Summary: Not the strongest team that Katusha could have entered, with most of their powder being kept dry for France and Spain. After a few stages, I found myself wondering if Jose Goncalves could keep this up. He couldn’t. At 31st, he’s still their best-placed rider and from here on it is stage-hunting for the other boys in red.

Team – BMC

Performance to date: 8/10

Optimism for stages 10 – 21: Medium-low

Summary: Rohan Dennis spent a few days in pink, which is all very satisfactory. He’s ridden well and is certainly improved in the mountains, but has dropped down the field with many more steep roads to come. The best he can hope for is a top ten and a win in the time trial, neither of which looks particularly likely. Not had the level of support he’d have hoped for, with Roche in particular looking below his best.

Team – QuickStep

Performance to date: 8/10

Optimism for stages 10 – 21: Medium-high

Summary: This wasn’t a team set up for the GC, but Viviani has delivered wins on two of the three days he could have been expected to. That’s a good result for a sprinter and has justified their trip to the Giro. Schachmann was great in the early stages and wore white for a time, and is yet another future star on this squad. Stage-hunting for the likes of Stybar and Cavagna to come, plus more sprints and a run at the points jersey for Viviani. This is a team playing with house money after the cobbles and the Ardennes, but they’re doing it pretty well here in Italy.

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Team – Trek

Performance to date: 6/10

Optimism for stages 10 – 21: Low

Summary: Brambilla got into the right break on stage nine and that looked like his chance at glory, but he was the first of the six to be reeled in on the Gran Sasso, and he remains outside of the top 30. Another team who will now be looking for stages, with Brambilla, Pantano et al they have the engines, but none of them firing particularly sweetly.

Team – Israel Cycling Academy

Performance to date: 8/10

Optimism for stages 10 – 21: Medium-low

Summary: This team had a job to do in the first three stages, and with appearances in the break and lots of PR stuff, they did it. The rest of the race is an 18-stage afterthought, which is a pretty steep price to pay. Ben Hermans is looking lively and might grab a stage win.

Team – Lotto Fix All

Performance to date: 8/10

Optimism for stages 10 – 21: Medium

Summary: I figured that they came here to chew bubblegum and win stages. Even if they don’t have any gum, mission accomplished, with a good win for Wellens in stage four. Rumours have reached me that Wellens was having a look at the GC. He’s in 65th now and after a long run through the classics, that ship has sailed. Could well have another stage in him, as could team-mates, and that’ll be the focus from here.

Team – Bardiani

Performance to date: 8/10

Optimism for stages 10 – 21: High

Summary: This team will go as far as Giulio Ciccone can take it. After a poor time trial and a couple of stages (three and five) where he lost buckets of time, he can forget about GC and go after stages. The good news is, he’s climbing as well as just about anyone and he could easily grab a stage. Expect to see Bardiani in a bunch of breaks, too – they’ve got a few riders who could steal a stage in the right conditions.

Team – Willier

Performance to date: 7/10

Optimism for stages 10 – 21: Low

Summary: They built a team around a sprinter, Mareczko, who has now gone home, with a half-decent punchy climber thrown in. That’s Zardini, and he’s also gone home. What I’m saying is, from here they’ll need to get lucky with a breakaway. Still, Mareczko’s second in stage 2 was a decent result.