A welcome rest day for the peloton in Italy today, and racing has finished in California, Norway, and Ain/France too. Today’s action is highlighted by the women’s race in the Basque Country, the catchily titled WWT Emakumeen XXXI. Bira, taking place in the straightforwardly named Aretxabaleta. Whilst I’d love to hear Carlton commentate on that, there’s very little coverage, so it’ll be a quieter day on Podium Café, for which we’re also grateful.
Real life for the editors reduced the threadjacks and live threads over the weekend. For those of you who stepped in to fill the void, our thanks. For those of you who were unhappy, please accept a 100% refund on your payment for this service. We’ll be back to normal tomorrow.
I was going to offer up a winners and losers column looking back on the weekend, but the unbeatable Team of the Week column covers that. Go and see what Ursula has to say. Interesting to note that today is the last day of Monday Morning Quarterback, in the first year of Team of the Week. Has anyone seen the She Bear in the same place as Peter King? Hmm…
Instead, a very brief look ahead to the coming week for the key riders, and a review of what is at stake. There is a time trial on Tuesday, something transitional and sprint/breakaway friendly on Wednesday, three tough mountain stages on Thursday – Saturday and a crit finish on Sunday in Rome.
Simon Yates: He’s still in pink with an increasingly healthy lead of 2.11 to Dumoulin. I’ve written plenty about him already, and I don’t think I’m breaking new ground in saying that he needs the TT of his life on Tuesday. It’ll be a close-run thing whether he is in pink pjs on Tuesday night, but with three mountain stages afterwards he’s capable of winning it back if he does lose it. Maintaining form through the third week will be key.
Tom Dumoulin: His frantic final few minutes on Sunday just about kept him in touch with Yates, and he’ll be hopeful of winning the jersey back. This is going to be a close contest and he’ll need to be at his very best to retain his Giro title, but it can happen.
Domenico Pozzovivo: Thirty-five and yet to finish on a GT podium, he sits in third but has an advantage of just nine seconds on Thibault Pinot. Like Yates, he’ll need the TT of his life to stay within touching distance and might then pull back enough time to take 3rd. Seems unlikely but 4th would be a career-best and is in play.
Thibault Pinot: The Frenchman has finished third in one GT before and will look to match his 2014 Tour performance here. A good TT, which seems likely, will put him in a strong position to do just that. I’d back him, but he’ll need to stay strong in the mountains with attacks inevitable.
Miguel Angel Lopez: He’s rounding into form and is grateful that the tricky finales of week one are far behind him. Is in an unexpected battle for white with Richard Carapaz, just twenty seconds behind him. They are both hoping for a decent time trial and to take time in the mountains. Also,
neither has won a stage yet, Lopez is yet to win a stage, though Carapaz picked up stage 8. I see Lopez as likelier to deliver a stage win in the last week and to win white, with three tough mountaintop finishes looking more to his taste. Carapaz has been the revelation of the race but the Zoncolan was just too much for him.
Elia Viviani and Sam Bennett: Both are battling for the points jersey and it looks like Viviani’s 40 point cushion will be sufficient, barring disaster. If he makes it to Rome this looks like his to win, though there are enough sprintermediates before the big hills on stages 18-20 to keep things vaguely interesting. The battle for the glory in Rome will be intense, too. Look for Elia to please the home crowd with another win and the crown of dominant Giro sprinter.
Breakaways haven’t been granted many stages yet, and Simon Yates also looks to have wrapped up the King of the Mountains classification, though there are plenty of points still to be won. Giulio Ciccone is wearing it on Yates’ behalf, and is 47 points back. Two days in breaks, plus a stage win, and it might get interesting, but I wouldn’t be optimistic.
In essence, then, I see the points and KoM jersey being wrapped up ahead of the final week. There’s a battle for 1st vs 2nd and 3rd vs 4th, as well as a battle for 5th and white. There’s also five competitive stages, including our Queen stage. Plenty to enjoy, so get rested while you can.