If I were to introduce someone to cycling by means of showing them a Grand Tour I would be loath to show them the first fortnight of this one. Flat stage after flat stage with tension, rather than real drama, in evidence. Not helpful in my efforts to show off the sport would be the UAE-Emirates caretaker leaders who, despite their large advantages in terms of time, are instantly dismissed from consideration as potential winners despite leading the race by five minutes with almost two-thirds of it elapsed.
All of that changed today as the pretenders were wiped out and the contenders rose, Carapaz quicker than anyone. I’m going to abandon any pretence of journalistic neutrality here and say that I want him to win the Giro. I wanted him to win today for a very simple reason — I said he would, and I’m only human. I want him to win the Giro for a different reason — he is a stylish, attacking climber from a country with very little historical cycling success. Now I have nothing against Roglic (a stylish all-rounder from a country with very little cycling success) but I will put it to you that there is nothing better in this sport than watching someone ride away from complacent favourites who do naught but watch each other. Nibali is trying to bait Roglic with words but he has to do more than talk the talk if he’s to pull back the hundred seconds he trails the Slovenian. He has not.
The only people to walk the walk have been riding for Movistar. They have abandoned el Tridente for el Diapasón, the tuning-fork and it rings out quite a melody. Carapaz is, as of now, the strongest climber in the race. Lopez attacks constantly but cannot gain ground. Nibali attacks less often and with no venom. Roglic has been riding defensively, and justifiably so but he is not the best climber in this race. Then we have Landa on whom I have not yet decided. Stage fourteen showed him pay for the effort of the previous day where he sprinted to Lago Serrù in a style that looked so like Pantani that Rob Hatch couldn’t help but comment on it no matter how clear his reluctance was. I think Carapaz is going better than him, the Ecuadorean’s charge to the finish on Friday may show that better than anything that happened on the way to Courmayeur.
If I’m to rank the form of the top five climbers then, I think it goes like this:
With Lopez I think it to rank him higher would be to mistake what he is bringing to the table (aggression) for form. He has endless confidence but no ability to drop anyone important and his deficiency is made up for by the gulf in time between him and the others. The rider we thought he could be is not at this Giro and I hope he emerges at some point in Lopez’ career.
I think that in the world according to Nibali and Roglic, this race is between Nibali and Roglic but that might be about to change. Nibali may have riding into form as his most useful talent in this sort of race and he’s going to have to speed the process up if he wants anything out of this. Goading a fellow contender for using legitimate tactics is not the kind of behaviour you generally see from someone who is confident of winning on his own steam. User of those legitimate tactics is the inscrutable Primoz: usually
in the saddle, rarely gapped and as isolated as a treasure island. I’d try to analyse his performance on stage fourteen but there’s nothing to analyse. As I said: inscrutable. The bookies are backing him strongly because he’s shown no signs of weakness but a lot will come down to how the race is ridden.
Some hailed Carapaz’ narrow capture of the maglia rosa as a victory for Roglic: he does not have to control the race with that duty now falling to Movistar. I think that’s looking at this in too orthodox a manner. Movistar are possessed of two of the top five climbers and arguably (I think likely) the top two at the minute. Why they would content themselves with wasting Amador, Carretero and Pedrero on the front when they can toss Landa in the first dangerous move and the pink jersey himself into the next one? Roglic is still going to be the major calming influence on the race, his jersey colour is not relevant.
Stage 15 reminds me of a stage 15 that took place in the same region two years ago. Bob Jungels won from a sprint of twelve in Bergamo. The Luxembourger won’t be repeating that this year but a group of twelve GC guys making it to the finish seems about right.
More sophisticated analysis to come on the rest day. Discuss!