Enough time trialling kilometres to win the Giro?
55.5km, Stage 8 of the Giro d’Italia 2013 – this is the distance that brings to mind the great Tour riders of the past, Indurain and Riis. A simple methodology, destroy the field against the clock and hang on where the road turns upwards. This, obviously, is the methodology that has been hung on Bradley Wiggins’ Giro aspirations.
That said, it’s a lot of hanging on, and it also rests on a particular assumption, one that is rarely mentioned within the sphere of grand tour contenders, but of critical importance: descending capability. Lance, for all his drug addled craziness, still had to stay with the programme on the way down – never illustrated better than on Vino’s charge into Gap where Beloki’s career ended on sticky tarmac and Lance took to the field.
The Sky machine will grind out the climbs to pace Bradley and suppress the pure climbers, we’ve seen how it goes.
But these aren’t the open roads of the Alps, but the precipitous descents of the Dolomites – and there is precedent.
Paolo Salvodeli, Gilberto Simoni and Yaroslav Popovich are all great descenders of the Giro. Salvodeli saved his last Giro victory downhill, chasing with controversial Lotto/Farm Frites assistance.
Simoni signalled his intentions in a small group on a rolling stage, taunted the peloton and Popovich chased – all gravity assisted.
Riders of a previous era. The riders of this era look elsewhere for their inspiration – to Valentino Rossi - why look any further?
At Tirreno Nibali demonstrated how a small gap over the top can be stretched on the sinuous, wet plummet to the bottom. This reputation was forged in the green of Liquigas, knee out, he dropped like a Felix Baumgartner tribute act.
The important distinguishing factor is a team of hard riding bunch wreckers with real Khazak money behind them. All too often for Sky three or four Astanas have stayed with the final breakdown. Not pummelling the front of the group they ease out of the background at the end and pulverise the remaining few.
Sky’s way is no longer the only way. Outthinking Sky is a no easy task, and a tribute to a cleaner peloton - Astana, Movistar and the other big teams are learning and modernising.
Stage 8 may yet prove critical, but coming at the end of week 1, it leaves 2 weeks for any advantage. Wiggins has to be worn down, and hopefully down is where the challenge will come.