PEZ Previews The 2013 Giro d’Italia!
With less than two days to go to the Giro we thought it was time to let our own Nostradamus, Ed Hood give his predictions on the race before we let him loose roadside in Italy. Analysis of the sprinters, GC men, the route and more Ed doesn’t hold back predicting the top 6 on GC in order. Can he continue his early season run and get another podium correct?
Someone has to mention the Emperor’s new clothes; so it may as well be me, here goes; “The field for the 2013 Giro d’Italia is far from the strongest ever assembled.” There’s no Contador, Froome, Rodriguez, Van Den Broeck, Martin, Valverde or Kreuziger. And Evans and Sanchez won’t be in this preview just to bulk up the word count. All of that said, the same would have applied last year and we had a great race.
But the Giro isn’t just about names on a start sheet; it’s about legend, passion, some of the most beautiful scenery in Europe, theatre, sunshine, joy, great coffee wherever you go and – buying your Gazzetta every morning. The race starts in Napoli and however lyrical Dean Martin may have waxed about the city, Northerners will tell you; ‘Naples is not Italy!’ Just don’t wander too far from the hotel, after dark.
Stage one is for the sprinters. Cav needs rabbits out of hats – it’s not fun explaining to QuickStep head honcho Patrick Lefevre why you blew it – but despite the team’s statement that the team is built around the Manxman, the likes of Elia Viviani (Italy & Cannondale) and Mattia Gavazzi (Italy & Androni) are getting quicker and smarter all the time.
Stage two is a short TTT on the isle of Ischia – and it could be Sir Brad in pink already, courtesy of the Sky Steam Roller.
Stage three from beautiful Sorrento to Marina di Ascea is lumpy at the end and made for a sprinter who can hang on – John Degenkolb (Germany & Argos)?
Stage four is the race’s longest at 244 kilometres from Policastro to Serra San Bruno with tough climbs at the end it’s one for the likes of Michele Scarponi (Italy & Lampre) – but his number will be on all of the GC guy’s stems.
Stage five, Cosenza to Matera and stage six from Mola di Bari to Margherita de Savoia could bring Cav’s total to three; but as well as Viviani and Gavazzi, there’s Sasha Modolo (Italy & CSF)- and that’s before we mention Matt Goss (Australia & GreenEDGE).
Last year it was Andrea Guardini who got the better of Cav and didn’t Cav look happy about it?
Stage seven is a ‘toughie’ rolling all day through the Abruzzo from San Salvo to Pescara it’s one for the men with fortitude who relish leaving the peloton behind and grinding it out in a small group. A Scarponi day again, but they won’t let him go.
Stage eight Gabicce Mare to Saltara and barring act of God, pencil Wiggins name in; a 55 K chrono is manna from Heaven for the Englishman – albeit it’s no drag strip parcours.
Stage nine ‘tries out’ the Tuscan Worlds circuit between Sansepolcro and Florence – a heavy stage with the GC teams happy to let the right break disappear up the road.
Stage ten Cordenons to Altopiano del Montasio; two monster climbs with a mountain top finish and the ‘phoney war’ ends today – but the Sky automatons should be able to do their thing, today.
Stage 11 from Tarvisio to Vajont honours those who died in the Vajont Dam Disaster in 1963 – the tough but not hellish parcours say; ‘breakaway’ loud and clear – Sandy Casar (France & FDJ) leaps to mind.
Stage 12 from Longarone to Treviso is lumpy in the middle but gently dropping for the last 20 K, with race distance at 127 K it’s a sprinters’ day. Cav, Goss, Viviani, Modolo, Gavazzi and Roberto Ferrari (Italy & Lampre) – they’ll all be there.
Stage 13 passes through lovely Piedmont from Buseto to Cherasco. A strange one, pan flat for much of the way then ‘saw tooth’ in the finale; if a fast man can hang on, it’s his – but a wee break might just ease away . . .
Stage 14 from Cervere to Bardonecchia with a mountain top finish over gravel and the monstrous Sestriere in the middle it’s no walk in the park – ‘gruppetto!’
Stage 15 is a killer; Cesana Torinese to the summit of the Galibier via Mont Cenis and the Telgraphe, there’s not much to add. It’s a Stephen Roche day; ‘you can’t win the Giro today but you can certainly lose it!’
Stage 15 is just as tough as Stage 14, if not tougher.
Stage 16 is a long one, 237 K from Valloire to Ivrea – it’s hard to imagine, but there will be guys looking forward to this day. But their first task will be to win the cat fight to get in the breakaway of the day.
Stage 17 is pan flat from Caravaggio to Vicenza but with a lump at the end and then 10 miles to the finish – it should be for the fast men but . . .
And no SRAM or Shimano equipped bikes to win today – not in the home of Campagnolo, respect, please!
Stage 18 is just 19.4 K from Mori to Polsa; and TT bike time, again – or is it? Maybe not, whilst this one is against the watch it’s uphill all the way, albeit not steep with grades of five to seven percent – Bradley’s second stage win.
Stage 19 from Ponte di Legno to Val Martello is the first of the two days where Vincenzo Nibali (Italy & Cannondale) can win the Giro. The Gavia, the Stelvio with the finish atop Val Martello – savage. If the Italian and his Astana tough guys can make the Sky clockwork soldiers break step, he can win the Giro.
Stage 20 from Silandro to Tre Cime de Laverado – with five spikey Dolomite peaks including the grim Giau to ascend and a mountain top finish this one is the real deal. This could be the day the Giro is finally won and lost – if Wiggins survives, he’s won.
Stage 21 from Riese Pio X to Brescia is for the sprinters, a flat 200 K with those men who looked empty as they grovelled in the gruppetto – but survived – now back to being Kings. If Cav has made it – and that’s no certainty – he’ll win.
And here’s my top six, in order:
1: Vincenzo Nibali (Italy & Astana) all you need know to confirm how serious Astana are about this race is that last 200 metres flyer Guardini has been left at home – there’ll be no sprint stage distractions on this campaign. Nibali was brilliant in Tirreno; he won Trentino and has men like Paolo Tiralongo, Fred Kessiakoff and Valerie Agnoli by his side.
He has to limit his losses in the long chrono, keep his powder dry until the Dolomites but grab any chances that arise on wet, technical days where he excels. If he can do that, he can win.
2: Sir Bradley Wiggins (GB & Sky) hasn’t had the same inexorable progress through the early season stage races as one year ago but with the best sports scientists, nutritionists and logistics men in the sport behind him, it’s hard to believe that he’ll be in anything other than imperious form for Naples.
His team is second to none; indeed, if someone has a robust enough cheque book to tempt Uran and Henao away from the News International team, they’re both potential Grand Tour winners. And that’s before we mention Cataldo, Knees or Pate. The TTT, long chrono and ‘diesel’ mountain TT are in his favour, too. But Nibali has the team, too – and I believe that those nasty Dolomite days tip the balance in the Sicilian’s favour.
3: Ryder Hesjedal (Canada & Garmin) was an unexpected but brilliant winner of a great Giro in 2012. His usual long, steady build up sees him peaking at just the right time – setting up La Doyenne perfectly for Dan Martin. He’s resourceful and unafraid to attack; and shouldn’t concede too much time to Wiggins in the time trials. But Wiggins and Nibali just look too strong to me for Ryder to finish higher than third.
4: Michele Scarponi (Italy & Lampre) I like Michele, he has grinta, quality and a sense of humour – but he needs to more careful about the company he keeps; even though they have the same name as a nice model of car. Very hard to drop, resilient and intelligent – but he’ll hate that long chrono; and with Pozzato and Ferrari in his team it won’t be ‘all for Michele.’
5: Robert Gesink (The Netherlands & Blanco) the Dutch team’s brilliant start to 2013 has faded a little – a bit like Gesink’s campaign. He was fourth at Murcia, sixth in Catalonia but a distant 54th in Romandie. However, he’s experienced enough to know how to be on form for the big occasions; he was sixth in the Vuelta in 2012 after crashing out of the Tour – a not uncommon occurrence for the skinny man from Varsseveld. But given the parcours, if he can keep it between the green bits then he could be there – and should come away with a stage win.
6: Carlos Betancur (Colombia & AG2R) was seventh in Pais Vasco, third in the Fleche, fourth in Liege and 13th in Romandie. He’s a man with good form and revels when the grades kick up – and he won’t be too much of a marked man. He should win a stage and go top ten.
Whoever wins, it will be a great Opera with a hundred plot twists and turns.
PEZ will bring you the best stage reportage and roadside buzz from what is for many, the coolest of the Grand Tours. I don’t know about you – but I can’t wait!
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