The Grand Tours keep coming. I can’t remember a season where the gap between the Giro and the Vuelta felt so quick. The Vuelta holds no surprises. The route is spiky and comes to a head in the final week. The field is packed with a mixture of big name GC riders seeking redemption and we’ve even got a top tier sprinter! Here are eight predictions…
The Tour of Poland is one of the oldest races on the calendar but has changed a fair amount over the years and attracted a crop of major stars since 2005. You might recall the 2011 race which saw Marcel Kittel rise to prominence and a 21-year old Peter Sagan confirm his star potential.
In recent years the organizers have endeavoured to include more climbing than ever – though perhaps not as much as their lively profiles suggest – and the inclusion of a time trial has further skewed the race towards genuine GC riders.
The time trial has been taken away for 2017 but a selection of sharp hilly finishes has attracted a number of leading riders. Here are my quick picks for the overall GC.
The 100th edition of the Giro d’Italia starts this Friday. There’s not much more I can say that I haven’t said multiple times before; it’s an excellent race, it’s my favourite race, and it absolutely monopolizes three weeks of the year.
After a weekend of ludicrously brilliant racing, yesterday’s Vuelta stage brought the GC showdown to a lull and today’s rest day allows for a longer pause for thought. Tomorrow racing resumes with – surprise, surprise – a summit finish on the Alto Mas de la Costa. You could argue the stage won’t play a role in deciding the classification but, on closer inspection, it’s got all the ingredients for more mayhem. It’s the day after the rest day, there’s a 21% section and the entire top five have reasons to ride hard. The following day won’t feature the GC contenders – a rarity in Spain – and could see the peloton slow to a crawl as they did on Stage 13. The varying intensity of stages has been a theme of the race so far.
There were plenty of big rides at this year’s Giro d’Italia as the race lived up to its billing as one of the best races on the calendar. There were eight Maglia Rosa wearers, seven bunch sprints, six days of Dumoulin, five summit finishes, four German winners, three near-misses for Kruijswijk, two more wins for Ulissi and one outrageous turnaround. Quite different from the final GC, here are my top 20 performances from the Giro d’Italia.
In September 2014 Elia Viviani took the Coppa Bernocchi in what would be Cannondale Pro Cycling’s last victory. Three weeks earlier Alessandro De Marchi had climbed to Vuelta success for the team’s final Grand Tour win and the only one of the season. The campaign had few real highs with sporadic Peter Sagan and Viviani vitories failing to live up to a successful 2013. The team had in fact been winding up since July where a strong rumour surfaced regarding the loss of their title sponsor.
The Giro finished today with Alberto Contador overcoming aggressive Astana tactics to add another Grand Tour to his already impressive collection. The third week belonged to the boys in light blue however, with podium finishers Mikel Landa and Fabio Aru taking two stages each. This Giro received praise for its exciting and at times frenetic stages with the first week in particular exceeding all expectations. It was also a successful race for the early breakaways but just how good were each of the stages?
The first Grand Tour of the season is finally among us. It’s easy to fall into the trap of saying the Giro d’Italia has the greatest history and the best climbs- something I do every May. By July, I’m absorbed with the madness of the Tour de France and I’m always staggered by the difficulty of the climbs in the Vuelta come September. It’s a cycle I go through every year, never getting any closer to deciding which of the Grand Tours my favourite is. Right now, however, I’m in full on Giro mode, immersed with stories from Bartali to Basso, Gimondi to Garzelli. There’s nothing quite like the site of the Maglia Rosa attacking into Sestriere or on the Stelvio Pass.