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Former Giro d'Italia winner calls its quits
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VALLOIRE, France (VN) — Riders woke up Monday for the final rest day of the Giro d’Italia happy to see sunny skies high in the French Alps.
After horrendous racing conditions over the weekend, marked by rain, cold, wind, and snow on the upper reaches of the Col du Galibier, many were hopeful the worst was behind them. Forecasts, however, seem to indicate that spring’s return on Monday is only a short respite.
More unstable, winter-like weather is expected to hang over northern Italy throughout the week. Forecasts indicate more rain, cold temperatures, and snow at higher elevations across northern Italy this week.
Poor weather could force Giro organizers to reroute Friday’s and Saturday’s climbing stages, and perhaps throw a wrench into the overall battle for the pink jersey.
“We hope the weather improves and we can race unhampered,” said race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). “The cold has been hard on everyone.”
The Giro was lucky Sunday to avoid a major route change, though snowfall high on the Galibier forced organizers to lower the finish line several hundred meters below the summit.
Snow could force cancellation of portions Friday’s and Saturday’s stages. According to race officials, it’s too early to make any decisions, but they are monitoring the weather.
Things look bleak. Friday’s forecast calls for a 70-percent chance of rain and temperatures in the high 40s Fahrenheit at Bormio, the alpine village at 1200 meters, tucked between the Passo Gavia (2618m) and the Passo di Stelvio (2758m). Rain in Bormio means snow on the highest reaches of the climbs, meaning that they could be deemed impassable.
Forecasts are similarly gloomy for Saturday’s 203km queen stage from Silandro to Tre Cime di Lavaredo (2304m), with cool temperatures and rain at Cortina d’Ampezzo at 1225m.
The possibility of more horrendous weather comes as unwelcomed news inside the peloton. Riders have already been suffering with colds and allergy problems since the start of the Giro.
“The weather’s been very hard on the riders,” said BMC Racing director Max Sciandri. “It’s not just this Giro, but the entire spring in Europe. The weather has been awful and many riders are at their limits.”
The 2013 Giro could see a repeat of the epic stage over the Gavia in 1988 when Andy Hampsten rode through a blizzard to secure the pink jersey. The peloton is certainly hoping that is not the case.
VALLOIRE, France (VN) — With six days remaining in the 96th Giro d’Italia, overall leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) is poised for his second grand tour win and said on Monday that he would go on the attack in the Dolomites.
“And here is your pink jersey, Vincenzo Nibali,” began the Astana press conference on Monday’s rest day in the French Alps. The message could be the same when the Giro wraps up in Brescia in six days, such is the Italian’s lead.
After 15 stages and 2449 kilometers, Nibali leads Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) by 1:24 and has shown no sign of letting up.
“I’m not worried about this or that climb, the whole week is going to be hard,” Nibali said. “Let’s not talk about winning just yet; I’ve got to finish the race.”
Nibali met the press on the second floor of the Pulka hotel in Valloire, France, where Sunday’s stage passed on the way up the Col du Galibier. He wore his Astana team’s turquoise-colored jump suit, which had no pink accents or hints that he was the race leader in the Italian grand tour.
The Astana bus outside, however, gave it away. Eight stuffed pink jersey pillows were in the window, one from the race organizer for each day Nibali has led the corsa rosa.
A matter of time
Nibali took time on Evans in the team time trial (:23), the Saltara ITT (:18), and the stage to Jafferau on Saturday (:33). Evans has gained bonus seconds to trim that advantage, but not as often as Nibali, who has 12 more bonus seconds after two weeks of racing.
With his time trial performances, his climbing exploits in the Alps over the weekend, and his solid riding on wet, technical intermediate stages, Nibali has proven the more complete rider thus far. He leaves many wondering how he can lose the race.
Some have suggested that Evans, the 2011 Tour de France champion and 13-year professional, has more experience. However, even Evans has pointed out that Nibali is no debutant, having already won the Vuelta a España in 2010 and placed third in the Tour de France last year. The Aussie can hope that Nibali will begin to suffer in the final week and pay for the focus and dedication the Giro has taken. Evans, on the other hand, only decided in late March to race the Giro.
The road to Breschia
The mountains above Italy’s Lake Como and Lake Garda hold some answers. The corsa rosa heads east out of France and to Ivrea on Tuesday, sprints into Vicenza Wednesday, and hits the high mountains again starting Thursday. Those three mountain stages hold the key to Nibali’s second grand tour win. Thursday’s climbing time trial to Polsa will give Nibali a third opportunity to best Evans against the clock — or herald a fierce week-ending battle.
“Uphill time trials are always difficult to manage, but I’d be more worried if it was a flat time trial,” said Nibali. “Evans goes much stronger in flat ones than I do.”
Nibali said he may attack again in the mountains when the race hits Val Martello on Friday. He will not ride into Breschia on the defensive.
“In this and the Tre Cime di Lavaredo [on Sunday], you have to stay alert and defend yourself,” he said. “However, if there’s a chance, I’ll even try to attack and gain more time on my rivals.”
The Giro’s final decisive showdown comes on Saturday with the five-climb epic to Tre Cime di Lavaredo. Riders will face the Cat. 1 ascents of the Passo Giau and the Tre Cime di Lavaredo finish climb in a fitting finale to a brutal Giro.
“I raced there in 2007, the last time the Giro visited,” said Nibali. “The final three kilometers are very hard on their own, but you also have to consider before we race Costalunga, San Pellegrino, and Giau. You’ll really feel the pain in your legs.”
Nibali said that, despite losing riders to crashes and illness, his team is ready for the mountains. Paolo Tiralongo has suffered from the flu for half the race. Fabio Aru also had the flu, but is recovering, which he showed on the Galibier. Important rouleur Alessandro Vanotti crashed and abandoned with a fractured collarbone. Nibali must look to the rest and the fit, including mountain domestiques Valerio Agnoli and Tanel Kangert, and his own staying power to secure a final stuffed pink jersey in Brescia on Sunday.
VALLOIRE, Italy (VN) — Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) promised on Monday’s rest day to come out swinging in the final stages of the 2013 Giro d’Italia, and still holds out hope of winning the maglia rosa.
Race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) looks rock solid, but he pointed to Evans, lurking at 1:26 back, as the lone rider who makes him uncomfortable with six days of racing left.
Meeting with the press, Evans insisted everything was still possible.
“It’s still not impossible to win,” Evans said. “I see a good Nibali. He’s been able to cover everything we’ve thrown at him so far. The final week will decide everything.”
Evans has been one of the top surprises of this Giro. Under advice from team manager Jim Ochowicz, the 2011 Tour de France champion decided to race the Giro only five weeks before it started, in large part to get more racing miles into his legs before returning to the Tour.
After falling flat in his Tour defense last year, Evans did not want to arrive to Corsica for the race’s Grand Depart under-trained. So the team took on the heavy load of racing the Giro, but with very modest expectations.
“The reason for starting the Giro was to get a big block of racing before the Tour, and that’s what I needed,” he said. “Is it too much? I would rather have too much than too little. To go back to the Tour like last year doesn’t give me any satisfaction.”
Now with only six stages left in the 96th Giro, Evans is still within striking distance.
“After two hard weeks of racing, the third week is always another dimension, both physically and the fatigue,” Evans said. “Maybe Nibali is going to remain untouchable and I may have to settle for something less than the first position — c’est la vie.”
Despite adding the Giro to his calendar late in the spring, Evans said he’s taken the race very seriously. After studying the route, he previewed some of the key stages, and held a Giro-focused training camp.
Evans said the first two weeks of all-out, weather-battered racing have been some of the most challenging of his long career. The peloton has had to deal with everything, including rain and snow, heat and wind, a challenging route, and allergies.
Evans and Nibali have largely been even throughout this Giro. The Italian took 23 seconds in the team time trial and 18 seconds in the individual time trial. Add some time bonuses, and what Evans called a “bad day” at Bardonecchia on Saturday, when he forfeited 33 seconds Nibali, and the differences made in this Giro have been minimal.
BMC Racing is counting on having Evans back at his best for the final week, and is hoping that Nibali cracks.
“Nibali looks very strong, but we will see what happens in the final week. There are still three very hard stages to come,” said BMC Racing director Fabio Baldato. “Evans is always strong in the final week of a grand tour. That is on our side. I know since the beginning of this Giro Cadel has said, ‘let’s make the best of it.’ He is racing to win.”
Evans is also hopeful that Bardonecchia was merely a hiccup and he will be able to attack in the coming stages.
Thursday’s 20.6-kilometer climbing time trial from Mori to Polsa will be critical. If Nibali can take even more time on Evans, then the differences will likely be too large to overcome. If Evans is able to take some time back on Nibali with a great ride, it will make things very interesting for Friday’s and Saturday’s epic climbing stages.
“It’s not just waiting to see if Nibali has a bad day, maybe Cadel can have a great day,” Baldato said. “Cadel is very motivated and we can see that he is excited about being at the Giro.”
Nibali has the advantage of having a stronger squad backed by riders who have dedicated their season to preparing for a run at the pink jersey at the Giro. BMC Racing, meanwhile, brought a team of younger riders who were looking to jump into breakaways and hunt for stages — at least, that was, until Evans decided to race the Giro.
So far, Evans has been able to fend for himself in the deep mountains. Steve Cummings, the best climber in BMC Racing’s supporting cast, is starting to feel better after suffering through the first part of the Giro with a cold. He will be key to Evans’ assault on Nibali and the Dolomites this week.
Evans won’t speculate on Tour leadership
Also on Monday, Evans congratulated his BMC Racing teammate Tejay van Garderen for winning the Amgen Tour of California, but admitted that he hasn’t been paying too much attention to the race.
“I’ve missed it. I have been sleeping by the time the California stages came on,” Evans said. “I am guessing it’s big news for him. Being an American, I am sure they are happy. Racing here at the Giro, I’ve been in a bit of a bubble.”
Evans wouldn’t speculate on how van Garderen’s victory might play out when it comes time for the team to consider leadership for the Tour.
“I am not even thinking about that at this stage,” he said. “Get the Giro done first.”
Last year, van Garderen rode to fifth and the best young rider’s jersey at the Tour, while Evans struggled to seventh. So far, the team has been insisting that Evans remains the outright leader, with van Garderen starting as a clear second option.
In earlier comments, Evans has suggested he would ride to help van Garderen if he struggled like he did last year. But it’s obvious Evans is riding to be ready for the Tour. Despite having a chance to win the pink jersey, the Giro remains as it was designed for Evans: an opportunity to get more racing in his legs for the Tour. Now six days from Breschia, that racing could deliver the Aussie his second grand tour title.
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