By Kev Newton
It’s been a hectic fortnight in the Giro d’Italia, with no less than seven victories with British involvement, a Brit in red, a Brit (albeit an Italian one, if that makes sense!) in pink, a Brit in red again, as well as a certain Tour de France champion heading home to Lancashire. Here’s my Brit-by-Brit report, in order of success.
The world’s greatest sprinter came to Italy with a misfiring lead-out train which, after a slight mechanical glitch on stage one (which the Manxman overcame to win regardless), is now well and truly running on full steam, having led him to an incredible four victories so far.
The former world champion has shared the red points jersey with Australian climber Cadel Evans but now holds a commanding lead in the classification and, with two sprint stages remaining, should have enough to hold on to the finish in Brescia, provided he can safely navigate the remaining high mountains.
Verdict: A* The Manx Missile has hit the target every time, incredible.
Riding his first grand tour, British time trial champion Dowsett came into this race targeting the three TT stages, and so far, so good – his Spanish Movistar squad taking second place in the team time trial on the island of Ischia on stage two, losing out only to Team Sky (more on that later).
The Essex rider then went on to surprise the field in stage eight’s individual time trial by taking the win with a stunning ride which truly announced his arrival on the world stage.
Employed at the service of teammate Beñat Intxausti since then, Dowsett has another chance to shine on Thursday’s uphill TT and will be hoping for another strong showing in what can already go down as a successful GT debut.
Verdict: A An impeccable debut which has fully justified his departure from Team Sky’s shackles this winter.
Victory in the team time trial for the British outfit kicked things off nicely, but to say their Giro has been up and down since then would be a wild understatement.
That win gave young domestique Salvatore Puccio the leader’s pink jersey for a day, a proud moment for the Italian but an uncharacteristic miscalculation from Sky who had reckoned that his senior colleague and countryman Dario Cataldo would take pink.
Colombian mountain man Rigoberto Uran rode himself to victory and into overall contention on stage ten as he looks to improve on last year’s seventh place finish. This took the team’s stage wins to two, a haul which haul would be considered a success for almost any other team. However, they would have banked on Wiggins taking TT victory in stage eight and his retirement was a massive blow.
Verdict: B Still in contention for overall victory and the two stage wins should lessen the disappointment of Wiggins’ illness.
The BMC men have had little opportunity to feature beyond providing support for second-placed teammate Cadel Evans. Blythe may have hoped to feature in the odd sprint finish but it seems domestique duties have taken precedence. With Evans sitting pretty in second place, it seems a job well done thus far.
Verdict: B These vital workhorses are the core of any team with serious GC ambitions.
Pre-race favourite Wiggins has made the headlines for all the wrong reasons and endured what can only be described as a torrid Giro. First he lost his descending mojo in a big way, then he fell off, then he fell ill – though not necessarily all in that order according to Sir Dave Brailsford.
Verdict: D For (mitigated) disaster! Let the Tour de France team leadership debate recommence!
Millar came to the race in poor health and just days after the birth of his second child. He proceeded to crash his bike a couple of times in the early stages just to darken his mood further still.
His teammate, and last year’s Giro winner, Ryder Hesjedal, dropped time and dropped out in the second week, Millar following shortly afterwards. A win for teammate Ramunas Navardauskas on stage 11 probably wont have been enough to lift his mood.
Verdict: D One to forget for one of the peloton’s elder statesmen.
So, plenty to cheer and more than a bit of disappointment from a British perspective in Italy as the Giro heads into its final week. Cavendish hopes to make it six and take red, while Sky still harbours outsider’s dreams of GC against the imperious Vincenzo Nibali. It promises to be an explosive conclusion.