The second week of the 2013 Giro d’Italia delivered a shock in the withdrawal of Bradley Wiggins, the continued emergence of Vincenzo Nibali as the man most likely to claim overall victory in this year’s race, and further confirmation that Mark Cavendish is the world’s best sprinter.
Italy’s Pro Continental squads, invited in number to test their mettle against the WorldTour elite and boost the chance of home nation success, continued to justify their inclusion.
And with the weather remaining inhospitable in the most inhospitable terrain of this 96th corsa rosa, the organisers have succeeded, where those of other races failed, in keeping the show on the road.
Here are five observations from the second week of the 2013 Giro d’Italia
Wiggins catches a cold
Bradley Wiggins’ departure from the Giro d’Italia was unquestionably the most significant event of the second week of the 96th corsa rosa, and speculation is rife about his next move. The mainstream press has decided Wiggins’ failure at the Giro is cause for Dave Brailsford to reconsider his selection of Chris Froome as leader for the Tour de France. Why Brailsford would do so, based on the current form of each man, is unclear. One is in the form of his life, defeating his likely rivals for the Tour (Nibali at Oman, Contador at Tirreno, van den Broeck at Romandie), while the other has suffered a barren campaign of few races and no victories. Wiggins must provide his boss with a reason to reconsider. His sub-par performances, disruptive noises, and plain bad luck will have done little to do so. He must recover the serenity with which he conducted matters in 2012, as well as his form.
Red menace: the Manx Missile proves he’s the world’s fastest man. Again.
The fortunes of Britain’s two best riders are opposing poles. Last year, while Wiggins basked in the glory of his greatest season, Cavendish sought a new team. Olympic adulation for Wiggins contrasted with Olympic ignominy for Cavendish. Fast forward nine months to the Giro, and while Wiggins is heading for the airport, Cavendish is heading for the top step of the podium. Again. The brilliance of his 101st win on stage 13 topped the significance of his 100th victory a day earlier. Bereft of team-mates, and forced to barge his way through, Cavendish began his new century in Cherasco with a victory achieved on determination alone.
Nibali is the coming man
Vincenzo Nibali’s gradual emergence as Giro champion elect has been beguiling. His 2010 Vuelta a Espana triumph was, of course, a milestone, but his performance in this year’s corsa rosa has so far unfolded with a new and seemingly unshakeable confidence, and deployment of a complete armoury of skills that place him among the very best. He had defeated Wiggins long before the Tour de France champion’s departure, proving, to no-one’s surprise, that he is the Londoner’s superior on descents, and, to the surprise of many, that he will no longer cough up buckets of time against the clock. His performance on stage 14, riding away from the field on the climb to Jafferau before gifting the stage to countryman, Mauro Santambrogio (Vini-Fantini), was a champion’s ride, one to which Evans, Uran, Scarponi et al had no answer. Don’t expect them to find one before Brescia.
The Italian teams invited to the Giro from outside of the WorldTour’s privileged circle have proved more than a match for their more moneyed rivals. Barely a day passes without a member of the home nation’s raft of Pro Continental squads commanding the attention of their peers. Mauro Santambrogio’s stage 14 victory for Vini Fantini, admittedly one owing much to the beneficence of Nibali, has been the highlight of week two for the arrivistes. Matteo Rabottini’s dogged pursuit of Giovanni Visconti the following day was another significant milestone for the men in migraine yellow. Nicola Boem’s contribution to a brave, but ultimately doomed breakaway on stage 13 provided yet another impressive showing from the Bardiani Valvole squad, which achieved a victory on stage four with Enrico Battaglin. Expect to see much more these impressive outsiders before the race is won.
Complimenti to the commissario
In a season hit by atrocious weather, the organisers of the Giro d’Italia have managed to keep the show on very demanding roads where others have failed (Kuurne Brussels Kuurne) and faltered (Milan San Remo). Saturday’s stage 14 was one conducted without television pictures, but with plenty of drama nonetheless. The emergence of Nibali and Santambrogio from the mists at the summit of Jafferau at the conclusion is likely to take its place in Giro folklore. Fears that the following day’s racing might be cancelled altogether (a week of dynamiting the snow on the Galibier had failed to raise hopes) were overcome by judicious alteration to the route and a redrawing of the finish line at the Pantani memorial. Significant challenges may still lie ahead, but the organisers will grow in confidence from their recent triumphs and all may yet be well.