Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Giro rave

After the prologue and 2 road stages we can't really be sure who will be topping the GC by the end of the Giro, but it's fun postulating.. So let's say that 2 minutes is the cutoff point fo rour guesswork. In fact on some of the truly difficult stages a climber could shred the field and take back 5 minutes or more, but let's say 2 minutes is a reasonable starting point for now.

Who has a chance of a top 10 right now? 108 riders fit within our cutoff range. Of those, Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner is in the lead but is a young unknown at this grand tour distance. So let's discount him. Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel is a proven winner, so he's a definite contender, Top 5 at least. Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner has potential for top 10. José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears is a maybe. José Luis Rubiera Vigil (Spa) Discovery Channel is a climber of note but will most likely support Savoldelli or Danielson, hurting his GC chances in the process. Serguei Gonchar (Ukr) T-Mobile Team is a possible top 20 but may fade, letting Rogers through in the mountains. Bradley McGee (Aus) Française des Jeux has shown good form at this race before so top 10 is a possibility as long as he doesn't have a really bad day or 2, which has happened to him in Le Tour before. Let's say top 5 maybe.

We also see Francisco Perez Sanchez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears and José E. Gutierrez Cataluna (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems there with a chance, so let's say top 20. Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile Team is just 37 secs off the pace now and if past form is any guide could spring a surprise in the mountains. Top 10, maybe. Tom Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team has top 5 potential, but helping Savoldelli will be a prime mission at this stage, so let's say top 10. Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC should be helping Basso later in the race, so we'll discount him for now. Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas is a proven performer, top 10 at least. Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Lampre-Fondital and
15th placed Olaf Pollack (Ger) T-Mobile Team will fade, so let's discount them. Which brings us to Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC who showed us last year that he could win, if luck and illness go the right way this time. Top 5. Next up is Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Fondital, another winner, so definite Top 5.

I think we have a good idea of the most likely big hitters - and we are only looking at 17 riders so far, less than 50 seconds back on GC. As you'd expect so early on it's tight.

Of the remainder I'd pick out Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step-Innergetic for top 20 and to pick up a stage or 2, Roberto Laiseka Jaio (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi as a wild card who could be on form in the mountains, Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir as a sentimental favourite who may not win as he has done in the past but will surely climb up on GC into Top 10 and Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC who similarly may not win (he'll support Basso firstly anyway) but will improve on GC.

It will also be interesting to see how Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team improves from here on. He's 1m51secs back at this stage and not looking for a win, just for some form. His team mates Gonchar and Rogers will get his support. Most of the other riders under 2 minutes will be doing the same, supporting their teammates and maybe going for a stage win if it appears. Or like Robbie McEwen will pull out before the mountains, job done.

Should be fun in the mountains - where the cream will surely rise up the GC. You can follow the race in detail via La Gazzetta dello Sport.

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