No more snooker?
Coverage of Saturday's stage on British Eurosport started with 148k to go, which is WAY earlier than they normally do. Maybe the Snooker Player Association is on strike and they had to fill an extra two hours of programing? I doubt it, because I'm sure they could have shown plenty of replays of nail-biting snooker matches. Instead we got live cycling. The only logical conclusion is that someone at British Eurosport got fired and as a final 'fuck you' to the organization went and changed the schedule. By the time anyone noticed, Rob Hatch was already sick of apologizing for all the pee footage.
AG2R look like a real team this year.
I know I've said it this year before but, wow! They looked in control of the race on stage 8. When most front runners were already isolated on the last climb, Pozzovivo still had three teammates with him. Not that it mattered at the end. The tiny Italian wasn't able to launch an attack and only finished 7th on the stage. Stage 9, however, went a lot better for him. He attacked, finished third and took a hand full of seconds from Evans, Quintana et al. Meanwhile, Movistar and OPQS looked pretty shabby on both stages. Hmmm... read on.
Lampre, Lampre, Lampre.
Lampre got Horner to be their GC leader for Giro, but Horner got hurt. So, Lampre decided to send Cunego, but Cunego sucks. So, Lampre thought Niemiec would make a great leader, but Niemiec couldn't keep up. So, Lampre are now riding for Diego Ulissi, who has won two stages, sits 7th on the GC and is the only Lampre rider in the top 20.
We are half way through.
As we enjoy this second rest day, we have reached the mid-point of sorts. Let's take the opportunity to evaluate what, if anything, the teams have gotten out of this years Giro, having in mind, of course, what each team came here to do. Let's do it in the reverse order of the Team's Classification as it stands now.
22. Cannondale: You may think that Cannondale's Giro has been lousy, since they've hardly been on screen, have not won a stage, lost Villella, and currently sit last in the team classification. But if you dig a bit deeper, you'll see that Ivan Basso is 11th and they have managed to keep him out of trouble. Now, I'm not saying he's going to win the Giro, but I think so far it's been an acceptable race for the Italian outfit. Grade: C+
21. Orica GreenEdge: What can I say? These guys already won three stages, and have had two different guys in Pink. Sure, their best rider right now is Ivan Santaromita over 10 minutes back, but who cares? They have outdone themselves. Grade: A+
20. Bardiani-CSF: As a small, young Continental Team, Bardiani's only expectation is to get on breaks and show their sponsors' logos on TV. Bardiani, however, always strive for more than that. The stage win has been illusive this year, but it feels like it could happen any time now. We've seen plenty of Pirazzi, Battaglin, Canola and Barbin already and I doubt that's the last we'll see of the them. Grade: B
19. Team Giant-Shimano: It feels like a different race now, but Giant-Shimano already won two stages with Marcel Kittel at the beginning of the Giro. Remember that? They came to win stages, they did that. Veelers and Mezgec have been looking quick, so we'll see what else they can do in the next week. I think they should be satisfied. Grade: A
18. Garmin Sharp: Well, they lost Dan Martin and Koldo Fernandez like 20 minutes into the race, so it's fair to say that this Giro hasn't been a good one for the American team. Is there anything worth mentioning? Well, Farrar has pulled three top 10s and 2012 Giro winner Ryder Hesjedal sits a respectable 17th in the GC and has been keeping up with some of the favorites. Sorta. Still, a lot more was expected from this team. Grade: C
17. Lotto Belisol: Wait, Lotta are in the Giro? Tim Wellens and Monfort's top 20 in GC save them from the F. Grade: D
16. Belkin Pro Cycling Team: Martin Tjallingii was in a couple of breakaways early this Giro and wore the Blue Jersey for a couple of stages. Meanwhile Wilko Kelderman has been quietly keeping up with the favorites in the climbs and currently sits 8th in the GC. Grade: B-
15. Neri Sottoli: Not much was expected of the small Italian team trying to save face after last years disastrous and embarrassing Giro. I decided to give them a break and see what they could show this year. I feel like I've see the bight yellow Cipollini bikes a lot, so I know they've been out there in breaks. I guess that's all you can ask for. A stage win? I doubt it, unless Chicchi gets lucky on a sprint or Finetto gets lucky on a transitional stage. Grade: C+
14. FDJ.fr: Not much expected from them, but with Kittel's retirement Bouhanni steped it up and got two stages... so far. Grade: B+
13. Team Sky: They might as well have given up when Porte announced he wasn't coming. I think I saw Boasson Hagen for about 7 minutes pacing Quintero up a climb at some point. Grade: D
12. Team Katusha: This kinda hurts, because I really think this Giro could have been much, much better in the last week with Rodriguez as a contender, but what are you gonna do? Dani Moreno is still showing us he has balls to go for stage wins, and Belkov and Vorganov are still going out on breaks, which is good for a team that lost its leader and two of their best domestiques. Grade C+
11. Trek Factory Racing: To be honest I didn't really expect much from Trek this Giro. I think Nizzolo is a second tier sprinter on a good day, Kiserlovski has never shown me how good is is supossed to be and Arredondo lacks experience. But these guys have surprised me. Arredondo is wearing the Blue Jersey and the Croatian National Champion is in the top 10 in the GC. Grade: B
10. Androni Giocattoli: If I was grading the suave stylin' of sporting directors, then Androni would get an A+, 'cuz Gianni Savio's mustache is nothing if not suave. But, I'm not grading Savio's facial hair. Pelizzoti is under-performing again, Rosa and Belletti aren't very fast and I haven't seen Hoogerland on screen once. The only thing I can say is that Bandeira and Godoy have been on breaks. Grade: D
9. Team Colombia: I expected more out of Duarte during the first part of the Giro, but he had a couple of bad days and now sits 31st on the GC, over 10 minutes back. However, the rest of the team have been alert and we've seen the jersey quite a bit. Unfortunately, not towards the end of stages. Still, Duarte looked good today, so hopefully he can start dreaming of a stage in the last week. Grade: B-
8. Movistar Team: Coming in as one of, if not the strongest, team on paper, Movistar have not delivered. They had a horrible TTT, and have left Quintana isolated more than once. Am I being too harsh? Grade: D+
7. Team Europcar: Pierre Roland has been his usual self. We've also seen Malacarne (best last name in the race) and Quemeneur out there. Not great, not terrible. Grade: C
6. Astana Pro Team: I knew from the get-go that Scarponi was going to relinquish the team to Fabio Aru. It was just a matter of time. See why I hate when a non-winner wears #1? Now this dude is riding like 19 minutes back detracting from the mysticism and cachet of the bib number. But, anyway, Aru and Landa look strong and have saved face for the team. Grade: C+
5. Tinkoff-Saxo: Another case of 'young guy saves the team,' like we have with Astana. Rafał Majka has been riding very, very well and is wearing the White Jersey, sitting third on the GC. I haven't seen much of anyone else, except for a few flashes of Roche. Majka's performance so far has been impressive. Grade: B
4. Lampre-Merida: Diego Ulissi. That's it. Grade: B+
3. BMC Racing Team: Without a doubt the strongest team in the race. They are wearing Pink and have two guys in the top 10. If I were a betting man (I am, but it's too late now), I'd but a tenner or two on Evans for the overall. Grade: A+
2. AG2R La Mondiale: Like I said above, AG2R have been looking like a serious contender this year. Pozzovivo is looking good and if this team continue to ride this strong, Pozzovivo could be crawling up to a podium spot. Grade: B+
1. Omega Pharma - Quick-Step: Sure, they had a tremendous TTT and they've kept Urán mostly out of trouble, but they have all disappeared a little too quickly when the road turned up. Just like Movistar, the team of one of the favorites needs to me better than this. Grade: B