As the Giro looks to be decided on the final day, here’s a number of things to look for in the time trial.
First off, reports are in that Joaquim Rodriguez, the man in the pink jersey by 31″, crashed this morning during his course recon. Nothing serious, nothing bad, but crashing can’t be a very positive omen and an event that will be tucked in the back of his mind as he rolls down the start ramp. Rodriquez has been blasted as a terrible time trialist, but he has put in some decent performances in the past. Of course, the most talked about head-to-head matchup with be the 2010 Tour when Hesjedal beat Rodriguez by 3:37 in a 52km test. Those conditions were a bit different, as Rodriguez was riding hard all three weeks to hold onto a top ten finish, while Hesjedal was able to save legs for the time trial for almost a week and a half.
This time, Hesjedal is coming in on outstanding form but with some massive efforts over the past few days. It’s often said that Grand Tour riders, or at least the very best, are simply riders that can go three weeks without having a bad day. Ryder has been almost perfect so far, but there’s no way to tell what sort of legs he’ll have tomorrow after climbing for nearly a week straight and a rest day. Will he be able to coax up a dominate time trial effort from his legs? Probably, but the confident assertion that the race is already his is frankly cocky; he hasn’t won anything yet.
Thomas De Gendt finds himself in third place after leaping up from 8th place at over five minutes down. His performance on Stage 20 was so impressive that many called for him to have the maglia rosa by days end. He came up short, if only because of some ethereal riding from Hesjedal’s loyal lieutenant Christian VandeValde. CvV was on the front for almost 14km of climbing, keeping De Gendt’s margin of victory in control. As VeloNews’ Neal Rogers pointed out, if CvV has a bad day on the Stelvio, Thomas De Gendt wins the Giro d’Italia. That simple. After he fell off, Hesjedal was fortunate to get a little help from the Sky duo of Sergio Henao and Rigoberto Uran. Henao, with Uran winning the white jersey competition and looking to maintain a top five overall, went to the front and pulled back just over a minute on De Gendt, and helping control the likes of Scarponi and Rodriguez in the process. When the attacks finally did come, the gaps never opened up, even as the GC favorites limped to the line in straggling groups of two and three.
The Giro will be decided today, but assuming Hesjedal can beat Rodriguez also ignores the threat of De Gent coming over the top of him, even with a 1’51” buffer and the defending champion, Michele Scarponi, still tucked in between. Even though Hesjedal should beat Purito, there’s nothing assured. It has been a wonderful three weeks of bike racing over the most beautiful terrain in the world, and it has once again produced some of the most exciting racing. Sit back, tune in to the time trial, and simply enjoy.