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147-kilometre break rewarded with first victory in three years
PESCARA, Italy (VN) — The general classification of the Giro d’Italia slid out of control Friday in Pescara after Sky’s Bradley Wiggins crossed the finish line almost 90 seconds behind his main rivals following a dangerous, crash-marred descent from San Silvestro in the rain.
Wiggins was already in difficulty over the top of the climb, and after his crash, on a wet right-hand turn inside seven kilometers from the finish, he visibly lost his confidence, navigating turns with the uneasy caution of a shaken rider who has lost faith in the road surface.
The Tour de France champion was far from the only rider to crash in the finale on a series of slick, wet descents; Astana’s GC leader Vincenzo Nibali also slid out at high speed inside the final 10km. However, while Nibali quickly remounted and jumped into chase group, Wiggins never truly switched back into race mode. He was seen after the finish icing his right knee.
The impact of Wiggins’ crash was felt instantly, on the classification, and will be understood further after Saturday’s critical 54.8km time trial. He slipped from sixth overall, tied on time with defending champion Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) and three seconds behind Nibali, to 23rd, 1:27 behind Nibali and 1:24 behind Hesjedal.
On Friday morning, Wiggins was widely viewed as a favorite to win Saturday’s TT stage, and to take the maglia rosa. After his crash and time loss, both goals have been compromised. The Sky captain will no doubt feel the effects of the fall during his race against the clock; a stage win is far from guaranteed for the Olympic time trial champion, and assuming the race lead seems even less probable.
Given that Hesjedal won last year’s Giro by 15 seconds, Wiggins’ time loss can only be seen as a major blow in his bid to become a Tour and Giro champion.
Sky boss Dave Brailsford called Friday’s stage a setback, but said that Wiggins was not injured: “Ultimately, when you have difficult conditions like these and hard racing, this type of thing can happen. It’s a setback, but Brad’s still very much in the hunt. We’ve now got to take each day as it comes, focus on fully recovering tonight and hitting the time trial hard tomorrow. We’ll see where we are tomorrow night and take stock of the situation then.”
Other than Wiggins, all of the major GC contenders — Nibali, Hesjedal, Cadel Evans (BMC Racing), Robert Gesink (Blanco), Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), and Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida) — finished on the same time.
“Today was a very important finish, but there are still two weeks of racing left to this Giro, and a lot can happen,” Nibali said.
And while that’s true, a lot has already happened, particularly on Friday to the Tour de France champion.
Light rain fell outside the Team Sky bus Friday night in the coastal resort town of Gabbice Mare, where the stage 8 time trial begins. The weather forecast calls for a 60-percent chance of rain, turning to thunderstorms in the afternoon, meaning plenty more can, and will, happen on Saturday.
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PESCARA, Italy (VN) — Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing) is pushing through illness and knee pain during the first week of the Giro d’Italia after leading the race one year ago. The 2012 world championship silver medalist played down his chances in Saturday’s stage 8 time trial, saying he just wants to complete his second grand tour and continue developing as a rider.
After a rough ride to Matera on Thursday, VeloNews found Phinney recovering outside the team bus. He stretched and searched to come to terms with riding in another Giro d’Italia. Phinney has fought a virus this week and had a fever on Wednesday night.
“It’s been a rough start in general with my knee problems and allergy issues,” he said. “We’re taking care of Cadel Evans. I’m trying to save energy where I can and I reckon I’ll come good in the last half of the race.”
He continued stretching, which pulled at the kenesio tape on his right knee. The knee forced him out of the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) last month. Phinney dealt with tendonitis issues earlier in his neo-pro season, in 2011.
“I’m not sure what it is with my knee, and it messes with your mind a bit,” Phinney said.
Saltara time trial
Phinney won the under-23 time trial at the 2010 world championships and was victorious in last year’s opening TT at the Giro. However, he played down his chances of contending for the win in tomorrow’s 54.8-kilometer test against the clock.
“It’s a stage I’m looking at, but it’s quite difficult,” Phinney said. “It’s not such a straightforward time trial. I haven’t seen the course; all I know is that it’s quite hilly and hard, but there are also some flat, straight sections, which is good for me. It’s a perfect time trial for [Bradley] Wiggins because he has the strength to gain time on the climbers on the straights but he also has the ability to stay with them on the uphills and downhills.
“It’s like last year’s world champs time trial in [Limburg]. Those were one-kilometer climbs but these are two-kilometer climbs, the last climb is a bit longer than the Giro stage.”
Foreshadowing what turned out to be a brutal day in the rain and a GC-upending finale for Wiggins, Phinney said he was looking to survive stage 7.
“I’m just trying to get by, however. Friday’s stage will be a difficult stage, which will be a survival day for me.”
After Friday’s stage, Phinney said he was feeling better, but still wasn’t putting expectations on his TT ride.
“Today, my body has passed the virus, but I’m still a bit down, which is to be expected in the middle of a grand tour; getting a virus is not the best thing,” he said. “I don’t know what to expect. I’m kind of going into it with an open mind. I don’t really have huge expectations, but I’m not limiting myself either. I’ll go out there and do the best time trial that I can. Whether that puts me close to the leaders or 10 minutes down, we’ll find out.”
Survival first for Phinney
Phinney said he expects to be better at the tail end of the race, as he was last year. He was on course to contend in the final-stage time trial in Milan in 2012 before a race motorcycle led him off-course. When asked about his goal for this Giro, he said it was just to finish.
“It’s the main goal,” he said. “It’s going to take me a couple more years to get into the groove of being up [with the] front group every day. It will give me a lot in return over time. I know these first couple of ones are going to be the hardest, the same with these first couple of stages because everyone is a bit fresh. When you get into the last half, it’s a bit more organized. Last year, I rode the last week and started to feel a lot better. I’m learning what it takes with my body.”
Phinney finished talking and climbed onto the bus where Evans waited. While finishing the Giro is his goal, he also wants to help the 2011 Tour de France winner race for the overall win.
- Results for 5/9/13 are posted
PESCARA, Italy (VN) — When he crossed the finish line alone and in the rain at the Giro d’Italia on Friday, Adam Hansen had done more than win the stage — he’d carved out a little slice of cycling history.
Riding for the Belgian squad Lotto-Belisol, the brawny 31-year-old Australian — he turns 32 on Saturday — rode with panache, driving a six-man breakaway over a hilly course profile, going clear with 20 kilometers remaining, and holding off a chasing group of overall favorites to take a dramatic solo victory.
The win came as just dessert for the muscle-bound rider who has spent his career humbly churning over his pedals in the shadows as a domestique.
“This is the biggest win of my life,” Hansen said at the finish. “It’s a very special day. Tomorrow is my birthday, and this is a good present for myself. This means a lot to me; I was very emotional when I crossed the line. I never thought this would ever happen.”
A former computer programmer — he even gave advanced database lectures at his university — Hansen came into pro cycling through triathlon.
“I started as a runner, and then got into triathlon,” Hansen said. “The swim and run were my best disciplines, so I focused more on my cycling. I came to Austria to ride for an amateur team. My year in Austria was enjoyable, I found I really loved cycling, and I never turned back.”
After four seasons with amateur Austrian teams, Hansen joined T-Mobile in 2007, riding under manager Bob Stapleton and sport directors Rolf Aldag and Brian Holm. In all, he spent four years with the team, riding in support of team leaders such as Mark Cavendish and Michael Rogers. He left the team for the Lotto squad in 2011.
Though he’s not historically been a winner, during his career Hansen has become a bit of a sentimental fan favorite, both for his humble, low-key personality and his hardman accomplishments, such as finishing all three grand tours in 2012.
He’s also known for having a laugh on social media — like when he posted photos of a skeleton in a Lotto team kit on Twitter during the off-season — and for his custom race shoes, which he designed himself.
Lotto-Belisol came to the Giro without a specified GC rider or sprinter, opening the door to opportunists. On a difficult stage with four categorized climbs, 8,500 feet of elevation gain in the final 50km, and countless uncategorized climbs before that, Hansen made it into the day’s breakaway alongside five other riders. That, he said, was the hardest part of his day.
“Today, on profile, looked like breakaway stage,” Hansen said. “The stages before, we were not really jumping to get into a break and I was hoping it was going to be today. I was very motivated this morning; I even shaved my head to be ready for it. It was always the idea today to be in the break, but it’s very difficult, with a lot of fighting at the start. People don’t realize that the hardest part of the race is to get into the break. Once it’s sorted, it’s almost like a lottery, if it stays, or comes back.”
As the stage progressed and the group’s lead over the peloton stretched out to seven minutes, Hansen said he began to believe they might have a chance to stay clear and fight it out for the stage win. However, as the time gap began to fall back down, particularly when Vini Fantini-Selle Italia began to up the tempo in hopes of setting up local favorite Danilo Di Luca, Hansen said he feared his time off the front of the race was short.
Believing that Emanuele Sella (Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela) appeared to be the strongest of his breakaway companions, Hansen said he began formalizing a plan to get to the finish line alone. The 6-foot, 170-pound strongman had his work cut out for him, first against the 5-foot-4, 110-pound Italian climber, and later, navigating the wet, treacherous descent that took down several GC favorites.
“I knew Sella was strongest, and I don’t think he would have expected me to challenge him on the climbs, so I started trying to crack him mentally,” Hansen said. “I think it was more of a shock for him, and I was surprised that he suffered on a few of the climbs. Even in the last 10km, with the time gaps I had been given, I was never so sure, I never believed, I always thought it would come back. Then, when I heard it was 2:30 with 6km to go, I thought, ‘It’s really happening. This time I’m bringing it home.’ It really is a lottery.”
On Friday, riding with panache on a team sponsored by the Belgian national lottery, Hansen, the eternal underdog, came up a winner.
“It’s very nice,” he said. “You work, and work, and work, and then you finally get one back. I appreciate it very much, this win.”