The rivals weigh in
Other teams are not so sure Rodríguez is the man to beat. Guiseppe Martinelli, the veteran Italian director who has led four different riders into the maglia rosa, says Rodríguez is not at the top of his favorites list.
“Right now, I think Purito has shown he is strong, but I think that Basso and Scarponi are the men to beat,” Martinelli told VeloNews. “I think that Saturday will be the first real test. It’s the first authentic mountaintop finale and it’s a long, hard stage. That’s when we will see who is truly in fighting shape to challenge for the maglia rosa. If Purito can ride into the final week in the pink jersey, then it will be another story, but I expect others to climb better.”
Garmin-Barracuda sport director Bingen Fernández suggests that having Rodríguez take over the pink jersey thanks to time bonuses was not such a bad thing for his team’s interests.
Garmin held the pink jersey for five days – three with Hesjedal and two with Ramunas Navardauskas – and Fernández said having Katusha to control the pace on the coming days heading into the Alps will give the squad a breather ahead of the decisive climbing stages in the final week.
“Without the bonuses, Ryder would still be in pink. It’s not like they took it away from us. Ryder is strong and Purito is a specialist on finishes like Assisi, so it was expected,” Fernández told VeloNews. “Everyone is waiting to see how Purito will handle the longer climbs. We still have Ryder in good position in the GC and we are still going to support him all the way to Milan. Ryder is steadier than Purito on the longer, steeper climbs. Perhaps that’s to our advantage to not have the jersey now.”
Rodríguez took 28 seconds on Hesjedal in bonuses in two uphill finales this week, but he will not have that advantage moving into the final week. Giro organizers have removed finish-line bonuses of 20, 12 and 8 seconds to the top three in five decisive mountain stages in the closing week.
Even if Rodríguez can keep pace to the top of the Stelvio on the Giro’s penultimate stage, there’s still the unfinished business of the final-stage time trial in Milan.