Alberto Contador’s Tinkoff-Saxo team has pulled a tired peloton across the Alps and Dolomites for the last two stages, keeping each day’s breakaway on a short leash, burning matches in an attempt to set Contador up for a stage win. In both stages the maglia rosa was left isolated late in the race, his team evaporated by the effort, crashes, and mechanicals just as rival Astana lined half its riders up on the front.
Ryder Hesjedal (Cannondale-Garmin) was in the break on both days, seeking a bit of personal glory in a Giro d’Italia that has seen him take knock after knock in its first half, as bad luck and bad legs sent him over 11 minutes down and outside the top 10 by the second rest day.
Both Tuesday’s stage, finishing in Aprica, and Sunday’s mountaintop finish in Madonna di Campiglio, could have been stage wins for the former Giro winner, except for the aggressive — and, if you ask Hesjedal, foolish — riding of Contador’s team.
“Alberto chased me down by himself over the first climb. I guess that’s another sign of respect. But I’m at 11 minutes, what do they think? Let the break go,” Hesjedal said after Tuesday’s stage, spinning slowly on a stationary trainer outside his team hotel.
“Otherwise, look what happens. Saxo just annihilates themselves. Maybe it’s all good in the end, Alberto wins, but I just don’t understand. Let a break get five, six, seven, eight minutes. What’s it to them?”
Tinkoff’s hard chasing only sets the team up to be hobbled by late efforts from Astana as it ramps up to launch Fabio Aru, now third, and Mikel Landa, now second, toward the end of the stage.
“They decide to keep it close and then it’s easy to Astana to take over … and inflict pain on everybody,” he said.
“I’m not scared of the Giro.”
Of course Hesjedal wishes Tinkoff would let a break go, particularly one with him in it — the Cannondale-Garmin rider likes his chances out of any move, particularly in the mountainous stages this week. But perhaps the top of the leaderboard still has reason to keep him in check.
Hesjedal moved himself into the top 10 on Tuesday. After riding in the breakaway, he hit the Mortirolo just ahead of a charging lead group and crossed the pass ahead of Fabio Aru, in a small group with Yuri Trofimov (Katusha) and Andrey Amador (Movistar). He moved up 10 places since the morning of the Giro’s long, stage 14 time trial, knocking more riders off the rankings above him with each stage. If his GC ascendance continues on its current course, he could just slide into the top five before Milan.
His form is getting better, he said, and he’s not afraid to put it on the line. That’s why he’s jumping into breakaways — even though a ride like today could have easily backfired.
“I’m happy with the result [of today’s stage]. I got out there, I raced. If I came in 30 minutes down, maybe I could say that what I did didn’t make sense,” he said.
“It’s just frustrating. I want to be performing. It’s just about going out and racing, going for it, and not being scared. I’m not scared to lose 13th overall. Whatever the result is after the outcome of choosing to race the way … That’s it. I’d rather just do this,” he said.
“I think you can tell from the way I’m riding, I’m not scared of the Giro. So we’ll see how the rest of the race goes.”