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Giro Roundtable: Chaos on Blockhaus

We’re still jittery from watching Sunday’s stage 9 of the Giro d’Italia, which sent riders up the climb to Blockhaus. In a chaotic scenario that only cycling seems to produce, the stage was marred by a crash between the peloton and a parked police motorcycle. The crash knocked Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb) out of the race entirely, and sent both of Sky’s GC contenders, Mikel Landa and Geraint Thomas, tumbling to the tarmac, essentially knocking the team out of the overall race.

Who’s to blame for this mess? How does this impact the GC battle? What the hell is going on in this zany sport? Let’s roundtable!

Holy cow, cycling has another horrible motorcycle crash on its hands. How do we process this calamity?

Fred Dreier @freddreier: This Giro d’Italia has become a New York Times-style think piece on the state of pro cycling. First, there was the doping suspension of two Bardiani riders on the eve of the race. Now, the race’s GC battle has been completely reshaped by a very stupid motorcycle crash. After both chaotic and totally bonkers events, my reaction has been to see them as 100% predictable and modus operandi for cycling. I’ve become totally desensitized to these awful stories. They now just seem like part of the sport.

Spencer Powlison @spino_powerlegs: Definitely the motorcycle is to blame. Why did he need to stop right there, on the fastest part of the run-in to the climb? Couldn’t he have found a pull-out? It’s a careless error and it certainly doesn’t inspire any confidence in Italy’s carabinieri.

Caley Fretz @caleyfretz: The driver is clearly to blame. Bad place to park. Just incredibly stupid. Some of the ramifications of are obvious: Geraint Thomas is out of contention, Adam Yates is as well. There’s no coming back from time loss like that, at least not to the top step on the podium. This crash will have less overt effects on the race, too. Tom Dumoulin lost super domestique Wilco Kelderman, a rider he will need in the final week. So a crash Dumoulin wasn’t even involved in could prevent him from winning this Giro.

Other than Quintana, who had the best ride of the day and why?

Fred: Best ride of the day goes to Quintana’s Movistar teammates, especially Gorka Izaguirre and Andrey Amador. They went full Sky train on the peloton and dialed the pace up to such a hard tempo that nobody could attack. Now, the real debate is whether or not they should have waited for the actual Sky train to catch back on.

Spencer:  Definitely Tom Dumoulin. He rode such a smart climb, well within his limits, and he ended up less than 30 seconds down on Quintana. Movistar is going to have to attack Dumoulin hard in the big mountains because you know he’ll take more than 30 seconds out of Quintana in the time trial on stage 10.

Caley: Tom Dumoulin. He kept Quintana within 24 seconds, so he now trails by just 30 seconds. He’ll likely take pink in the time trial on Tuesday. That means he’ll have to defend pink across the second week, but he’s probably better off defending from the lead than trying to claw back time. If he can limit his losses in the same way in the final week, he could win the Giro on its final day, another time trial.

How does Blockhaus change the GC battle?

Fred: In my mind it’s now Quintana vs. Dumoulin for the win, with Pinot, Nibali, Kruijswijk and Mollema scrapping for third place. Quintana is going to need to put at least a minute or two into Dumoulin on Stage 16 if he wants to hold him off in those time trials.

Spencer: Still too early to say. A few guys are out of the picture — Kruijswijk and Thomas, perhaps. Nibali got dropped, but remember how well he rode the final week of last year’s Giro? Don’t count him out. Similarly, Thibaut Pinot proved he can attack in the mountains. He’s not afraid to fight with outright favorites like Quintana and Nibali and will be a threat unless he fades in the third week.

Caley: Everyone inside the top 10 remains in contention. Tenth at the moment is Steven Kruijswijk, only 3:06 down. That much time could be gained or lost in a single stage later in the race, as the mountains start to pile up. That said, I think we saw our final podium today. Quintana, Pinot, and Dumoulin. They climbed the best and will time trial well.

Which GC guy can we stick a fork in?

Fred: Tejay

Spencer: Tejay

Caley: Tejay. And Bob Jungels. Which makes me sad, since I adopted him in the last VeloNews Podcast.

That said, it is tough to say whether the Blockhaus climb was a true canary in the coal mine for riders like van Garderen and Jungels, who both lost big chunks of time. It was a strange day. The week prior was flat and easy, so the climb on Sunday bears little contextual resemblance to the big tests later in the race. We could see them climb back up the rankings — or they could keep dropping. The only riders I think are completely out of the running for a victory are Geraint Thomas and Adam Yates, both five minutes down. Both felled by the moto. That’s frustrating and sad.

What does your final GC podium look like now?

Fred: Dumoulin, Quintana, Pinot

Spencer: Quintana, Dumoulin, Nibali

Caley: Quintana, Dumoulin, Pinot. Or maybe Pinot then Dumoulin. But Nairo’s got this.

Anything else to get off your chest about today’s stage?

Fred: I’m watching the international broadcast feed on Fubo.tv, and, wow, race commentators Carlton Kirby and Dan Lloyd have officially lost all hope in the Giro’s TV production crew. Yesterday Carlton had to make up something about a lighthouse that was inexplicably shown for some reason. Today they spent the whole broadcast screaming at motorcycles. I think their takes are spicier than ours.

Spencer: I’ll cop to a little Sky schadenfreude after that crash. Of all the teams in pro cycling, it’s my guilty pleasure to see Team Sky’s careful robot plan fall apart in the chaos of the Giro d’Italia. But you just don’t want to see it fall apart due to something like this. The team really seems to be cursed when it comes to the Giro, whether it’s Richie Porte getting flat tires, or crashes like this. Save it for July, lads.

Caley: The moto crash was egregious and awful, but there were other instances where the motos affected the race as well. They were ridiculously close to Quintana a few times, and were even in between Quintana and his chasers when that gap was only a few seconds. The drivers need to understand how far they should be to prevent drafting and never, ever, get closer than that. Or the camera crews should switch from motorcycles to Segway scooters for mountaintop finishes. Much more nimble.

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