Giro roundtable: Nibali’s last stand?
I think we’re all still trying to recover from watching that Giro d’Italia. After a fairly tame start, the race packed years of drama into a few days of racing. There were crashes. There were implosions. There were even cheeseburger fantasies.
What were our lasting memories? What were our grand conclusions from this exciting race? Let’s roundtable!
The 2016 Giro will always be remembered for ______.
Spencer Powlison: Stevey Cruiseship! Kruijswijk has been anonymously knocking around the peloton for 10 years and finally upped his level in a major way this Giro. His contract with LottoNL ends this year, so I bet we’ll see another team try to hire Dutchman to be its grand tour leader.
Fred Dreier: The crash seen ’round the world. I had finally convinced myself to cheer for a Kruijswijk victory when he went barreling into that snowbank. I’m happy he walked away fairly minor injuries, as the video is straight out of the “Agony of Defeat” section on “Wide World of Sports“. Whether or not Kruijswijk ever wins a grand tour, that crash video will haunt him forever.
Andy Hood: Nibali’s last gasp. The Shark took a bite out of this Giro, but my hunch is it will be his final grand tour victory. The fact that it took a crash by a unheralded rival to secure the pink jersey seems to confirm that Nibali’s membership in the “four galacticos” club has an expiry date. A move to the Bahraini project, requiring an entirely new cycling infrastructure, built from scratch, would be disastrous at this stage of his career. Even if he stays at Astana, he will be playing second fiddle to Aru. A smarter move is to join Trek – Segafredo.
Caley Fretz: The final week. Everything before that was a bit snoozy. The Giro used more highway-type roads this year, particularly when the race was in the south, and it made for some Tour-esque racing. That’s not a compliment. But those last few days were something special. Stage 19 to Risoul was the best grand tour stage in half a decade. We have short memories, so that final week will smother the two average (or even below average) weeks that came before. I’d give the whole race 3/5 stars. Final week: 5/5.
You’re building a team for next year’s Giro. Who would you rather have: Chaves or Kruijswijk?
Spencer: Chaves is an easy choice — the kid has three grand tour stage wins. Kruijswijk won one stage at Tour de Suisse in 2011, Arctic Race of Norway, and that’s it. Plus, Chavito is two years younger.
Fred: Chaves. Even if he doesn’t win, he’ll draw you a pretty picture.
Andy: Chaves. Not only does the kid have guts, a strong engine, and is an emerging media darling with his dazzling smile, he is a rider who engenders loyalty and harmony inside the team bus. The only thing worse than racing your guts out for a captain who cannot deliver is if that rider is a complete wanker. And there are plenty of wankers leading big teams. Chaves not only thanks and appreciates the work the team does for him, he backs it up with results. That’s not to say Kruijswijk isn’t all of those things, but if I had to choose, my fantasy league team will include Chaves. He’s got class money cannot buy.
Caley: Kruijswijk. He was the best rider in this Giro. Plus I’ve already spent countless hours memorizing the placement of his Js, I don’t want those hours to go to waste.
What was the biggest disappointment from this year’s race?
Spencer: Rigoberto Urán just can’t seem to stay healthy in grand tours. I really thought the new team would see him deliver on his promise. It’s a shame because Cannondale’s domestiques, especially Joe Dombrowski, were riding so well and could have helped him if he were in the mix.
Fred: Ilnur Zakarin crashing out. He looked strong enough to get onto the podium or win a mountain stage.
Andy: Mikel Landa. I would have liked to see how far he could have gone against Nibali. Sky pays him millions to win the Giro, and he’s out of the race within the first week, but I bet they are more disappointed than I am.
Caley: VN European correspondent Andrew Hood and I swapped halfway through the race but didn’t overlap by even a single day, so we never got to grab a beer. That was disappointing. Also, the rain in the Chianti TT effectively neutralized that stage for most of the GC men. That was also disappointing.
Who had the most impressive performance this year?
Spencer: Vincenzo Nibali gets a lot of heat, and sometimes he’s asking for it. But love him or loathe him, the man is so tenacious. He could have given up on Giro pink after his mechanical in the Alpe di Siusi time trial, or after the tragic news of Rosario Costa’s death, or after suffering a stomach bug midway through the race. He didn’t. Instead, he pulled off a gritty coup on the final day of racing. Grande campione.
Fred: I can’t get enough of the man I now call “Jungle Bob.” Bob Jungels blossomed from a time trial power rider into a grand tour threat over these past few weeks. He gritted it out against older riders with far better results on the climbs.
Andy: I gotta go with Chaves. He checks off all the boxes for a Giro rider. The kid’s going to win the Vuelta a España in September. You read it here first.
Caley: Bob Jungels for most impressive young rider. If he loses 3-5 kilos he could win a grand tour. Honorable mention goes to Michele Scarponi as domestique of the month. He won the Giro for Nibali.