Time trials are always an essential element in grand tours, but will they play an outsized role in the 2017 Giro d'Italia?
The Giro d’Italia is all about epic, scenic climbs, right? Well, Tuesday’s stage 10 individual time trial might have flipped the script. On the 39.8km course through Italian wine country, Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) took the overall race lead with a convincing win. How should we cycling fans feel about time trials in grand tours? Are they the great equalizer or a nap-inducing interruption amid more exciting mountain stages? VeloNews editor in chief Fred Dreier and news director Spencer Powlison face-off!
Should Movistar hit the panic button after Tuesday’s stage?
Fred Dreier @freddreier: I think Movistar can take the plastic safety cover off of the panic button, pull on their panic button-punching gloves, and hover their mitts above said panic button. I’m not yet ready to hit that button, as I think Quintana is capable of taking that much time back on Dumoulin come week three. But if the panic button had a pre-panic button attached to it, then I think Movistar should hit that right away.
Spencer Powlison @spino_powerlegs: I think it’s unlikely that the super-tranquillo Spanish team would hit their panic button — unless they mistook it for the snooze button on the alarm clock during siesta time. But should the hit the button? Yes. There are only 11 stages left. Dumoulin has proven himself on the climbs already — both Mount Etna and Blockhaus. The Dutchman is sure to bring back at least a couple minutes in the flat stage 21 time trial, which favors him even more than stage 10.
Can Sunweb start painting a bike pink for Dumoulin after the stage 10 TT?
Fred: Again, maybe stick with the pink handlebar tape and pink stickers after stage 10. They can call up our friends over in Newbury Park, California (Giant Bicycles) if Dumoulin still has at least 1:30 after stage 16.
Spencer: Oooh, time to get superstitious. If I were Dumoulin, I’d refuse everything but the pink jersey itself. I’m something of a cycling curse expert. This role is admittedly self-proclaimed and entirely speculative. The thing is, remember last Giro, when Steven Kruijswijk unexpectedly crashed into the snowbank while wearing pink? Remember when Dumoulin fell apart while wearing red at the Vuelta in 2015? The cycling gods do not want to see the Dutch win a grand tour. These matters must be treated with great discretion.
Time trials in a grand tour: Are they a bore or a blast?
Fred: They are a bore. Yes, even though they are so influential to the overall, I just can’t motivate myself to watch. The last time a grand tour time trial made me cheer was when Denis Menchov almost lost the Giro after crashing on the final stage (2008).
Spencer: Fred, you are going to be eating your words in about 12 days. I can guarantee the stage 21 time trial in the Giro will be must-see TV. Okay, well I can’t really guarantee anything. But at the very least, TTs are essential. Even more so in this Giro, the time trials encourage aggressive riding in the mountains. Plus, they give fans a lot to speculate about. Cycling Twitter was abuzz yesterday with prognostications on Quintana’s prospects in stage 10.
Did the Giro’s stage 10 time trial change your opinion of TT stages?
Fred: Not really. If anything it changed my opinion of how influential the TT was going to be in this year’s Giro. I thought that Mt. Etna and Blockhaus would have created more separation within the GC favorites before the time trial, making it less influential. As we saw, that was not the case. I am guessing that Movistar wished they had hit those stages a tad harder after today’s result.
Spencer: I’ll admit I usually poo-poo time trials, like Fred. However, I think this race really gave me a fresh appreciation for the discipline. It is pretty fascinating to see a TT specialist like Dumoulin find a way to eke out climbing performance without totally sacrificing his talents as a rider against the clock.
Is the Giro — famously a climbing-centric race — going to be a race won on the aero bars this year?
Fred: No. I still think the double-Stelvio day decides the race. The aerobars will create nice drama.
Spencer: Fred has got it all wrong again. Stage 16 is simply too brutal to decide the race. Yes, Dumoulin could lose time here, or in some of the other climbing stages in that final week. But I’m betting he rides into stage 21 within a minute of the leader (likely Quintana), and then it will be a massacre on the streets of Milano.