Some weekends are better than others. For cycling fans, this past weekend was the best of the year (thus far).
On Saturday, both Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico featured summit finishes, and both races became slug-fests between grand tour contenders. The action kept rolling on Sunday. At Paris-Nice, Alberto Contador pushed all of his chips on the table (along with his wallet and car keys) with a 50km attack aimed at dethroning Sergio Henao that came up two seconds short. At Tirreno, the GC favorites took turns attacking each other over punchy, short hills, until Peter Sagan stunned them all.
Who won the weekend (and who lost)? Let’s roundtable!
Who won the weekend?
Andrew Hood @eurohoody: Contador, yet again, shows everyone how to race. “El Pistolero” went down guns-ablazin’, and that bodes well for Le Tour. A confident Bertie is a dangerous Bertie.
Fred Dreier @freddreier: Nairoman won the weekend. On the climb to Terminillo he rode with patience and confidence, letting other guys shut down the early attacks before cranking it into top gear on that climb. Also, Quintana himself shut down some of those aggressive late attacks on Sunday’s bonkers stage, and he made it look easy.
Caley Fretz @caleyfretz: Alberto Contador, even though he didn’t actually win anything. After losing 1:04 to crosswinds early in the week he clawed back all but two seconds, capped by a spectacular long-distance breakaway on Sunday. Is there a more exciting GC rider in pro cycling? Not this week there wasn’t.
Spencer Powlison @spino_powerlegs: Hands-down Nairo Quintana was the winner. He rode exactly like a GC favorite is supposed to on the Terminillo and hung tough on that weird, selective finish Sunday in Tirreno-Adriatico.
Who lost the weekend?
Andy: Van Garderen was sitting in pole position after BMC won Tirreno’s TTT, but couldn’t answer when Quintana attacked on Terminillo. It’s still early days, and Tejay says he’s on track for the Giro.
Fred: If the Giro d’Italia is the final exam, then Vincenzo Nibali is going to have to go full cram-mode. Nibbles looked like a sportive rider on the Terminillo.
Caley: Adam Yates was forced to pull out of Tirreno-Adriatico while sitting in second place, apparently due to illness. That’s a mega bummer.
Spencer: Vincenzo Nibali really laid an egg this weekend at Tirreno-Adriatico. I expected some action on the Terminillo when he massed his gold-helmeted Bahrain-Merida team on the front with about 20km to go, but he was MIA.
How are your Giro predictions shaping up after this weekend?
Hood: Nairo was my Giro pick as soon as he said he was going to race. He’s looking insanely good, perhaps too good, too soon? The longer time trials could derail his Giro train, but that only means he will attack even more in the mountains. Venga!
Fred: Stevie Kruijswijk was nowhere to be seen, so my redemption pick is still safe. But yes, Nairo has AAA rating.
Caley: Nairo Quintana looks incredibly strong. He was never really put under pressure at Tirreno. He’s the five-star favorite.
Spencer: Well, you’d be foolish to bet against Nairo, so how about some less-staid bets? Over/under on how many Bahrain-Merida guys ride the front on the queen stage before Nibali finishes 24th? How many stages before Aru claims he’s just riding for a stage win? Will mount Etna erupt?
Chris Froome should have his eyes on ____ after this weekend?
Andy: Richie Porte — despite getting shellacked in the echelons — is looking strongest in the mountains. If Porte can keep it together in July, he should be nipping at Froome’s heels all the way across France.
Fred: Nairo. Again, he made it look easy on the summit finish to Terminillo. The Sky Death Star was no match for his legs. I know the Tour is a long way off, but victories like that build confidence.
Caley: Richie Porte always comes out swinging after he’s lost time, and often appears, if only for a day or two, to be the strongest climber in pro cycling. Since he’s one of the few Tour favorites not doing the Giro, he’s worth keeping an eye on. I’d be worried about the volatile riding of the Yates brothers, too, if I were Froome. It’s a style that could mess with Sky’s smothering Tour tactics.
Spencer: Contador. It’s always, always Alberto Contador. He should know this after the 2016 Vuelta stage to Formigal. Maybe bonus guy to keep an eye on would be Richie Porte, who flew up the Col de la Couilolle.
Where should Contador have found those two pesky seconds at Paris-Nice?
Andy: The losses in stage 1 echelons will probably cause Contador to lose some sleep for awhile. He did all the could to pull it back with a solid time trial and fearless attacking. Crosswinds suck, even for Contador.
Fred: Contador’s slight hesitation when Porte attacked on stage 7 was understandable (Bertie himself had just attacked). Had Contador gone with the Tasmanian, however, that’s at least 10 more seconds.
Caley: I was going to make a joke about David De La Cruz’s bank account, but really Contador just needed to be ready for those crosswinds on stage 1. If he was one group closer to the front he would have won the overall.
Spencer: Contador always prides himself on a Ricky Bobby-style mantra — “If you ain’t first, you’re last,” so I was kind of surprised that Contador was betting on just being able to ride away from Henao. If he wanted to really roll the dice, he would have sat on David De La Cruz in the sprint and hoped that 10-second time bonus would be enough. It might have been.