Words: David Evans | Photography: Kei Tsuji | Date:
The first nine stages of the Giro d’Italia belonged to Australia, as first Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE) and then BMC’s Cadel Evans held the maglia rosa. With disagreeable weather doing damage to many of the peloton’s biggest names in the first week, most riders are hoping that the Italian sun sticks around as the race starts to heat up.
‘Bling’ Matthews, who has possibly the Giro’s finest facial jewellery since Il Pirata himself, inherited his jersey from teammate Svein Tuft. He defended it by finishing with the leaders for five straight stages, and a win on Stage 6 despite sodden streets and regular crashes in the bunch.
Once the threat of Marcel Kittel’s (Giant-Shimano) seemingly unbeatable turn of speed had been dealt with by a fever, it was Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr) and Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) who stood out from a bruised and bandaged peloton to take two stages apiece. The week’s real winner is Cadel Evans, who arrived at the race as a second rung favourite, seen by many as too much of a ‘diesel’ to keep up with the Colombian climbing threat of Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma Quick-Step) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar). The commentators may have been right, Cadel Evans is a diesel, but the first nine stages of this Giro were perfectly suited to his stoic slugging. It was also his savvy positioning and bike handling within the bunch that carried Cadel past so many crashes in Stage 6 to take 50 seconds from his rivals.
Those same crashes caught out Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha), who started Stage 7 with a broken rib and thumb. Quintana has also claimed to still be suffering injuries carried since the Grand Tour’s first stages in Ireland. Samuel Sanchez and Steve Morabito have been BMC’s most notable workhorses as the race begins its time in the high mountains, tapping out a high tempo and protecting Evans from the repeated surges of pace that aren’t his forte. As Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R-La Mondiale) proved on Sunday, BMC are not invincible – the diminuitive Italian managed to take 26 seconds with a great effort on Stage 9, launching himself from the peloton and using a team-mate dropped from the day’s break to set himself up on the climb to Sestola.
Is this the template from which to fashion an attack on the general classification? Possibly, although escapees risk isolating themselves against a strong and well-drilled BMC. There are many in the peloton with a lot to gain from taking Evans to his limits after Stage 12’s individual time trial. Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Robert Kiserlovski (Trek) are placed unexpectedly well, and should seek to take advantage of their exceptional form. Uran and Quintana, meanwhile, are hoping for better weather as the race moves into more of their preferred terrain.