VN Show: Tips to help Thibaut beat Nibali

Editor’s note: This VeloNews Show includes images from TDWSport.com, VeloNews.com, Flickr Creative Commons, Wikimedia Commons, inCycle/YouTube, Cyclingnews, RedBull/YouTube-RedBull Content Pool, smaildog/Instagram, Warner Brothers/YouTube

Shed a tear for the 2017 road racing season because it’s essentially finished. The final monument of the year, Il Lombardia, is in the books.

The “Race of the Falling Leaves” offered lots of excitement. There were scary crashes. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) went head-to-head in the finale. And the Italian came out on top.

We should also shed a tear for Pinot. He still has trouble with those fast, technical descents.

Lucky for the Frenchman, we’ve got some innovative ideas to help him improve his skills. In this episode of the VeloNews Show we brainstorm a bunch of ways to make him competitive with the likes of Nibali.

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Top nine hissy fits in professional cycling

When cyclists lose their temper, it can have comical outcomes

When cyclists lose their temper, it can have comical outcomes

Cyclingnews  · Pinot: Giro d’Italia was a big moment for my…

Cyclingnews  · Pinot: Giro d’Italia was a big moment for my career #Giro100 | http://buff.ly/2riukvc

Greatest Giro ever? Five takeaways from Italy

MILANO, Italy (VN) — Was the 2017 Giro d’Italia one of the best grand tours in decades? One could certainly make the case.

Sunday’s nail-biter finale certainly backs that argument, with many recalling the classic duel between Greg LeMond and Laurent Fignon at the 1989 Tour de France. Four riders started the final time trial less than one minute from each other, with Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) earning the first Dutch grand tour win since 1980.

The 100th edition of the Giro saw its best field ever, with nearly a dozen aspirants lining up in Sardinia in what now feels like a very long time ago. Crashes and illnesses hampered or eliminated GC hopes for Geraint Thomas and Mikel Landa (Sky), Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb), Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo), and Adam Yates (Orica-Scott), but the battle went down to the wire.

“This was superb racing during this Giro,” said Trek-Segafredo sport director Kim Andersen. “You saw all the top riders going against each other, mano-a-mano. It wasn’t controlled by the big teams. There wasn’t one top rider. Everyone was really fighting right to the end. That is great racing.”

While it’s true the decisive mountain stages came down to the best riders slinging it out, the longer distances often seemed to keep the lid on the action until the day’s final climb. And when the attacks did come, the race quickly reverted into a battle of attrition.

The Giro continues to believe that long, hard stages are necessary to fit the bill of what’s expected in a grand tour. The string of 200km+ mountain stages saw riders literally crawling into Milan. The race’s most exciting mountain stages — Blockhaus at 152km and Ortisei at 137km — were shorter days. The Vuelta a España and even the Tour have adopted shorter mountain stages to provoke more explosive racing, and the Giro could do itself a favor by doing the same.

Below are five takeaways from the Giro.

1. Dumoulin arrives

With his 31-second victory over Movistar’s Nairo Quintana, Dumoulin became the first Dutch winner of a grand tour since Joop Zoetemelk in 1980. Holland’s long trip in cycling purgatory is finally over.

At 26, Dumoulin is poised to become a major force in grand tours. A confirmed world-class time trialist, Dumoulin didn’t lose his power against the clock as he worked hard after the 2016 Olympics to target this Giro. He shed three kilos from his Rio de Janeiro weight and confirmed his climbing chops during three weeks in Italy, all without sacrificing his touch in the time trials.

That combination of climbing matched with TT prowess is what makes riders like Chris Froome so formidable in the Tour de France. Dumoulin won’t race the Tour this year, likely returning to the Vuelta a España instead (with a possible matchup against Froome) before targeting the Tour. When? The team says it depends on what kind of course the Tour delivers for 2018, but it’s also likely the Tour will want to see a Froome-Dumoulin matchup and it may serve up a course packed with time trials.

The future seems bright for Dumoulin, who also revealed he’s not afraid to speak his mind and who has the mental fortitude not to crack when the unexpected happens. Without his unplanned bathroom stop, the Giro would have been in the bag a lot earlier — and this Giro very likely would have been a snoozer. If Dumoulin stays healthy and his team buys a few key riders to help him for the Tour, he could emerge as the next great grand tour rider.

“This is an important victory for me,” he said. “I wasn’t sure if I could do it, and many thought I would crack like I did in the Vuelta [2015]. I prepared specifically for this Giro, and really targeted a grand tour for the first time. Now I want to try to win the Tour. I have to keep working, but I hope I can do it someday.”

2. Quintana just falls short

Marco Pantani’s double record is safe, at least for another year. Quintana did just about everything right in this Giro but he ran into a superior time trialist, finishing second in his quest to match Pantani’s Giro-Tour double.

If this Giro sounds eerily similar to what Quintana has faced in the Tour against Froome, you’re right. Dumoulin took so much time on Quintana in the first time trial that the Dutchman was riding in defensive mode until his unplanned pit stop at the foot of the Stelvio. That tightened things up quite a bit, but Dumoulin masterfully handled Quintana’s challenges.

It was hard to read Quintana’s immediate reaction in the wake of losing pink on Sunday. He admitted that he felt a tinge of fever on the key stage to Piancavallo, where Movistar did finally crack Dumoulin, but said he didn’t have his usual after-burners to deliver the knockout blow. He seemed satisfied enough with his overall result, pointing out that with 70km of time trialing, the course was far from ideal.

The big question now is whether Quintana will be able to bounce back for the Tour. There’s no doubt that Quintana has one of the best recoveries in the peloton, and the team is convinced that despite fighting through a hard Giro, Quintana will be able to challenge for the yellow jersey this summer. There is huge pressure to deliver in July. Another podium in Paris might be satisfactory, but if he does reach second again behind Froome, many will question if the Giro-Tour attempt was even worth it.

“One cannot be disappointed with a podium,” he said. “Tom was very strong, and we are still on the podium, and that is still important. We did a great time trial today, and some even said yesterday that we could lose the podium. I was thinking about winning, and to finish second, well, that’s not bad.”

3. Nibali wasn’t at same level

Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) started this Giro with the No. 1 bib and ended third on the overall podium. What happened? Simply put, Nibali wasn’t consistent enough to seriously challenge for the overall title.

One of the most tactical and dangerous attackers, Nibali came away with a dramatic stage win last Tuesday in the double-climb over the Stelvio. In the final string of mountain stages, however, he didn’t have the spark in the mountains to challenge Quintana in the mountains or the power to overcome Dumoulin in the time trials.

What’s next? Nibali might race the Tour de France this summer, but if he goes he would serve as a stage-hunter. It’s been three years since he won the Tour, and with the arrival of such rivals as Quintana, Dumoulin, and Froome, Nibali might keep his GC hopes centered on the Giro for the next few years. On a course with fewer time trials and more explosive stages, you can never count out “the Shark.”

“The level of this Giro was very high, and the race was very demanding,” he said. “I came into the final time trial still with options to win, but I didn’t have sufficient strength in the legs. There were a few days that I suffered, but I gave the absolute maximum and I am satisfied to be on this final beautiful podium. I lost too much time on Blockhaus and Oropa to win this Giro. Tom deserved to win.”

4. Pinot needs to hit the wind tunnel

Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) came into the Giro as one of the favorites, but he saw his podium chances sink in the time trials. Among the strongest in the final week of climbing, Pinot nabbed a well-deserved stage win Saturday He lost any hope of victory after falling flat against the clock.

In the longer time trial at Montefalco, he gave up 2:42 to Dumoulin, permanently tanking his hopes for the pink jersey. But more importantly, he lost time to his immediate podium rivals to put himself on his back foot. On Sunday, he ceded 1:42 to the winner and let a chance to reach the podium slip through his hands, finishing fourth — 37 seconds short of the podium.

Pinot has done well against the clock before, but he explained that because he trained so hard for the mountains, he lost power in the time trials. Finding that balance between climbing and time trials is a challenge for any GC rider. Already a world-class climber, Pinot will need to improve his time trialing if he hopes to win a grand tour. Pinot isn’t expected to start the Tour de France, and will likely race the Vuelta later this summer. With another climb-heavy course that includes fewer TT miles, he could be a favorite for the win.

“The legs didn’t respond when they needed to today,” he said. “The simple truth is that [the podium riders] were stronger than me. Sport is like that. I am happy with this Giro, winning a stage and fighting with the favorites until the very end.”

5. Gaviria arrives

After making headlines in the first half of the Giro, Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) survived the mountains to arrive in Milan. The 22-year-old Colombian won four stages in his grand tour debut to put himself on par with Peter Sagan’s first grand tour. By arriving in Milan, he also won the points jersey.

Many see Gaviria as the next dominant sprinter in the peloton. He has the complete skillset, with positioning, ambition, and mental firmness to go with his explosive finish-line speed. He won’t race the Tour de France this year as Quick-Step doesn’t want to burn out its latest jewel. The Tour will have to wait until at least 2018, but Gaviria will likely race the Vuelta a España and build up for some of the mid-season and fall classics.

Although a few of the top sprinters were missing from the Giro, Gaviria showed he can win in all types of conditions. A star is born.

“This was an important step for me and my development,” he said. “They always say you are stronger after a grand tour. I was able to win four stages, and that is good for the future. Maybe next year I will be at the Tour. I wish there was one more sprint stage in this Giro!”

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Giro still ‘rosy’ as Pinot targets last-gasp pink jersey

ASIAGO, Italy (AFP) — Frenchman Thibaut Pinot’s impressive Giro d’Italia campaign has been “rosy,” but the FDJ team leader hasn’t given up on a last-gasp bid on Sunday that could see him snatch the pink jersey.

“I knew the Giro was a race that suited me, so I’d be delighted to come back. Everything’s been rosy so far,” Pinot said. He claimed his maiden win on the three-week race following a 190km ride from Pordenone to Asiago on Saturday.

“I hope to be on the podium, but for overall victory, we’ll have to wait and see.”

Pinot becomes the first Frenchman to win a mountain stage at the Giro since Charly Mottet triumphed atop Pordoi on June 2, 1990, only four days after he was born.

And on the eve of the 100th edition’s finale, he is still among four that are contention for a prestigious, and dramatic overall win when the race concludes with a final stage time trial over 29.3 km on Sunday.

Italy’s two-time and defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (at 39 seconds), Pinot (43 seconds) and Tom Dumoulin (53 seconds) are all within one minute of Colombian Nairo Quintana. The Movistar leader is looking for his second victory after his maiden Giro triumph in 2014.

Dumoulin crushed the field in the stage 10 time trial to take command of the race before losing the pink jersey on Friday. He is the big favorite on paper. If successful, he will become the race’s first Dutch champion.

But Pinot, the French national time trial champion, hasn’t given up hope of emulating American Greg LeMond’s exploit at the 1989 Tour de France.

LeMond won by just eight seconds after overtaking Laurent Fignon, the last Frenchman to win the Giro in 1989 and a two-time Tour de France champion, in a dramatic final time-trial stage.

Probed on his victory chances, Pinot added: “There are five of us fighting for three podium spots. But the victory favorite for me is Tom Dumoulin.

“In second? I hope me. And third, whoever wants to finish third!”

Pinot underlined his potential as a future Tour de France contender when he finished third on the 2014 race behind winner Nibali and compatriot Jean-Christophe Peraud.

It was the first time that two Frenchman stood on the podium of ‘La Grande Boucle’ since since Fignon and Bernard Hinault, as runner-up, completed a one-two at the 1984 Tour.

By then Pinot had already won a prestigious mountain stage of the race, in 2012. On his debut, aged 22 and 54 days, he became the youngest rider since Raymond Impanis in 1947 to finish in the top 10.

A second Tour stage win came in 2015 when Pinot, after a solo attack, conquered Alpe d’Huez.

Given he finished 2:42 behind Dumoulin on stage 10, victory on Sunday remains a long shot for Pinot.

But for the Frenchman, his maiden Giro campaign is already a success. “For me, the most important thing was to lift my arms in victory. I knew at the start there were stronger riders than me,” he added. “I came to win a stage and try for the podium, so it’s already a success. But we’ve got 30km remaining, and I don’t want to have any regrets when we finish tomorrow [Sunday].”

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