The 2015 Giro was a solidly entertaining, if not spectacular, grand tour, which gave us a great variety of stories and disputes to dwell on, as well as some exciting and unpredictable racing. I’m not convinced it was quite as magical as everyone made out – the fact that Contador took such a huge lead in the time trial somewhat negated any intrigue as to who would win the race, leaving the ding-dong battle for second and third between Aru and Landa as the main area of interest – but it will certainly be talked about for some time.
So, its time for a slightly irreverent look at how the race played out and the like.
The race began with an impressive four previous winners starting out, who had taken either five or six overall wins, depending on whether you count Alberto Contador’s 2011 effort. Michele Scarponi, the man officially awarded that title, wasn’t there, which helps.
Damiano Cunego ITA (Nippo-Vini Fantini) – 2004 Champion (Saeco)
Ivan Basso ITA (Tinkoff Saxo) – 2006 Champion (CSC), 2010 Champion (Liquigas)
Alberto Contador ESP (Tinkoff Saxo) – 2008 Champion (Astana), 2011 Champion* (SaxoBank)
Ryder Hesjedal CAN (Cannondale-Garmin) – 2012 Champion (Garmin-Barracuda)
Only Contador and Hesjedal could really be counted as favourites, with the others coming from the previous podiums at the race.
These seven men had held that honour, but again, only Contador, Hesjedal, Uran and Aru could really be seen as favourites.
What about stage winners, I hear you cry? Well, there was a few. 33 riders (or 34 if you count Mr Contador) had previously won stages (a total of 79/81, again depending on Mr Contador, between them). With 197 riders starting (George Bennet was on the start list but did not compete), that means 17.26% of the riders had on the start had won a stage before.
Alessandro Petacchi ITA (SouthEast Pro Cycling) – 27 stages (2003-05, 2007, 2009, 2011)
Ivan Basso ITA (Tinkoff-Saxo) – 6 stages (2005, 2006, 2010)
Damiano Cunego ITA (Nippo-Vini Fantini) – 4 stages (2004)
Diego Ulissi ITA (Lampre-Merida) – 3 stages (2011, 2014)
Franco Pelizotti ITA (Androni Sidermec) – 3 stages (2006, 2008, 2009)
Andre Greipel GER (Lotto-Soudal) – 2 stages (2008, 2010)
Michael Rogers AUS (Tinkoff-Saxo) – 2 stages (2014)
Pieter Weening NED (Orica-GreenEdge) – 2 stages (2011, 2014)
Vasil Kiryienka BLR (Sky) – 2 stages (2008, 2011)
Enrico Battaglin ITA (Bardiani-CSF) – 2 stages (2013, 2014)
Giovanni Visconti ITA (Movistar) – 2 stages (2013)
Paolo Tiralongo ITA (Astana) – 2 stages (2011, 2012)
Rigoberto Uran COL (Etixx-Quick Step) – 2 stages (2013, 2014)
Adam Hansen AUS (Lotto-Soudal) – 1 stage (2013)
Fabio Aru ITA (Astana) – 1 stage (2014)
Jon Izagirre ESP (Movistar) – 1 stage (2012)
Romain Kreuziger CZE (Tinkoff Saxo) – 1 stage (2012)
Alberto Contador ESP (Tinkoff-Saxo) – 2 stages (2011)
By the end of the race, a further eight new Giro stage winners would have been added, and all were first time Grand Tour stage winners as well:
Elia Viviani ITA (Sky)
Davide Formolo ITA (Cannondale-Garmin)
Jan Polanc SLV (Lampre-Merida)
Nicola Boem ITA (Bardiani CSF)
Ilnur Zakarin RUS (Katusha)
Sacha Modolo ITA (Lampre-Merida)
Mikel Landa ESP (Astana)
Iljio Keisse BEL (Etixx-Quick Step)
Hurrah for them.
Similarly, there were a number of riders (15, 7.6%) who had been lucky enough to wear the coveted Maglia rosa who were present in the race.
Alberto Contador ESP (Tinkoff-Saxo) – 13/20 days (2008, 2011*)
Ivan Basso ITA (Tinkoff-Saxo) – 19 days (2005, 2006, 2010)
Damiano Cunego ITA (Nippo-Vini Fantini) – 11 days (2004)
Giovanni Visconti ITA (Movistar) – 8 days (2008)
Alessandro Petacchi ITA (SouthEast ProCycling) – 7 days (2003, 2009)
Michael Matthews AUS (Orica-GreenEdge) – 6 days (2014)
Ryder Hesjedal CAN (Cannondale-Garmin) – 5 days (2012)
Luca Paolini ITA (Katusha) – 4 days (2013)
Franco Pelozotti ITA (Androni-Sidermec) – 4 days (2008)
Rigoberto Uran COL (Etixx-QuickStep) – 4 days (2014)
Pieter Weening NED (Orica-GreenEdge) – 4 days (2011)
Richie Porte AUS (Sky) – 3 days (2010)
Matteo Tosatto ITA (Tinkoff-Saxo) – 3 days (2000)
Benat Intxauski ESP (Movistar) – 1 day (2013)
Salvatore Puccio ITA (Sky) – 1 day (2013)
…and by the end of the race, we had three new inductees into the Maglia Rosa posse.
Simon Gerrans AUS (Orica-GreenEdge)
Simon Clarke AUS (Orica-GreenEdge)
Fabio Aru ITA (Astana)
So, what actually happened in the race?
Despite Davide Formolo being 22 seconds up the road. Do they not look at the clock on the finish gantry?!
Still, he got Pink as well, so they could all wheel out this photo.
Esteban Chaves, the teams young Colombian GC hope, was also doing pretty well in the first week, sitting just 37 seconds behind the leaders.
Unfortunately things then went a bit downhill, and he ended up over three hours behind. I guess you can’t win them all.
Meanwhile, Lotto-Soudal’s Jurgen Van Den Broeck, he of the two 4th place finishes at the Tour de France in 2010 and 2012 insisted he should not be ruled out of contention given the time trial was to come.
…but arguably it was a tad embarrassing when his own team mate, Maxime Monfort defeated him overall.
A usual (flawed) idea is to see what the GC would look like without the TT. of course, this doesn’t really work, as it would have affected the dynamics of the race afterwards, but lets have a look anyway.
Basically, if the stages had miraculously panned out as they had after the TT and no different, then Aru would have leapt from 3rd to 1st on the penultimate day to secure his triumph. But sorry Italian fans – this is a pipe dream. This is also only looking at the ultimate top 10, so others could have infiltrated the top 10 due to their excellent climbing having lost out from their poor TT ing.
Reality, on the other hand, looked like this:
The General Classification
The difference can be seen in that the TT gave Contador a huge buffer, which he could “allow” to be eaten into, although he was doing the shoulders hunched forward thing he does when he’s cracking on the last couple of stages, which suggests he was indeed knackered and wasn’t just “cooling down” with an eye to the Tour. Similarly, this shows that Hesjedal was aided somewhat by the TT, which allowed him to be 5th. His ride was still impressive though – he was 10th of the GC contenders at stage 16, and gained 5 places by the end of the race.
The points competition was also fairly competitive, with five different leaders. Impressively, Ilijo Keisse managed to come 6th based on just two days of point scoring, whilst Giacomo Nizzolo needed to score on 8 days to score under double the points of Nizzolo. Alberto Contador was the only GC man to get into the top 10.
As such, the competition ended up with the lead changing hands five times between 4 different riders, with Nizzolo eventually triumphing based on his incredible consistency rather than stage winning potential (Sacha Modolo won 2 stages, Nizzolo finished 6th, 5th, 5th (winning the bunch sprint behind the break), 2nd, 2nd and 5th (3rd in the bunch sprint))
A special congratulations should also go to the mighty Andre Greipel, who in taking a win extended the number of consecutive Grand Tours he has entered and won a stage in to eight, which given he has only entered one a year his entire career (presumably that will change this year), means he has won stage in a grand tour every year since 2008 – to put that in perspective, Mark Cavendish has only managed three year streaks, although that is mainly because he withdrew from the 2011 Vuelta with heat exhausiton. Greipel has taken 13 stage wins across the eight years, and looks set to replace Thor Hushovd, who won stages in Grand Tours every year from 2004-2011 (plus he did that in the Tour de France), as the peloton’s most reliable winner.
The blue jersey for the mountains competition was also hotly contested, changing hands eight times between seven different riders. Because I usually use blue for 4th-10th positions on these graphs, the winner has a green trend line (in line with the colour the jersey used to be)
Movistar’s Bent Intxausti looked to be in command for a while, before it looked like Steven Krujswijk might turn it into a two horse battle. Giovanni Visconti had other ideas however, and soared away to wrap up the points he would need to win on stage 19. Landa had the capability to snatch the win at the death thanks to the Cima Coppi, but the Italians where ensured a clean sweep of the minor classifications after Visconti’s triumph.
Of course, no one will remember any of this in a few years – they will simply note the name next to the year that says “Alberto Contador”. The 2015 Giro becomes the Spaniard’s 9th Grand Tour (or 7th if…you know the rest), and he has now officially won all the Grand Tours on multiple occasions, a feat achieved only by Bernard Hinault.
Contador has also shown surprising longevity in that his first win was in 2007, which has left him with a 9 year Grand Tour winning life span. Given that Eddy Merckx won all his grand tours in 6 years between 1968-1974, and Armstrong in 7 years from 1999-2005, he beats Hinault and Anquetil on an 8 year span each (Hinault from 1978-1985, Anquetil from 1957-1964) to become the longest lasting Grand Tour winner. It looks unlikely that he will match the gap between Gino Bartali’s 1938 and 1948 Tour wins, given he looks set to retire at the end of 2016, although ending his career with 4 Tour wins would surely be grating – Contador would no doubt say he was on 5, but then perhaps there would be the draw of a 6th win to take him above the record books.
Robert Millar recently commented that Contador “had won” the 2011 Giro, on the basis that he “was tested if and when the controllers thought fit and he had the pink jersey at the end of it.” A bit naive given that by that standard, Lance Armstrong won seven tours, and you only have to look at the rabid responses to that idea to see how that is an idea non grata.
Still, if we go with what we’ve seen, rather than the record books, then this is Contador’s third Giro, and he would be the second foreigner to win it thrice after Bernard Hinault. He is also in a list with…
Giovanni Brunero ITA (1921-22, 1926)
Gino Bartali ITA (1936-37, 1946)
Fiorenzo Magni ITA (1948, 1951, 1955)
Felice Gimondi ITA (1967, 1969, 1976)
Bernard Hinault FRA (1980, 1982, 1985)
Unless of course you are physically repulsed by the notion that he won the 2011 race, in which case he joins a list of 12 other riders on 2 wins, being the fourth non-Italian to achieve that feat.