Monday, June 17, 2024

Il Giro d’Italia 2014 – Stage 7; Frosinone – Foligno, 214 km. Desperate Nacer Bouhanni


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Nacer Bouhanni‘Desperate’ is defined as; ‘having a great need or desire for something.’ It was Vik who used the word when describing the win of Nacer Bouhanni in Bari in that ‘semi-neutralised’ slippery Stage Four.

Bouhanni had to change a wheel with 13 K to go and rain slick roads or not, the Frenchman and his domestiques rode like madmen to get him where he had to be.

The man was desperate to win.

He was the same today; F des J put the most savagery into the chasing down of the five escapees – for a long time I thought they’d stay clear.

But F des J more than any other team wanted them back – and Bouhanni didn’t disappoint.

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Nacer Bouhanni is desperate for victories. Photo©Fabio Ferrari

I remember I spoke to Zak Dempster a year or two ago, during that season where he dominated the British race scene.

I asked him why that year was so much better than the year before; ‘I wasn’t desperate enough to win, last year’ was his reply.

Matthews was desperate to keep pink on stages five and six and desperate to win, yesterday.

Maybe Steve Peters should be teaching ‘desperation’ – Bouhanni and Matthews seem 100% ‘chimp-free’ to me.

The stage could have been a tedious, typical Giro sprinter’s stage, today but was saved by the breakaway riders’ determination.

It’s easy to be a critic when you’re sitting on the sofa but if the five escapees had agreed a pact to ride a pure TTT to the red kite then they’d have won it – all the foxing and stalling in the last few K did for them.

But like I say, it’s easy from the sofa.

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Michael Mathews knows his days in pink are likely numbered. Photo©Fabio Ferrari

The finale was a cliffhanger though and it was well inside 10 K before it became apparent that the sprinter teams’ grim reapers with their 11 tooth sprockets and skinsuits – rather than scythes and black cloaks – were going to cast the breakaway souls into oblivion.

The five fugitives will be among the first in the gruppetto tomorrow, that’s for sure with two first and a second cat. climbs – complete with a mountain top finish at Montecopiolo.

Before the Giro, I did a preview for ‘another well known cycling website’ – I named 12 riders as the main contenders and thought it would be interesting to see how they had fared in the first week:

Two have gone home; Dan Martin (Garmin & Ireland) as a result of that horrible stage one TTT crash when his front wheel slid out on a manhole cover.

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Joaquim Rodriguez is a tough cookie. Photo©Gian Mattia D’Alberto

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha & Catalonia) is DNF too, after adding broken bones yesterday on the way to Monte Cassino to those he sustained in the Amstel.

He’s a tough little man – but we all have our limits.

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Cadel Evans. Photo©Gian Mattia D’Alberto

The man who I prematurely buried in last year’s preview, Cadel Evans (BMC & Australia) – but who this year has to be considered a potential winner after his aggressive, confident and smart riding – lies second @ 21 seconds on race leader Michael Matthews and is the yard stick by which the other contenders have to be measured.

Tomorrow we’ll know if he has real climbing form in the high mountains or he’s been giving us Hinault-esque bluff, bravado and riding on power.

Rigoberto Uran (QuickStep & Colombia) is in third spot 57 seconds shy of Evans, he’s kept his powder dry (copyright D. Duffield) and despite hitting the deck yesterday is just where he’d like to be.

A man who’s ahead of where we expected him to be is Tinkoff’s Polish climber, Rafal Majka who’s in fourth spot @ 1:04; he’ll be happy with that.

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Rafal Majka.

Sicilian Fabio Aru (Astana) is 30 seconds back on Evans in eighth spot and confirming our feeling that he’s ‘one to watch.’

He was one of the last men standing on the Tre Cime Laverado in the blizzard in last year’s Giro.

Previous winner Ivan Basso (Cannondale & Italy) may be knocking on in years but he’s in 10th spot @ 1:45 and won’t be too disappointed with that.

Big race favourite Nairo Quintana (Movistar & Columbia) lies two seconds behind Basso in 11th spot but hasn’t enjoyed the early stages, looking strained yesterday, in particular.

But like a sprinter forgets the pain when he sees the red kite the little Colombian will be looking forward to those GPM cat. 1 sign boards, tomorrow.

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Domenico Pozzovivo. Photo©Gian Mattia D’Alberto

Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R & Italy) is three seconds adrift of Quintana in 14th spot and is another man looking forward to the montagnes.

Trek’s Robert Kiserlovski (Croatia) is handling wearing the team’s number one dossard well, just 13 seconds behind Pozzovivo; but tiny team mate Arredondo – who some were tipping – has dropped a huge 20 minutes.

Four seconds behind the Croatian is Astana’s nominated leader, Italian veteran Michele Scarponi – Saturday’s peaks will tell if he retains that mantle or the team place their weight behind Aru, instead.

For the last of our ‘tips for the top’ Nico Roche (Ireland), it’s stage wins only from here on in; he’s dropped 15 minutes; but that’s all to the good for Majka and the Tinkoff management – there can now be no argument about who’s the protected rider.

It’s those Montagne tomorrow and the GC pack of cards will get a right good shuffle.

Matthews is too chunky for the first cats – so who’ll be in pink this time tomorrow?

Evans, I reckon.

And final word on Evans and Matthews continuing to ride after the big crash yesterday goes to our friend and cycling observer, Dave.

It’s a race, not a club run.

Ciao, ciao.