Time trials are a showdown and a shakeout. Everyone rides alone, nobody hides, and at the end, it is clear who has legs and who doesn't. Stage Eight brought the first individual time trial of this year's Giro, a tough 54.8km affair from Gabicce Mare to Saltara. Being able to get comfortable in that place of exquisite hurt is the key to going fast, and finding a rhythm makes it easier. Only this course was almost designed to make finding a rhythm impossible. Lots of up and down on small roads and finishing with a 3.3km climb, which pitches up to 11% in the final kilometer.
The Cannondale Pro Cycling team, packed with stage hunters, came into this day knowing that their objectives lay elsewhere. They warmed up well, started on time, and rode fast enough to stay in the race. With no awards to fight for, and another twelve stages to go, they kept their head in the game by vowing to continue the fight tomorrow.
Time trials are different for specialists and overall contenders. A time trial specialist makes his season by winning these races, so he tries to rest up on the days leading to a race against the watch, and must be able to leave everything on the road. Contenders have to try to match the specialists, but aren't as rested. Some contenders try to win, others try to limit losses.
Sky's Bradley Wiggins came into today knowing he needed to beat all the other contenders; his time loss yesterday made this necessary. Luckily, time trial specialist Alex Dowsett of Movistar had blazed to the fastest time earlier in the day and Wiggins could base his ride off of Dowsett's. Starting slowly, it didn't look good for Wiggo, but he smoked the final section of the course and finished ten seconds slower than his compatriot.
Behind him, BMC's Cadel Evans, Garmin-Sharp's Ryder Hesjedal, and Astana's Vincenzo Nibali knew that if they could come close to Wiggo, they'd probably ride into the Maglia Rosa. Evans, who started fast, faded on the last hill, but came close. Hesjedal, who started well, faded over the second half of the course, fared poorly. Nibali, who has been working on his time trialing, started very fast, hitting the intermediate checks the fastest of all, and then lost his rhythm on the final climb. But it was enough to finish in fourth place, 21 seconds own on Dowsett and only eleven ticks off Wiggo's pace. Overnight leader Benat Intxausti gave his all to have the jersey for a second day, but hope wasn't enough, and his 41st place wasn't nearly enough to save his pink tunic.
Cannondale's Alan Marangoni is a former national champion in the time trial. But as the team's goals are elsewhere, he held back, finishing in 49th place. His effort was still the fastest of the green team. As a connoisseur of races against the clock, he found this one a doozy. "It was a really hard time trial, especially the first part. After the start, the road immediately goes up, then descends, and again climbs. The secret in a so long and hard race was to manage your energies. Spend too much energy in the first part means suffering for the rest of the race. The last 2 km, where again we had to climb, was endless"
On the day after a time trial, there are lots of sore legs amongst the overall favorites. They want an easy ride. But tomorrow, this Giro offers a hard 170km ride from Sansepolcro to Firenze, with four categorized climbs, including a second category climb followed by a first coming halfway through the stage. This should shed the sprinters and favor attacking climbers who saved their legs in today's time trial. The stage is an excellent one for Cannondale Pro Cycling. The finish is a great setup for Damiano Caruso and Cristiano Salerno, and the opening features an intermediate sprint, where Elia Vivani will probably square off against Omega Pharma's Mark Cavendish.
Giro d'Italia 2013
Gabicce Mare to Saltara (ITT) 54.8km
1. Alex Dowsett (GBr) Movistar Team 1:16:27
2. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:00:10
3. Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana Pro Team 0:00:14
4. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:21
5. Stef Clement (Ned) Blanco Pro Cycling Team 0:00:32
Stage Results Cannondale Pro Cycling
49. Alan Marangoni (Ita) 0:04:24
63. Damiano Caruso (Ita) 0:05:05
85. Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) 0:06:02
89. Cameron Wurf (Aus) 0:06:11
116. Fabio Sabatini (Ita) 0:07:09
143. Tiziano Dall'Antonia (Ita) 0:08:22
161. Cristiano Salerno (Ita) 0:08:52
167. Elia Viviani (Ita) 0:09:13
176. Cayetano José Sarmiento Tunarrosa (Col) 0:10:01
General classification after stage 8
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 29:46:57
2. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 00:00:29
3. Robert Gesink (Ned) Blanco Pro Cycling Team 00:01:15
4. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 00:01:16
5. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-Merida 00:01:24
General Classification Cannondalel Pro Cycling
31. Damiano Caruso (Ita) 00:06:51
63. Cristiano Salerno (Ita) 00:22:12
70. Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) 00:24:21
79. Cayetano José Sarmiento Tunarrosa (Col) 00:29:51
109. Fabio Sabatini (Ita) 00:48:50
116. Tiziano Dall'Antonia (Ita) 00:51:04
120. Elia Viviani (Ita) 00:51:27
132. Cameron Wurf (Aus) 00:53:42
153. Alan Marangoni (Ita) 00:59:38