Giro d’Italia 2011

Vincenzo Nibali – Liquigas-Cannondale – starts the Giro d’Italia as the leader of the Italian challenge to Alberto Contador, but the Sicilian has insisted that such pressure and responsibility on his shoulders has not affected his mindset in the build-up to the race.
“It’s true that there’s more pressure, but I’m approaching the race with the same calm as ever” – Nibali said at Liquigas-Cannondale’s final press conference. “I’ve arrived in the condition to do well. As always, I’m looking to do my best, and if you do that, then you can’t be disappointed.”
Although Contador rides the Giro with the spectre of a possible suspension looming over him as the Court of Arbitration for Sport deliberates on his positive test for Clenbuterol at last year’s Tour de France, Nibali does not believe the Spaniard will be affected by the matter out on the road.
“We’ve seen him before and we see him now, he’s still the same” – Nibali said. “He hasn’t changed much, and he’s approaching the Giro better than he did in 2008, as he is better prepared this time.”
A popular topic with sections of the Italian press was the impact that the potential of a retrospective disqualification for Contador might have on the tactics at the Giro.

Giro d’Italia 2011
Giro d’Italia.

Mark Cavendish posted a picture of the profile of this year’s Giro d’Italia on his Twitter feed on Friday with a suitably pithy comment. He had good reason – of the 21 stages only five are without a major climb, where he will be able to use his sprinting skills to the full as he attempts to add to his career tally of five stage wins in the first major tour of the cycling year.
“It’s one of the toughest Tours of Italy ever and I don’t want to ride myself into a box before the Tour de France” – Cavendish said this week. “I’ll have to take every stage as it comes. For me, as in every grand tour, my goal is to take at least one stage win, because if you don’t you’ve failed.”
Today’s time trial ending in Turin will suit Cavendish and his HTC team, but what follows is the hardest Giro in recent years, with eight mountain-top finishes. The route looks ideal for the triple Tour de France winner Alberto Contador, who intends to attempt a rare double of Giro and Tour wins this year, but, with a final decision over his positive test for clenbuterol expected at the court of arbitration for sport in June, this Giro could end up being decided by the lawyers.
It would be a surprise if Cavendish is still at the Giro for the mountainous final week. The last stage he can target is in Ravenna, 10 days from the finish and he is down to race the Tour of Switzerland, Tour de France and Tour of Spain later this season. The chances are he will call time on the Giro before the final showdown, but before then he will have to seize his chances.

Three years ago, defending Tour de France champion Alberto Contador roused himself from a beach vacation to respond to Giro d’Italia organizers’ last-minute invitation to his Astana team and wound up winning the 2008 race.
He framed the victory as public vindication for Astana’s exclusion from the upcoming Tour that summer – punishment for past doping scandals that didn’t involve him – and went on to capture the Vuelta d’Espana that fall.
Contador carried his Grand Tour winning streak through two more seasons, winning the 2009 and 2010 editions of the Tour de France. He is undefeated in his past five three-week races and thus is naturally one of the heavy favorites in this year’s Giro, which starts Saturday.
But there is a very real possibility his record of sustained supremacy will fishtail and crash no matter what happens over the next 2,200 miles in Italy. Contador’s results in this Giro, along with his last Tour title, could be nullified if the Court of Arbitration for Sport reverses his complete – and completely inexplicable – exoneration for a positive clenbuterol test by a panel of Spanish cycling officials in February.
CAS would then make the critical decision on whether to suspend Contador for the full two years; he has already served several months, and the length of suspension would determine which of his results since his February return to racing would stand. That ruling, prompted by separate appeals by international cycling officials and the World Anti-Doping Agency, may or may not be made by the time the 2011 Tour starts on July 2.

Comments are closed.