Monday: Rest Day!
The riposo is a fixture in grand tours, where riders take a break from riding their bikes... no wait, they don't. Apparently for top athletes in the middle of a long period of exertion, resting is bad. And the fans and media swarm around the riders if they sit still, so they hide in their hotel. Anyway, rest days aren't actually all that great for the combatants of the Giro d'Italia, but at least there is no long transfer involved.
Bradley Wiggins took time to remind people why he's such a character, berating himself for descending the hills "like a girl." While that probably should be taken in context as more of his wry wit than any blatant chauvinism, he should be made to watch Marianne Vos descend the Mortirolo just in case. Might even learn a thing or two.
Anyway, it's a day off from big changes, and with Italian Vincenzo Nibali basking in the maglia rosa, the Giro itself can catch its breath a bit.
Tuesday: Unleash Hell!
This Giro has spent the first phase applying subtle tortures to the peloton, with nobody suffering more than Wiggins, except maybe Ryder Hesjedal. Winner just a year ago, Hesjedal suffered a blip of trouble -- hunger knock? -- Sunday which left him more than two minutes adrift of Wiggins and Nibali. Not a ton of time, but Hesjedal isn't Wiggins' equal in the time trial or Nibali's equal on the climbs. Can he have a good day Tuesday, when the peloton reaches its first major high-alpine climb on the Altopiano del Montasio? The answer is no, nobody has a good day on a climb that looks like this:
The key is to have a less worse day than your rivals. Hesjedal will be aiming for that, as will guys like Nibali and Lampre's Michele Scarponi, both of whom have some history of dealing pretty well with this terrain. A slightly more intriguing character is Robert Gesink of Blanco, lying third overall and always a top climber. But climbs in Italy aren't the same as the ones in Spain or France, and Gesink hasn't really come to the Giro to win before. Still, if he's the guy challenging Nibali at the end of the day, nobody should be surprised.
Wiggins, for his part, has said in his 2012 book "My Time" that 20% gradients aren't really his thing -- he did his best on the less steep (but very long) passes of the Tour, on wide highways, where it's really just a time trial. Like I said, not the same, and with a steep descent between this beast and the Passo Cason di Lanza (first major climb), Wiggins could be under serious pressure all day. Cadel Evans of BMC, lying second overall, has less to prove, but this isn't his preferred habitat, so chances are we will see Evans characteristically turning himself inside out to stay with the leaders.
This has been a pretty pugilistic Giro, with a lot of guys looking like they have something to prove. So, don't expect the climbers to be content to wait another week before staking their claim. This could be a decisive stage. Enjoy!