Giro: Forgive inauspicious start and keep faith in Wiggo

11May 2013

Giro Italia



A poor start for pre-race selection Bradley Wiggins, but Jack Houghton thinks his odds are even tastier now.




However it is spun, Bradley Wiggins has not had an ideal start to the Giro D'Italia, which is why he is now second-favourite at around 3.70.


Although the first two days went by for Team Sky with the slick certainty you would expect from champions-elect - Wiggins avoided crashes on the opening stage and his  unit performed well in the team time-trial - the last five stages have been peppered with calamity.


On stage three, Evans and Hesjedal got the run on Wiggins to take time bonuses on the stage; on stage four, Wiggins lost contact with the front of the race, appealed  to the race jury that he had been caught behind a crash, but ultimately lost the time he had built up in the team time-trial; on stage five, he was stuck behind  another crash, albeit one on the final corner that hampered all but a couple of riders; and on stage seven, Wiggins hit the deck, losing over a minute to his main  rivals.


To many of those who inhabit the cycling forums, this is the reason why Wiggins will struggle to win the Giro: he has a tendency to find himself in positions where bad  luck is more likely to beset him. Some put this down to poor decision-making on the part of Wiggins and Team Sky, whilst others suggest it's because neither Wiggins  nor his support have the same legs that allowed them to dominate last year's Tour, but what is clear, they suggest - and Lance Armstrong's name gets fair mention here  - is that if you're serious about winning Grand Tours, you have to ride aggressively to stay out of trouble, just as Wiggins did on stage six, when he headed the  peloton into the final 3km.


I'm not sure this is entirely fair, though. It's hard for any team to control a race and guarantee the safety of its leader when stages are dominated by sprint lead- out trains. Technical descents present similar issues. Add to this the treacherous conditions that have accompanied the Giro so far and the naysayers seem overly  judgemental. It's also worth remembering that Team Sky were criticised for the lax grip they took of the opening week of last year's Tour, a view soon forgotten as  they rode into the second week asserting total command of the peloton.


For these reasons, I'm keeping faith with Wiggins: perhaps he should be carrying a 30-second lead over his main rivals into week two (instead of facing a one-and-a- half minute deficit), but he is still the most likely winner of the Giro, and those odds of 3.70 might soon look very big.


What's clear is that Saturday's individual time-trial will be pivotal. A 55km course, with a significant drag up to the finish, it's as bespoke a fit for Wiggins as a  pair of his Lycra cycling-shorts. And although it's difficult to predict precisely how each rider will cope with the challenge, there's every chance that Wiggins will  be leading the Giro by Saturday afternoon. It's worth remembering that, in Grand Tour time trials of similar length in recent years, Wiggins has consistently taken a  minute and more out of his current Giro rivals. In fact, taking averages of those time-trial performances, both Nibali (2.20) and Hesjedal (6.60),  Wiggins' biggest rivals for Giro glory, might be expected to lose around two minutes to the Briton on Saturday.


If the time trial does play out in that way, then Wiggins has to look a likely winner. Team Sky will find it easier to control the peloton on the steep climbs to come,  and with another time trial on stage 18, Wiggins will have every chance of mitigating any time his rivals have gained on him by claiming time bonuses. Wiggins was  value at the start of the Giro; he's even bigger value now.


My other tips in this year's Giro - Pirazzi in the king of the mountains and Kelderman in the young-rider classification - have both made promising starts and their  odds have tumbled.




If Wiggins can win the Giro, it looks like it will be his only Grand Tour success of 2013, as Brailsford has now confirmed that it will be Chris Froome who leads the  team in this year's Tour De France.




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Keywords: Giro, Wiggo, Wiggins, Jack Houghton

Source: Betfair

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