The much anticipated time trial showdown at the Giro moved Nibali into pink and Wiggins into the hot seat.
After crashing and almost dripping down the mountainside Friday, Bradley Wiggins’ time trial become one of the most important of his life. The TT Olympic champion needed a lot of time and was under a lot of pressure to perform in the 55km test, and by his own standards, fell short.
Vicenzo Nibali was rode the best time trial of his life after starting well behind Wiggins. The Sicilian knew he was up against a machine, but rode a smart race that did more than just limit his loses. With Wiggins floundering on Friday, Nibali already had the Brit mentally against a wall. If Wiggins was banking on the time trial as his best chance to get back on terms in the GC, he’s lost it while getting back just a handful of seconds on Nibali. Nibali can now look to the mountains as he defends his 1:16 lead on Wiggins.
The closer threat may be Cadel Evans, who was nudged to Italy this year by the BMC brass. After a 2012 season that was all but ruined by virus, the Australian was very much under the rader heading into the Giro. He is just 29 seconds back on Nibali, and proved himself capable of attacking in the high mountains in recent years. Formerly known as Cuddles for his almost complete lack of interest in going on the offensive, Evans has now become a smart tactician that won’t back down from a challenge.
Team Sky must at least be looking to the rest of the race with a new enthusiasm, because it’s a position they haven’t had in some time. Instead of being forced to the front to pound out the pace for two weeks, that burden now falls on Astana. With not only the other favorites like Evans, Scarponi, Hesjedal, and Robert Gesink to deal with, they’ll also have to defend against Sky’s Rigoberto Uran and Sergio Henao. The duo have proven themselves as some of the best climbers in the world, and now, they should be given free reign in an effort to soften up the Astana defenses. With both less than 3 minutes from pink, Astana will have to keep a tight lease, all the while tugging along the favorites who will take their own digs.
For a team that hasn’t spent much time defending a jersey, it will be a tall ask to keep Nibali in the lead for two full weeks. If Sky is truly committed to winning the Giro, whether that’s with Wiggins or another rider, they’ll need to start attacking, and no team has a better cast of characters with which to wage such a battle.