Awards and citations:

1997: Le Prix du Champagne Lanson Noble Cuvée Award for investigations into Champagne for the Millennium investment scams

2001: Le Prix Champagne Lanson Ivory Award for

2011: Vindic d'Or MMXI – 'Meilleur blog anti-1855'

2011: Robert M. Parker, Jnr: ‘This blogger...’:

2012: Born Digital Wine Awards: No Pay No Jay – best investigative wine story

2012: International Wine Challenge – Personality of the Year Award

Saturday, 11 May 2013

2013 Giro d'Italia - a look back at the first week

The first thing to say is that over this week the Giro has already demonstrated that it is an extremely tough bike race and arguably tougher than the Tour de France. Take yesterday's very tough and tricky stage with its many short sharp hills with sections at 18%. A stage made even more difficult by the heavy rain in the final part making the descents hazardous, causing many riders to crash including Nibali, Sella (twice) and Wiggins. Le Tour de France just doesn't have similar leg breaking stages, although because of its prestige and history it does attract all the very best riders, making it difficult to win.

On days like yesterday the tough men come to the fore and it was great and fitting to see Adam Hansen win on his own in Pescara after being in the break for much of the stage. Two years ago another tough Australian, Cadel Evans, won a similar pig of a stage across the white roads of Tuscany to Montalcino.

No surprise to see Cadel finish in the group of favourites a little over a minute behind Hansen. He seems to be in good form having taken second place in a sprint on Stage 3 and it would be good to see him win the 2013 Giro. But Evans will have to beat Vincenzo Nibali and last year's winner Ryder Hesjedal who have both been impressive in this first week. Nibali appears to be fearless on the descents: although he crashed yesterday and slid several metres along the road he was straight back on his bike to finish in the leading bunch.

After a good first two days it has been a difficult week for Bradley Wiggins. Last Sunday night saw Bradley in second place overall after Sky won the team time trial but he lost that advantage the following day. On Wednesday he lost further time and even more yesterday, while understandably looking very uncomfortable on the final descent. The normally dominant Sky team haven't so far been able to exert their customary control over this race.

Bradley starts today's long time trial having to play catch up rather than as planned using the TT to build a cushion against the likes of Nibali for the tough mountain stages to come. He is currently 1.32 behind the current wearer of the pink jersey – Beñat Intxausti, 1.27 behind Nibali, 1.24 to Hesjedal and 1.16 to Evans. The time trial has a nasty kick in the finish with a 3.5 kilometre climb with a maximum gradient of 13%. If Bradley goes well and assuming he didn’t injure himself yesterday, he should be ahead of Nibali on General Classification to night but it will be much tighter against Evans and Hesjedal, who are both good time trialists. Today's stage should show whether Bradley really is as fit as he was last year. He will be praying for dry weather today.

This first week will have been much more satisfying for Mark Cavendish, the UK’s other star rider in this year’s Giro. Mark won the first stage in Naples and wore the Pink Jersey for the day and is currently wearing of the Red Jersey (points). He also won Thursday’s stage in a sprint where the Omega Pharma Quickstep train worked perfectly for once. It had misfired in the first stage as it has done on a number of occasions this season. Mark has now won 12 stages at the Giro.

My overall contenders are now: Evans, Hesjedal and Nibali with Wiggins as an outsider. There is, of course, a long way to go yet!    

Best way to keep up with the Giro is to go to Steephill TV. Wiggins starts at 15.08 (CET), Evans (15.45), Hesjedal (15.54), Nibali (15.57) and Intxausti (16.00). 

Update after time trial   

Alex Dowsett, UK time trial champion, wins Bradley Wiggins second, while Vincenzo Nibali takes over the race lead following an excellent time trial. Wiggins lost a little time with a puncture and also seemed pretty cautious on the descents. Ryder Hesjedal may well be disaapointed to lose significant time to Nibali. For the moment advantage – Vincenzo Nibali. 

1. Alex Dowsett   1.16.27
2. Bradley Wiggins  +10 secs
3. Tanel Kangert     + 14 secs
4. Vincenzo Nibali   + 21 secs
7. Cadel Evans       + 39 secs
18. Ryder Hesjedal  + 2.23

1. Vincenzo Nibali 29.46.57
2. Cadel Evans      +   29 secs
3. Robert Gesink    + 1.15
4. Bradley Wiggins  + 1.16
5. Michele Scarponi  + 1.24
6. Ryder Hesjedal    + 2.05

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