How long can David Arroyo lead the Giro d’Italia?

by Andrew Hood

You can bet that the Liquigas brain trust has their calculators out tonight and are studying when and how they can wrestle away the pink jersey from the stubborn David Arroyo.

Arroyo is enjoying his time in the jersey. | Graham Watson photo

Arroyo is enjoying his time in the jersey.

The scrappy Spanish climber defied his doubters and exited the Dolomites with a formidable 2:27 lead on Ivan Basso and 3:09 on world champion Cadel Evans.

Those two favorites need to get rid of Arroyo in two epic days of climbing over the Mortirolo and Gavia or they might run out of road when the Giro ends with the Verona time trial on Sunday.

“We’re getting one day closer to Verona. I don’t want to say I can win this Giro, because I know there are others who are stronger than me, but anything is possible,” said Arroyo, who finished safely in the pack Thursday. “I have a strong team and I will give everything to defend the pink jersey. The podium can become the goal, but why not dream of more? This has been a hard Giro and everyone is very tired, so no one knows what can happen.”

Arroyo’s growing confidence comes in part  from knowing he can count on the support of a strong and motivated Caisse d’Epargne team, which knows how to defend a leader’s jersey. With the team’s future in doubt and the pride of having its first pink jersey since Miguel Indurain won the 1994 Giro, the team won’t go down without a fight.

“We told David not to bury himself to try to stay with Basso up Zoncolan because it would have been a risk of blowing up,” said Caisse d’Epargne sport director Neil Stephens. “The margin we have in our favor is something we can use to our advantage. They still need to take the jersey away from us. It’s always better to have the jersey than to try to take it away.”

Thursday’s rolling stage to Brescia was a last shot for the sprinters and gave the GC contenders their last chance to cool their jets before Friday’s assault of the Mortirolo and Saturday’s charge over the Gavia.

There’s a sense of confidence and patience in the Liquigas camp. They know they have the strongest team and the strongest rider, so they don’t want to panic now with the two hardest mountain stages poised to catapult them into pink.

Friday is going to be tough ...

Friday is going to be tough ...

Basso is quietly self-assured that he will be able to turn the screws and drop the pesky Arroyo for good on the Mortirolo. Its long, unrelenting grades make it one of Europe’s most demanding climbs, ideal for Basso’s piston-like consistency to drop the haggard Arroyo. Or so he hopes.

“If Basso can do like he did at Zoncolan, he could have the jersey (Friday). If not, then we want it Saturday,” said Liquigas team manager Roberto Amadio. “The team will be working 100 percent for Basso. We want to make it as hard as possible before we arrive at the decisive climbs. We are not underestimating Arroyo.”

Evans finds himself in an even more complicated situation.

Not only does he need to ride Basso’s coat-tails as Liquigas tries to isolate and drop Arroyo (and third-placed Ritche Porte), but he needs to recover lost ground to Basso. Evans cannot count on much team support once the climbs hit, so the world champion will try to stay with Basso, and attack if he can.

Even with Sunday’s final time trial in his favor, Evans will want to trim the difference to Basso even if he cannot manage to drop him.

“Evans doesn’t need to attack. He should stay with Basso and then try to drop him in the final kilometer and aim for time bonuses. Then he can take back a few seconds here and a few seconds there,” said two-time world champion Paolo Bettini. “Evans will take some time on Basso in Verona, but probably not more than 20 seconds.”

.. and then comes Saturday.

.. and then comes Saturday.

With Basso and Evans eying each other in their collective interest to try to eliminate Arroyo, some are quietly hoping that would open the door for someone further down on GC to go on the attack. Michele Scarponi (Androni), Carlos Sastre (Cervélo) and Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) are all still within shot of the podium and need to attack if they hope to get kisses from the podium girls in Verona.

That could disrupt the best-laid plans by Liquigas and Basso, and potentially blow apart the Giro in what should be a dramatic and nail-biting finale to what’s been one of the best Giros in modern history.

Categories : Giro d'Italia, News, No Spoil, Road

  • LePatron
    I've always thought that Arroyo was an excellent climber, but he is usually riding in support of someone else, so maybe we will see what he's made of. It would be nice to see him win the Giro, but I think that Evans and Basso will overtake at the very least. There are some tough climbs ahead!
  • Doug
    Does anybody else get tired of Cadel Evans always "riding [someone's} coattails"?
  • Jim Mc
    I think Liquigas has some interesting options for the next two days. If they send Nibali, as they did on Mte. Grappa, on the Mortriolo and Gavia to take advantage of his descending skills, they will force Arroyo and Evans to chase, and leave Basso to follow, and then he can attack on the final climbs. The risk is of course Basso's poor descending skills leaving him isolated and Nibali being forced to fall back, or go for the lead himself from his position further back on GC. I'd love to be listening in on the team radios during that situation.
  • soylent green
    I might be crazy, but I have really liked what I have seen from Evans. Despite the miscue that blew this thing up on stage he has slowly, steadily come back time and time again. Much has been made of poor team support, but Bookwalter has been pretty strong. The best strategy for Cadel is to pick off a couple seconds here and there and then finish off Basso at the TT. I really don't think Arroyo will be able to hang. We'll see...this Giro has been one the best stage races I can remember following. Just awesome!
  • allezgrimpeur
    I agree with the guy that said Arroyo will win by a handful of seconds. He will lose a minute on Mortirolo and a minute on Gavia and then defend 30 seconds on the final day. Should be a VERY exciting finish. I just hope he doesn't skid across the finish line like Menchov did ;)
  • edgardo_c
    Menchov riding clean won a fantastic Giro against DiLuca and all the Italians... And in that final time trial on the streets of Rome he was on a pace to win it. If you had seen the race, you would have noticed that it was on a straight road. He was going fast but it was bad luck.
  • papadeaner
    AH - great preview heading into the hills again tomorrow. I've not been able to watch much live ( text updates filling that void) and I appreciate the quick updates/analysis from day to day. That, and the fact that you write well - and keep the reporting fun - all weigh in to my favorable opinion of you and your journalistic colleagues @ VN. Thanks, and keep up the good work.
  • tigwelded
    Owner of the Maglia Rosa says, "It’s always better to have the jersey than to try to take it away." While those aspiring to own the Maglia Rosa talk of the 'weight' of riding with the Maglia Rosa....

    So, does it give you wings or what???
  • Pat
    I absolutely loved this story. It painted the perfect picture of what is going on and it was humorous to boot. I just got this vivid picture in my mind of the 4 of them going up the mountain. Poor Vino has no one to hang on to, Evans going to try to hang on to Bosso, and Bosso trying to get RID of Arroya. Funniest part of it all is if Vino can get himself up to Evans and Bosso, then the three of them will be fighting each other and at the end of the day, Arroyo will still be in Pink!!!! Great story!
  • deej
    Arroyo will win with a 10 second lead with Evans second and Basso third-the question is can Porte hang in there as well. Sastre has to really dig deep and drop those guys to do anything and the Kazak rider I am afraid will not be in the top 10.
  • edgardo_c
    Sastre is out of form. It is quite obviuos. He's lost time stage after stage.

    I am actually quite impressed by Porte... but I do wonder how he'll recover on Saturday. He's just so out of his league. Unbelievable!

    Basso is the strongest rider with the strongest team... I really can't see how he can be contained.
  • Eric G
    I like Sastre, but don't see him competing for anything better than a third place on the podium, and he might have to fight off Vino for that. I'd like to see someone like Arroyo shake things up, but Basso and Evans look just too good right now. I think the betting man will see Basso win in the end with Evans second and perhaps Sastre third. I wouldn't count Vino out, but he'd have to make up a little more ground than I think Sastre will allow.
  • edgardo_c
    See my sastre's comments... I agree with everything else. This is Basso's Giro to win or lose. I feel sorry for Cadel... without a strong team is quite hard to win a race like this.
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