From Ardennes to Giro
Amstel Gold Race, Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastone-Liege this spring were indeed uncertain and vibrant up to the finish line.
Especially in Liege, the fight for seconds between Vinokourov-Kolobnev, and the chasing trio of Evans-Valverde-Gilbert has been very exciting.
The impressive winner of Amstel just a week before, Gilbert was probably the strongest in the race, but he dissipated glycogen treasures with repeated premature attacks, skirmishing with Andy Schlek and Contador and missing out the decisive phase of the race.
So, while Evans and Vino were already in top form in mid-April, Ivan Basso approached the Giro d' Italia with tough training sessions and not so encouraging race results in the Giro del Trentino (5th in the GC behind Vino both on climbs and in the time trial) and the Tour de Romandie (36th in the GC, decidedly slow both when climbing and time trialing).
But at the Giro, after a difficult beginning, Ivan progressively increased his form, imposing his clear superiority on the hardest climbs.
Bad weather scourged the riders in the first 10 days of racing, exasperating the competition with frequent attacks and some small spites among the main contenders which culminated in the unexpected breakaway in the L'Aquila stage.
The long climbs of Monte Grappa (VAM = 1603 m/h), Mt. Zoncolan (1777 m/h) and Mortirolo (1773m/h) were the decisive ones and were performed by the best around 5.90 - 6.00 w/kg.
Basso came out as the strongest, also favored by an overpowering performance of his team and the presence of a better than expected Nibali, while his rivals (Evans, Scarponi, Vinokourov) were always too isolated in the crucial moments of the race, obviously without a team on the climbs.