Friday, May 17, 2013

Withdrawals of Wiggins, Hesjedal from Giro seemed inevitable

Happy Bike to Work Day!

OK, we didn't bike to work. We work from home.

But, then neither did Ryder Hesjedal or Sir Bradley Wiggins. The pair of erstwhile favourites didn't start today's stage of the Giro d'Italia. Each cited illness for their poor performance and DNS.

It would be easy to pick on them as quitters, to diss Hesjedal for failing to honor the jersey as last year's leader, to pile on Sir Wiggins for boasting about the best shape of his life only to quit midstream.

So, what do you do if you're in it to win it but it becomes obvious that you can't win it?


You can trudge on courageously, as defending champ Cadel Evans did in last year's Tour de France. He lost time, attacked, lost more time, suffered three flat tires in a day, lost more time and eventually finished seventh, 15 minutes behind Wiggins.

But, sometimes, discretion is the better part of valor and one must live to fight another day. Sometimes, as the Borg would say, resistance is futile.

That could be especially true of Hesjedal. With no hope of winning the Giro, he could rest up and take another stab at the Tour de France. After all, he finished fifth overall in 2010. Perhaps he's a better bet for an overall placement, and a less controversial choice, than Garmin teammates Christian Vande Velde or Tom Danielson, who recently finished suspensions for admitting to doping.

Hesjedal said in a statement that leaving the Giro was "devastating. I want to be here for my team and for all the people who have supported me to get me here to this point. I built my entire season around the Giro, and I came here feeling great but I have been suffering since the TT."

Cyclingnews reported that Wiggins appeared for a brief interview after Thursday's stage, his head wrapped in a towel.

"I've had a pretty rough 24 hours. ... I just want to try and fight through it and hope that in a few days time I'll be alright."

Sky crossed their fingers that the relative ease of a couple transition stages would allow Wiggins time to hide in the peloton and rest. Apparently, though, he couldn't answer the bell Friday.

"It's how long you can keep fighting before you say the GC has gone now," he was quoted as saying on the Team Sky web site. 

Sky still is sitting pretty in Italy, with Rigoberto Uran Uran in third overall, two minutes behind Vincenzo Nibali.

His Worship's short-term future isn't quite so rosy as Hesjedal's. Sky already have announced that Chris Froome will lead the team at the Tour de France, and the roster is loaded with climbers to support him. A gloomy gus like Wiggins might not fit into the team's chemistry. This could prove a sticky wicket for Sky. He has been included in discussions of the Tour de France team, and it's nigh on to impossible to imagine that a defending champion not under a cloud of drug suspicion would skip the Tour. A strong performance in Italy would have put Sky in the driver's seat in France. Now, it appears near certain that the team will enter the Tour with last year's winner destined to serve as a water carrier. Most unusual.

In each case, it's best to go home, regroup and reassess with six weeks until the start of the Tour.