See the first part here.
Today the Vuelta a España comes out of its second rest day and into its final 5 stages. While Vincenzo Nibali cracked hard on Stage 16, Chris Horner and/or Alejandro Valverde are going to have to do something special to keep Nibali from the Giro-Vuelta double.
But instead of looking forward, let’s look backwards; off the back, that is.
I’m in a bit of a quandary. I don’t know how to classify Horner’s (and Rodriguez’s) words in and around the Stage 11 time trial. Before the time trial they pulled the old:
“I’ll try to limit my losses.”
In other words, “I suck at this particular facet of stage racing.” Sure enough, they both shed a minute and a half to Nibali. After the race, Horner asserted that he wasn’t much of time trialist. So my quandary:
Is it an “excuse” if a rider says they are going to suck, goes on to suck, and then verifies after the race that they do indeed suck?
If not an excuse, then what? See, it’s sort of like Mark Cavendish coming to the Alpe d’Huez stage in the Tour de France and saying “you know what guys, I’m probably going to finish off the back today.” But on the other hand, all these Grand Tour contenders are exactly that: Grand Tour contenders. This typically entails time trialling. So a Grand Tour racer saying that they lost because they can’t time trial is just a deeply ingrained excuse, is it not?
What happens when you take a guy built for classics and try to make him a pure sprinter?
That being said, Farrar had a good run at things a few years ago taking a stage in the Tour de France, but I feel like he’s following the same path as Thor Hushovd (i.e. quickly losing all sense of relevancy). As Cyclingnews reported on Stage 12:
“Frustrating? Oh, of course. I am enjoying the Vuelta, but I am frustrated that the results have not been better. The team was perfect. It was too hard for me. I was on Gilbert’s wheel, he seemed boxed in, but he found a way out. Alex [Rasmussen] put me in perfect position with 2km to go.”
“This happened, then that happened, then something else happened and that’s why I’m off the back.” Like in basketball, the triple threat is a big difference maker executing excellent cycling excuses. Except that in cycling you can do all three threats at once by piling your excuses on top of each other.