For all the entertainment and (hopefully drug-free) drama of this year’s Giro, I think the biggest revelation to come out of it was that Denis Menchov now has to be the favorite for this years Tour de France.
Sure, Menchov has won Grand Tours before, but the Vuelta is different. I’ve poetically referred to it as The Dreamers’ Race, since Laurent Jalabert, Tony Rominger, Sean Kelly and a host of other would-be Tour contenders wrapped up titles in Spain during their fruitless quest for victory on Cycling’s biggest stage.
Plus, Menchov’s Vuelta wins weren’t anything like this year’s Giro. in 2005, he claimed he title through a doping positive (as the race wrapped up in Madrid, he was five minutes down). 2007’s victory was a more conventional affair, but still, the lanky Russian had a sizable cushion over the rest of the field, and was essentially unchallenged from the 9th stage onward.
This is significant, because to this point, the Russian’s Grand Tour MO has been to keep it close in the mountains and and TT, before fading toward the end. But in this Giro, Menchov stayed strong and maintained a hair-thin lead through a rotating, non-stop series of assaults from 4 former Giro winners and the reigning TdF champ. Granted, no one with the recent palmares of an Alberto Contador—but then again, what has the reigning Giro/Vuelta champ done for us lately?
Then there was the fact that this Giro had but a single long TT. The course wasn’t textbook, but Menchov still put 20 seconds into Levi Leipheimer—the same Levi Leipheimer that put more than two minutes into Contador in his last TdF time trial. Though the ’09 Tour only has a single 44k TT, it comes toward the end, leaving only a short Ventoux stage for any potential time reclamation from the climbers.
While Menchov’s Giro win wasn’t dominant, it was remarkably consistent. Other than a few final-meter time losses, he ceded no real time in the mountains. He claimed to feel fresh at the end of it, and given his stage-winning pace when he hit a slippery section of cobbles inside the final kilometer, I’m inclined to believe him. It’s not world beating stuff, but it’s better than anything we’ve seen from the other contenders so far.
thoughts on “Giro Win Elevates Menchov to Tour Favorite”
As usual, a good summary Cosmo. However, I think that you forgot or overlooked the role that bonus seconds played in this year’s Giro. Without them how much more of a lead would Menchov have had coming into the final few days.
I’m not sure of the details, but I don’t recall time bonuses playing such a big role in the TDF, another thing working in Menchov’s favour?
This year’s Giro certainly made me believe in Menchov as a future Tour winner, but after all the energy he just expended I don’t see him besting a fresh Contator six weeks from now.
When was the last time someone did the double? Indurain won both in 1993 (and got 2nd at Worlds) but did he win ’em again? I’m too lazy to Bing right now.
Is Menchov really a contender for the TdF when the mountains there are longer and higher and he will have to contend with the explosive accelerations of the Schlecks, Contador, Sastre, Gesink and an untethered Armstrong? Sure he matched DiLuca very well when it counted, France will provide an entirely different race. I guess I was also impressed with his Giro, but I see him struggling even to make a top five in Paris.
I think Pantani did the double in 1998.
Oh yeah! I think I got his ’98 Giro win mixed up with his ’99 Giro ‘suspension’ for 50%+ hematocrit level.
I agree that Menchov is a TdF contender. He did win a mountain stage in this year’s Giro and he’s won at least one mountain stage in the Tour (from memory, it was the 1st mountaintop finish in 2006 when he out sprinted Floyd and Levi, I think).
The last double was indeed Marco Pantani in ’98, but he was so doped on EPO that it’s hard to really take it seriously. I argee with JMG, I just cannot see Menchov being a true contender at the Tour based on the course. He may feel fresh after the Giro, but how will he feel come July. Look at how dominating Liephiemer has been since February at the ToC and how he just didn’t have it in the last week of the Giro. Here’s to a exciting Giro and let’s hope that the Tour can be just as exciting.
Menchov: top 5 at the Tour.
But he didn’t show that he can handle Contador.