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Giro d'Italia: Five things we learnt in the final week

Alberto Contador's fatigue, Mikel Landa's rising stock and more...

Alberto Contador (C), Fabio Aru (L) and third placed winner Spain's Mikel Landa celebrate on the podium after the 98th Giro d'Italia, Tour of Italy

The final week of the Giro d'Italia proved to be just as entertaining and eventful as the first two.

Here are five things we learnt…

Contador is tired already

Alberto Contador on stage 20 of the 2015 Giro d'Italia
Image: Alberto Contador looked exhausted on stage 20

For 19 stages, Alberto Contador looked imperious at the Giro d'Italia, but then his campaign very nearly crumbled on the gravel roads of the Colle delle Finestre on Saturday.

The climbing majesty and superiority he had shown earlier in the week was a memory as first Mikel Landa and then Ryder Hesjedal, Fabio Aru, Steven Kruijswijk, Rigoberto Uran and Tanel Kangert all rode away from him, and did so with apparent ease.

Contador kept his composure and, in truth, his pink jersey was never really endangered, but even he admitted afterwards that he "wasn't feeling good, probably because of the accumulated effort". In short, he was exhausted, the exertions of what has been an unusually frenetic race catching up with him at the second-last hurdle.

The problem for Contador is that he is actually only at the halfway point of his bid to win a Giro and Tour de France double and although he has 33 days of rest between the two races, stage 20 would suggest he has a lot of recovering to do.

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Contador will have to up his game at the Tour

Alberto Contador attacks on stage eighteen of the 2015 Tour of Italy
Image: Alberto Contador's eventual margin of victory was relatively narrow

Not only must Contador repair his battered body, but he also needs to find another level of performance at the Tour.

He won the Giro by 1min 53sec in the end, but if you take the abnormally long 59.4km time trial on stage 14 out of the race, plus the fact he voluntarily crossed the line nine seconds down on the final stage, he would have actually finished only third overall, 46 seconds behind winner Landa and 45 seconds behind runner-up Aru. Even if you kept the time trial but just made it a lot shorter, say 35km, the result would have been much tighter than it was.

Aru and Landa are both excellent going uphill, but they don't yet have the climbing pedigree of Chris Froome and Nairo Quintana, who Contador must overcome at a mountain-heavy Tour, and nor do they have Froome's time-trialling prowess.

All in all, if Contador climbs at the Tour like he did at the Giro, victory could prove a tall order.

Landa is the hottest property on the transfer market

Mikel Landa, Giro d'Italia 2015, stage 16
Image: Mikel Landa is out of contract at the end of the season

Basque rider Landa had a good reputation going into the Giro, but two stage wins and a third-place finish overall have not only announced him as a top climber but also a potential grand tour winner of the future.

Which is handy timing for him, given that his contract expires at the end of the season and it seems certain that it will be leaving Astana.

Almost every team in the market for a new climbing expert this winter will now have Landa somewhere near the top of their shopping list and the salary he would have commanded prior to the Giro has now been multiplied several times over.

Grand tours must be kept at three weeks

Ryder Hesjedal attacks on stage nineteen of the 2015 Tour of Italy
Image: Ryder Hesjedal had an excellent final week of the Giro

There has been a lot of talk in the past couple of years about shortening the grand tours either in distance or to two weeks, but the ups and downs experienced by almost every rider over the 21 stages of the Giro was ample evidence that they must be kept at three weeks.

Had the Giro been two weeks, Contador wouldn’t have had his wobble on stage 20, we wouldn’t have seen the rousing late charge up the general classification made by Ryder Hesjedal or the outstanding performances made in the final week by Steven Kruijswijk, and Fabio Aru wouldn’t have swung from the lows of being humiliated on the Passo del Mortirolo to sealing back-to-back wins on the final two stages.

From endurance to mental strength, tactics to teamwork, powers of recovery to dealing with variations in weather, three-week races test riders in so many areas that a shorter race simply could not match.

Colombia’s bubble has burst

Colombian Rigoberto Uran crosses the finish line on May 29, 2015 in Cervinia to place third in the 19th stage of the 98th Giro d'Italia
Image: Rigoberto Uran endured a disappointing Giro

Colombian climbers have been among the most celebrated riders in the professional peloton in recent years, but Nairo Quintana aside, the Giro suggested their bubble might have burst.

Rigoberto Uran, Darwin Atapuma, Carlos Betancur and Johan Esteban Chaves headed the Colombian challenge at the Giro but none made anywhere near the impact we might have expected from them. Other than Uran on the final two mountains stages, we never saw them at the final group on the climbs, and their placings in the general classification were far from impressive.

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