The Spin: Giro Stage 19

Friday, 25 May 2012

Where to start? Obviously Treviso, but I mean how do you begin to analyse today’s stage? Because this is a very difficult stage with double digit gradients and the Alpe di Pampeago climbed twice. And on top of this riders must, should or ought to remember tomorrow’s stage finish on the mightly Stelvio. Energy wasted today will cost plenty tomorrow.

It’s hard not to see tomorrow’s Stelvio overshadowing today’s stage but Stage 19 today could well be the decisive stage of the race because of the climbing involved.

Things begin with the Sella di Roa, 7.1% for 4.8km and then it’s on to the Passo Manghen, displayed above: 7.4% for 20.5km and 10% for the last 6km to the top with a section at 15% on the way. A giant of a climb, it rises from 383 metres above sea level to over 2000 metres. This is a very tough climb by the numbers alone but note it’s closed to large vehicles and scenic, not that the riders will have time to enjoy but it means a smaller road, this is no Alpine superhighway. It was used in the 2008 Giro but early in the stage and today it will be more decisive, a point where the bunch will be thinned out substantially. As big as the Passo Manghen will seem there’s a technical descent before the flying sprint in Tesero, probably the moment for most riders to eat rather than sprint.

Then comes the Passo Pampeago, or Reiterjoch to use the German, where -joch is the suffix for a mountain pass. Reiter means rider, making this appropriately Rider Pass. There’s time to learn both names as the climb is tackled twice, the first time it is 10.5km at 9.7% (all the way to the top in the profile image above) and then the riders descend and tackle the Passo Lavazè, some 6.3km long with an average gradient of 8.6%, hard enough by itself. But again a tough descent follows before the climb to Alpe di Pampeago again, with the finish line right on the slope. The last 4km are over 11%. The Giro has been decided several times on these slopes.

Route summary: a warm-up on the Sella di Roa, the giant Passo Manghen rears upwards and then there’s the finishing circuit with the Double Pampeago scenario, with the Passo Lavazè, along with some rough descending. There’s almost no chance for recovery and the steep slopes should favour the pure climbers ahead of the mountain diesels. It could be the day the race is decided but the organisers will want the fight to go all the way to Milan.

Team tactics
Incentives are everything. I think Astana, increasingly an Italian team these days, might be out for revenge, or at least a face saving exercise after Roman Kreuziger and Paolo Tiralongo blew up on the Passo Giau on Wednesday. It was painful to watch Kreuziger’s ambitions fade along with his blood sugar levels. Similarly Lampre have yet to win a stage, an important matter in their home tour. The cheery Michele Scarponi could try for a podium spot today but it might be that Przemyslaw Niemiec, Diego Ulissi or even Damiano Cunego are sent up the road for a stage win, isolating Scarponi but landing the all-important stage win. Liquigas meanwhile will aim again to set up Ivan Basso who seems to be getting stronger by the day and turning into quite the sadist as he turns up the power on the climbs. But today’s climbing uses smaller, steeper roads where it is harder to set the tempo. The steep pitches favour pure climbers.

Otherwise the tactic for several today is simple: “drop Hesjedal” are the words used by Joaquim Rodriguez. The riders fear the lanky Canadian on Sunday’s final time trial and so they want to take time from him. How? Well they can’t leave it late because any accelerations on the final climb might see him come back or at least limit his losses. Instead he’s been isolated from his Garmin-Barracuda team mates before and I think he could be forced to cover moves on the first time up the Pampeago. But the Canadian can form an alliance with Ivan Basso and his Liquigas team who have a mutual interest in strangling the climbers.

Who will have the last laugh?

What do they need to do? This might be reductive and cycling is more than chess on wheels because you are not sat opposite a single opponent but you have several players moving pieces across the board at all times. But here’s a summary of what can happen:

  • Rodriguez leads. Everyone expects him to lose huge amounts of time in Sunday’s time trial but he might pull out all the stops given the three weeks and big motivation. So he needs to watch Hesjedal who is at 30 seconds but the Spaniard has 1.22 on Basso which could be enough. As such the aim will be to crack Hesjedal with some accelerations or at least grapple some time back.
  • Hesjedal simply needs to follow Basso and Rodriguez. Easier said than done given the steep slopes and others battling around them for the stage win or to haul themselves up the overall. He can count on Liquigas to help with the tempo…
  • But Basso will look to dump Hesjedal out of the way too. If he can crack the Canadian then he can unlock the whole race.
  • Scarponi sits in fourth place just 14 seconds down on Ivan Basso and could be the joker today, able to ride away because he’s not feared for the final time trial. He had a bad time on the Passo Giau the other day but was that a one-off or indicative that he’s not on the same level.
  • The others in the race will have to decide between three strategies. The first is to grab the stage win, the second is to play it steady with the aim to haul themselves up the overall classification and the third is to rest with the hope of being fresh for tomorrow’s Stelvio showdown.

Weather: fine weather is predicted although there could be a shower or even a thunderstorm later in the day, a typical forecast for the mountains.

TV viewing: as ever the finish is expected between 4.50 and 5.30pm Euro time. Tune in as early as you can to watch the drama, at least from 3.30pm onwards to catch the start of the loop and the first climb to Pampeago.

Philip Melchiors May 25, 2012 at 10:06 am

Thanks for an impressive Blog – best reading of the day – I do miss “the moment the race was won” though but you can’t have it all I guess :-).

Pozzovivo had one off-day but still looks like strongest climber and today I would expect to see him chasing the mountain jersey(the gap of 41 point will require an early move ), the stage win and a podium spot.

The Inner Ring May 25, 2012 at 10:09 am

Thanks. I might do a “moment the race was won” for the race overall, looking back for the decisive 10 second moment of the three weeks if it’s possible… given the stage race is really about tiny accumulations and deductions.

TomH May 25, 2012 at 10:36 am

That would be very appreciated. During the classics I found myself looking for the moment the race was won.

Impeccable preview by the way. I’m still enjoying all of them.

Rider Council May 25, 2012 at 3:33 pm

why such slack coverage of the Giro? Can the posts on gelato and Ape’s not wait?…..we all need to banter about what happened with Cav yesterday but we can only argue ice cream instead :(
Book your holidays in May next year not July!

Alex May 25, 2012 at 10:15 am

Should be a god one today. I can’t see Rodriguez waiting until tomorrow as long as he has the legs.

BTW, has anyone done some rough calculations on what Cav needs to do to stay in red ’till Milan?
Does he have to do a Hushovd-style mountain stage breakaway!

Conrado Calvet May 25, 2012 at 1:05 pm

If he counts with that to take the red jersey, forget about it! Cav can be considered only a great sprinter, because climbing it’s defenetly not something he likes or know how to do it.

Rui May 25, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Roughly, Cav needs to wait and see how Rodriguez does.

If Rodriguez gets a 3rd and 4th place on the next two stages, or better (3rd and 3rd, 2nd and 3rd etc.), Cav loses the jersey. Two 4th places and 2 points on a sprint in either stage do the trick for Rodriguez as well.

This assumes that neither Cav or Rodriguez score on the time trial (that is to say, no top 15 for them), and that Cav will not score a single point in both mountain stages, which I believe are fair assumptions, but obviously not foolproof.

Dave May 25, 2012 at 1:45 pm

Cav has 138pts to Rodriguez’s 109pts – a buffer of 29pts.

Points are avaialable 25, 20, 16, 14, 12, 10, 9, 8, 7; so a couple of top 3 finishes for Rodriguez in the next few days and Cav’s advantage is wiped out.

There are also points at the intermediate sprints (8,6,4,3,2,1) but looking at where the sprints are on stages 19 & 20, it seems unlikley that Cav would go after these.

But this being the Giro, Cav is doing well in some other classificatiosn:
Intermediate (‘TV’) sprint classification – 2nd
Azzurri d’Italia classification – 1st
Combative classification – 1st

Alex May 25, 2012 at 1:58 pm

Thanks Rui and Dave!
It’s looking tough for him. Those placings look entirely doable for Rodriguez

The Inner Ring May 25, 2012 at 1:59 pm

Good work. There is a breakaway on now and it includes J-A Flecha of Sky. Flecha surely cannot win today… but he can drive the break very hard to increase their chances of staying away and mopping up points that Rodriguez might hope to win.

Dave May 25, 2012 at 3:54 pm

I was going to hypothesise about tactics for letting breaks go and how it would help Cav’s cause, but I was running out of time! Be good to see Flecha win, though as far as Sky are concerned I guess the picture is a little bigger.

Patrick May 25, 2012 at 10:29 am

I’d like to see Pozzovivo do a mammoth attack on the Manghen!

Rab Austen May 25, 2012 at 10:53 am

Me too. He’s shown he can take the tempo up and if he sustains that for more than the 500m he did on Giau then he will surely make some legs crumble. Been keeping his powder dry allowing others to do the work so possibly fresher legs he could repeat the same on Stelvio and make some dramatic time gains.

Ankush May 25, 2012 at 10:54 am

Another request for a post – impressions of Giro d’Italia 2012. We all are fans of your writing and Giro, so it will be great if you could also include a review of the race post Milan. Thanks.

I feel sad for Savio to punt on Rujano on every mountain stage but will today be the day for him? I don’t think so, so I’ll stick with Pozzo.

Bundle May 25, 2012 at 11:02 am

A lot of things can happen today, including an outsider putting the Giro upside down with a long-range operation.
The weather is important since the heat seems to boost Pozzovivo (and Urán).
Purito should employ Moreno on the first Pampeago pass, or even towards the end of the Manghen, with sudden accelerations, to help drop Basso’s guards (and maybe Hesjedal). But I don’t think he will. The same for Colnago and Brambilla, and for Lampre and Cunego.
It’s a very interesting situation, since the main 3 contenders are under pressure because they all have a serious chance either of losing the Giro today (Hesjedal) or not achieving the results they need to secure a victory on Sunday (Purito and Basso). That’s why I believe they will (unfortunately) be pretty prudent.

Dave E May 25, 2012 at 11:08 am

Today could be a day for the break away.
I feel the the top riders will worry about tomorrow, and pace the race till the last few KM’s when they will attack looking to gain a few seconds, in the hope of seeing who will be on form tomorrow.
But hey what do I know? ;-)

DopeToWin May 25, 2012 at 11:35 am

Purito will win the Giro today. Steepest slopes = big gains for him.

Ronan, Dublin May 25, 2012 at 1:07 pm

Who could be the most important rider of the day? Perhaps Sylvester Szmydt? After his mechanical on Wednesday he should be able to fire on all cylinders today and I wouldn’t be surprised if he proves to be the decisive factor in Basso shedding Ryder.

The Inner Ring May 25, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Szymd has said he’s tired, he seems to suffering from some sort of fatigue. We’ll see if he’s rested for today but once you begin to fall apart in a grand tour often there’s no coming back.

Brett May 25, 2012 at 4:38 pm

Look like he’s gone again. I’d be interested in your analysis tomorrow for how they will use him if he has gone.

michael May 25, 2012 at 6:13 pm

sooooo, can we stop talking about the climbers “popping” Hesjedal on the steeps now?

;)

what a stage! Unless someone does something remarkable on the Stelvio tomorrow or Ryder pops big time, this Giro is all but over.

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