Today sees a 33.2km team time trial in and around Verona. The city was used for the finish of the 2010 Giro d’Italia and now it hosts the restart of the race in Italy. But it could finish off the hopes of a few candidates for the overall as the distance is significant. Weak teams can pay a heavy price and the slight mountain climbers will struggle to hold the wheels.
This is not a technical course, a few corners matter but this is instead a high speed collective test. Teams will be cruising at over 60km/h as they head out and back from Verona. Indeed outbound teams will be able to see rival teams returning in the opposite direction, like passing trains on a railway line.
We saw big gaps in the Giro dell Trentino team time trial. Held on a similar flat route but just 15km, half today’s distance, Lampre lost 22 seconds and Ag2r gave up 50 seconds. Extrapolate these results and Michele Scarponi could lose 40 seconds to Roman Kreuziger or Ivan Basso whilst John Gadret could lose well over a minute.
The race is like a military drill where practice on the parade ground is everything. Riders need to learn to ride in formation, to swap the lead and above all to pace themselves. A squad with specialist time trial riders isn’t always at an advantage for if they don’t ride as a team then the uneven pace sees riders being dropped.
Worse, today comes after the rest day. Some riders handle the rest better than others and even with a decent warm up some will be raring to go but others will find wooden legs. It is a very painful event for all where riders will hit the front to hold 60km/h for a moment before dropping back in line to recover and then repeat.
The weather looks fine, sunshine and a few clouds with the temperature reaching 26C and only the lightest of breezes.
The favourites today must be Orica-Greenedge, Team Sky, Garmin-Barracuda and normally BMC but Phinney has a sore ankle so it is possible the overall lead changes. Also watch for Liquigas and Astana to see if they can put time into Androni Giocattelli and Colnago-CSF. This doesn’t make for TV viewing but look closely and you can spot who is riding well and which teams are all over the place. The first team is off at 3.25pm Euro time and the last team should arrive around 5.15pm.