We’re two weeks into the race and if there’s a criticism of things so far it’s that the race has lacked rivalry and contest because the main riders have been waiting for the final week. The overall lead has changed but without a great duel so far. There’s not been much of a “fight for pink” so far. Yes we’ve seen some good racing but at times things have resembled a series of one day races, we’ve lacked a shared story to define this year’s race.
This should all change as the race heads right into the Alps and finishes below the mighty Matterhorn, or Monte Cervino in Italian. The Matterhorn was one of the last great peaks to be scaled and for decades climbers could not find a way to the top until British ace Edward Whymper made it to the top and even then five members of his team died during the attempt in 1865. Thankfully today’s stage is tame but the race shifts from modest uphill finishes to full on Alpine ascending, at least in terms of road cycling.
The legs should be fresh for today. Some were sprinting, others were chasing but many took it very easy yesterday. Liquigas’s Sylwester Szmyd says his average heart rate was a recover ride 114 beats per minute yesterday, taking the time to blog about the wine too. Apparently he’s even rooming with his wife too. But his “vacation” ends now.
Back to the race and the stage starts flat and the race passes through Turin, one of Italy’s most prosperous and industrial cities and continues on a relatively flat route until the 137km mark when everything changes. Here the race is in Aosta, once a French land, the influences remain with the French names like the Col de Joux.
For the remaining 65km of the day there are 50km of ascension. The road kicks up and the Col de Joux begins with 4km at 7.9% and an overall ascension of some 22km at an average of 7%, enough to put many riders in difficulty already. The pace should pick up here as teams work to thin the lead group ahead of the final climb and perhaps a few chancers will try an attack and they will have some help from a technical descent where the group will find it hard to lead the chase.
However the final climb suits an organised team effort. The road to the finish is 27km long and averages 5.5% which is not steep enough. But the upper part includes the final 9.4km at 6.8% which are enough to do some damage if the contenders start trying to prise open the gaps.
As you can see the final 2km level out. This could allow for a small group to contest a sprint but it should encourage riders to get a gap earlier on the climb.
Who will win? If we look back at the racing so far Domenico Pozzovivo could be the rider to beat. He took off on the final climb to Lago Laceno to win Stage 8, a feat impressive because nobody dared to match him on the climb and better, he didn’t flounder on the flat road between the top of the climb and the finish line. But we’ll also have to watch the others. Roman Kreuziger lurks as ever. Ivan Basso is looking lean and ready. Michele Scarponi too will want this
and the time bonus. Franck Schleck seems strong one day but loses time the next and he’ll need to gain time. Maybe José Rujano is ready? Meanwhile Joaquim Rodriguez comes with a strong team, has time on everyone else and he can sprint in a finish like this for the time bonus. And there are other climbers too who could be ready. Today will bring answers. The slogan of the Giro is “fight for pink” and the battle is on.
Weather: it looks miserable for the finish. . As well as riders having to find their climbing legs they will have to get used to the brutal change in temperature, even if the Giro has not experienced a heatwave. Fortunately the latter part of the race is uphill for most of the time and so the cold is less of a problem. All this means small details matter like eating and dressing properly.
The finish: is expected between 5.00 and 5.40pm Euro time. Tune in at least an hour before to catch the action if you can.