The Spin: Giro Stage 21

Sunday, 27 May 2012

The final stage of the race is a time trial and the overall result is not yet certain. Three weeks of racing across Italy with numerous mountain passes and Joaquim Rodriguez leads Ryder Hesjedal by just 31 seconds. It seems likely that Hesjedal will take time on Rodriguez, enough to win the race outright. Is this possible?

At first sight things seem obvious. The big Canadian looks more powerful and a very low position on the bike as well; by contrast Rodriguez’s weak point is the time trial. But things are never so simple.

Head to Head
Thanks to Cycling Quotient we can see Hesjedal and Rodriguez have ridden 21 time trials together. Hesjedal has finished ahead in 14 whilst Rodriguez has got the better in 7. Of course riders can compete in many events in the season and not even know the other is taking part, yet alone seek to beat them. Riders might have different objectives and be in a different state of form. Based on the pure stats Hesjedal has a 66% chance of bettering Rodriguez to 33% for the Spaniard which is a rough figure although it suggests today’s stage is far from a certainty. But even if he finishes ahead, can Hesjedal take back at least one second per kilometre?

Today is unique but we can look back one year. Last year’s Giro concluded with a time trial in Milan too. Hesjedal finished 45th whilst Rodriguez was fourth from last and three minutes slower than Hesjedal. Hesjedal had not been battling for the overall but he had been riding hard in the mountains, Rodriguez too didn’t have to fight for the overall lead.

Katusha Verona TTT

Another more recent clue was the team time trial. Katusha finished a surprising second, just behind Garmin-Barracuda. Presumably this was down to the efforts of Brutt, Ignatiev rather than Rodriguez but the Spaniard was part of the this.

The Podium
We can’t just look at Hesjedal and Rodriguez. Here’s the top five overall:

1 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team 91:04:16
2 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin – Barracuda 0:00:31
3 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre – ISD 0:01:51
4 Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team 0:02:18
5 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:03:18

Here we can see see De Gendt is easily within range of Scarponi and third place. In fact the Belgian could go higher today and take second place overall… or even better. Last summer in the Tour de France’s final time trial around Grenoble De Gendt was third, only beaten by Tony Martin and Cadel Evans. He will be cooked today after his efforts on the Stelvio but nonetheless he’s got plenty to aim for and could well surprise. And if Ivan Basso rides exceptionally well then he could overtake Scarponi too.

The Course
Pan flat but technical with some corners, the stage starts in central Milan and heads out to the north-west of the city before heading back to finish on the Piazza Duomo, the large cathedral square that is well-known to cyclists since it is the start of Milan-Sanremo too. Some have said it is a technical course but whilst there are quite a few 90° corners there are also a lot of long straight sections where a rider can deploy a big gear. Combining acceleration with outright top speed is essential.

After three weeks riding a time trial is very different than doing this on the opening day. The body is tired, the legs feel wooden and each acceleration is harder. Riders will struggle to get near their maximum heart rate and the wattages prodced will be lower, although if they can’t hit the peak power they can still sustain a big effort for some time. Today’s stage is just over half an hour long which is a violent effort and the riders will look to ride the course this morning and complete a long warm up prior to their ride. Many though will be satisfied with a steady warm up and then a lap of Milan as they head for the finish of this giant race.

The Stage Winners
For all the suspense at the top of the general classification there is of course the battle to win the stage. Taylor Phinney is the obvious pick but watch out for Gustav Larsson. Marco Pinotti, Jan Barta, Geraint Thomas, Mikhail Ignatiev and Jesse Sergent could also feature.

TV: the GC contenders will be off after 4.00pm Euro time with Rodriguez the last to go around 4.40pm and expected to arrive around 5.15pm.

Weather: fine and dry with almost no influence on the race. Top temperature of 24°C (75°F).

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{ 14 comments }

DS May 27, 2012 at 9:37 am

Milano-Sanremo actually started at the Duomo until some years ago. Now it does at the same place the ITT will depart from: the Castello Sforzesco.

cinjet May 27, 2012 at 10:13 am

Remember that in the stage to Alpe d’Huez prior the TT on the last day of the TdF, de Gendt also finished sixth – quite a big effort too! I believe he might jump to second, or possibly even first. He kept getting better this last week of the giro and fought his way into the top 10.

Ankush May 27, 2012 at 10:16 am

It will be interesting to see the course on which Rodriguez finished ahead of Ryder. We are definitely all set for a nail-biting finish and a fine margin of overall victory.

Can De Gendt be the new 12 seconds Belgian Giro hero?

Roadie61 May 27, 2012 at 10:18 am

We couldn’t have hoped for a better Giro! And now it all comes down to the ITT and many other factors, as INRNG points out. I tend to throw stats out the window and lean more on recovery from Stage 20 and motivational reasons to win.

Hesjedal’s biggest worry might be Thomas de Gendt, though Ryder doesn’t seem the worrying type.
He’s so cool, calm and collected and relies on whether his legs feel good or not. So far, his confidence has been high because his legs have felt really strong.

Many riders dug into their reserves yesterday. And de Gendt was in a zone most just dream of. Scarponi attacked with what he had left and Hesjedal was under pressure to lead and finally put the hammer down until his legs could respond no more. Let me also say that CVdV left all of himself on the road for his captain, as did Stetina, before they dropped off. Purito rode a great race but the Mortirolo and the Stelvio left no legs for his usual attacks. Basso is cooked and has been most gracious in admitting his limitations the last two stages.

Wearing pink, Purito will have extra motivation to keep it. Hesjedal is really under the most pressure from the media at this point, but I think, as always, he’ll just rely on his best asset, his legs. I think he’ll pull off a slim win and this Giro will go down in history as one of the best ever. Before I dare to write the winner in pen, how much will de Gendt have left in the tank after his magnificent win on the Stelvio? He’s a fantastic TT and behind Ryder by 1:47. And Scarponi will fight hard for a step on the podium, though the TT is not his specialty.

Throw all the stats and numbers out the window now and know that this final ride in Milan will be truly historical. Hesjedal, as a Canadian, has much to gain with a win and we are lucky to be a part of potential history in the making…getting there will be the fight of his life!

Bundle May 27, 2012 at 11:26 am

I agree with most everything you say, except with the “one of the best ever” bit. The Giro is always interesting, but we haven’t had that much action this year. No italians in the podium this year, almost certainly. I’m not sorry for them. Really, Basso and Liquigas bloody had it. You just cannot race like that, controlling everything, using the team to defend instead of using it to attack, leaving everything for the last minute, and having no B-plan. I have Bruyneel and others have been watching.

Mike_at_net May 27, 2012 at 10:24 am

Katusha had a new tt bike for the start of the Giro, specially designed with the help of Michael Rich an absolute expert on this terrain, this might have been a factor for Katusha be second in the TTT and Rodriguez rather strong in the prologue and the TTT.
In their blog Canyon advertises their model “Speedmax CF” as the fastest bike in the world after the TTT, never before they spend so much effort and expenditure in a bike development.
Definately say this is not won yet for Hesjedal, will be an exciting final.

Goonie May 27, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Hesjedal will be on a Cervelo, who have been doing aerodynamic bicycles as long as anyone.

I very much doubt the differences in equipment between the two are worth more than a couple of seconds, either way.

xouted.com May 27, 2012 at 10:36 am

Did anyone find some information about VAM on key climb of this year giro?

The Inner Ring May 27, 2012 at 2:37 pm

The main riders have been doing 16-1700m/h.

ToTheBillyoh May 27, 2012 at 10:38 am

Whomever wins, it has been a great Giro. Thomas De Gendt, as a comparative youngster, is my heart’s pick. Head says Hesjedal. We are spoiled for choice.

Sam May 27, 2012 at 12:21 pm

I hope Hesjdal gets it, after spending the last weeks watching the main contenders battle it out, I feel not so good if De Gent comes in after a fantastic stage 20 and gets it.

Alex May 27, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Stage shortened due to “Road conditions” which doesn’t really say much. Unless it just meant to miss out the bit where J-Rod crashed this morning!
Shows he’s going for it though. Good luck to him. I hope he makes it a nailbiter either way.

The Inner Ring May 27, 2012 at 2:39 pm

Some of Milan’s roads are closed on Sundays for pedestrians and cyclists and they’ve just tweaked the route a bit so as not to block even more things.

The Inner Ring May 27, 2012 at 2:47 pm

As a reader via twitter reminds me, I should have added Rasmussen to the list.

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