Giro Stage 7 Preview

Friday, 10 May 2013

With the 55km maxichrono time trial tomorrow many of the big names will aim to rest today. Easier said than done given the stage profile above resembles a traumatic electrocardiogram.

But if the big names think about tomorrow, for others today is their day, a chance to escape and win. So the day promises quantity over quality, the sheer number of riders and teams trying to claim the day should offer plenty of action.

Yesterday’s Stage: after several spicy stage finishes peppered with action, lapping the salt works of Margherita di Savoia brought a predictable result. It’s a tribute to Mark Cavendish that his wins are almost inevitable, time after time he sees off the others.

We got a pure sprint finish unimpeded by crashes although there were other incidents during the day. Luca Paolini’s grip on the overall lead remains as firm as every. For years he was the perpetual top-10 pick for the Flemish classics, now he’s leading at home.

The Route: so far the Giro’s been a tour of the Italian coastline with more seaside stretches than a Sri Lankan yoga camp. But each time the riders have turned inland the racing has changed. Italy’s geography is simple, a crown of alpine mountains form its northern border and then a spine of mountains running down the country, the Apennines.

The Apennines

In other words the Giro only has to turn inland to start climbing. It’s this geography that gives the Giro spectacular options, unlike France where the Alps,  Pyrenees and Vosges are stuck on the borders and the climbs of the massif central are often too far from towns and cities willing to pay for the race. Today the race really heads inland with relentless series of climbing, in total 3,300 vertical metres.

As well as the total amount of climbing, the categorised climbs along the way are noted for their steep sections.

  • Villamagna: 4th category, 2.7km, average 5,6%,  11% max
  • Chieti – Pietragrossa: 3rd category, 2.7km, average 7.8% 16% max
  • Santa Maria de Criptis: 3rd category, 3.9km average 5.9%, 18% max
  • San Silvestro 4rd 2.2km category, 4.5% average, 14% max

There’s an air of Tirren0-Adriatico here, the early season stage race is a regular visitor to Chieti only this time there’s a 25km run to the finish rather than a hilltop finish. But the steep slopes remain, riders will be reaching for the lowest gear possible.

The Finish: after all the action the finish is so flat it’s not worth showing the profile. A sharp left hand bend with 2.8km to go, then a sharp right hander at 2.2km and then a long wide finishing straight with smooth asphalt.

The Scenario: with the long time trial tomorrow it’s hard to see the big names taking risks. Efforts today will be paid for tomorrow, even a sneaky attack to win 30 seconds could generate enough fatigue to lose more than this in the time trial. So it’s day for a breakaway. What’s certain is Katusha have every interest to protect Paolini’s lead for another day and they might let a group of riders stay away as long as the fugitives don’t threaten Paolini.

But a breakaway can take many forms. The early move can go but could be brought back if some teams have missed it. Just as there are days for climbers and days for sprinters, today is a day for a lot of the riders who fall in between these two labels. Who? Well not everyone will get a ticket to ride as they’ve got team duties, perhaps we’re talking about one third of the peloton. The route means the rider has to be able to cope with the climbs so we can thin down the probable winners but we’re still left with a lot of names. If you want three, how about Rory Sutherland (Team Saxo-Tinkoff), Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil-DCM) or today’s regional rider, Danilo Di Luca (Vini Fantini)? Although there’s still a chance everything comes together for a bunch sprint from a reduced peloton and the likes of Enrico Battaglin (Bardiani-CSF) or Fabio Felline (Androni) strike. And whilst the main GC riders might sit tight, there’s still plenty of lieutenants and others could try an ambush.

Weather: rain. Temperatures will be around 20-22°C (70°F) with little wind. The rain is forecast all day meaning a cold and tiring day for many.

TV: live coverage begins at 3.10pm Euro time and it’ll be worth watching soon after. If the big names aren’t likely to fight, all the more reason to watch the others fight for their day. The finish is planned between 5.00-5.30pm. If you can’t find it on TV, cyclingfans.com and steephill.tv will cater for your internet feed.

World of the day: big as in big names. When we get a lead group with all the contenders for the overall, it’s “con tutti i big” as they say in Italian, with emphasis on beeeg. Either way it means all the big guys. Whilst Vini Fantini manager Luca Scinto rails against “anglo-saxon” cycling teams thwarting his plans for the win – don’t worry, it’s nothing personal, he gets on TV with the theatre – the host broadcaster RAI is happy to deploy many English words, even the onscreen graphics appear to be in English.

TourDeUtah May 10, 2013 at 6:33 am

The forecast rain is unfortunate. It will dull what otherwise could have been a a very animated stage.

Ben May 10, 2013 at 6:54 pm

you couldn’t have been any more wrong

jmilliron May 10, 2013 at 6:55 pm

In hindsight, this is an amusing comment.

The Inner Ring May 10, 2013 at 7:08 pm

The forecast for rain was wrong, it was dry most of the time and only rained at the end, putting that thin film on the ground that caused so much trouble for some riders.

ted pauly May 10, 2013 at 7:20 am

well, just wondering: are some riders more adept at handling the rainy conditions than others, like the way some horses like a muddy track? Or does it just suck for everyone equally? How much does a rainy track usually effect a race, esp. a mountain stage? Love to hear anything you have to say about that. thanks.

TourDeUtah May 10, 2013 at 7:29 am

descending is a bitch.

But it does slow down the race. Riders are less aggressive and less likely to attack. Hence, a real dulled down stage

Zueco May 10, 2013 at 8:08 am

I’m sorry but that’s rubbish. Rain can produce some of the most epic stages, especially on terrain like this, for instance this year’s Tirreno’s final stage, or the 2010 giro stage to l’aquila; both in abbruzzo.

TourDeUtah May 10, 2013 at 8:49 am

that was light rain. This years stage 5 of the Basque Country, which was supposed to be T-A part 2 was horrible to watch. Everyone was very careful and the attacking was limited to the very end. Give me dry road conditions with tomorrows stage, magic.

Zueco May 10, 2013 at 9:42 am

The 2010 stage to L’Aquila certainly wasn’t light rain. Or the 2011 stage to Gardeccia. The examples of epic rainy stages are endless. A flat stage can often become dull, but hilly stages tend to become more of a race of attrition where the bunch breaks into bits and pieces. Let’s see what happens. It’s today’s stage BTW – tomorrow’s will be dull, I agree ;)

The Inner Ring May 10, 2013 at 9:48 am

The Aquila stage was a funny one, it started to rain early in the stage and several riders went back to their team cars to get a rain jacket, including some big names because they thought it was too early for anything to happen but at this point moves started to go clear and the famous large break went.

Blacky May 10, 2013 at 9:12 am

Rain means a lot of problems for GC riders as their body fat percentage is bellow long term sustainable level (cooling effect has to be offset by burning an extra energy), combined with more careful riding (bigger gaps between riders) it will cost them much more resources than dry conditions. Descending is significantly slower, even cornering on flat sections and mild ascents is heavily affected. Chasing a break is therefore more complicated than in dry conditions. The heavier the rain, the more favoured is the break and even a one man mod-range move can stuck because of this.
Todays parcour will be heavily affected by rain, it is a shame because all was set to produce a thrilling stage.

maximflyer May 10, 2013 at 12:47 pm

Nibali said earlier this year that he prefers bad weather

bouvet May 10, 2013 at 8:02 am

@ted pauly: I’d say the weather conditions do not affect every rider equally. It’s a classic to say the northerners (Scandinavians especially) and flemish riders thrive in the rain, while the more thinly built mountain goats and playboys of southern Europe do not. Just look at Thor Hushovd, a rider who prefers rain and chill to sun and heat.

TourDeUtah May 10, 2013 at 8:50 am

LA is from Texas and he loved to cycle in bad weather. Der Jan an East German, did not like riding in bad weather.

InTheGC May 10, 2013 at 8:51 am

Can’t help noticing how fat (in pro-cycling terms) Luca Paolini looks in that picture…

Bundle May 10, 2013 at 8:58 am

“Sri Lankan yoga camp”… that was funny! :)
I’ve been looking forward to today since the Giro began. Not that placing this excellent route right before instead of right after the big TT was the best idea, but still… all those who otherwise could never win this Giro (Scarponi, Kiserlovski, Samuel Sánchez, etc…) should think that today is a very good opportunity take advantage of possible chaos, not a dangerous day to survive. And multi-gun teams such as Blanco (with Kruijswijk and Kelderman) or AG2R (with Betancur and Pozzovivo) should be sending them on long-range operations. It will be interesting to see who takes the responsibility to chase. Astana? Sky? Both? None of them, saying it should be the other (best case scenario)?

T-Ha May 10, 2013 at 9:07 am

Get the feeling today is going to be absolute carnage. could see small groups coming in all over the place. This is exactly the sort of day Team Sky hate and exactly what Nibali thrives on. Have Sky learnt from Tirreno?

CK May 10, 2013 at 10:00 pm

I think you win the inrng predication award for today’s stage!

vimes May 10, 2013 at 9:10 am

Rain is always good for attackers. This stage is excellent for attacking. If you want to get Wiggins out of his comfort zone, this is the stage to do it.

GP May 10, 2013 at 9:50 am

I think if any of the main GC contenders were watching the veulta and saw Contador take the race on a stage like this they might fancy there chances to take time off Wiggins. Watch for Garmin, Astana or BMC riders going up the road early on.

Mark May 10, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Was thinking the same

Samuel Gamester (@LanterneVerte) May 10, 2013 at 10:56 am

reference comments re bodyfat and rain, surely food, arm-warmers and leg-warmers solve that?

Dave H May 10, 2013 at 11:01 am

This stage has the look of those moyenne montagne stages that Prudhomme keeps including in the Tour in the hopes that one of the contenders will use it to break up the race. That never seems to happen in the Tour but the way Hejsedal has been animating the early stages I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Garmin try to disrupt Sky and create something. It is a shame that tomorrow is the critical long time trial if that means a stage like this is ignored by the big boys.

Bundle May 10, 2013 at 3:07 pm

I think Hinault or Fignon (or Induráin in 1995) would say that it is precisely because there is a long TT the following day that you have to attack today. 2 reasons, surprise factor, and especially the fear and anxiety you can create in the defenders.

Mats May 10, 2013 at 12:07 pm

It would be really nice to see a good fight for GC positions today but I think it’s still too early. Let’s hope Katusha, Vini Fantini and other non GC teams will keep the inevitable breakaway from getting too much time. A time gap of three minutes or so within the last 30km could spark a big fight for the stage win.

dan May 10, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Sri Lankan yoga camp hahahahaha

gear_ratio May 10, 2013 at 2:25 pm

RAI even interviewed Cav in English a few days back, even tho’ rider (and broadcaster obviously) both speak perfect Italian

Anonymous May 10, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Cav’s Italian is pretty limited, which is why they prefer to interview him in English. Cadel Evans, on the other hand, speaks very well except for an awful accent – which I can relate to, because mine is just as bad. :-) The mix of English and Italian on the broadcast is fine with me, I always smile when I hear Italians say FORCING.

CK May 10, 2013 at 9:59 pm

Cav’s the best sprinter in the world and I’m always impressed how he can gel a team around him when others can’t, but it has to be said that his English is only marginally better than his Italian. Having said that, I always like his metaphors that he plucks out of the air, though, like the one about him being like the exhaust pipe at the back of a truck that he said yesterday.

Greg May 11, 2013 at 12:17 am

That was a good analogy; likening the team to a kit car (Caterham) that you build yourself and the feeling of winning that stage was like turning the key for the first time. Interesting, too, that he thinks of himself as the exhaust; the noisy bit at the back.

Anonymous May 10, 2013 at 5:48 pm

Wiggins is not my favorite rider, but I feel for him. He’s going to have to be mentally tougher than ever before to pull this off.

maximflyer May 10, 2013 at 7:16 pm

I am not especially a Wiggins nor a Nibali fan but one could see the difference btw them as they both crashed. Nibali certainly is a better descender but the difference seemed more to be a mental one. Nibali kept on pushing, Wiggins got more defensive.

CK May 10, 2013 at 9:55 pm

Yes, Nibali got back on his bike almost as quickly as he was off it. He probably lost less than ten seconds. Wiggins began cornering at speeds only slightly above walking pace.

LDR99 May 11, 2013 at 3:11 am

Today Wiggins looked an awfully lot like Andy Schleck on some of his memorable Tour descents (remember him sitting up through the corners on the final TT in in 2011 while Cadel railed through them on the aero bars?) I’ve always thought a rider had to be a tough SOB to win a grand tour; a real all rounder. Not just strong and fit; but tough. Able to handle all comers and all conditions. Good days and bad days. Wiggins had a remarkably uneventful run in last year’s Tour, which was a testament to his fanatical preparation and solid team work. And his good luck. I don’t remember him needing to overcome any real adversity or trying conditions. How about a 2010 Strade Bianche stage or a Gavia in 1988. Those of course were truly epic days of the sort rarely seen. But still, a true champion has to get up off the ground and ride.

NYer May 10, 2013 at 6:32 pm

What a race… So spectacular the Giro.
Not only Wiggo touched the ground, but he also was confused: my guess is that he was cold. Lucky him, the bunch climbed Chieti very slowly, otherwise…

CitrusCityCycle May 10, 2013 at 6:55 pm

Will think twice when somone says weather can dull a race… That was spectacular. Hell for the riders though, Phinney tweeted about the brutal conditions. Congrats to Hansen, well fought.

Mats May 10, 2013 at 7:13 pm

Whoa! this Giro gets better and better every day. 40k before the finish it looked like everything is going after the plan. Vini Fantini was doing all the hard work and Di Luca was just waiting for the right moment to launch an attack. Then suddenly a drip of rain falls down and the whole race explodes.

I feel great for the winner, Adam Hansen. Not only because he’s a great cyclist and apparently a really nice bloke but because I love it whenever a breakaway rider wins.

Anonymous May 10, 2013 at 7:27 pm

It must have something to do with those shoes…

AK May 10, 2013 at 11:33 pm

I love to see a man win from a solo effort on a rainy day. Way to go Adam Hansen!
With all the crashes in the rain today I also start wondering about material. Do riders change wheels when heavy rain starts? Wider tires/lower pressures, or special compounds like Schwalbe’s Ultremo Aqua might make a small but large enough difference.

The Inner Ring May 10, 2013 at 11:40 pm

It’s easy to lower pressure before the start but not much else is done. Some compounds can help but not all teams have this especially for the summer races.

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