Giro Stage 6 Preview

Thursday, 9 May 2013

It’s ascension day on the Catholic calendar – Italy’s national religion – but today offers one of the flattest stages of the Giro. It’s a festival for the sprinters, Stage 6 allows the race to make northerly progress and probably a day without incident.

Normally a flat stage without features would be greeted with indifference but the sprinters have so few chances in this year’s race and today is the only flat stage left in the race until the final day’s finish in Brescia.

Yesterday’s Stage: an exciting end to the stage after hours of nothing. The bunch rolled past the scenic Ionian sea but the racing rhymed with I yawn. But that’s normal, it’s impossible to have hours of action a day, a grand tour is after all three weeks long. But you can still have suspense each day. The daily breakaway was reeled in on the first climb of Montescaglioso and as soon as the road went up riders were being ejected. Mark Cavendish wasn’t the first to go, he was trying but as predicted it was too much of an effort.

Sadly the actual sprint was ruined by a crash. It means we’ve yet to see a full field sprint. Degenkolb won but not via a sprint, he stayed upright whilst team mate Luka Mezgec didn’t and prompted a pile up, leaving the German to catch and pass Canola to win the stage.

The Route: flat and fast, it’s only 130km to Margherita di Savoia but the race will do two laps around the town to add more kilometres. It’s the last chance for the sprinters to shine, especially as Stages 13 and 17 have some climbs thrown in before the finish.

The Finish: the race enters Margherita di Savoia and does two 16km circuits. The approach to the finish itself is flat, wide and without any sharp bends in the final.

The Scenario: never say never but it’s almost certain we’ll get a sprint finish. The hope this time is that it’s incident free. Several teams have brought sprinters to the race but there are few chances in this year’s edition and so today is the day to make it count. Katusha will work to defend Paolini’s lead so any breakaway won’t get far but we can expect OPQS, Cannondale and Orica-Greenedge to take over the work. Or at least it would be polite if they did so.

Saturday’s opening stage was a sprint finish but distorted by the crash. Mark Cavendish won impressively, chasing down gaps and leading himself out so he’s the prime pick but in the chaos of a bunch sprint the configuration is always changing. Cavendish will count on Orica-Greenedge to string the field out and impose some order.

TV: if you can’t find it on TV, cyclingfans.com and steephill.tv are the go-to sites. The live feed starts at 3.10pm Euro time, but the action is probably only for the last 30 minutes. The  finish is expected around 5.15pm.

Weather: calm and sunny, temperatures will reach 23°C (73°F) and there will be a light headwind of 10-15km/h which might delay the race but should not be strategic.

Local info: Wikipedia says the Queen of Italy had an affair in the town so it took its name from this incident but that’s an example of false information. Instead municipal pride saw the town of Barletta rename itself to celebrate the Italian royal family in 1879. The town’s name goes back over time to the Romans when Bardulos was important for salt production. This common mineral was highly prized and if it’s cheaper today, Margherita di Savoia is Europe’s largest producer of salt giving it a direct link to almost every Italian dish.

Word of the Day: W as in viva. The letter W is rare in Italian, I can only think of the first name Walter from the north. But you’ll often see graffiti saying W Il Giro, what does this mean? It means Viva Il Giro or “long live the Giro.”

Why the W? well Wikipedia has it right.

In Italy, the nationalist phrase “Viva Vittorio Emanuele Re d’Italia!” (“Long live Victor Emmanuel king of Italy”) was hidden from the Austrian enemy by its acronym Viva VERDI!, that passed for a praise of the music of Giuseppe Verdi. In Italian graffiti, viva is often abbreviated as W.

Look closely and the W is more two Vs that have been crossed. Fausto Coppi famously rode past a “W Coppi” written in the snow. Today we remember Wouter Weylandt, the rider with two Ws, who died two years ago descending the Passo del Bocco on Stage 3 of the Giro in 2011.

Bundle May 9, 2013 at 8:24 am

Ok, a little transition day after the fireworks. Not bad. The ciclamino jersey battle (it will always be ciclamino, regardless of the colour) looks very interesting, with GC contenders, punchers, and sprinters all involved. What I don’t understand is why the points competition and the KOM do not award WorldTour points. It’s crazy. In my mind, any of these two prizes are worth well more than a stage win (or two). I guess it was somebody’s idea to devalue those “secondary” classification back in the days when the ProTour was created. And, like anything from those horrible Bruyneel and Saiz days, it was a really bad idea. One more reason to do away with the WorldTour.

Fred B May 9, 2013 at 10:17 am

Technicaly the team collective score for the UCI Team Sporting Value benefits from winning the points or mountain jersey (4 points in the Giro), compared to 2 points for the team for a stage victory. The individual rider gets nothing for either jersey but 7 points for a Giro stage.

Tommy B May 9, 2013 at 8:44 am

‘Today we remember Wouter Weylandt, the rider with two Ws, who died two years ago descending the Passo del Bocco on Stage 3 of the Giro in 2011.’

Well said.

Ankush May 9, 2013 at 9:27 am

My word of the day: Cav.

Anonymous May 9, 2013 at 6:15 pm

Cav: “There were only two stages for the sprinters in the first part of the Giro but I’ve won both of them, so I’m happy.” http://www.cyclingnews.com/giro-ditalia/stage-6/results

Hmm. So anything he can’t/doesn’t win isn’t a sprint?

Joe K. May 9, 2013 at 10:11 am

On Eurosport they mentioned talk in the SKY camp that Uran was unhappy playing only supporting roles for Wiggo and Froome. Will the team implode just in time for the Tour in July?

Sam May 9, 2013 at 10:43 am

No, its the media stirring. Article in Gazzetta yesterday claiming that he may leave at end of his contract this year to go and lead at a smaller team, possibly Henao too. Also Gazzetta speculated that this is why they were at the front at the finish and Wiggins wasnt, claiming that this must mean a ‘Colombian conspiracy’. The reality is that they were told to go for the sprints to try and lock out Nibali, Hesjedal, Evans etc – a tactic which will be used a lot in the Giro, I think.

Besides, I doubt very much that Uran will be riding the Tour. Team’s not named yet, but he and Henao are nailed on for the Vuelta. Think the only guy who’ll ride both Giro and Tour, is Wiggins. Sky are in the fortunate position to field 2 very strong and different teams for both Giro and Tour.

Uran was interviewed before the start of yesterday’s race, and when asked about a ‘conspiracy’, he was very chilled, dismissed it and stressed that he’s riding for Wiggins.

The Inner Ring May 9, 2013 at 10:50 am

Uran looks set to change teams but for now there’s no reason to suggest he’s riding for himself.

However a rider’s value is dependent on his ranking points as well as his reputation and come a point in the race he could face a dilemma between personal gain and team duties.

Joe K. May 9, 2013 at 10:59 am

With so many up and coming talented Colombians in the pro peloton might we soon see a commercially sponsored “national” squad as per SKY or Orica out of Colombia?

oversight May 9, 2013 at 11:20 am

er, you mean like the “Colombia” team racing in the current Giro?

Bundle May 9, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Well, there is already one, participating in the Giro, although the structure is Italian, but the funding is from the Colombian Government. It is doubtful, nevertheless, that this structure can afford the likes of Urán, Henao, Quintana or Betancur. This would require corporate funding, and the sport has become a lot more expensive from the days when a fruit-juice company like Postobón could afford a serious GT-contending team. It’s also funny that Movistar Colombia sponsors an amateur team, at the moment completely independent from the one run by Unzué in Spain. I woulnd’t be surprised if the two structures are merged, and the team around Quintana goes even more Colombian.

The Inner Ring May 9, 2013 at 12:19 pm

It’s interesting because the best Colombians get poached by the biggest teams. But I gather Cafe de Colombia is considering sponsorship.

Bundle May 9, 2013 at 12:09 pm

And, talking about Urán, skilled and strong as he of course is, I don’t think he’s mentally made to be a GT leader. He seems to perform worse under pressure, and enjoys more playing second fiddle.

Sam May 9, 2013 at 1:28 pm

Maybe a top 5 at the Vuelta or Giro if the course is short of TT kms – but only if he’s with a strong team. But ultimately I think he’s more of a hilly one-dayer rather than a GT podium guy.

Chris May 9, 2013 at 2:26 pm

With Urán looking to change teams, couldn’t that possibly lock him out of doing the Vuelta this year? With the points system in place, Sky may not want him to do World Tour races if he’s likely to leave the team…

Even if Urán raced the Vuelta, it’s not guaranteed he will even get to lead the team for that race. Porte could arguably be the leader, if he isn’t too tired from the TDF; Hena0 could lead too, given that there is only one ITT, one TTT and an insane amount of hilltop finishes. That Team Sky’s got options, man! :-)

Doubter May 9, 2013 at 4:46 pm

The skybots seemed to have decided that Richie Porte is now capable of contesting a GT.
Ummmmm…….not.

Unless he is on the same miracle program that Wiggins/Froome are on. Then maybe he is.

Dan May 9, 2013 at 11:01 am

Got my fingers crossed for Cav

balkou May 9, 2013 at 11:06 am

I’m not doing anything else besides looking for the weather on Saturday. Mayhem approaching…

Larry T. May 9, 2013 at 11:55 am

Odd how the Manx Missile couldn’t make it up the same climb used in 2003, when RAI TV said Fabio Baldato won in a sprint finish into Matera. Cav can’t get away with holding onto the cars these days…so the stages must be pancake (or in Italy “piadina”) flat in order for him to win?

Anonymous May 9, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Maybe Fabio had some other type of “ahem” outside assistance…

The Inner Ring May 9, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Things were different in 2003. First I’m not sure the climb was the same, they’ve built a new road that is steeper. But EPO and all that changed plenty too.

LM May 9, 2013 at 5:36 pm

Was car-gate ever definitively proven? I heard a lot and read a lot about it, but never heard a final verdict. I admit, I’m a fan, but the last I read was this: http://velonews.competitor.com/2011/07/news/farrar-i-should-have-kept-my-mouth-shut-about-cavendish_184765

I don’t think the issue was that he and the team couldn’t make it up; he was dropped, they did make an effort to get back on, but I read that they sat up in response to the lack of help with the effort. It may have been that the team just decided that the watts spent were not worth the slimmer odds of a win compared to today’s stage 6.

The reason Cav and most of the sprinters spend so much time sitting in the grupetto is not because they suck worse that you and me, it’s because they are conserving energy. I’m not smart enough or able to write well enough to do the subject justice but, the creation, conservation and expenditure of energy is a large part of the foundation of the sport. Someone has probably written a book on it.

Larry T. May 9, 2013 at 6:08 pm

“Proven”? He was never sanctioned by the officials as I recall but after more than a few of his fellow competitors complained, I thought they paid more attention to him with the TV cameras, as did the race jury. The issue seemed to die at that point but I find it hard to believe the guys (wasn’t Gilbert one of them) would simply make stuff like this up. As to the Giro 2013 stage, plenty of other guys considered sprinters made it up the climb with the group….we’re not going to assume THEY had some sort of help not available to the Manx Missile, are we? I mentioned this because RAI TV commentators said the last bit of this stage was identical to 2003’s…but they’re certainly not infallible.

HughM May 9, 2013 at 9:12 pm

Only 4 of today’s top 10 made it over the climb in the front group yesterday. So rather than picking on Cav, shall we instead pick on the other five sprinters who both failed to get over the climb yesterday AND failed to do the job they are actually paid to do today (i.e. win the sprint).

As for the hanging on cars, I don’t find it a huge stretch of imagination to believe that riders whose careers and pay checks are at risk because they aren’t good enough to beat Cav would make things up to get him disqualified (not that that would include Gilbert, obviously, but then what was he doing in a gruppetto with Cav anyway?)

LM May 10, 2013 at 2:41 am

The article I linked, and the quotes in it, may shed a little additional light on the topic, but please don’t interpret my question as an argument; I was genuinely asking. But, to be fair, I am a Cav defender. A couple of thoughts:

How many in the pro peloton have never taken their time collecting bidons, getting a scratch from a fall dressed or had a mechanical that just happened to coincide with a bonk at the end of a big pull? I’ll bet Cav’s hand is in front when he grabs a bottle.

Tyler Farrar was the loudest and the original complaining accuser. I know I’m not being completely fair, but I’ve heard him say more than a few things that didn’t end up coming true.

I started to reply, didn’t want to offend, but then I thought about today’s race and changed my mind (about replying; I have no intention of offending).

At this stage of the game, Cav’s got a pretty impressive track record that wasn’t earned by getting towed around the world. What you see is what you get and I can only imagine it must get old to have to listen to him and then get beat by him Every time you see him. Imagine the careers that he has squashed by his very birth… a whole generation of guys coming in second or (rarely) winning by luck. Griepel is the perfect example; in any other era, without Cav, He would be the King; they would be arguing about whether not or he had 100 wins. Same with Goss and Renshaw. Also rans, closer to just getting by, because of Cav.

At the same time, Cav invented and is perfecting the “my team is the greatest, I win because of them” speech. And he’s the first to offer praise to a deserving competitor; recently Sagan, for example. But, most importantly and why I decided to reply, Cav has slowly become the closest thing the peloton has to a Patron. At least when the stage is flat. Slowing the race today, so Wiggins could get back on, couldn’t have been done by anyone else. It was a beautiful gesture that takes you back in time. This is why Wiggins pulled on the front after he got back to the leaders. To show his appreciation. This is what makes cycling so special.

Dave H May 9, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Larry, I realise your comment regarding holding cars is somewhat tongue in cheek but it is also wrong. The accusations were made that Cav held onto cars in order to survive on mountainous stages not that he used them to get over hills with the front group to win a sprint. Are you suggesting that held onto a car to get over the Cipressa and Poggio in 2009 (or this year for that matter) or to get over the cat 2 climb into Aubenas on the Tour a few years’ back.

My take on the situation is that it was probably something and nothing. He probably did spend a little too long “talking” to the team car but I bet other sprinters do it and I doubt it was as clear cut a case of cheating as those who made the accusations allege. I get the impression Cav is popular with teammates but unpopular with the peloton as a whole so it probably doesn’t take much misbehaviour to stoke up a few accusations

Andy Logan May 9, 2013 at 2:03 pm

I am surprised you have said that Cav would expect OGE to help. There was the quote from him on after his first win that OGE do what they usually do and not do any work…

TourDeUtah May 9, 2013 at 5:10 pm

I am sure all this talk will heat up during the TdF silly season.

More rumors, gossip, and inuendo to come.

If Henao and Uran were smart, they would shut their mouths, soldier on for Sky and waiut for the ofers to flow after TdF.

TourDeUtah May 9, 2013 at 5:12 pm

As for todays stage, nothing worse than watching a flat yawn fest for 3 hours waiting for someone to emerge from the pack in the last 100 meters.

The weekend is looking good with the medium mountains of stages 7 & 9. Hopefully the riding will be as animated as in stages 3-5.

The Inner Ring May 9, 2013 at 9:44 pm

Indeed although sprint stages are so rare that they’re interesting. Also if Cavendish makes it boring, it’s only because he is so consistent and above the others.

TourDeUtah May 10, 2013 at 3:40 am

I love cycling so much, I actually watch the last 20k of a flat stage. Just to see the sprint trains at work and hopefully to see someone jump off the front and hold off the peloton ala Big Maggy Backstdt. Been a long time since that happened.

Still, I have been excited about stages 7 & 9 since I fisrst saw a profile last winter. Medium mountain stages have more action than the Big Mountain stages. Plus, with fast descents to the finish it makes for very animated racing. I really enjoyed stage 3.

John Liu May 10, 2013 at 5:27 am

Wiggins was criticized by some today for sitting too far back in the peleton and thus leaving himself vulnerable to crashes like the big peleton-splitting logjam that happened. Is that fair? It seemed to me he had a mechanical, stopped for a new bike, and was thus unavoidably chasing back to the rear of the peleton when everything stopped.

The sprint was interesting to me because (1) Degenkolb went so early, why? (2) OPQS’ train worked all the way to 200 meters, is that the first time this season?

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