Predictable? Yes that’s why today’s preview also includes a tale about the Calabrian mafia plus the the nearby Colle del Nivolet, the highest mountain pass in Europe you’ve probably never heard of.
Stage 12 Wrap
Rigoberto Uran won and by some margin. The Colombian was fourth in the Romandie time trial, a good clue to his form. Is this it for the rest of the race? Of course not, especially as his team aren’t obvious high mountain support. That said we saw a clean sweep for OPQS with four in the top 10, notably Gianluca Brambilla, apparently his best performance in a time trial to date was 30th place in the 2012 Tour of Slovenia. Uran is looking very lean and it’ll hard to see him toppled in the mountains, the others will hope he has a bad day.
It was a decisive stage with large time gaps. The top-10 overall went into the stage separated by 2.01 and came out reshaped with 4.41 now separating Uran from Robert Kišerlovski.
It’s always hard to tell with Cadel Evans on the bike, he can look powerful but rarely comfortable. Yesterday he resembled a crab being winched uphill during the first climb. He was well beaten but still finished third, a creditable ride. The question how he deals with the loss. As said here before his mental approach is one of momentum, he’s strong when all is going well but once clouds gather he seems to get more stressed by the little things provoking a vicious cycle. Among the other GC contenders Nairo Quintana was the biggest loser, conceding 2.41 and he said after the stage he’s on antibiotics.
Spare a thought for Thomas Ludvigsson who crashed out, hitting a barrier and flying into someone’s garden. TV cameras showed him on the ground many metres from his bike. It turns out he’s ok, at least no broken bones.
The Route: 157km north to the foot of the Alps. The race skirts around Turin. The day’s climb at 34km to go is short and sharp: 1km at 7%. Not enough to drop the sprinters and should any lose position they have time to make it back. The race crosses the finish line with 22km to go and then does a loop up one side of the Orco valley and back down the other.
The Finish: broadly flat the race crosses the river to reach the 1km kite. There are two roundabouts to negotiate, the first sees a wide road narrowed to one lane and the second, at 300m to go, is more narrow and will further string out the field.
The Scenario: another good chance of a bunch sprint. Once again several teams have an interest in a bunch sprint, notably FDJ, Trek Factory Racing and Cannondale, assuming Elia Viviani is feeling ok as he was complaining of a bug a few days ago.
The Alps loom on the horizon today and if there are two more possible sprint stages left it’s more a question of which sprinters are left for those stages. Nacer Bouhanni for example has never ridden a mountain pass above 2,000m.
The Contenders: Nacer Bouhanni’s proved himself as the fastest sprinter in the race but this doesn’t mean things will continue to go his way. Then again he’s won stages against the odds. As usual Giacomo Nizzolo is the back-up pick.
|Mezgec, Ferrari, Swift, Farrar, Petacchi
Weather: cloudy with a temperature of 20°C. There’s no wind to worry about but there’s a good chance of a shower in the afternoon.
TV: the race is on a variety of TV channels according to where you are in the world. Eurosport is covering the race across most of Europe. beIN SPORT has the rights in the US and France. There’s cyclingfans.com and steephill.tv for TV schedules and pirate feeds and more.
The finish is expected around 5.10pm so tune in to catch the late action.
Operation Minotaur: Rivarolo Canavese is today’s finish town and has made the news after the town hall was placed under special control. Several municipal officials were suspended following a police raid on Mafia activities, specifically a clan of the Ndrangheta criminal organisation from Calabria, the toe of Italy’s boot. In recent times these groups have branched out well beyond their home regions and in a “maxi trial” 37 people were were convicted of various charges including election-rigging.
Amusingly the town’s former mayor, Fabrizio Bertot, caught in the wake of the crooked vote-rigging scandal, was forbidden from standing for election in Italy… so he got elected to the European Parliament and recently took time out from this job to be an election monitor for the recent referendum in Crimea. Full story in Italian over at liberapiemonte.it
So close and yet so far: the finish town today is an ugly place, one of those towns with industry on the slide and its better days are long gone. But it sits where the Orco valley opens onto the wide plains of Turin. But follow the river upstream and past Pont Canavese the terrain changes fast. Some hydraulic dams signal the gain in height and soon the valley road is hemmed in by vast rock walls.
Here starts the Colle del Nivolet, the biggest mountain pass you’ve never heard of: 50km later the road climbs to 2,614 metres above sea level which puts it in the top-10 of European mountain passes. Why isn’t it famous? For starters the Giro has never ventured up and second it’s a dead end and there’s no ski resort at the top either. But it is a scenic climb that’s a joy to ride because it’s relatively free of traffic and has several different phases. If you want more, see the Roads to Ride piece from last year.