Giro Stage 16 Preview

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

This is the stage that many fans and locals have waited a long time to see but the riders will be less keen with grim weather conditions ahead. It’s still not certain whether the proposed route is viable with RCS studying weather conditions.

Huge climbs and the short distance means this could be an explosive stage. The Passo Gavia is infamous and the Passo Stelvio is the literal high point of the race and a very challenging climb with thanks to the triple combo of length, gradient and altitude. All this before the climb of Val Martello, 22.3km long at 6.4% but with a series of steep steps to climb on the way making it ideal for attacks.

The Route: the stage starts in Ponte di Legno, wooden bridge and many riders will fear wooden legs after the rest day. A brief descent leads straight to the Passo Gavia, one of Europe’s great climbs and a harsh way to start the day. It’s 16.5km long and 8% average but after a relatively gentle start, the slope regularly nudges 10% on the upper third. It’s followed by a fast and regular descent, the road has been resurfaced in places. It’s a major mountain pass and most of the corners are visible and predictable but easier said than done given the grim conditions (see “weather” below).

The Stelvio is next. At 21.7km long and 7% it’s an endurance effort and almost an hour’s climbing even for the best. Again the average is flattered by smoother sections. Once over the top the race tackles the famous Trafoi hairpins at speed. Again it’s a major road, an engineered grade most of the way. Then follows the brief “flat” section in the valley, a chance for riders to stock up on food and drink.

The Finish: the race funnels up the scenic Val Martello, a wide road that gradually gets steeper and more narrow the further you go. This means the 22.4km distance and average of 6.4% is are not useful, the climb gets much tougher than the average suggests and a flagging rider will find the going worse and worse. Note the constantly changing gradient on the diagram above, it illustrates just how irregular this climb is.

A series of hairpin bends lie near the finish as the road rears up to 14%, La Gazzetta describes this as a “cobra” today. Only the final 70 metres are flat.

The Scenario: the first climb lends itself to a breakaway. Maybe Julian Arredondo goes off on a raid to bag more mountain points. This is his first grand tour and he’s been looking more and more tired, it is easier to bag points early in the stage than late. Racing into the third week is a novel experience for the curtate Colombian . Still he and many others will have their eye (and wallet) focussed on the Cima Coppi prize at the top of the Stelvio. This is the prize awarded to the first rider to cross the highest pass in the race. I think Pierre Rolland might want this and so will his team: Europcar manager Jean-René Bernaudeau won a stage of the Giro over the Stelvio and upon retirement opened a restaurant called Le Stelvio.

Spare a thought for Nacer Bouhanni who will today reach new heights. He’s never climbed a mountain pass higher than 1,999m – the Col de Sarenne in the 2012 Dauphiné – so the Stelvio will be something novel. The same battle awaits other riders who must aim against a tight elimination delay.

Otherwise it’s a hard stage for a breakaway to get away on, no sooner will a breakaway establish a small lead and we’ll see the GC contenders, probably led by Movistar, crank up the pace. Anyone up the road will need a hefty advantage before the final climb, think five minutes.

The Contenders: the weather could be both the winner and the loser today and assuming the stage proceeds unchanged victory could depend on wardrobe selection. Cycle clothing has improved a lot in recent years but it’s still limited against freezing temperatures, wet roads and 80km/h wind chill on downhill runs, especially during a race when there’s little time to change.

Nairo Quintana is the prime pick. His form is improving, the antibiotic course has finished and this is a stage for the climbers. But apparently he’s still to shake his illness,

Fabio Aru outclimbed everyone on the first major summit finish of the race. On this result alone he’s catapulted into an obvious contender but this a very different stage with two giant passes climbed and descended in tough conditions, experience counts for plenty. Of course Aru was part of Vincenzo Nibali’s blue guard last year and coped just fine.

I don’t think Rigoberto Urán will win but of course we’ll see how he fares, he’ll look to ride steady and protect his lead. The probably for Rafał Majka who might prefer to “camp” on his third position rather than strike out for better.

Another Colombian; another Fabio: Fabio Duarte is climbing very well. I’d been expecting more from him early in the race but perhaps he needs the high mountains? Second on Montecampione means he’s in great shape.

Pierre Rolland is due a stage win but his random style of racing means we just don’t know when it’ll come. Will he launch a long range raid up the Stelvio? Watch to see if Europcar send riders into the early move. I’ve mocked his scattergun tactics but it’s something to celebrate. Europcar need UCI points to stay in the World Tour Rolland is not racing to suit the team’s spreadsheet.

Domenico Pozzovivo has a chest cold and today isn’t going to help him. He’s also not the best descender in the wet. If he can make it with the leaders to the finish the climb does suit his riding style but illness is likely to find him limiting his losses. Androni’s Franco Pellizotti seems to be getting stronger and has, in the past, been a rider for the third week of the Giro.

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Nairo Quintana
Fabio Aru, Fabio Duarte
Pierre Rolland, Rafał Majka
Pozzovivo, Uran, Evans, Pellizotti

Weather: drizzle in the valleys and the possibility of snow at altitude. Temperatures will struggle to get above freezing at altitude. The longer the race goes on the warmer it will get and the final climb promises rain showers. So far weather forecasts are proving reasonably inaccurate so we’ll know more before the race starts.

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 stage starts at 12.35pm Euro time and keep a look out to check it’s on because if the snow gets too thick or icy then the plans will change. If the stage goes ahead then your viewing isn’t guaranteed either, the bad conditions can prevent broadcasts, you might remember the lack of pictures from last year’s stage to the Jafferau.

The Stelvio is forecast to be climbed around 3.10pm and the final climb starts at around 4.25pm. The finish is expected around 5.10pm.

Word of the Day: Joch meaning pass in German. The literal translation is “yoke” or the wooden frame used to harness cattle to pull a plough but the Germanic word is used locally in this part of Italy to mean a mountain pass. The famous Passo Stelvio is also known as the Stilfser Joch.

We might think of Italy as a land of Italians but many parts of the country have people speaking regional dialects. In this area of Trentino they speak a different language altogether, German and along the way the riders will pass bilingual road signs warning, say, of hairpin bends in Italian and German. There is also Ladin, local language too. Plus there are dialects, local versions of Italian spoken among locals.

Jason May 27, 2014 at 7:17 am

The 25km descents seem as brutal as the climbs in this weather… Many riders will abandon as they will not cope… Although Evans not good as others on climbs the bad weather is in his favor..

The Inner Ring May 27, 2014 at 8:16 am

Each to their own but I’d prefer the climb. No worries of a crash and best of all, you’re warm.

The weather’s looking uncertain, RCS are meeting to discuss the route.

Mendip5000 May 27, 2014 at 7:40 am

A reviving cortado at the cafe atop the Stelvio for Arredondo, or will this Joch be cut?

GCN’s coverage talked about hairpins on the way up I think. Not how I remembered it.

It’s a shame Pozzo has picked up Quintana’s cold. He did seem quite keen to stick with Domenico mind you.

The Inner Ring May 27, 2014 at 8:37 am

There are hairpins but they’re not climbing the famous set. This time it’s the Umbrail side, perhaps more famous for the tunnels.

Bicieri May 27, 2014 at 10:51 am

Speaking of tunnels, I hope the light the tunnel on the Gavia. One of the scariest moments on my bike ever was groping my for a couple of 100 meters in the dark. Pitch black. Later in the hotel I heard they forget the lights one time during an amateur race…

JLvE May 27, 2014 at 12:32 pm

Umbrail pass is the “3rd” ascent from Suisse.

The Inner Ring May 27, 2014 at 12:33 pm

Correct, what I meant is the side in Italy where you climb up and pass the Umbrail pass road on the way up.

Bert May 27, 2014 at 8:49 am

Just a minor nit pick. As far as I can see, the stage is starting from the Lombardia province, then spending most of the day in Trentino-Alto Adige (often called just “Alto Adige”/Südtirol in the native German). Simply “Trentino” usually means the other “real” Trentino province.

Thanks for all the great Giro coverage. My favourite Grand Tour, and Inrng makes it even better.

Ankush May 27, 2014 at 10:12 am

Precision is always good.

AK May 27, 2014 at 10:07 am

I Love that stage profile, but I do hope the fireworks won’t drown in the rain and snow. Descending the Stelvio and Gavia in sleet showers and a few degs above freezing, and no chance to take it easy because you’re fighting either for the stage/gc or the time cut… Boy I’m glad I’m not a pro cyclist. I hope they all make it down in one piece.

Ankush May 27, 2014 at 10:13 am

How do riders prepare for the beginning of such a stage? As in, how much time on turbo?

Mark May 27, 2014 at 11:45 am

Was wondering the same.

The Inner Ring May 27, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Good question. It’ll vary according to who wants to do what. Anyone wanting to go in the break needs a better warm up, maybe 30 minutes. Others might get away with 10-20 minutes to spin.

But there’s a gap between finishing the warm-up and starting as riders have to go and sign-on, wait on the start line and then the neutral start so any benefits diminish over time. Put simply you’ll get cold quickly again.

Bundle May 27, 2014 at 11:19 am

I really hope they race properly today. Riders might see things otherwise, but for the whole sector it would very valuable if today was remembered as an epic, epoch-marking day. And for riders individually, it’s a chance of doing something singularly heroic, that can make their careers. If today we can count the differences between GC contenders in minutes or tens of minutes, someone will always be remembered, and the name on his jersey will be featured in photographs for decades to come. An interesting issue is equipment: can Castelli, Endura, and the rest say that their winter clothing is so good that you won’t feel cold even descending the Stelvio at maximum speed at freezing temperatures?

Bert May 27, 2014 at 11:44 am

It seems that there is a generation of riders coming, who are bringing back more aggressive racing.

About the clothing, yes, it exists and works well. The problem is logistics and changing — you can not really change bibs on the bike. Anyway, on a day like this, I’d probably try to hand the (most important) riders a real winter jacket on top, and let them throw it away if they can’t get to the car at the start of the next climb. Maybe mittens too, they are easy to put on and off.

Bundle May 27, 2014 at 12:00 pm

I would put on the warmest clothes from the start, including the thickest gloves and jackets. You can always take them off. They other way around it’s not so easy. I just read that in 1988 many riders had their hands frozen already on the Gavia top, and were not able to put their gloves on.

The Inner Ring May 27, 2014 at 12:06 pm

It’s a big climb that you can go up in shorts and short sleeves but the descent is looking wet and cold, thick clothing is a must for the descent. But too much or too big and you do a Michelin man and risk surrendering speed.

OldBob May 27, 2014 at 12:46 pm

the curtate Colombian …

This word doesn’t usually appear in our free dictionary, but the definition from our premium Unabridged Dictionary is offered here on a limited basis

Elle May 27, 2014 at 2:24 pm

curtate = shortened or reduced, not unrelated to curtailed

Steve May 28, 2014 at 4:35 am

wow, curtate! another reason to love inrng!
chapeau! top hole! erste sahne! etc etc

LM May 27, 2014 at 5:35 pm

Ha! I did not see any of that happening. What an amazing Giro.

Chris May 27, 2014 at 5:56 pm

That was BANANAS. Wow.

Still, it feels a little bittersweet for me as a Colombian. I was hoping Urán wouldn’t lose so much time, as I slightly prefer him over Quintana for the overall win. Still a lot of racing left but, unless Quintana completely implodes, he’ll be on the top step of the podium in Trieste.

Again, WOW.

scomac May 27, 2014 at 6:33 pm

I’ve never been a particular fan of Uran. It seems to me that he has always lacked that bit of grit that is necessary to win a grand tour. Never-the-less, a wonderful stage for viewing and I’m pleased that the host broadcaster decided to provide almost wire-to-wire coverage. Where else but the Giro could you brew such a compelling tale with the requisite confusion created by the race commissars? Chapeau! I have no doubt that the remaining stages will result in further upheaval in the GC as anyone in the top ten is still within reach of the podium.

LM May 27, 2014 at 6:44 pm

You’ve forgotten his time trial performance already? Uran might look like a future TdF winner?

scomac May 27, 2014 at 8:11 pm

Hardly. You might recall that Uran wasn’t much help for Froome in the Vuelta a couple years back, so I wonder if many are overrating his climbing at this point in his career. Not that he’s a bad climber, just more of a tempo rider as has been drilled into him while at Sky. AS for a future TdF winner; well anything is possible, but he’ll need to improve (and at his age this maybe as good as it gets) and I just don’t see OPQS as being a team that is geared towards winning a GC in a grand tour.

LM May 27, 2014 at 8:28 pm

You are probably right. I am a Uran fan and feeling a little shocked. I was confident that slow and steady was going to be the formula. Quintana was phenomenal.

withoutanyhills May 27, 2014 at 7:48 pm

Superb days racing, cannot wait for the rest of the week. Uran looked cooked and as for Evans, that over the bars, dragging himself up the hill technique looks so wrong. I’m hoping Rolland gets himself onto the podium after today

Larry T. May 27, 2014 at 9:21 pm

Great stage! I watched pretty much all the TV coverage here on RAI. This kind of stuff (polemics included, to a certain extent) is what makes La Corsa Rosa special, but perhaps not for everybody. BUT there’s always one of those, right?) this fiasco of today with the red-flag motos, shows the group running the race is kind of lame. Things went south when they kicked out Zomegnan – the Acquarone mess, the social-network based pandering, now this. Seeing Vincenzo Torriani’s son on the TV today reminded me that the Giro needs a (benevolent) dictator to run it – this headless group of folks is trying, but they need real leadership. As to the racing, I find the whining from those who lost time rather silly, nobody seemed to try to confirm anything with the race jury, only after Quintara was well up the road did the whining start. Nothing was stopping them from dropping the hammer and chasing the escapers down, but instead they seemed to roll along, content that somehow the race would be neutralized and the guys up front who were RACING would be penalized. For OPQS it’ll go down as a monumental cock-up if Uran ends up losing…with nobody to blame but themselves. Meanwhile, there should be plenty more entertainment to come in the next few days. W Il Giro!

Brian May 27, 2014 at 10:07 pm

Was it ever anything but wet & cold? (i.e. Ice on the roads?) If not, then ride on.

Easy to play desk chair quarterback but WTF were Uran & Evans doing not working to pegg that gap back themselves. No one takes responsibility themselves anymore. Well I don’t have any teammates left so I’ll just let the Giro ride up the road and sit here behind the guy in 11th on GC.

GeorgeY May 27, 2014 at 11:25 pm

Could Uran & Evans do the work to bridge the gap? They seemed to be totally spent at the finish, Cadel even more so.

George May 27, 2014 at 11:36 pm

Wow, the organizers screwed up so badly today. Why did they put motos with red flags that you were not supposed to pass out for only part of the descent instead of neutralizing it? If it was too dangerous they could use the alternative route they already planned out. Or, if it was alright to keep the stage, just let the riders RACE on their own and let them decide to race it or not. Not that I blame Quintana, as he was just following moves, and the others shouldn’t have let him go, but it was a real failure on the part of the race directors today.

Abdu May 28, 2014 at 6:25 am

You can’t blame Quintana, but if he wins from here he’ll be tainted by some. Looked dodgy, and he didn’t sit up one bit. I’m sure he’ll claim the language barrier, but he saw the chance and took it not sparing a thought about the moral position vis a vis the other riders.

The high pitched whining from Jonothan Vaughters is still tweeting on, yet he had Hesjedal in the break. Huh? Do these guys want boring safe generic races? The fans don’t. Why would you change anything, I love that this was a classic Italian cockup. It’s what makes us love the race and that country all the more.

I just wish Rolland had won the stage.

John Liu May 28, 2014 at 1:01 am

The conditions looked miserable, awful but – dangerous? On the broadcast, I didn’t see riders crash, I didn’t see motos crash, I’m not hearing of riders with frostbite.

This sort of race is part of the “hard man against nature” heritage of bike racing, I think.

Other sports take place in horrific conditions too. Downhill and cross country skiers compete in freezing sleet, dressed in little more than bike racers wear. American football is played in driving snowstorms. Ocean yacht races sail through hair-raising weather.

There’s always the Tour of Dubai . . .

george May 28, 2014 at 1:38 am

I agree. It was a mistake to interfere at all with the race by using the motos. it jus resulted in more confusion.

george May 28, 2014 at 1:38 am

Sorry, I meant just

Steve May 28, 2014 at 4:36 am

it’s all gravy

Abdu May 28, 2014 at 6:16 am

I hindsight, a fantastic review and, with all the goings on, almost 100% spot on.

(this is me clapping).

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