208km through the Alps but without a mountain pass and hopefully with out a polemic post-race debate too. Today might not be for the sprinters as we’ve seen teams reluctant to work and the Ca’ del Poggio wall sits 20km from the finish.
Today’s stage passes through the Veneto region so a look at the Italian cycle industry because no other region in the world has such a concentration of famous cycling brands, from Sidi to Pinarello. Even Oakley is owned by a company founded here.
Stage 16 Wrap
The short distance was explosive and the action augmented by the weather. We weren’t sure if the stage would go ahead until the last minute because of the threat of snow and this uncertainty continued well into the stage. Over the Stelvio and Dario Cataldo led as teams started to tweet the race was going to be neutralised on the way down. But it seemed to be lost in translation – see the “Fog of War” post for more thoughts on this polemic.
The result was the race carried on and during the descent Nairo Quintana, Pierre Rolland and Ryder Hesjedal got away, crucially with Gorka Izagirre and Romain Sicard for Movistar and Europcar respectively, workers to set a pace. By the start of the final climb they led by around two minutes and then Quintana accelerated with only Rolland and Hesjedal able to follow. Rolland seemed more at ease and he spins a lower gear these days but cracked spectacularly later on.
Hesjedal by contrast looked like a foal taking its first steps, limbs bending, body wobbling. Visually it’s worse than Chris Froome’s pedaleur d’horreur act but function trumps form and the Canadian hung on until the final “cobra” ramps of the day, a return to the form that won him the race in 2012.
Quintana won the stage and took the race lead with a performance that will be remembered longer than post-race polemics on flags and rules. His riding looks effortless and it’s hard to see anyone challenging him for the race lead.
The Route: south and then east, the race heads in one direction today and will take the reverse direction tomorrow. Only today is across the plains to the south of the Dolomites whereas as tomorrow it’s back over the mountains.
It’s largely without difficulty until the Ca’ del Poggio (“Hill House”). It’s a wall, over a kilometre long and averages 12%. The race handbook as it peaks at 18% but the local roadsigns say 15%. Either way it’s hard but nothing scary. The road is wide and smooth and many in the bunch will remember it because it was used for the 2010 Italian national championships. There’s 20km to go to the finish, time to regroup and recover.
The Finish: the race comes into town and passes under the red kite. There’s a high stone wall which obscures the left turn with 600m to go. It’s a wide bend left and then an even wider bend to the left again with 450m to go for a slight downhill run to the line.
The Contenders + The Scenario: Nacer Bouhanni is the obvious pick but it all depends on the tactics and normally you’d say this is for the sprinters. Teams can collude to control any breakaways and then set up the finish for their sprinters. But there are few dedicated sprinters teams in the race. FDJ have assumed the role but without much help from others and perhaps they should call everyone else’s bluff, after all they have three stages and Cannondale have none. Trek have less pressure thanks to Arredono but Giacomo Nizzolo has been so close. It’ll be interesting to see if Cannondale and Trek place a rider in the break or if they’re all in for Viviani and Nizzolo
Otherwise spin the wheel of fortune to pick a breakaway candidate. By the third week it’s often the same names as you’ve seen in the breakaways before.
|Giacomo Nizzolo, Elia Viviani
|Mezgec, Ferrari, Swift, Farrar
Weather: dry to start but with an increasing chance of a downpour. Temperatures from 16°C-23°C during the stage.
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 race will hit the Ca’del Poggio around 4.40pm with the finish expected around 5.10pm.
Industry: as we lap Italy there has to be a mention of the country’s prolific cycle industry. While there are factories and workshops across the country arguably the greatest cluster is to be found within range of today’s stage in the Veneto region. The picture above is the first Sidi factory. The company was founded by Dino Signori. Take the first two letters of Dino and the first two from Signori and what have you got? Di and Si. Flip them backwards: Si-di. A few hundred metres down the road is factory for another shoe company, Gaerne, this time founded by Ernesto Gazzola. Take the first four letters of Ernesto and first two of Gazzola to get Erne and Ga. Flip them backwards: Ga-erne.
It’s not just cycling shoes. The Veneto region is responsible for 70% of Italian sports shoes and it’s home to the likes of other cycling shoemakers like Diadora (owned by Geox) and Northwave. Most Italian ski wear comes from the area and 80% of Italian sunglasses come from the region. It’s where Luxottica was founded, the Italian company owns Oakley and Rayban. Brands like Benetton, Diesel, Marzotto and Stefanel come from the region. Pinarello is just a spin away in Treviso and Willier Triestina and Campagnolo are nearby too.
Indeed much if Italy’s economic wealth – despite headlines of decline it is the seventh largest economy in the world – comes from businesses like the ones mentioned above. They are perfect case-study examples of businesses that started in Italy’s post-war boom, that remain family-owned and rely on craftsmanship and design to export a large share of their production. And that old Sidi factory? Here’s the new one: