Giro Stage 17 Preview

Wednesday, 28 May 2014


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.

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Nacer Bouhanni
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:

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{ 35 comments }

Tovarishch May 28, 2014 at 7:57 am

Sky can’t afford another heroic failure and the stage looks tailor made for Ben Swift.

The Inner Ring May 28, 2014 at 8:49 am

He was 25th yesterday, a big effort. What chance he’s too tired compared to the others?

Cameron May 28, 2014 at 10:46 am

I think if you look at the Sky team that they took I think they probably exceed expectations with the Cima Coppi. I’m sure they’d be happy if Ben Swift could win a stage along the way but I just don’t think they were hoping for much after Porte pulled out.

Abdu May 29, 2014 at 2:41 am

I wonder what the post-Giro review will be like within team Sky?

By their usual high standards, it looks a disaster and mainly because they appeared ‘under-staffed’ and badly prepared. Without a GC contender, the guys on the race have done their best with a couple of positives (if you count failed but heroic breakaways).

Hats off to Ben Swift for his sheer ticker, he’s a talent but it’s all down to attitude now in this last week. Cataldo too, whether he took advantage of a neutralised race is another thing.

The TdF preparation for Sky is going to be under huge pressure.

Anonymous May 28, 2014 at 8:34 am

Yesterdays stage was indeed a classic, and will long be remembered.

The main confusion appears to be the increasing tendency for riders, DSs and media to call ‘dangerous’ and clamour for a suspension of racing at the first opportunity. Yes it was cold, wet and there was some wet snow and long descents, but we have all endured such conditions and this is open air bike racing. There were no reported accidents.

The truth was that the first three riders were in a climbing class of their own given the conditions. The chasing group were incapable of organizing any meaningful chase either as a group or as individuals. Heneo was forced to call in favour’s from a very young and inexperienced SKY rider.

Result – the best riders won, can someone point out what’s wrong with that !

Razor May 28, 2014 at 3:13 pm

I think what is wrong with the situation is that IF, and its a big if the reason the other GC riders took it easy because they saw a red flag and thought they were not allowed to pass the official holding it, which is what I thought a red flag means (please correct me here if I’m wrong but don’t you see a red flag sticking out of the car at the start in the neutralised section meaning the riders can’t pass that official) then they gained an advantage. There are pictures of the lead riders passing a moto with an official holding a red flag.
The advantage they got was to race at their own pace and not have to give any thought at all to the others behind. While I still think that Quintana would have won the stage there is no way he would have got away with riding like he did on the final climb if he had Uran, Aru, Pozzovivo, Kelderman and Mayka on his wheel. He would not have been able to ride his tempo the whole way and would have had to take the attacks of the other riders into account. While he was obviously very strong yesterday I would hazard that if some of the above mentioned riders were on his wheel he would not have only had Hesjadal to drop in the final 1km and wouldn’t have taken as much time on all the other contenders.

If someone out there actually knows what a race official holding a red flag means could they please post it up as really I’m just guessing and would really like to know.

LM May 29, 2014 at 6:27 am

I started wading through the rules, it’s a mess. In short, a red flag means road block, but I’ve only seen one mention, pertaining to press vehicles.

In the UCI’s Practical Guide for Commissaires it mentions the red flag as a road block to protect a downed rider and as part of the protocol for a Neutralised (rolling) Start.

There is only one rule and two of its options that clearly addresses anything that happened on Tuesday:

In Rule 2.2.029, Race Incidents: In case of an accident or an incident that could impinge upon a race in general…. the race director may, after obtaining agreement of the commissaires’ panel…

declare a stage null and void, or
to let the results stand

Unzue and Quintana knew the rules and took advantage of the lack of an organized neutralisation protocol. Unzue has been quoted telling at least 4 different versions of the events. But there is no UCI rule that says a rider can’t pass a moto waving a red flag during the race. This fact alone is beyond belief.

Such a shame on such an amazing stage. I feel bad for Uran.

gaz May 29, 2014 at 2:46 am

You seem to be saying “I got away with it, no one caught me”, so that’s ok?

Seems like the rest of the race was neutralised, riding piano, while the front riders were going hard. We have that sort of racing in Australia in winter, it’s called handicap racing.

It would be interesting to know if the people applauding Quintana for this are also Pantani fans?

Anotheranonymous May 29, 2014 at 5:43 am

There were possibly no reported accidents because the riders were already riding neutralised, under caution.

The truth is the front riders effectively had a head start, not adhering to the same race conditions as the riders behind. That being the case, there may well have been better rides but we didn’t see because these riders were minutes behind already (ie. their time from the bottom of the Stelvio to the finish may have been equal or better, but they started some minutes behind).

I can’t agree the best riders won, because it was effectively like a time trial with riders starting at different times. You can’t get excited at who is first over the line in a time trial.

BC May 28, 2014 at 8:36 am

Sorry, post above from BC

Steppings May 28, 2014 at 12:11 pm

If Andy Hampsten was watching, he could say “I’ve ridden in worse”.

Bicieri May 28, 2014 at 12:48 pm

If Erik Breukink was watching he could say “I’ ve won in worse”. :-)

Steppings May 28, 2014 at 1:58 pm

Check mate!

comedian May 29, 2014 at 2:47 am

If Pantani was watching, oh… (too soon?)

Larry T. May 28, 2014 at 8:39 am

Great idea to include some of the Italian bike industry in this piece! Fighting the good fight against a race-to-the-bottom on labor costs (and quality in some cases) is important to me and we try to use Italian-made cycling products whenever possible. We’re headed east on Friday with a planned stop to visit Nalini, imported into the USA by our friends at Albabici.

Bundle May 28, 2014 at 8:44 am

Yesterday will for sure be remembered, by both the polemics and Quintana’s (and Hesjedal’s) number. It was superb watching anyway (although I was worrying when they were climbing the Stelvio so slowly when Movistar was in front, there were way too many riders in that peloton, after having seen it smaller on the Gavia). But it seems it took an incident, or the “fog of war”, to tear those leaders apart from one another and start to see real cycling. That’s why we should be happy about the incident. If we saw more often the kind of racing we saw on Val Martello, we could afford to have more safety and legal concerns. But we can’t.

Stevhan The Invincible May 28, 2014 at 9:02 am

One word: echelons. Some have angered the wrong bunch of riders.

Erik Berendsen May 28, 2014 at 9:15 am

You do need some wind for that…….so if there’s no wind, there are no echelons…….

AK May 28, 2014 at 9:59 am

Maybe Stevhan is saying Movistar still had an account to settle with OPQS (and Belkin) from last year’s TdF? Very different situation though.

Bundle May 28, 2014 at 12:26 pm

Movistar and OPQS have an interesting relationship at least since 2012 Paris-Nice. I like that rivalry. It’s only too bad they’re not often after the same goals.

Dani May 28, 2014 at 9:26 am

I really love this blog.
But today it feels odd that such an heroic and special stage deserves so little space , and the neutralization affaire gets a whole post .

The Inner Ring May 28, 2014 at 10:41 am

It was good to watch but I wanted to explore the issues, explain the rules and do some translation from Italian. Everyone else can see Quintana’s riding although this morning’s Gazzetta is dominated by “la polemica” too.

TreeTrunk May 28, 2014 at 11:04 am

There are plenty of race reports on other websites. Surely the reason you love this blog, as we all do, is because there is nowhere else which presents a balanced, informed analysis of the most important moments of the race. Plus the comments tend to extend the polemic once Inrng has had his say, and we are able to engage with each other without the partisan mud slinging.

For me, the Giro is all about spectacle and debate and yesterday’s events from the top of the Stelvio to the finish provided, at various stages, confusion, suspense and above all plenty to talk about.

Tovarishch May 28, 2014 at 11:48 am

I thought polemic was a type of porridge.

Anonymous May 28, 2014 at 2:05 pm

very much agreed, Dani

Mike May 28, 2014 at 10:50 am

It is a bummer that the official broadcaster issued take down’s for the great YouTube coverage I was watching every night in South Africa last week but this description of Ryder’s climbing style helped me get a pretty good mental picture as well as a chuckle this morning:
” Visually it’s worse than Chris Froome’s pedaleur d’horreur act but function trumps…”

Thanks to Inner Ring for bringing the race to life in my minds eye every morning.

Jerome May 28, 2014 at 11:05 am

Perhaps in the contenders section you could award a chain ring for the probability of a breakaway sticking in with the probability of certain sprinters winning if it comes down to a sprint. It would save you having to identify specific riders when it is such a lottery

Mats May 28, 2014 at 11:18 am

Hesjedal has finally found his best form. One more week of racing and he’d be on the podium. For me the most exciting moment of the day was when Majka and Kelderman started to attack Uran. Kelderman must be kicking himself for attacking maybe a little bit too late.

AJW May 28, 2014 at 1:05 pm

I’m excited about watching the fight for the 3rd spot on the podium over the next few days. 7 riders within 1 minute of each other!

Mats May 28, 2014 at 9:29 pm

My thoughts exactly. This is the sweet spot at the moment.

joe andrade May 28, 2014 at 5:36 pm

There goes part of agr2 huge team lead . They should at least have had another man in the break or limited the time dif.

tourdeutah May 29, 2014 at 1:56 am

Stage 16 showed some very good racing. Esp from Hjsedal. I haven’t seen him ride so well since the 2012 Giro. I was rooting for him to outlast Quintanna.

I was surprised to see RSO place the Queen stage immediately after the rest day. Maybe they should have reversed these stages ?

Todays stage was excellent. 26 riders in the break and great racing roads over the last 40 k. Although the peleton had a piano day the break away provided plenty of action and excitement.

As to the ‘polemic’, Quin, Ryder and Rolland put over three minutes into Maglia Rosa from the bottom of the Stelvio all the way to the finish. The peleton got got a good old fashioned butt whippin’ over the last 45k

Abdu May 29, 2014 at 1:57 am

What about Hesjedal’s hand slings in yesterday’s stage? He gave 2 consecutive hand slings to riders of different teams when he was dropping the wheel in front, almost like he was apologising. Chapeau.

Didn’t see any Movistar riders do that.

Abdu May 29, 2014 at 1:59 am

How much time did Quintana gain on the ‘neutralised’ Stelvio descent?

tourdeutah May 29, 2014 at 5:26 pm

Gap at the bottom of the Stelvio was 1:15.

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