Giro Stage 2 Preview

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Belfast to Belfast. Today’s route looks like something you’d find in a brochure, a circuit for tourists with a rental car. The cyclists mind find it less enjoyable with heavy downpours forecast before a sprint finish.

Stage 1 Wrap

It was brave to start the race where the Titanic set sail. Given the ship was sunk by icy peril before reaching its destination you wonder what the next three weeks will offer. The first stage have an iceberg, instead an iron manhole cover was enough to sink four Garmin-Sharp riders crashing with Dan Martin breaking a collarbone, his Giro ended. You wonder if he’d have preferred to fall down the hole and vanish and the crash put the trial in team time trial.

Less dramatic but Joaquim Rodriguez is in dangerous waters and was already telling the media he’s in trouble after losing a lot of time due to a slow team. The stage was dry for early starters, wet for the middle and began to dry out later. It did affect the times but that’s the luck of the draw.

But enough gloom and doom. There are reasons to celebrate with Australians and Canadians first to cheer with a stage win and maglia rosa but everyone should be pleased at the giant crowds.

A word on Svein Tuft? No, there’s simply too much to write given all the stories and contradictions. Lanterne Rouge in the Tour de France he now leads the Giro. He rides for Orica-Greenedge but started his pro career with Garmin. Read more at the New York Times.

The Route: The 219km course resembles a tourist itinerary as it heads past whiskey distilleries, natural landscapes before taking the coastal road back to Belfast to finish in the city centre.

The climb midway is a long drag and harder for its exposed nature than its gradient. Indeed the greater obstacle is the open terrain which leaves the bunch to deal with the wind.

The Finish: the race thunders south into Belfast with few obstacles or tricks apart from some traffic islands. It’s only with 340 metres to go that there’s a sharp left-hand bend but it’s wide.

The Scenario: a bunch sprint seems inevitable. But first the two climbs out on the route are an incentive for a breakaway to go, the first three over win 3, 2 and 1 points respectively for the mountains competition and so there’s an appoint with the podium.

The course is very exposed but the weather (see below) looks calm and if this holds true there aren’t conditions to split the bunch. Instead the danger comes from the crashes. The race has been given some order thanks to yesterday’s stage but many sprint outsiders will fancy a go in the finish and even if the course is regular, the riding won’t be. The fight into that last wet corner matters, teams will want to drop off their rider in the top-5 if not higher to go to the line.

The Contenders: if yesterday’s stage win by Orica-Greenedge felt certain, today Kittel is the pick but not the certainty. Ideally his long sprint allows him to be swept into the final bend by a team mate after which he can open his charge to the line. But everyone knows this and the fight for position will be fierce. Watch Nacer Bouhanni and Elia Viviani as the alternatives but there’s a long list of others.

Weather: cool and wet, temperatures of 13°C and cooler under the rain showers, some of which will downpours. There’s a 10-15km/h headwind on the return leg.

Temperatures are obviously cold compared to normal “Giro” conditions but despite pedalling to the North Atlantic today this isn’t the furthest north the Giro has been. The race reaches 55°N today but went to 56°N when it started in Denmark in 2012.

TV: the race will be 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. I haven’t seen the promised Gazzetta free stream but leave a comment below if you have to share with others. There’s cyclingfans.com and steephill.tv for TV schedules and pirate feeds and more.

Note the finish is expected for 4.10pm local time / 5.10pm Euro time and that the Giro website has the time wrong. Tune in early for the scenery but the action should be condensed into the last 30 minutes.

Pink jersey? It could have been green. The Gazzetta Dello Sport was born in 1896 from the merger of La Tripletta and Il Ciclista. It was printed on green paper but in 1899 the paper switched to pink paper. The Giro d’Italia was first run in 1909 but it wasn’t until 1931 that a pink jersey was awarded, copying the practice of the yellow jersey in the Tour which reflected the yellow pages of L’Auto, the French newspaper behind the race. Luckily for Belfast the Gazzetta didn’t opt for orange print.

Today La Gazzetta is like its French sister, it rose to prominence thanks to its cycling past and is still linked to running the national tour as part of RCS Media, just as L’Equipe is part of the Groupe Amaury which also owns ASO who run the Tour. Sometimes reading L’Equipe can make your wrists ache as you turn the countless pages of football to find the cycling but it’s only training for La Gazzetta which seems to fit in 20-25 pages of football a day. If you want cycling, start with the back page and turn the pages in reverse. But once you find the pages there’s rich information on the Giro from a team of writers covering the Giro.

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{ 14 comments }

Steppings May 10, 2014 at 11:09 am

Rotten rotten luck for Dan Martin yesterday and a bad start for the team. Hopefully he will bounce back for the Tour and target some stages there to liven up things. Looking forward to watching the race today and intrigued to see some roads/scenery in a part of the world sadly I have always considered non “tourist”.

D9veNI May 10, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Well Steppings you’ll always be welcome if fancy joining the tourist journey. I’m told people enjoy it, apparently we’re pretty easy to get along with, :-) . Have fun, enjoy the Stage.

Mats May 10, 2014 at 11:52 am

Lady luck can be so cruel sometimes. One short stage and a lot of the top guys are already eyeing stage wins instead of overall. A lot of the excitement we had expected for the next three weeks just vanished. I for one am willing to go back to the normal procedure of a short prologue instead of a TTT.

Whiff May 10, 2014 at 4:07 pm

The scenery in this part of the world is indeed stunning and surprisingly varied – a visit is definitely recommended.

And I agree that it does seem unfair for riders to lose so much time in a team time trial, but then is it any different to a rider losing time in the mountains because of a lack of team support.

Andy May 10, 2014 at 4:37 pm

Could that crash have been avoidable, easy to say after the event, however, most of us would choose to avoid a manhole, especially in the wet! They are pro’s after all. I would say part of the lead riders job is to choose the best/safest/quickest line. LBL and now the Giro, is Dan MArtin just unlucky, some would say you make your own luck. Preparation and planning, do teams even discuss or have a strategy to deal with how they lead a TTT, or indeed whenever they ride. I wonder how different the various teams approach actually is?

noel May 10, 2014 at 7:17 pm

I thought that too – really only the lead guy can see where he’s going at that speed when you’re all nose to tail with your heads down. It must be his responsibilty to chart a sensible course on a damp track…

BC May 10, 2014 at 8:04 pm

Another yawn day. After correctly predicting the final outcome, decided to watch the Dunkirk Four Days, following an exciting stage with a nail biting finish yesterday. Same again. An aggressive open race with plenty of attacking riding and an unpredictable final.

This is yet another exciting race without the all controlling infernal radios.

gabriele May 10, 2014 at 9:51 pm

I get what you mean, and I tend to agree.
But I’d note (only to add some depth to the debate) that there’s a slight difference between a four days lesser race and a three weeks event that happens to be one of the most important races in the whole calendar.
Radios matter, but in the first days of a GT it’s just not about the radios. You wouldn’t see much difference, but – possibly – worst and even more conservative racing.
When the peloton is playing cat and mouse, calculating on seconds (which can happen mainly *because* they trust in race radios, tactics, tv and so), a space for the unexpected remains open in the last kms, tiny it be. A sudden heavy rain shower, an unexpected surge from one of the escapees…
On the other side, it’s true that a more “closed” way of racing (w/o radios) during the first days would imply more tired and thus weaker teams in the following stages: maybe we would see much of a show from the fourth stage on, or so. But there would really be little difference now; what is more, Giro’s structure should anyway grant something more interesting from the fifth stage on.
However, everyone of us (spectators), including me, would prefer aggressive racing from day one, but it’s something so hard to achieve when, as a rider, you know you have twenty more stages to ride, a lot of them quite hellish.
Not that it’s impossible… Giro 2010 anyone? Sadly, Vinokourov isn’t riding anymore, and as a team manager he seems not to be asking the same attitude he used to expect from his teammates as a captain. Last year the pressure went up from stage three, but we had a different course, while 2012 was quite similar to this year.

Bundle May 10, 2014 at 10:33 pm

+1

The Inner Ring May 10, 2014 at 10:39 pm

The racing in the Four Days of Dunkerque was great, the wind was impressive as was Arnaud Démare who managed to put time into Chavanel and Valgren with his sprint, pulling out several lengths. A nice win for Hupond, a domestique who gets his day.

But the Giro will surely provide suspense in the days and weeks to come.

KB May 11, 2014 at 1:25 am

Radios or not, lots of wind makes for exciting, unpredictable racing – that’s what made it a great race (pavé in the rain too!) – but remember ‘the most boring stage’ on paper from the Tour last year? The only role for the radio there was for Froome to scream for help when Saxo joined forces with the Belkin-OPQS ‘waaier’ specialists ;) It’s the riders, the course and the conditions that make the race.

And if the racing wasn’t exciting, the scenery and the undampened enthusiasm of the crowds made for good viewing.

gabriele May 11, 2014 at 12:59 pm

+ 1

noel May 12, 2014 at 12:59 pm

… and making sure the right teams are billeted together the night before, for making secret plans….

Barry May 12, 2014 at 11:02 am

We were standing less than 10 metres from Dan and Garmins unceremonious crash. Very surprised to see them take the line over the manhole, possibly the correct line was inside it but there was a lot of people leaning out onto the road which may have pushed them out further. SAying that we saw Trek absolutley thump over the same manhole 15 mins later. Whoever the last rider in the line was he hit it hard. the first man may indeed move around something like that but by the time that evasive action filters down to the last man you are on the hazard.

What a shame and it drained the enthusiasm out of the crowd where we were standing, we just couldnt believe it.

The 3 days, bar the weather (ironically it is splitting the stones and calm here today…as it was for the last 2 weeks pre-giro) were a huge success and hopefully will spur on the drive for the Tour of Ireland to be re-instated (not the Rás, different race…the Rás is an amazing race though!). The support on the roads was incredible and it is always special to see your country as portrayed by the chopper cameras!

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