Stage 6 Wrap
247km of nothing. The longest stage of the race as measured by distance and boredom. Eurosport’s Sean Kelly remarked several times how boring it was to watch.
But everything changed with two crashes in close proximity. In reality things had changed prior to the incident. The pace had gone up, it began to rain and the bunch was charging into town. The maxicaduta, a big crash, in Cassino saw Giampaolo Caruso (Katusha) and Janez Brajkovič (Astana) crash out but the incident sent waves through the peloton. BMC and Orica-Greenedge led the bunch and behind the riders fell like bowling pins. In the end Michael Matthews won and Cadel Evans took time on all his rivals but this was a stage where half the action happened after the race was over. First the GC had to be calculated with several GC candidates losing a lot of time. Then we waited for reports from hotels and hospitals and with them came news of Joaquim Rodriguez’s abandon… but was he ever in the race? He annouced he’d started with broken ribs despite telling TV interviews he was 100% recovered from his Ardennes ardours.
Polemic? Make one if you want. But the point is to be ahead so if there are crashes you’re safe. This prompts a vicious cycle of riders fighting for position, increasing the crash risk and therefore the need to be at the front. But neither Evans or Matthews saw the crash and then attacked to profit, they profited because they were ahead of the danger. Not that there’s any justice in seeing so many riders injured and others saying ciao to their GC hopes. It’s bad luck but what did you expect from a rainy day in a town called Cassino?
The Route: the profile’s hilly but this is a gentle stage. The early climb of Arcinazzo is ideal for a breakaway to go clear. Later the Valico della Somma is easy, a wide road of 4-5% used by trucks to cross the landscapes and only enough to dump the out of form sprinters, but if they go so might the chase effort.
The Finish: a flat run into town. It’s not got anything wild and takes place on modern, wide roads but there are several bends with pinch-points from street furniture. A wide U-turn at 500m and the roadbook lists a bend and then just a 160m finishing straight but there’s no sharp corner, just a sweeping road.
Omen: Foligno is famous for a jousting tournament with Roman heritage called… La Giostra della Quintana. Will Nairo Quintana get knocked off today?
The Scenario: breakaway or sprint? Several teams want a sprint finish, notably FDJ and Cannondale. Orica-Greenedge will do their duty too. Any early break can establish a lead over the first climb and the bunch can calculate the effort needed to bring it back. If a move is to stick it’ll need some strong riders rather than the usual chancers, think Adam Hansen as opposed to a Neri-Sottoli rider.
The Contenders: the two prime picks are Nacer Bouhanni and Elia Viviani. They’re the fastest in the race. Close behind is Giacomo Nizzolo and then several pretenders. On paper old men Tyler Farrar and Alessandro Petacchi are next in pedigree but watch Roberto Ferrari, Francesco Chicchi, Nicola Ruffoni and Manuele Belletti. Giant-Shimano have Luka Mezgec able to sit tight on their sprint train… but sitting is his problem. He fell on his rear yesterday and is reportedly sore; the same for Ben Swift.
If there’s a breakaway watch some of the stronger riders like Adam Hansen (Lotto-Belisol), Johnny Hoogerland (Androni). Neri Sottoli often flood the breakaways but today’s stage finish is close to their home region. Expect them and other Tuscans to be active.
|Nacer Bouhanni, Elia Vivani|
Weather: Wet again. Showers and cool temperatures of 16°C. There’s a light headwind of 10km/h.
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 forecast for 5.10pm Euro time. Tune in early to check if anything’s happening like a breakaway but if it looks like an inevitable sprint, save your viewing for the dash to the line.
Il processo alla tappa: “the trial of the stage” is the post-race TV show from Italian broadcast RAI. It puts riders up against invited journalists and others to debate the day’s events. It might seem your average post-event sports punditry but once upon a time it was revolutionary. I can’t confirm this but it’s said it was the first ever show to be screened after a sports event to digest the action. It began in 1958 as a radio show and moved to TV in 1962. Soon after, the first ever TV slow-motion was screened and apparently the autocue was invented for this broadcast. A lot of innovation.
Separately today we take for granted a sports broadcast with a host joined by a co-commentator but this is also another cycling invention, this time from France with television commentator Robert Chapatte being joined by a colleague to add insight and an extra voice.
It’s ironic that today the cycling output of RAI and France Télévisions has become conservative and old-fashioned with the production innovation to be found on coverage of Formula 1 or the America’s Cup sailing, not to mention the web today and the rise of the GIF, as vital today as slow-mo.