Giro Stage 8 Preview

Saturday, 17 May 2014


The first “reveal” of the race and one of two mountain stages in the under-rated Apennines mountain range, this 179km stage climbs Monte Carpegna first on one flank and then another with conclusive 13% ramps just before the finish line. Both are extremely difficult climbs with narrow roads and double-digit gradients. This is no medium mountain prelude to the Alps.

Stage 7 Wrap: a bunch sprint but it wasn’t certain. The day’s breakaway was yo-yoing of the front, their lead helped by the Valico della Somma climb which thwarted the chase. It provided some extra suspense but they were caught with 3km to go. Nacer Bouhanni took his second stage win and a deserved result after a first win was achieved in odd circumstances. He had to ride very close against the barriers but Luka Mezgec kindly left him just enough room to pass.
Those two fingers are an arithmetic signal not anything more. But Bouhanni’s having a difficult time. FDJ have given Arnaud Démare a big contract extension while Bouhanni and his agent have yet to sign down with team boss Marc Madiot. Some teams cope well with two or more sprinters but FDJ have a modest budget and high taxes so a sudden increase in salary for Bouhanni is hard to find. So he’s feeling undervalued and frustrated because he’s unlikely to ride the Tour de France. Note if Bouhanni does go he’s likely to leave with at least one team mate.

Meanwhile Michael Matthews has one more day in the maglia rosa. In an audio interview with Ride Magazine he says the plan is to ride the Tour de France… which invites the question of when he’ll leave the Giro.

The Route: this 179km stage runs across the spine of Italy with the Appenine mountains. An easy start on rolling roads with the feedzone at Acqualagna is followed by the scenic gorges. Onwards and the stage is dominated by the twin ascensions of Monte Carpegna.

The first time up is to the Cipo di Carpegna and beyond, 6km at 10% but after a gentle start out of the town of Carpegna the race quickly finds steeper sections. It’s an irregular road and very narrow this is more mule path than ski-station access road. Or it would be if you only followed the road but it’s become a monument to Pantani with his name painted on the road at regular intervals. Note that he has doesn’t have it all to himself, large signs celebrate the duel between Eddy Merckx and José Manuel Fuente. Then follows a very technical descent with tight corners on a narrow road.

As soon as the descent ends the climb up to the finish starts. The section between Maciano and Villagio del Lago is gentle and should see a truce ahead of the final climb.

The Finish: a steep and irregular road that’s exposed to the elements. The 7% averages in the graphic would be enough to suit the climbers but better the road alternates between steep pitches and flatter sections. It pitches right up before the line with 10-13%.

The Scenario: today was supposed to shape the GC after an opening week of sprint finishes, time bonuses and relatively gentle uphill finishes but crashes have pulled apart the riders. It makes the strategy awkward because the GC contenders will have to work out who they can let up the road and who they need to mark, a memory game to add to the physical contest.

We could see at least two races today, breakaways fighting for the stage win while the GC contenders mark each other until the 13% ramps. A breakaway has a good chance because Orica-Greenedge surely won’t defend Michael Matthew’s lead. Instead it’s up to other teams to do the work but BMC probably don’t want to take charge either. So any fugitives might find a reduced pursuit behind at least until the GC riders hit the final climb and the pace goes up.

Don’t expect huge time gaps, it’s possible most wait for the final ramps to launch a move. They’ll want to test their rivals rather than bet the ranch although these roads are particularly tough, there’s no hiding. Still three Saturdays to go.


The Contenders: no more hiding and petty skirmishing, today will allow us to see who’s got their climbing legs for this race. The irregular slope suits a pure climber rather than a mountain train. Still Cadel Evans seems in great form and is a good pick. The stealth selection is Rigoberto Uran. Stealth because we’ve hardly seem him in the race yet he’s sitting third overall.

The big question is Nairo Quintana. Tipped to romp away in the mountains he’s already 1.47 down on Cadel Evans and can expect to lose time to the Aussie in next week’s Barolo time trial. Monte Carpegna is fine place to make up for lost time. This doesn’t mean a bold move but stealing 20 would be fine… if he can especially with the 10 second time bonus for the stage winner.

Domenico Pozzovivo is in excellent climbing shape and will find today’s finish suitable. Colombia’s Fabio Duarte is climbing very well and could benefit from some space from others.

Normally Trek’s Julian Arredondo would be a pick but he’s nursing an injury and has lost time. Riders like him as well as Dani Moreno, Franco Pellizotti and Nicolas Roche have all lost time. They might try to crowd the breakaway but it’s a dilemma: go up the road and hope for some luck or sit tight and put the climbing skills to the test in the final metres.

Michele Scarponi is the local rider, he was in form in the Giro del Trentino but carrying a few scars. Saxo-Tinkoff’s undisputed leader is now Rafał Majka, he’s good but has yet to win a race as a pro and could be heavily marked as he’s fourth overall.

-
Cadel Evans, Rigoberto Uran, Nairo Quintana
Domenico Pozzovivo,
Fabio Duarte, Julian Arredondo
Majka, Moreno

Weather: it was forecast to rain yesterday but it stayed dry. Today’s stage has the outside chance of a rain shower. Temperatures are still cool for the season with 18°C in the valleys and single digits at altitude. No wind.

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. There’s an hour’s extra coverage… tune if you want the scenery but the action is for the end with the climbing forecast to begin around 3.45pm, aim to catch the final 90 minutes.

“Il Carpegna mi basta”
- Marco Pantani

Pantani Memorial: today’s stage finishes on a mountain used by Marco Pantani for many of his big training rides, “The Carpegna’s enough for me”. Some have questioned the Giro’s multiple tributes to Pantani this year. Rightly so.

No doubt many in Italy media will review his career highlights through rosa tinted glasses. He was thrilling to watch. Indeed Pantani his exploits reached well beyond the traditional cycling audience, he became a superstar in Italy.

The fame is all the more reason for others to point out the less glorifying aspects. Read Matt Rendell’s “The Death of Marco Pantani” for the full story. Indeed we should always remember Pantani for to remember is to learn lessons. It would be worse if the Giro had forgotten him.

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{ 18 comments }

Ankush May 17, 2014 at 7:48 am

The main chapter of the story starts today. I would have liked to see a young climber win today’s stage ahead of the GC rivals, something like Chaves did at Mountain High, but it won’t happen. Quintana will definitely attack to make up for the lost time and we will get to assess everyone’s form.

BC May 17, 2014 at 8:31 am

I fear the Italians do see Pantani though rose coloured spectacles.

Pantani should indeed be remembered, but for the right reasons. He was never a sporting hero but rather a difficult person and prolific long term cheat. He sits in the same mould as LA – best not forget.

Zueco May 17, 2014 at 9:38 am

I understand where you’re coming from, but for me he’s not ‘in the same mould’ as Lance Armstrong at all. Armstrong is still a comfortable multi-millionaire, Pantani died miserably in his early 30s. There were winners and losers from that era, and Pantani clearly wasn’t one if the winners

Fokatukc May 17, 2014 at 1:09 pm

Pantini’s early death doesn’t change the fact that, like Lance, he was doping as much as he could in order to win races, and it is frankly somewhat strange that the Giro is choosing to honor a man who was kicked out of the 1999 edition for doping. His personal life was indeed a tragedy, but that doesn’t excuse his actions as a professional. Like Lance, Pantani stands as a monument to their era, but he is by no means a hero. Lance, Pantani, Ullrich, and their compatriots were the champions in an era of rampant cheating; Pantani’s death, while tragic, does not absolve him of his part in that.

gabriele May 17, 2014 at 1:20 pm

Funny. I feel that most people are (not-) seeing cycling through black, opaque spectacles.

First of all, obviously cycling is not just about speed, watts and so, which is the aspect more related to doping (if not the only aspect).
Cycling is about what you do with those watts.
So, Pantani indeed was a “sporting hero”.

Were he a “hero” without adjectives, he would have renounced to fully deploy his impressive natural talent, renounced to realize his professional life in the field he was “born for”, and he would have dedicated himself to sell piadinas in Rimini, or at the most to train children. Maybe he could have ridden a Gran Fondo sometimes, winning it or not, depending on how strong were in every occasion the doped amateurs who actually dominate these races.
I’m exaggerating here: were he a “general-type-of-hero” he could be a Moncoutié, although when you really, REALLY are an “hors-categorie” rider, and you know it (with all the due respect to Moncoutié), it may be more acceptable to give up than to win “best climber” at the Vuelta.

But, ok, this is fantasy and chattering, because we just know for certain Pantani was NOT this lovely and superior kind of hero (I’d note that often this kind of *moral* or *ascetic* heroism is more the result of education than a natural propensity, thus we should wonder about the real margin of choice for athletes who grows in a sporting context since their 12-14-16 years; this is another story, anyway).

Though, in the field of professional sport, with its rules (the unwritten ones count more than the written ones, not only in cycling: and I’m not speaking of *fair play*), Pantani was without doubt an “hero”, because, within the boundaries of what “professional sport” is, he showed “extraordinary strength and courage”, for “possessing superior qualities” and being “celebrated for his exploits” (Collins dictionary).
If anyone is doubting about those qualities or that strength, I just feel that my suspect is being confirmed: people just can’t see *cycling*.
Cycling is choice of time, mental resilience, strategy, technique. Some riders win through sheer power, but this wasn’t always the case for Pantani (sometimes it was, quite obviously): in so many occasions he showed his class, beyond the pure climbing speed, that it’s just ridicolous to doubt about that, and thus to reduce Pantani to doping.

Someone may reply that *these* are the famous “rose spectacles”.
“I-say, you-say”.
An interesting test would be to ask people who have been following cycling for years, who are athletes, who are professionals, people from different nations and/or generations, and listen to what they say, whether Pantani was a doping-created, physical-superiority-based phenomenon… OR, a classy rider. I’m not saying you should ask them to judge him (it would be a biased judgement), just ask them to qualify, to describe.

Another interesting thing is that “common” people are quite obsessed trying to especially underline the relation between Pantani and doping (in Italy as elsewhere; generally the less they know about cycling, the more obsessed they are with this theme).
Something like: “ok, he was doing something so special, he had special doping, for sure”.
That’s quite sad, because it shows once more how hard it is for many people to understand what doping can do and what goes beyond doping. The “magical” vision on doping that spread out so much in the general public.
But it’s even sadder if you consider that Pantani died, his marrow was analysed, and it looked like it wasn’t compatible with what you’d expect in a heavy EPO-user. (some data exists, on the subject, since pro cyclist aren’t the only EPO users around)… This doesn’t prove anything specific – we know for sure that Pantani used EPO – but should at least give matter for some reflections about the nature and intensity of Pantani’s doping programs.
From the year 2000 (included) on we have very strong hints about the fact that Pantani was, if anything, on doping programs that DID NOT include doping WHILE he was racing at the Giro or at the Tour (newspapers published his supposed late “training program” with Fuentes). He was competing against riders who, and we know it for certain, were heavily doping during the races, too, without any worry about being caught.
This doesn’t mean that Pantani was “more honest”: without doubt, if he had had a chance, he would have tried to “level the playing field”. But doping isn’t always like that, and, particularly, it wasn’t any near to this idea in the Armstrong era.
This just means that in the third week, when BED help you more (your hemoglobin goes down during a GT), Pantani was able to compete with the strongest and more doped riders who dominated the GC without being on the direct effect of blood drugs or transfusions, who had “helped” him to train more, maybe, but nothing more.
These facts should help even people with thick “blind spectacles” to see what “superior qualities” means.

Speaking of Armstrong, people tend to forget that the real problem with Armstrong was power. Not the kind of power you read on your SRM (that too…).
Pantani has been in a semi-public State doping program for some years, but he entered in a long term conflict with Italian sporting authorities because he felt that cycling was being abused to protect other sports who suffered an impressive doping scandal (for instance, in the “Serie A” all the doping test were being systematically fixed by the same testers in the Olympic comitee lab). BEFORE being “caught” with a now very controversial “health test” he observed that it wasn’t fair that the riders were being treated as the main culprits when a teams/States doping system was at work.
And this was not *making his own interest*, but against his own interest: had he remained silent, had he acquiesced in the Verbrugge “I can make a rider test positive whenever I want” system, or the CONI/MAPEI “io non rischio la salute” claim… being so famous maybe he would have stayed safe.
Just not that kind of person (out of sheer pride, and a raw and very primitive sense of justice, not out of honesty).
Anyway, a long way far from “the mould” of a person who went riding with a USA president, who had lunch with a French president to ask an antidoping national director to be removed, who had a coffee with antidoping lab directors, who used to chat with Verbrugge on the phone, who used to ask the UCI to put a strong control pressure on rivals (like Mayo, giving a couple of false positives during his career, not something that usually happens), who told his teammates “they shouldn’t care about tests” and so on. Those same teammates he abused to force them to dope or to keep them under control (yeah, partly an excuse on their side, I guess, but some episodes smell like truth): compare with the relation between Pantani and his temmates (yes, they were doping, too, I suppose, even if they weren’t flying over mountains like a magical train). Pantani doping, even with Conconi, was someway personal, not a full organised system nor a conspiration.

All this is what makes an impressive difference, on personal, legal, moral and sporting terms.

One should contrast Armstrong’s public declarations against people accusing him, or even his Oprah confession, with Pantani’s interview with Mura, or with the semi-delirious notes Pantani left in his last days (whose irrational and extreme nature shows how authentic his love for the sport, and for fellow cyclists, was beyond any suspect of “image builiding” or self-marketing).
Then, maybe you’ll understand why for so many people (not just Italians, and, on the other side, neither a majority between the Italians) any comparison between Armstrong and Pantani is just disgusting. Even if Armstrong is an impressive athlete and has the greatness of a tragedy foe.

It’s not about “rose spectacles”, it’s about knowing much, and therefore understanding more deeply the reality of a person (within the rigid limits we’ll always have), or of a sport.

Sorry for the length; what is more, I suspect that for someone using concepts like “cheaters”, this won’t mean anything: at most, it will confirm the “rose spectacle” theory. I just felt it was due.

PS I didn’t read Rendell’s book (so what I just said about knowing more or knowing less should apply to me :-) ), but, from a few excerpts, I feel there’s more rethorics than insight. Not that it is a “rhetorical” book, but it’s rhetorical in the sense that the strength of the topos, the will to draw a parable, overwhelms percipience.

Anonymous May 17, 2014 at 3:37 pm

Nice work. I didn’t read the whole comment (have other stuff to do) but congrats on what methinks is the longest comment in Inrng history.
:-)

Anonymous May 17, 2014 at 3:38 pm

Didn’t mean to be anonymous.

Anonymous May 17, 2014 at 3:38 pm

Bloody iPad
diamondjimking here

Cameron May 17, 2014 at 5:38 pm

The simple fact is that continental cycling fans are more than willing to give Pantani a pass that they wouldn’t extend to the Anglo-Saxon Lance Armstrong. Both riders are cheats who did serious damage to the reputation of cycling that it has yet to shed and may never. One tragically died, the other spent years proclaiming his innocence despite the piles of evidence piling up, creating a cult-like atmosphere around him with an extraordinary bullying attitude. Sorry, but a cheat is a cheat.

You still see people on Cycling News on one hand accusing Froome or Wiggins of being doping while lamenting the lifetime ban of Ricco. Frankly, it’s a bit tedious. If they are going to crucify one rider when they cheat then they should nail them all, not glorify those who were wild, exciting riders and attack those who they feel are boring. That is rose spectacles.

gabriele May 17, 2014 at 8:07 pm

I couldn’t care less about CN trolls and their “opinions”.

It has nothing do with nationality, I’m more than willing to give the Anglo-Saxon “cheater” Hesjedal a pass; just as I’m ready to give the same pass to Hamilton, who I’ll always remember riding bravely with broken collarbones in different occasions. I’ll give a pass to a very good and unlucky Classics riders as Hincapie, even if I didn’t especially love to see him become a summer part-time climber. I’ll give a huge pass to that damned cheater of Tom Simpson, who, you know?, has a monument on Mt. Ventoux, what a shame! A monument for a cheater!
I didn’t like what the “Mediterranean” Conconi did with the support of the State, and won’t give it a pass, even if Conconi is a great scinetist. I didn’t like Manolo Saiz, either, writing an “Ethical Code” that everyone was keen to sign, discharging doping problems on the riders who often were unwillingly submitted to “therapies”; and I won’t give him any pass even if he was a great team manager and sport director. I won’t give a pass to Fuentes, I won’t give a pass to any Frankfurt or Freiburg clinic (what are they, Teutonic?), and obviously I won’t give any pass to the Anglo-Saxon but so Mediterranean (*familist and corrupt*) Pat McQuaid, I suppose he might be a papist, no?

Dou you get the difference? An hint: it’s not racial. I don’t know if you get what I mean. Surprisingly, Armstrong goes straight in the second category. Why, poor Lance, just him? Is it his Anglo-Saxon heritage?
Well, I presented above quite a number of differences between him and other riders, but we may add that not many riders share a personal multinational corporative sponsor with the TdF.
Another example: when Pantani was kicked off the Giro (not “for doping”, as the so-well-informed Fokatukc wrote; but I really don’t need to be so subtle) like six or seven separate prosecutor’s offices tried to bring him to judgement, despite everyone knowing that at the time “doping” (should it be proven) wasn’t even felony, in Italy, thus it was a complete waste of public money. When the FBI investigated Armstrong, a public prosecutor decided to shut everything down… (ESPN: “Nothing says U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. has to explain the decision to drop the probe, but we’re left without many answers if he doesn’t”).

I just feel that all the persons using the concept “cheaters” are terribly wrong.
On one hand, they are compelled to depict cycling as a night where all the cows were black.
And all the black cows are riders.
But the worst cheating (“to cheat, obtain unfair advantage by trickery”) is a system that is allowing someone to dope *more*, someone to dope *less*, turning an half-blind eye if and only if these people don’t disturb the leading party, someone else to dope *least*, because they’re under strict surveillance.
From a “cheating” point of view, you’ve got less “cheating” when everyone is doping “a lot” than when everyone is doping “just a little”, but someone has got a *VIP pass* to climb up a step. Nevertheless, I’d prefer this second situation, because my priority is the health of riders.

I wouldn’t dare to express publicly my not-very-factually-founded private opinions about actual cycling, apart from saying that I don’t consider it very *clean*, generally speaking. Feel assured, anyway: when I privately express my concerns, they’re not limited to the Anglo-Saxon race/culture, nor to the Slavonic, nor to the Mediterranean Spain and Italy, nor to the Teutonic peoples of Germany and Poland (how the heck would you define French, anyway?!? :-) ).

Comarello May 19, 2014 at 2:46 pm

I hear you well and clear, Cameron, but firmly refuse to believe that what you say is the prevailing attitude of (continental) cycling fans.

It is high time that the citizens of the world step away from all “pack-based” groupings (race, ethnicity, nationality and so on). Cycling fans included. This simply has to become civilization’s heritage, and any other approach brings bias and thus tilts the playing field of judging people’s behavior, regardless whether related to doping or otherwise.

While what you say still may be true, it also may reflect your own focus of view to pack-based groupings and therefore your attitude. Than again, I am fully aware that I may simply be wrong and that what I believe is “rose spectacles”-based. But I still do believe that we, as a civilization, must be moving in the direction of eradicating all such groupings and biases. This is at least, and to the extent of my knowledge, reflected in the prevailing attitude of people posting on this – the finest of cycling-related blogs I have managed to dig out.

A disclaimer: It is hard to judge what is the extent of ethical scope one has to adopt for judging the problem of doping in cycling and I surely do not pretend to have the definite answer. From the most formal sport regulations based point of view – doping is not allowed -> the one who dopes is a cheater – period. That’s the “all dopers are created equal” stance.

But what I feel is that, cycling being an affair within the scope of life, broader ethical view of the person as a whole and not only as a sportsman should be adopted.

’nuff said. Excuse the lack of brevity.

Anonymous May 17, 2014 at 9:39 pm

Hear, hear!

Anonymous May 19, 2014 at 2:17 pm

Chapeau, Gabriele! It has been high time that someone of your eloquence put into words the opinion that, at least to my knowledge, is shared by large number of keen and well informed cycling fans.

To put the whole issue of doping into a simplistic binary (did dope, didn’t dope) viewpoint is at least uneducated uninformed and at most rude. When we add to this the common drawing of the sign of equality between cheating and doping – we have another misconception blurring our vision.

Lance is a Hors Categorie doper, but what makes him stand out is that he was a cheater and a bully of simply unbelievable proportions, a sinister figure not shying away from any means available, not only to get away with what he was doing, but also to intimidate and thoroughly destroy any person that may have stood in his way. The power hungry, ruthless and authoritarian figure ruining so many a person’s lives surely must be viewed as different from a person, albeit willingly and consciously, resorting to using PEDs, be it only to ‘level the field’ or to gain an unfair advantage.

I am so glad that you put into (a well versed) comment everything I was, rather mutely, pondering about.

Comarello May 19, 2014 at 2:19 pm

Sorry, didn’t mean to post the above as anonymous, missed to fill the identity fields as I’m posting from another person’s computer.

charlie May 17, 2014 at 8:43 am

I love the information, detail & style that the Giro organizers put into their profiles. In comparison the Tour profiles look like someone’s been given a sticky-note pad & a couple of crayons & the Vuelta hand out Textas & a set square.

Qwerty May 17, 2014 at 9:51 am

Very tough finish, riders will be reaching for the low gears.

On Pantani it’s right to remember but the blind celebration grates.

Bundle May 17, 2014 at 10:02 am

The most appealing stage since the Giro was presented. Fuente would no doubt attack from the foot of the Carpegna, and probably get home with a couple of minutes. I’m secretly expecting Quintana to try it… The composition of today’s breakaway is going to be fascinating. Some guys who seem out of contention could get back into it.

Matthew May 17, 2014 at 9:36 pm

I read Matt Rendell’s book when it came out, straight after a biography of Pantani written by his manager. Quite a different perspective and I did wonder a few times if they were writing about the same person, one a saint, one a sinner.
MRs book far more believable both then and even more believable now

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