Giro Stage 9 Preview

Sunday, 18 May 2014


The second of two selective Apennine mountain stages, today’s stage has a different feel with wider, more accessible roads. Today should be easier.

Stage 8 Wrap
A lot of action but we didn’t see the stage winner Diego Ulissi until the final 90 metres. An early break included Trek’s Julian Arredondo and he attacked on the Pantani section of the Monte Carpegna. On the descent – which included netting to recover riders who crashed – Pierre Rolland took off in pursuit. It looked wasteful but it worked as he reeled in Arredondo. But the stage reserved the steepest roads for the finish and he was caught and passed on the final ramp.


Cadel Evans leads the race now and by almost a minute on Rigoberto Uran in second place, a comfortable margin for now. The contenders preferred to mark each other yesterday so we should be doubly grateful to Arredondo and Rolland for the suspense they supplied. Yes another wasted effort from Rolland in terms of results but let’s salute him. Otherwise the action would have amounted to two short attacks from Rafał Majka and Fabio Aru. The only surprise was Michele Scarponi’s trouble but his injuries have got the better of him. Scanning the body language Nairo Quintana looked comfortable. We should remember Ag2r’s mountain train leading the pursuit. Yes, let’s say it again: Ag2r were setting the pace in the Giro’s lead group. New recruit Alexis Vuillermoz is proving to be an excellent hire and (self-trumpet) was tipped as one of the best Sojansun riders to hire last year. QED.

A note on the TV broadcast. It’s never easy but the on-screen graphics displaying the time gaps were sometimes wrong and often absent, as if they’d been pulled by the producer because they were wrong. Also they kept showing the gap between Arrendo and the Gruppo Maglia Rosa but Michael Matthews was so cooked the time gap was irrelevant. What mattered instead was the gap between Rolland and the Evans group but info on this was rare.

The Route: a short day at 172km. The first 100km are flat, skirting the Po plains and the city of Bologna along the Via Emilia, an old Roman road. All change after 110km as the road heads into the hills. Up a river gorge and then the first climb after Osteria Vecchia, a gentle lift at little more than 4%. The next climb to Rocchetta Sandri is steeper at 5-6% but still a warm-up for what’s to come.

The Finish: the final climb can be broken into three sections:

  • Fanano to Sestola: a large road with a steady slope. It’s wide and two buses can meet each other in opposite directions without too much concern. At 5% it’s not selective and leads into the ski town of Sestola
  • Sestola to Pian del Falco: rather than take the main road around the mountain the race takes a more direct road up Monte Cimone. Consequently it’s steep and narrow and reminiscent of yesterday’s climbing. It’s almost 4km at 9%.
  • The race rejoins the main road and the gradient reverts to a more relaxed slope where the slope rarely reaches 5%. It’s uphill all the way to the finish line but this should be a big ring sprint for punchy riders.

The Scenario: after several efforts today should see a breakaway rewarded. The early terrain suits a move and the subsequent hills allow a group to make collective progress, they’re fast to enough to reward “through and off” even on the climbs. Besides who will chase? Obviously no sprint teams and BMC won’t waste energy on chasing hard as long as the break has riders well down on GC because

Will the GC contenders make a move? I’d like to say yes but suspect not. The steep section from Sestola to Pian del Falco could reward an attack but climbers will fear moving because others will churn the big ring during the final 4km to reel them in. We’re still in the discovery phase of the race with riders

The Contenders: nobody is getting five or even four chainrings because of the high probability of a break sticking and it’s hard to guess who’ll get away. Diego Ulissi is default pick because if the move is reeled in he’ll enjoy sprinting from the reduced group. I think Cadel Evans is in the same position.

Katusha rocket Dani Moreno usually thrives on the uphill finishes but went too early yesterday; he could fix this today. Trek’s Robert Kišerlovski was strong yesterday and could pounce again. Otherwise if the break goes, two random names for you. Lotto-Belisol’s Adam Hansen has the big engine and is climbing very well while Astana’s Paolo Tiralongo was on duty yesterday to shepherd Michele Scarponi and could thrive today but take your pick from many more.

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Diego Ulissi, Cadel Evans
Dani Moreno
Kišerlovski, Hansen, Tiralongo

Weather: a sunny day with a few clouds in the hills and mountains and temperatures of 22°C in the Po plains. Translated this means a pleasant ride with no tactical impact.

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. Be sure to tune in for the final climb from Fanano from 4.30pm onwards but watch earlier to see the race develop and the scenery unfold.


The Green Zone: riders with waste in their pockets have dedicated zones to sling bottles and used food wrappers. This is then picked up by workers and disposed of. The idea is to concentrate the waste in one area rather than having riders slinging trash all over the Italian countryside.

It’s a good example to set. A ride in the Italian countryside is invariably enjoyable but you will often spot copious amounts of waste in the grass verge. Drinks cans including many countless Esta Thé cups – official drink of the Giro – litter the roadsides. If Italian roadsides are notable for the junk the pro peloton can litter worldwide with riders dumping gel wrappers to the point where if you ride the route of a major race the day after there’s no need for GPS because you can follow the birdseed-style trail of used energy products. These zones are a good start but the cultural change has some way to go.

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{ 30 comments }

AK May 18, 2014 at 8:21 am

Quintana said in an interview he was feeling bad, had a hard time keeping the wheels. May have been bluff of course. It could explain why Movistar quit chasing all of a sudden at a random point.
AG2R did a long pull but what did it get them?

Vanilla_Thrilla May 18, 2014 at 10:23 am

From Matt Rendell’s twitter feed:

“Nairo told me he is lacking some power in his left leg due to the bruising. Let’s see what he can do.”

The Inner Ring May 18, 2014 at 11:11 am

La Gazzetta have reported he is “riding on one leg”… clearly an exaggeration especially as he looked fine yesterday. A worry though for him and the team but there’s time to heal. There’s a risk from over-compensating, pushing the stronger leg too much.

Dan May 18, 2014 at 8:43 am

Credibility.

Larrick May 18, 2014 at 9:01 am

The amount and quality of the information provided could definitely improve but let’s be thankful for small mercies. It could be worse. It could be the Tour of California broadcasters…

Anonymous May 18, 2014 at 9:28 am

Nothing more annoying than seeing gel wrappers flung into the verges.

Tom May 18, 2014 at 4:40 pm

Nothing even more annoying than seeing unused gels flung before flat finishes.

Bundle May 18, 2014 at 9:51 am

Yesterday seemed interesting for a while, but finally very disappointing, even depressing. I think we should only talk about ways and possibilities for the favourites to part company, and have to chase one another. As long as they are together, as long as they have teammates around, there is simply no cycling, no way that my son will enjoy this and not prompt me to switch the channel, and rightly so. It would unacceptable if neither today did climbers really race, instead of waiting for the finish. We should be much more severe towards riders and directors for doing this to cycling.

GT May 18, 2014 at 11:16 am

Well aren’t we a bitter little pill? Pretty easy to snipe from the sofa …

Bundle May 18, 2014 at 11:46 am

I am. I’d better ride my bike instead of wasting time over this… :( And we haven’t even gotten to the Dolomites.

The Inner Ring May 18, 2014 at 11:21 am

It’s probably something for a piece on here soon but the advances in sport science mean that every rider is pacing themselves around a course and measuring their effort, all knowing that if they go into the red early they’ll pay for it later. There’s almost no going back from this, riders have “discovered” how to race and they’ll deploy this strategy as long as its successful.

Bundle May 18, 2014 at 11:54 am

But they have to be aware that it matters less to win this or that stage, than it does to think about hooking future fans. No one wants to see Plateau de Beille 2011, Pampeago 2012, or L-B-L 2014. If those who earn their living out of this circus don’t get it, it’s alarming. If they don’t it’s up to the organisers. You’ve heard me before: the key is to cause riders to race at such low speeds that the advantage drafting is marginal. And for that you need either terrible surfaces, impossible gradients, or Bordeaux-Paris distances. Or, actually, the 3 things. Someone should wake up. What we think is normal shouldn’t be normal. And what we’d think is crazy and outrageous should become the norm. Let’s comment tomorrow on today’s “Siestola”.

Beth May 18, 2014 at 12:55 pm

These are human beings first and foremost and our entertainment is secondary to their welfare – at all times.

AK May 18, 2014 at 6:44 pm

If they’re revising the tech rules a ban on power meters, or at least the displays would not be a bad idea. How about allowing data collection for evaluation purposes, but no online display for riders or ds. And perhaps even mandatory data readout after the race by anti-doping to be added to the passport data. But that may be too easy to mess with given calibration issues etc.

LM May 18, 2014 at 2:35 pm

Eliminating race radios is the number one solution to making racing more interesting. I’m afraid that power meters and the much more detailed understanding of what they measure has an irreversible effect on how a race is ridden and this is understandable.

But, if the peloton Is cleaner, and I think it is, this too is going to have a limiting effect on (successful) entertaining heroics. If you think about it, if the peloton were absolutely 100% clean, a three week GT with half the days spent climbing mountains for 5hrs would be inhumane. Referencing your Cookson comments below, When the peloton is nearing 100% clean, some very reasonable UCI officers will have to address the amount of racing to accommodate mere mortals.

Bundle May 18, 2014 at 3:27 pm

Looking at the past, I buy neither the “too hard is not humane”, nor the “too hard means doping”, argument. If I look at the 50′s, when doping was basically limited to stimulants, the effect of which can be equalled today, legally, and probably safely. But the guys raced many more kilometers a year than today, and again, on worse bikes and roads and diets and preparation and electronic help. And Baha And Marion Jones, that famous Gran Fondo lady, took EPO too. And Kübler (a Bordeaux-Paris winner) and Bahamontes, and many others, are still around.

Chris May 19, 2014 at 7:32 am

But you’d have to force them to race more, because if you race more days, you race more slowly. Riders aren’t going to overwork themselves and voluntarily lower their performance – that’d be stupid, as they’d be beaten by those following a structured training/racing schedule.

“Too hard means doping?” Well, perhaps, if you want them to race hard for more days. And the use of the word “hard” is important. Back in the not too distant past, many international riders may have been riding the Giro, but they weren’t racing it. So what’s entertaining about that?

I think your arguments sound a bit “dance, monkey, dance”. The riders are trying to win, blaming them for not riding themselves into the ground entertainingly every stage is silly. 3500km is hard enough; the last week will be a test of who can do it on successive days after the first two weeks are done. That’s the parcours they’ve been set, and that’s what we’re seeing.

Apologies for the scattered thoughts.

Bundle May 18, 2014 at 10:08 am

By the way, it’s time to get tough on Cookson: not only his son is seen hanging around in Colombia with one doping suspect from a specific team, but now he messes the hour record, and destroys the “best human effort”. This guy shouldn’t be trusted or allowed to touch anything.

The Inner Ring May 18, 2014 at 11:18 am

A bit off topic… but I tend to think the hour record changes are fine. If we allow a bike to be ridden for 1km, 4km etc why ban it for the hour? (long argument here) It was surprising to learn that Cancellara and Trek have been planning for a Merckx-style record given the rule was likely to change.

On Cookson the UCI still needs some proper conflict of interest management. Brian can take decisions that impact his son’s career and this is uncomfortable. We should also note Igor Makarov, Katusha team owner… and UCI board member. It’s partly why the UCI’s Licence Commission is meant to be at arm’s length from the UCI.

Tovarishch May 18, 2014 at 11:38 am

So you believe that nobody, no matter how competent, should be allowed to work in an area where a relative has decision making power? Other than not being able to see how Cookson could really influence his son’s career, it strikes me as an accusation of nepotism without any foundation. Similar to Bundle legally dubious statement where he doesn’t even have the courage to name names.

Bundle May 18, 2014 at 11:42 am

Yes, heres’s what I said that time: it’s not “one vision or the other”… We have two different records, with two different sets of rules, that measure different things, and can provide different shows. Both should be valued. By riders and by fans. And both should be attempted by the “3 chrono-tenors”.

…now Mr. Cookson has diminished the sport by eliminating ine of the two visions.

LM May 18, 2014 at 2:17 pm

Mr Cookson diminished the sport the minute he started his campaign.

Sam May 19, 2014 at 11:11 am

Lunch with Darach or Pat McQ, lately, LM?

Hank Kingsley May 18, 2014 at 12:28 pm

I think you’re being deeply cynical.

The real story in all this is one of inspiration for urban designers and landscape architects everywhere.

RocksRootsRoad May 18, 2014 at 1:34 pm

To say that one man has “messed up the hour record” is a bit of a stretch.
The UCI messed up the hour record many years ago – well before Cookson arrived on the scene.

Thomas May 18, 2014 at 11:30 am

I figure Kelderman can do well today. He was the fastest of the second group in Thurday’s stage and he came close yesterday considering his initial positioning was awful. He started his sprint in the back of the group. I am pleasantly surprised by his finishing abilities. He will probably come close, but winning might be too much.

Kevin May 18, 2014 at 11:50 am

Great comment in the article about the missing time gaps on the TV coverage.

Martin TB May 18, 2014 at 12:02 pm

On the subject of littering, Ted King tweeted recently:
https://twitter.com/iamtedking/status/467138009846931456

@iamtedking
To my peloton colleagues, please stop littering. We have pockets.

I seem to recall that the TdF had litter zones a couple of years ago. I remember HTC Columbia emptying their pockets en masse as they entered the feed zone on one stage. Last year they didn’t have them.

LaVelocipede May 18, 2014 at 12:35 pm

Think Kiserlovski is worth more than 1.

Jerome May 18, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Whatever rules they go by the best way to ensure interest in the hour would be for someone to put up €1M to who ever breaks an hour record just like WR in athletics

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