We’re halfway through the Giro and so far fortune favours the brave with over half the stages rewarding breakaway riders. The stage features laps of a tricky finishing circuit with some steep climbs. Will Richie Porte go on a revenge rampage?
Stage 10 Wrap: a long test of endurance… for television commentators. Hours of riding, minutes of action but that’s a grand tour where some stages are about making steady progress across the country. Lotto-Soudal had been chasing all day and as they approached the finish the time gap wasn’t going down as the day’s breakaway riders kept going, unified by the lack of an obvious sprint candidate. Lotto even put Greg Henderson into the chase but they were almost alone in trying to chase. So the breakaway riders got their chance and Bardiani-CSF’s Nicola Boem won, helped by the exit of the wily Oscar Gatto with a mechanical which left him the fastest on paper. A triumph for Boem who collected the red points jersey and his modest Bardiani-CSF team only forgotten within an hour…
The loser of the day was Richie Porte who suffered a puncture with just a few kilometres to go. He got a wheel change from Orica-Greenedge’s Simon Clarke, presumably in panic and isolation rather than choice, a friendly and generous on the spot offer rather than waiting for team mates to show up. Only it’s against the rules for a rider to get help from another team and the commissaires punished the act with a cash fine and a stinging two minute time penalty. Once up and rolling Porte was struggling to hold the wheels of his team mates in the chase and arrived 47 seconds down on his GC rivals which would have him fourth overall, 1.09 down on Alberto Condator but thanks to the time penalty it’s 3.09 and 12th overall.
It’s the rules but they’re designed to prevent hidden collaboration between teams. For example imagine a breakaway of four riders with two from the same team: one of these two riders punctures and gets a spare wheel not from their team mate but from the third rider in the break who has been promised something. This leaves the fourth rider isolated and caught out. It’s all about preventing hidden alliances and nasty surprises rather than punishing a Good Samaritan act. Where were Porte’s team mates? If he’d had a “bodyguard” by his side this would not have happened.
Let’s skip to Las Vegas for a moment. Writer and thinker Nicolas Taleb once looked at the risks of running a casino and how the management tried to analyse the risks of the business. They spent ages forecasting of the odds of a punter on a lucky streak or a card-counting pro taking the house to the cleaners but for all they calculated these probable scenarios it turned out the biggest risks were things like litigious staff threatening to sue the casino; a staff member being slack with paperwork; or the owner dipping into company funds to pay the ransom on a kidnapped daughter. Moral of the story? Plan for the future but the big risks are the very things you ignored. In cycling terms you can invest in training camps and mobile homes for “marginal gains” to save seconds but printing out a PDF of the rulebook and teaching riders the basic rules of pro cycling on a wet December afternoon could have saved minutes: Chapter 2 of the UCI rules says several times in black and white that you can’t take wheels from another team.
The Route: the race flicks inland for some hills and some of Marco Pantani’s old training roads where there’s not much in the way of flat roads. The sawtooth profile is ideal for a group to get away especially as the finishing circuit makes it harder to chase.
The Finish: three laps of a 15km finishing circuit which includes part of the Imola motor circuit and then climbing up the Tre Monti, 4km at 4% but as the profile shows it’s got steep sections and flat parts. The descent is the same too, in fact the profile doesn’t do it justice because it descends, then rises a little before descending again like some fairground slide and all with some twisting corners which won’t be easy if the forecast rain arrives, in fact read very slippery and aquaplaning if fresh rain arrives just in time to greet the peloton. The finishing straight is on the motor circuit. It was used in the 2009 Italian national championships, the scene of one of Pippo Pozzato’s rare triumphs.
The Contenders: another day, another breakaway winner? The Giro is rewarding those willing to take their chances with five breakaway wins from 10 stages including the opening team time trial. Simon Gerrans is a strong pick given his ability to latch on to a target and today is an ideal chance, the kind of stage he’ll have marked for months. Giovanni Visconti is another rider for a stage like this although when he rode the Italian champs here in 2009 he was third… last. Second in 2009 was Damiano Cunego who had shown great form before the Giro but hasn’t shone that brightly so far. Luca Paolini might also fancy his chances but the Katusha rider has cut a quieter figure his Giro.
I’m curious to see what Davide Formolo can do. A steep climb late in the stage was his launchpad last week and the terrain suits him again here. Diego Ulissi has the nose for a win and a fast finish from a group. Adam Hansen could be let off the leash but this might be a bit too hilly for him. As an outside pick Carlos Betancur has been showing form and can pack a sprint. What can Philippe Gilbert do? La Gazzetta rated riders out of ten yesterday and Gilbert scored a five, the lowest note given, maybe he’ll be out for revenge?
The biggest revenge story has to be Richie Porte. Will he bust open the doors of his caravan and swear for revenge? Probably not straight away but pride might see him launch a move on the final climb.
If it comes down to a sprint it’ll be from a reduced group and Michael Matthews is the default pick, he can deliver a fast finish with more security than most.
|Michael Matthews, Diego Ulissi|
|Formolo, Gerrans, Visconti, Cunego, Lobato, Bardiani-CSF, Betancur|
Weather: sunshine turning to rain showers, a top temperature of 23°C
TV: the feed starts at 3.00pm CET with and the finish is forecast for 5.15pm Euro time. Cyclingfans and steephill.tv both have links to pirate feeds with the latter also listing where you can view the race properly too.
The Giro is: polemica! The word polemic comes from the Greek πολεμικός or “polemikós” meaning “in relation to war” and nowadays means a controversial subject. Last year we howled because the rules about red flags weren’t followed by Nairo Quintana and Pierre Rolland, now we howl because they are upheld for Richie Porte. But in between upholding and waiving the rules is a big space with plenty to talk about. Cycling has a looser interpretation of some rules precisely because it takes place on the open road rather than the strict confines of a tennis court or swimming pool. Cycling has a rulebook but the concept of the “moral winner” has existed almost as long as the earliest race, the idea that a rider was the best but was thwarted by bad luck and sometimes even the rulebook. The Giro has recognised the hardship with the maglia nera or black jersey to the last rider overall in appreciation of their efforts to stay in the race. This has gone but today the Giro has a “fair play” ranking which scores teams by bad behaviour, ranging from 0.5 points for a fine to 2,000 points for a positive doping case: Astana lead the competition while Orica-Greenedge occupy last place.