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Giro Stage 15 Preview

The first Alpine stage of this year’s Giro and a tough summit finish following one of the hardest climbs and the trickiest descents in the race. Yesterday’s time trial has shaken up the pecking order, now what will happen in the mountains?

Stage 14 Wrap: we expected the big names and a gregario won. Glance at the results and it looked like a breakaway of strongmen had survived and, behind, the main team leaders made is safely to the finish inside the peloton. Vasil Kiryienka was the fastest helped by changing weather conditions with reports of a tailwind for earlier starters switching to a crosswind later on. Not that Kiryienka fluked it, he’s got a bronze medal and finished fourth twice in the TT World Championships and the longer the time trial the better he is. FDJ even have a motor pacing training session called La Séance Vasil to simulate riding behind Kiryienka when he’s on patrol.

Alberto Contador was the big winner among the GC contenders putting time into all his rivals. Aru had a torrid time but a decent position, 29th was not bad considering he was ahead of Dario Cataldo and just 15 seconds behind Rigoberto Uran. Richie Porte was the big loser of the day, losing 4.20 to Kiryienka and possibly the keys to the caravan too. He lost over four minutes to Contador too, double what the proscribed wheel change cost him. His bad day or is the knee sore from the Jesolo crash?

Richie Porte Giro time trial

Among the gainers Costa Rica’s Andrey Amador is up to third place overall but this is probably his high point as he’s a heavier rider, relatively at least. Jurgen Van Den Broeck was one of the few team leaders to perform as expected and punched his way to fifth place overall.

If the pieces of the jigsaw were waiting to be put in place yesterday now it’s all taken shape too quickly, the perils of such a long course, and it’s hard not to see the image of Alberto Contador celebrating in Milan this time next week. After two weeks of surprises we’re now at the point of saying a surprise is required in order to change the inevitability of Contador’s triumph. It’s when you need a surprise that these things don’t tend to come. Contador might have the Tour de France in mind but he’ll surely want a victory with the pink jersey on his back and today is a good way to start.

The Route: a tough mountain stage with a summit finish but where hardest part comes three-quarters of the way with the Passo Daone. The early climb of La Fricca is not hard by Alpine standards with 9.8km at 5.6%, still as tough as anything so far in the race and now it’s just anti-passo before the main mountain meal.

The Passo Daone is one of the hardest climbs in the Giro, just 8.4km but it averages 9.2% and that includes the rest section after the village of Cort one third of the way up. It’s steep, the surface isn’t great and it winds up in an irregular fashion from the start. It might be too early to be decisive but fortune favours the braves. Sometimes descents can be an afterthought, not this time because the way down is very narrow, steep in places and on a bad road. It’s awkward on a solo training ride, harder in a race and the forecast says rain which makes this a place for the skilled or the crazy. The route opens up on the Sarca valley road to Pinzolo, a wide open road where any mountain goats who made a move earlier can lose their advantage to an organised chase.

The Finish: a long climb but a very regular one and on a wide road designed so two buses of skiers can pass with ease, a lot of work has gone into engineering a modern road and as you ride up you can often see the more charming old road. The flatter section near the top marks the ski resort of Madonna di Campiglio which the main road avoids via a tunnel but the race enters the resort and circles around to finish outside a ski piste with some steepening roads all the way to the finish. That “max 12%” sign above seems excessive but it is 7-8% most of the way to the line.

The Contenders: Alberto Contador did such a measured ride yesterday it looked as if he could have kept going for another 20km. Today is his chance to get that win in the maglia rosa to seal the deal while his rivals are broken by yesterday’s efforts. Easier said than done although his lieutants Michael Rogers and Ivan Basso cruised around yesterday in order to save themselves. Questions hang over the others:

  • First up Fabio Aru is he too tired from his hot first week? Have the cold and rain got to him? We’ll see more today. Team mate Mikel Landa has been climbing well and is probably due a stage while Contador marks Aru and Astana can play the same card with Dario Cataldo too. They all have the added incentive to make life as hard as possible for Contador on behalf of Vincenzo Nibali
  • Richie Porte’s losses are mounting up. Perhaps those scenes of him struggling to hold the wheel of his team mates after that puncture were suggestive of his lack of power on the flat after all? But he has been climbing with the best before, can he get up back and fight or is there a knee injury? Will Leopold König get more room to attack too?
  • What about Rigoberto Uran? The illness, the crashes but he’s fourth overall, testament to his consistency. Given Amador is going to struggle in the mountains Uran can bid his time for that podium finish

Otherwise the stage suits any number of a breakaway candidates and there’s a high chance they succeed. Beñat Intxausti needs points for the mountains jersey with Simon Geschke, Carlos Betancur and Steven Kruijswijk trailing him on points and all are good for a breakaway and the stage win. On a second tier there’s Ryder Hesjedal, Ilnur Zakarin (said to be saving himself for a mountain stage), Ion Izaguirre, Franco Pellizotti and more.

Alberto Contador
Landa, Aru, Intxausti, Betancur, Zakarin, Zardini

Weather: changing conditions with rain showers and a top temperature of 20°C in the valleys but much cooler higher up.

TV: the Passo Daone starts around 3.30pm the finish is forecast for 5.15pm Euro time. Cyclingfans and steephill.tv serve up the usual pirate fare.

Marco Pantani Madonna Campiglio 1999

The Giro is: Marco Pantani. More on him later today. The Giro continues to celebrate Marco Pantani and his exploits on the bike. It’ll be interesting to see how much of a mention he gets today because of his expulsion from the 1999 Giro in Madonna di Campiglio following a haematocrit test. This wasn’t the kind of glorious moment that RAI or La Gazzetta normally choose to celebrate. The Giro passes numerous Pantani monuments, whether temporary graffiti on the road to Imola the other day or the many permanent memorials that have sprung up in the Alps and Apennines to celebrate Pantani’s triumphs. The race awards a Pantani prize for the first rider over La Montagna Pantani, “the Pantani mountain”, and one selected climb each year that is linked to Pantani. The Mortirolo on Tuesday is this year’s prize point.

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  • GTGTGT Sunday, 24 May 2015, 4:24 am

    Fantastic to see Kiryienka win. One of the true hard men in the peloton, and selfless for his team leader.

    It appears as though Richie Porte has his ‘jour sans’ last night, but it would be easy to understand his morale not being as high as possible right now.

    It’s Contador’s to lose now.

    • Augie March Sunday, 24 May 2015, 7:06 am

      I don’t think it was a ‘jour sans’ so much as falling on his hip and knee during the previous day’s pack tumble. Apart from a few bonus seconds really, none of the time he’s lost so far has been due to poor form or bad tactics, it’s just luck. Reminds me a bit of Contador in the first half of the 2011 TDF where he suffered 4 crashes in the opening 9 days – that’s just bike racing. You can have peak form, a strong team, your own motorhome, but then fate deems it to be not your race.

      • Thesteve4761 Sunday, 24 May 2015, 7:22 am

        bad luck like not having a teammate nearby with a wheel, or ensuring a similar sized domestique is always within 15ft of Porte to lend a hand, bottle, or Bike? Highly demonstrative that old Contador was up and rolling on a teammate’s bike within seconds, while Porte doffed about with his stuck chain for a lifetime and ended up looking a clown on Kiryenka’s massive bike. forest for the trees……

        • Augie March Sunday, 24 May 2015, 7:41 am

          Interestingly on the wheel thing, apparently it happened when Porte was around the other side of a roundabout to his teammates and that’s why they didn’t notice as quickly as Simon Clarke did that he’d flatted. Also apparently there is a rule that riders can only stop and wait for a teammate, but they can’t ride back down the course for safety reasons.

          While you could argue that at least one teammate should have been trailing him like a shadow and taken that side of the roundabout with him, the charge about similarly sized riders is a complete misnomer. Sky would have selected the strongest available support riders regardless of physical makeup. If it had been Contador with a stuck chain and only Michael Rogers available to hand over his far-too-big bike, would everyone have been booing Tinkoff Saxo and calling them fools for bringing the wrong-sized support riders?

          • Tovarishch Sunday, 24 May 2015, 10:02 am

            Watching the crash, one Sky rider took a second one down (overlapping wheels again). Was Porte the second rider? Perhaps his team mate was too close.

          • thesteve4761 Monday, 25 May 2015, 7:08 am

            Again, if he had a “shadow” following him they’d have been on the same side of the roundabout as him, and he’d have a legal wheel within 30 seconds. Also, if he knew the rules, he’d never have taken Clarke’s wheel if he saw his team mates just 100 meters away, and all he had to do was ride that far on a flat (or walk). On a flat stage, absolutely he should have a similarly sized rider nearby. Should the strongest teammate be ready at a moments notice to wait, yes. But the likelihood of a crash in that final was extremely high. Great reason to have a mobile spare bike at the ready, underneath a teammate, unless of course they already realized that Konig was the better rider. His bad luck was exponentially compounded by terrible basic preparation.

            Sky ride a bit like that really fit triathlete who shows up on the group ride. Is he strong as hell, and intimidating, sure. But very often smart riding will allow you to beat him, as he’ll for sure waste a ton of energy over something an astute cyclist would consider basic knowledge.

      • gabriele Sunday, 24 May 2015, 12:57 pm

        Really hope that Richie can go on to finish in top five, if possible providing a stage like 2011 Alpe d’Huez by Contador. Maybe he now has freedom for some long range attack, and could prove himself a strategic support for König.
        All my symphathy for Porte, but it wasn’t just bad luck, as it has been vastly commented before. That said, everyone has the right to hold is opinion tight.
        IMHO, it’s Sky’s problem – and a relevant one – if they don’t take into account factors as the need of bike swap or, speaking of the motorhome, the importance of personal relations between riders (just related to this second element: do you think that the good Vanotti was among “the strongest support riders” in 2014 Tour? Don’t think Astana regretted having him in).

        • bmj Sunday, 24 May 2015, 1:20 pm

          Porte will have a pretty short leash, though it won’t be Contador controlling that. It’s bunched fairly tightly around the third step (just over a minute separating 4 through 10). If he’s with the bunch near the end of a stage, he may be able to challenge for a stage win, but I don’t think anyone will let him get in a break. He’s be better off soft pedaling today and dropping another ten minutes if he wants to score a breakaway win.

          • hoh Sunday, 24 May 2015, 2:07 pm

            Very true, though I consider it more his style to be with the bunch & challenge for stage rather than score a breakaway win. In terms of moral boosting, that also works better than long range break away win.

            Though lose another 10 mins and then go for a breakaway win is still better than stay mediocre in the bunch.

          • hoh Sunday, 24 May 2015, 2:12 pm

            Though it would also depend on whether Sir Dave share that particular sentiment regarding going for breakaway.

          • gabriele Sunday, 24 May 2015, 2:52 pm

            Agreed, you’re absolutely right.
            Still if Porte can find back the morale and form he sure had when fighting for GC, the course also allows trying moves out of pure strength, without “asking for permission” from the maglia rosa and his team.
            On Tuesday for long range breaks, next-to-last climb today and on Saturday, on Thursday for a medium-range attack on the climb if a breakaway isn’t too far ahead (hard to counter for any team), on Friday – more or less wherever you please in the last sequence of three Tour de France style climbs (Val d’Aosta has always been French-like).
            Contador 2011, Pantani 2000, Landis 2006, Simoni 2004 etc…. Not the best premises, one could say 😉 , yet an option not to be discarded.

          • hoh Sunday, 24 May 2015, 3:48 pm

            Porte just got dropped. Let’s just hope it’s a strategic retreat to nurse his wounded knee & loose his leash rather than a mental melt down as Julich is suggesting on Cycling News race ticker.

            Though he probably has recognised so far that his largest weakness is not his physical but his mental strength. On that part, having a resurgent in some capacity in this Giro is very important. Probably more important than “thinking for the future” as that is just an excuse to not fight.

  • Joe K. Sunday, 24 May 2015, 5:15 am

    Looks like Contador has no challengers for the title at this Giro–as long as he stays healthy and upright. He’s showing his class and his experience over the pretenders. Hope the weather clears up. It really skewed the results for the late starters, even for the Accountant, who still came in 3rd!

    • Larry T. Sunday, 24 May 2015, 9:58 am

      With a tough week to go, lots can still happen. Staying healthy and upright is certainly not a given, starting with today’s challenging descent. RAI showed Garzelli riding some of the stage (finally) instead of the rather lame cartoon stage previews they’be been showing. Might be too early to hope for some fireworks but I’ll be tuning in today as soon as the TV coverage begins. W Il Giro!

  • TourDeUtah Sunday, 24 May 2015, 7:57 am

    This is AC’s race to lose. He can pretty much coast home by marking his most important rivals and limiting his time losses. Time to start prepping for Le Tour.

    Of all the GC comtendors he was fabulous and the rest were quite pedestrian.

    Viva El Pistolero !

    • RocksRootsRoad Sunday, 24 May 2015, 10:27 am

      Yes, it was vintage 2009 pre-steak Bert…

      • gabriele Sunday, 24 May 2015, 1:12 pm

        Hummm… Yes, chronology is a strange thing: I suppose that the 2014 Vuelta ITT when, despite his previous helth problems, only Cancellara and Martin (well, plus super-Urán) came in before him, leaving behind the likes of Kiryienka, Sergent, Evans, Froome… that was pre-steak, no? Yeah, it must be, since it was the same year when only Martin beated him in País Vasco (not the Aia-wall thing), whereas Dumoulin, Van Garderen, Peraud, Evans couldn’t. The last 2013 Tour ITT was also pre-steak, I guess, only Froome could overcome him and with pretty slight margin of 9″ (over 50′). But, wait, didn’t he beat Froome in 2012, too, in the Vuelta ITT where Alberto was second behind Kessiakoff? Pre-steak, as well. Porte was 1′ back, Martin 1’20”. Again in 2011, in the Tour ITT of Grenoble only a winning-form Evans and Martin could beat Contador, in spite of one of his worst Tour ever.
        Ok, now I’ve got it: in your reverse chronology all this is pre-steak… or maybe we just have to reverse the stage classifications! Contador was really arriving second-to-last! Kind of Martin Amis or Kurt Vonnegut’s thing, no?

        • RocksRootsRoad Sunday, 24 May 2015, 8:55 pm

          Funny. Kudos.

  • peter f Sunday, 24 May 2015, 8:12 am

    Ion izaguirre riding very well and hasn’t gone to deep, sure he’s riding for a stage and today could be his

  • Jason Sunday, 24 May 2015, 8:31 am

    Will Astana ride hard on Daone to isolate AC later on? If this happens then we will have a very entertaining GC battle (even though Contador will win the stage)

    • thesteve4761 Monday, 25 May 2015, 7:10 am

      Exactly that happened. GC battle somehow got less entertaining…..

  • irungo txuletak Sunday, 24 May 2015, 9:53 am

    I was expecting kontador to do well in yesterday ITT, but the performances of Uran and Porte are really disapointing. I guess the latter has his knee wounded from friday’s bunch chaos.
    Not too optimistic on the suspense for the last week. Kontador will manage it as an accountant, as his name suggests, and will be trying to save energy for the Tour.
    We will see what Aru can still do, but I am afraid his best moments in the Giro are behind.
    By the way, anybody to think that the agressive rides of all of the Astana team in the first weeks was also instructed by the will of making it an unusually hard Giro, so Kontador come to the Tour more tired, in Nibali’s benefit?

    To close that, must say I was skeptical on the prediction of INRNG about van den broeck’s ITT (even if he won a world title in youth categories it has never booked any great performance in it when turned pro – except maybe the 4th of Romandie 3 weeks ago), but it revealed just right. Well done.

    • Anonymous Sunday, 24 May 2015, 9:56 am

      I think you mean Contador, irungo txuletac.

  • Anonymous Sunday, 24 May 2015, 9:54 am

    AC may be the winner when the Giro finishes next week. I believe Friday’s stage was the 2nd fastest Giro stage ever! see they don’t need pills and potions to ride like nutters.

  • J Evans Sunday, 24 May 2015, 10:03 am

    If I was Contador I’d be looking to finish off my rivals today, whilst they’re weak and have an easy last week, so I could rest up for the Tour.

    • irungo txuletak Sunday, 24 May 2015, 10:44 am

      The plan might be to ride hard Daone (probably with the help of Astana – that may help dropping some rivals already at this point) , to respond attacks if any in the first ks of Madonna di Campiglio, then to attack in the steeper last ks.

  • Tovarishch Sunday, 24 May 2015, 10:09 am

    Uran is, I guess, still uffering the continued effects of bronchitis. It is not something you shake in a few days and the only real help is steroids. I think Inrng is right to point out Porte’s inability to hold the wheel after the puncture and perhaps the TTT should have told us that the weight loss regime has had effects on his trialling.

    • The Inner Ring Sunday, 24 May 2015, 10:24 am

      Uran is saying it’s the Imola crash, he is store and can’t push hard.

  • Tovarishch Sunday, 24 May 2015, 10:11 am

    Still think Kiriyenka is Brian O’Driscoll’s long lost twin. Both bloody tough, too.

    • hoh Sunday, 24 May 2015, 11:26 am

      Still, he’s smile in the hot seat is cute (okay, English is not my first language…). Somebody somewhere should make some emo-cons out of him.

  • Dan Sunday, 24 May 2015, 10:12 am

    So disappointing. Yet another Grand Tour that’s a complete procession.

    • ronytominger Sunday, 24 May 2015, 10:23 am

      come on theres so much more to it than that. plenty of exciting things are still to come

    • The Inner Ring Sunday, 24 May 2015, 10:27 am

      I think you might have missed the first two weeks? Just teasing but there’s more to come, Contador looks in a good position but what will the others day and there’s also the back story of Contador needing to try and do this on “cruise control” because the Tour de France is getting very close.

    • Finn Sunday, 24 May 2015, 10:43 am

      We all knew it would very likely be a Contador victory from the moment he said he would ride

      • Shawn Sunday, 24 May 2015, 3:25 pm

        Not sure I felt that way once he hit the ground and partially separated his shoulder.

  • irungo txuletak Sunday, 24 May 2015, 10:46 am

    Curious about how van den broek will be in the mountains. He wasn’t at his best in Romandie, but maybe he is now better. In that case he is a candidate to podium.

  • Bert Sunday, 24 May 2015, 11:29 am

    “anti-passo”, that was a nice one!

    • gabriele Sunday, 24 May 2015, 1:14 pm

      +1!

  • Anonymous Sunday, 24 May 2015, 12:10 pm

    That Rigoberto Uran is still in contention for the podium with the crashes, the illness and reduced team support is really impressive.

    • PT Sunday, 24 May 2015, 12:52 pm

      He’s hungry like a wolf.

      • AJW Tuesday, 26 May 2015, 3:37 am

        But what happens tomorrow?

  • GMT Sunday, 24 May 2015, 12:45 pm

    Porte lost 4:20 & may have also lost the keys to the caravan! That was brilliant!

  • J Evans Sunday, 24 May 2015, 7:51 pm

    Surprised Contador didn’t try to take more time out of Aru – but glad he didn’t.
    Also surprised by Landa’s Froome-esque tactics (although he followed them through, unlike Froome).

    • STS Sunday, 24 May 2015, 8:47 pm

      While he did not look very sharp (and slim) at the beginning of the Giro to me Contador has now evidently reached a shape where a ride like today’s is rather training than racing for him. Unless he has an untimely mechanical or a crash he will win the Giro comfortably – as you also already stated several days ago – with or without any team mates accompanying him in the finales. And he will try to limit the efforts to the necessary minimum. Today it seemed he would have liked to win the stage but not too badly since he evidently has bigger goals this season.
      I suppose he recently did not do much high intensity stuff to start the race as recovered as possible. Now he clearly has pulled up his shape but will try to ease back the intensities not go too deep and try to transfer the shape he has now into some kind of a plateau which he wants to be able to more or less keep the same for the coming five weeks.
      If it works out he will be able to still add some 3 to 5% in the second half of the TdF. Which will be necessary given that the competition he will face there is of another caliber than those he has to deal with in this Giro.
      But that means that he might not win a stage in this Giro.

      • J Evans Sunday, 24 May 2015, 10:05 pm

        Good points. And his only reason to take more time is in case of disaster.
        I also think that – knowing Contador – he might have made a deal to let Landa take the stage. He did chat to Aru and Contador likes to make allies for the future.

        • STS Sunday, 24 May 2015, 10:15 pm

          Yes, probably. Otherwise talking on the last km when someone else is going to win the stage does not make much sense.

  • Anonymous Sunday, 24 May 2015, 11:08 pm

    Contador is a tactical and psychological genius. Just like Riis…