Giro d’Italia Stage 2 Preview

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Day 2 and the mountains already. The race climbs to 1,000 metres above sea level. These are gentle climbs though and we’ll see which of the sprinters want to fight for the stage. The big factor could be the wind which is forecast to pick up for the finish.

Stage 1 Wrap: the race hadn’t even started before two Bardiani-CSF riders were ejected following A-sample “non-negative” tests for a banned hormone. Stefano Pirazzi and Nicola Ruffoni were sent packing and leave the Italian wildcard team with seven riders and a lot of explaining to do, and under the UCI’s collective punishment rules the team is facing a suspension which will fall as soon as the governing body’s Disciplinary Commission meets and hears the case meaning the entire squad could be stopped mid-Giro. The team issued a brief press release saying they’d fire the two riders if the B-samples come back positive while Nicola Ruffoni took to Facebook to say he’ll fight the case and awaits the B-test, blaming antibiotics.

It’s important to remember there’s a race too. Stage 1 started and break went immediately with six riders in search of the mountain points on offer and Cesare Benedetti of Bora-Hansgrohe – the most Polish of Italian cyclists, even ahead of Jakub Mareczko – took enough points to take the blue jersey, a successful day for his team already. The inevitable sprint finish loomed. A tight corner with 3.5km to go where the road needed to be narrowed by barriers right on the corner lined out the bunch and cost Steven Kruijswijk a few seconds. Ahead the sprint trains never quite got going or they seemed to run out of puff. Except for Bora-Hansgrohe’s Lukas Pöstlberger who was more like a runaway wagon as he rode off the front. He had a gap and normally it looked like the kind of move that would last seconds and at best force others to chase but behind the riders on the front of the peloton resembled owls as they rotated their necks to look back and see who would chase. Meanwhile Pöstlberger kept the power on – 5th in the E3 Harelbeke – and kept going to win. He becomes the first Austrian to lead a grand tour since Max Bulla in 1931 Tour de France.

The Route: 221km inland and into the hills, this is a hard day on rolling roads but without anything too spicy. The first marked climb of the day to Nuoro is gentle but the descent is steeper.

The Genna Silana pass is long but gentle, 3.2% and 19.6km in the roadbook but since it climbs before the intermediate sprint the road is more like 26km at 3.2% and in fact the steepest part of the climb is a kilometre at 6% right at the start. After that it’s often 3-4% on the way up, it climbs but being sat on a wheel helps so much. The descent is gradual and fast but the kind you need to pedal a lot rather than coast down in an aero tuck.

The Finish: they take the main road in and around Tortolì, a long run with straight roads and regular corners but it’s narrow in places, notably with 2.5km to go as the skirt the town’s zona industriale and at 2km there’s a pinch-point over a level crossing just before the right turn. From here it’s one long finishing straight, into a headwind.

The Contenders: it’s hilly but the gradual gradients shouldn’t be too much for the sprinters. Shouldn’t as in the conditional because if the peloton, or sections of it, really wants to rip things up then it is possible to shred the bunch. The chances of this happening seem low but it’d be wonderful to be wrong. A breakaway could work on a course like this but several big teams have an interest in containing the race because their sprinters can take the maglia rosa today or, if not, tomorrow

Assuming a sprint Caleb Ewan showed great finishing speed in the finish yesterday and once again he’ll find a finishing straight to suit him and his aero style. André Greipel was close too and so he’s the second pick, short of more information it’s hard to find more picks. Fernando Gaviria was absent in the sprint yesterday, or rather he was out of place as they rode into Olbia and so his 12th place wasn’t made in the sprint but before. All three can handle a climb too but Greipel is better on shorter efforts rather than a long one, Gaviria could be the best for such a long effort and then a sprint. Nathan Haas is an outside tip in case things get spicy because he can climb well and finishes fast.

Caleb Ewan, Fernando Gaviria
André Greipe
Modolo, Bennett, Nizzolo, Haas

Weather: windy by the coast, the direction will shift from an onshore wind around lunchtime to an offshore one late in the afternoon meaning a headwind for the finishing straight it’ll blow with gusts of 20-40km/h by the coast and pleasant temperatures of 25°C.

TV: the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CET. There’s live coverage on home broadcaster RAI in Italy and Eurosport for much of Europe and beyond. Otherwise cyclingfans.com and steephill.tv are the go-to sites for schedules and pirata feeds.

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Boris May 6, 2017 at 8:04 am

Sbaragli is good pick on this one I think

J Evans May 6, 2017 at 8:07 am

Ruffoni ‘blaming antibiotics’ – he should at least have asked someone with the faintest knowledge of biology to come up with an even vaguely plausible excuse. He might just as well have blamed magic frogs. Was Pirazzi on these same bizarre AB’s that somehow affect GHRP levels?
Kruijswijk losing seconds shows precisely why races should not be ‘stopped’ for GC with 3km to go. Skill, tactics and bravery should still count – and they do if you don’t get yourself near the front and a split happens, or, more rarely, if a GC contender decides to go for it. Cycling is sanitised enough.
On a similar note, people complain about the Giro’s more technical sprint finishes, but that adds skill into the mix and I’m all for it.
Brilliant by Pöstlberger – seemed to happen accidentally, but then he went for it (bit of a buttock-clenching moment when he sat up to celebrate so early).
Bora should try to drop the sprinters in order to keep Pöstlberger in pink. I also thought at the time that he should have sprinted to the line and maybe taken that vital 1 second gap.

David May 6, 2017 at 9:03 am

Have to agree, he looked to be sitting up early enough to be caught at the line

Michael B May 6, 2017 at 9:29 am

I can understand how, in the moment, he sat up early. It’s obviously a totally unexpected win so who knows what was going through his mind. But he did sit up a long, long way out and if he loses the pink jersey today on countback to Ewan or Greipal he’s going​ to be kicking himself I’m sure. Still, congratulations to him as it’s a career defining win (at this moment in his career at least).

Ecky Thump May 6, 2017 at 10:27 am

I wonder if RCS haven’t rather cut off their nose to spite their face with the lack of top sprinters that have been invited though.
At the risk of a Kirby-ism, it was a real sprint fest last year; this year the party’s rather flat?

J Evans May 6, 2017 at 10:50 am

Don’t make me come over there.

RonDe May 6, 2017 at 11:43 am

I’m not sure I follow. Sprinters being invited? Which sprinters could they have “invited” that aren’t there? The sprinters that aren’t there either prefer the Tour (for reasons I shouldn’t need to explain) or they are injured. As it is, only the Italian sprinters will probably go to Milan because the sprinters that do turn up only want to grab a stage win or two and then go home. But in none of this do I see how it is RCS’s fault. The problem they have is they are not the Tour de France and there’s nothing they can do about that.

Ecky Thump May 6, 2017 at 12:31 pm

After the early exodus of last year, this time we’re missing Kittel (Gaviria is an excellent replacement), Demare, Viviani.
Degenkolb hasn’t come, Bouhanni and Howard’s teams weren’t invited.
Arguably some of the lead-out trains are as strong either…

Ecky Thump May 6, 2017 at 12:35 pm

*aren’t* as strong

gabriele May 6, 2017 at 4:00 pm

Ecky, my answer below. Just a doubt: what significant sprinter are you speaking about when you name some “Howard”?

gabriele May 6, 2017 at 3:57 pm

If I got it right, the question is “why the sprinters’ field is less deep than in other years?”.
In that sense, the Tour argument is rather weak, because the Tour always (well, for the last five decades or so 🙂 ) was more important than the Giro, and Ecky looks like to be comparing the Giro with itself, that is, with its previous editions. Besides, taking part in the Giro was historically quite compatible with also doing the Tour – if a sprinter is good enough, obviously, and we don’t have great sprinters, presently (good ol’ Cav is the best of the rest, and I’d stress “old”).

Part of the “problem” in this edition’s case – the kind of problem you’d better *have* – depends on the sheer quantity of strong and credible Maglia rosa/podium/GC pretenders: several teams just decided not to bring a sprinter in order to better support an “all-in” GC bet. Viviani is the main example, but the same is true for Demare and FDJ.
Kristoff’s Katusha has got Zakarin, Dumoulin’s Giant renounced to Matthews (apparently, he wasn’t hugely happy to skip the Giro, either), Hofland or Groenewegen would occupy a spot in a LottoNL-Jumbo which perhaps would rather not repeat last year’s mistake leaving Kruijswijk alone.

Note that Katusha, Quickstep (two of the four more powerful teams in the sport gave up from start TdF’s GC), LottoNL-Jumbo, Giant, Lotto Soudal, and DD, if you want, didn’t enter last Tour with any strong GC ambition. FDJ didn’t bring Demare to last Tour. The fact that many teams didn’t go to the last Tour seriously hoping for a great GC was indeed one of the motives behind a technically disappointing edition.

Add to that the fact that some teams have two sprinters and might prefer to bring just one of them: Kittel, on this year’s course, is theoretically easier to be cut off from the sprints than Gaviria… no Netherlands this time, sorry!
Trek, besides needing to support Mollema, has got the winner of last edition’s point classification, dressed in the Italian champion’s jersey. Degenkolb is stronger on paper, but how do you support both? Or how could you force Nizzolo to work for Dege, which hasn’t got back to his best level, either? Two sprint trains (totalling at least four gregari) ? And what about Mollema? After all, he was fighting for a podium during last year’s TdF, you can’t send him to the Giro without a serious support.

Bouhanni’s Cofidis didn’t ask an invite for the Giro because it really needs to perform both in the Tour and in the Vuelta and isn’t deep enough to tackle three GTs a year. Moreover, Bouhanni is currently injured.

I just miss Cav, but he already gave a lot to the Giro in his best years.
And Sagan, if you want to count him in as a sprinter. But he’ll hardly ever skip California because of sponsor reasons.

Dave May 6, 2017 at 4:07 pm

According to interviews I heard he was working for Sam Bennett but drew the gap accidentally as it got twisty, until Bennett saw how big the gap was and shouted into the radio for postlberger to go for it.

I think the camera did it’s usual shortening trick and his celebration was safer than it looked.

Ablindeye May 6, 2017 at 9:59 am

Headwind finish again? Postlberger to ride off the front again, look behind 9 or 10 times, wonder what the hell is going on, think about sitting up, go under the flamme rouge with 20 bike lengths, be deafened by his DS shouting at him to JUST GO GO GO again. I hope he’s switched ears with his earpiece to give the left side a rest.

Ecky Thump May 6, 2017 at 11:17 am

I notice that Thomas is lurking in the background of the finish in the picture above.
Whilst this could be an indictment of the rather chaotic run-in yesterday, I also wonder if it’s a precursor of things to come; that he could use his Classics skills and finish quickly in the hope of catching Quintana napping?
A second here, a second there…and it could force Movistar to put him Quintana in pressure situations in the run-in too?

Just looking at the final kms on Google Street View – I think the Sardinian authorities have used the race as an opportunity to probably smarten up the roads around the industrial estate, keep the local business on side!

RonDe May 6, 2017 at 11:56 am

I note that already on stage 2 Pöstlberger has gone for the full pink outfit (shorts, socks, helmet all pink). How do we feel about riders doing this kind of thing? Towards the end of a race when the actual leadership might be set I can understand this. But on day two by a guy who certainly won’t win and may not even hold the jersey after today? Its a small trifle of an issue, I grant you, but a slight irritant. The pink jersey should be enough at this stage.

The Inner Ring May 6, 2017 at 12:28 pm

In a way he’s paid to get noticed so it’s working. Some outfits look hideous, for example the polka dot jersey in the Tour de France is great but matching shorts looks like a measles outbreak… but taste is personal and if you’re wearing it you probably want to celebrate it. Being the first Austrian in the maglia rosa is special too. We’ll see if he holds onto it now.

Tovarishch May 6, 2017 at 12:50 pm

Orica Scott should change their tops to cyclamen, it really looks good.

Alex SP May 6, 2017 at 1:21 pm

LOL just today there was a guy on the road here wearing that same full pink outfit… and as you can guess he DIDN’T win a Giro stage! Yesterday or ever. Pöstlberger at least is slim & pro & deserving LOL

Megi May 6, 2017 at 6:24 pm

He and his team probably decided that since he was unlikely to keep the jersey they would make the most of the day. Why not? It’s a day he and the team will remember for a verrry long time.

J Evans May 7, 2017 at 3:36 am

I’m with you on this.
Far better to have your day in pink to be the classic look with the historic pink jersey, rather than being bedecked in it.

Graham Miller May 6, 2017 at 12:12 pm

I agree full pink is a bit overboard, but let him have his day!

Marchino May 6, 2017 at 1:02 pm

In stage 1 wrapp there’s a little mistake. The KOM jersey at the Giro is blue, not red

The Inner Ring May 6, 2017 at 1:06 pm

Fixed, you’re right. I’ve also added two lines about the descents off each climb.

j May 6, 2017 at 5:55 pm

Well, like so many, I’m forever deriding the Tour for being dull… sooooo slow.
Not only that, but what happened with the filming of the finish?
In the last few hundred metres we were left watching the back of the group – only catching the very end of the sprint.
Amateur hour.
Still, gives me an opportunity to learn to ignore the pointless stats about heart rate, etc. that they incessantly flash up.
Gaviria barely touched Ewan. As we saw in last year’s Giro, Ewan just can’t hold his own in a sprint.

gabriele May 6, 2017 at 7:48 pm

I’m not sure, but I think that the historical director of cycling TV productions in RAI (Balani) isn’t there anymore. He had been there for a whole lot of years, maybe he just retired or something. Don’t know much about the new director.
Don’t even know if it was because of that or some other strange reason – televising a sprint is usually formulaic and this time it was peculiar, not only because of the prolonged lateral takes but also because the helicopter take in a moment which isn’t usually shown from above. Maybe the new director is the creative type? ^__^

These two stages were really dull, maybe not as much as the Netherlands’ sprints, or the Danish ones (the break offered some action, here), or think also those Irish stages (they had in common beautiful landscapes, at least, and a fine quantity of people along the road when they crossed towns) – but, yeah, under par for me. 2015, 2013 or 2010 are nearly a different sport.

I hope that’s just “normal” – it is, indeed – and not a symptom of what might happen when you deliberately water down the course.

However, it must have been hard for the riders, the reason for the low speed was mainly the *impressive* head wind they had to endure most of the time, especially on the last “climb”. That doesn’t exactly give room to attacks, either.

The Inner Ring May 6, 2017 at 7:50 pm

Yesterday’s coverage on RAI opened with news of a new director, I didn’t note down his name, perhaps this does explain the confused pictures at the finish today?

J Evans May 7, 2017 at 3:39 am

Thanks for the info., both. Let’s hope the director isn’t ‘the creative type’.
Wouldn’t they get a new director to work on lesser races first?

gabriele May 7, 2017 at 2:32 pm

I went reading around on Italian forums and it looks like that, yes, there’s indeed a new director: he’s long been Balani’s helper and he was already in charge of some “minor” races this year, like Strade Bianche. Perhaps the troubles were the sum of different factors: some unexpected technical difficulties happened and a less experienced director couldn’t come up with anything better than this.
However, I wouldn’t rule out some sort of experiment, like: “we’ll show you how does the roadside spectator lives this” (they’re trying harder than ever to involve more people who weren’t interested at all in cycling) or “everybody always said that they prefer the above shot for the sprint, let’s give it a try”.

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