Giro Stage 9 Preview

Another day, another jagged profile? Stage 9 sees the race tackle more climbs as the race rides along the spine of Italy’s Apennine mountains but the climbs are more linear and predictable thanks to regular grades and reasonable descents.

A day for a breakaway as the race reaches the stunning city of Florence with its history, art and cycling heritage.

Yesterday’s Stage: question marks still hang over Bradley Wiggins but now they’re smaller. The stage didn’t go to plan for him yet he still set a fast time. A bike change along the way didn’t help – arguably this cost him the stage win. But he was expected to put minutes into his rivals, instead he gained seconds. The script has changed and rather than defending his lead for the next two weeks, Wiggins now has to attack. It’s not as far-fetched as it sounds, he went up yesterday’s final climb like a rat up a drainpipe.

The time gaps were not as big as feared, good news if you want suspense. Nibali rode better than some expected. He described the first half of the course as “almost as if it was designed for me” and that’s true, it had more twists than a Chubby Checker concert. But his riding in the second half impressed too and he’s been working hard over the winter to improve his aerodynamics, teaming up with Formula 1 and Moto GP technicians. Cadel Evans did gret – the fastest on the final climb – and the somewhat stealthy Robert Gesink. A surprise was Michele Scarponi, in tenth place.

Some say Hesjedal was the big loser but he’s just not a time trial specialist and his top-20 spot is about what you’d expect on a good day going by past results. If he’s lighter than last year, bring on the mountains and we’ll see him attack. But enough looking ahead, we should salute Alex Dowsett’s win, the 24 year old beat everyone on the day and on course that wasn’t ideal for him. His move to Movistar is working out for him but also for the team and it’s worth noting his hemophilia, a tough condition for the accident-prone job of a pro cyclist.

Also a word on the TV production. If riders are racing against the clock then we need more than on-screen stopwatch. Simply filming a rider in their aero tuck for 60 minutes is not exciting, the drama comes in their performance relative to others. More time checks, virtual positions and more are worth considering as time trials need production tools for TV although with care as too much information can detract.

The Route: a steady day in the mountains. The stage starts at 12.40 meaning the race will find itself riding through the waft of Sunday lunch in Tuscany, a cruel prospect for the bunch who can only tuck into gels and bars. If the profile looks lively the roads are not too fierce. The Passo Della Consuma looks big but it’s wide and a 4% average although some more Alpine sections along the way. The Vallombrosa climb is harder but again nothing to fear, typically 6% but with a section above 10% for a while. The climb of Vetta le Croci is 22km from the finish and a good place for a final selection with its steep ramps.

As for the final climb into Fiesole, the roads borrow from the worlds course but not wholly, as only a part of the climb is shared with September’s race. It has a brief steep section but is mostly 4-5% and so nothing too selective.

The Finish: the gradient is the big deal, look at all the hazard signs that warn of bends, junctions and more. It’s not crazy but the hills today will help thin the field rather than sending a bunch thundering at 60km/h into the obstacle course.

The Scenario: a short stage, a fast day. The stage finishes in Florence, capital of Italy’s renaissance but one lesson from that time is that prodigious wealth allowed the accumulation of wealth. So who wins, the wealthy super-teams or the smaller artisan squads?

Many riders are now on double-digit time deficits meaning an exit visa for the day is assured so a lively first hour of racing seems likely with many wanting to get in the day’s breakaway. Vincenzo Nibali can even afford to lose the overall lead with the hope of taking it back later, ideally surrendering the lead to another team means his Astana squad save their energy for another day.

Keep an eye on the Vini Fantini team. Charismatic manager Luca Scinto drives into his home region. He called Stage 7 – Adam Hansen’s day – “my world championship” but despite setting his team to work he achieved little. As journalist Daniel Friebe wrote, Vini Fantini rode if they had Peter Sagan on their team. Perhaps they’ll come up empty again but expect them to try. If not, watch for Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil-DCM), Angel Vicioso (Katusha) or Fabio Felline (Androni) but don’t bet the ranch on them, it’s an open stage for anyone and that alone makes it worth watching.

Weather: the Giro’s official song of Mezza Estate or midsummer is still sounding the wrong notes but today is forecast to bring dry weather and sunshine. However the heat is absent with temperatures between 18-22°C (64-72°F).

TV: as usual the finish is planned for around 5.15pm. Tune in at least an hour earlier to watch the scenic roads and the hilly finish.

Local info: the race is in the region of Toscana or Tuscany and will pay tribute to Gino Bartali. The Italian champion was born on the outside of Florence. Often defined by his rivalry with Fausto Coppi, he won the Tour de France twice and the Giro.

If you can speak Spanish or Italian, here’s a gem of a documentary from Spanish TV’s Informe Robinson show this week presented by Englishman Michael Robinson. It’s well produced, informative yet unpretentious. And even if the languages are not for you, the imagery and characters for 25 minutes are still recommended, whether as a document of cycling or Florence, today’s stage finish. If only there were more documentaries like this in English to share.

34 thoughts on “Giro Stage 9 Preview”

  1. Don’t know why everyone seems to be surprised by yesterday’s result. Nibali was only 3 seconds slower than Dowsett on the Tirreno Adriatico TT. Much shorter but pan-flat and requiring perfect technique. Even Wiggins suggested that he wasn’t going to take much out of Nibali. Despite the route supposedly favouring Wiggins the number of technical sections seem to play into Nibali’s hands – Acquarone seems to have done an excellent job of balancing the opportunities for the 2 favourites.

    Michael Robinson, despite being born in Leicester played football for the Republic of Ireland. Not sure what nationality that makes him but I couldn’t detect a Leicester accent (calling everyone me patos!)

  2. The past week of the Giro has illustrated to me just how incomplete Wiggins is as a rider compared to Evans or Nibali. He’s a supercharged, hemi-head V8 engine in a shopping-cart chassis. Almost won the chrono despite cornering like a wheelbarrow full of mercury while the guys with smaller engines were railing the curves like MOTOGP. He should wait until La Corsa Rosa goes into France to try his luck, perhaps on French roads his limited arsenal can be effective as it was last year at LeTour? Even BigMig was a pretty decent descender in his day, but Wiggo seems to be pretty much all motor and nothing else at present. I don’t believe guys like that should win Grand Tours…though they do in France quite often it seems.

    • Well, track cyclist don’t really turn at all, velodromes supposedly make you go straight if it is built properly. Neither do track cyclist ascend or decent, though the former problem can be resolved through raw power.

      I suppose that’s what Sir Wiggo is. You can train power output or air dynamic positions or even explosiveness as they are physical attributes. But things like decent or how you corner is different, they are mental.

      Tim Krabbe noted that one’s mind does not adapt as quickly as one’s body, especially when you’ve past 30 (or close to it as was in Krabbe’s case). Get Sir Wiggo to do demon decent or tight corners is only likely to cause unforced errors, there certainly are more efficient way to improve (or just retire). I’d say he did well yesterday, rode to his own style rather than trying to force it. As to whether that’s good enough would be a separate issue.

  3. I guess Wiggins doesn’t cope well with wet roads. Tenerife and the track tend to be dry !

    An additional observation is that although he has a big engine, he still lacks the ability to accelerate on climbs – something of a mystery, which I understand he spent the earlier part of the year trying to rectify. This limitation is fine on long constant gradient climbs, as found in the TdF, but a serious handicap on the shorter steeper climbs where being distanced because of a lack of acceleration is a huge disadvantage. This was well illustrated on stage 7, where he had been distance on the climb before the descent where he crashed.

    I think his TdF win should be applauded, even if it was a little unexciting to watch.

  4. A couple of notes.

    TV production: yesterday was perhaps the worst, still it is a usual feature of RAI productions to leave most information to the (very good, let’s admit) presenters. The problem is that Eurosport presenters are typically nowhere as informed – don’t they have access to the race radio? – and often rely only on the TV screen.

    The stage shares one climb and one descent with the Worlds, but they are in the opposite direction. That is, today’s last climb, the one into Fiesole, will be a downhill in the Worlds, and today’s last downhill into Florence will be the first climb of the Worlds circuit.

    Passo della Consuma and Vallombrosa are harder than what the profile shows, but too far from finish to make a difference.

      • Francesco Pancani is the main voice of Italian cycling these days with Auro Bulbarelli moving up into more of a director’s role. Didn’t much care for him at first, but he’s grown on me. I miss Paolo Savoldelli on the moto though Andrea DiLuca does an OK job. While Alessandra DiStefano does a great job on the post-race show, I miss her in the interviews with the riders at the finish – she was the best at those.

  5. What do people make of Declan Quigley in the box, rather than David Harmon? I enjoyed his commentary during the Tour Series highlights on freeview in the UK last year, but he started to grate on me a little during yesterday’s coverage – his gob never seems to stop, Sean Kelly has to fight to get a word in.

    An improvement on Carlton Kirby, mind.

    • Would agree – DQ is really detracting from my enjoyment of the race and I’ve watched far less of each stage than I would have otherwise because I just can’t listen to him ramble on with one cliché after another. At times I’ve had to mute him just for a break from his nonsense. SK has never been so quite – if DQ had intelligent incisive things to say fair enough but he doesn’t.

    • DQ is a bit like Phil Liggett in my mind: A lot of talk peppered with cliches all with very little information conveyed. Where is Dave Harmon?

    • I think he’s doing a pretty good job, he seems to have more of a rapport with Sean Kelly (or maybe Kelly is just a bit more gregarious this year). A couple of things yesterday that I was surprised with though, when they thought that Wiggins had passed Henao and Kelderman when he clearly hadn’t, and when they were questioning whether riders could use aero bottles (surely if the commissaires have cleared them to ride then they’re ok), little details but I would have thought the commentators would be aware of these things.

  6. Eurosport’s coverage is sorely lacking David Harmon for this Giro. I quite like the paring of Mssrs Quigley & Kelly, but Quigley lacks Harmon’s detailed knowledge (including identification of individual riders at key times in the race) & it seems Kelly is having to fill those kmowledge gaps on his behalf.

  7. Paradoxically it looks as though the mountains will be the Race of Truth in this Giro. I am going to wait and see what Wiggins can do in the mountains before I judge him too harshly. He can descend, very well in fact, remember Catalunya this year, and in 2012, he has an edge of craziness and great courage, he just seems to have lost his Mojo this week. Three weeks is a Looong time!!!

  8. Of course most people expected Wiggo to win the stage or be close but who are all these people who expeced him to put minutes in to his key rivals that I keep hearing about?

    I thought he did a great ride considering a flat and his dodgy descending. I hope he goes for the athlete’s hour record at some point considering his power. The chinks in his armour that are appearing will definitely make rivals attack him which makes for a great race over the coming weeks. Every neutral fan must be on the edge of their seats.

  9. Maybe, just maybe it was Sky’s clever plan to give the pink jersey to another team for the moment. It’s a common tactical move in three week races. If you think about it Sky would have been forced to control the race for two hard weeks had they won the jersey yesterday! You saw how fast Wiggo went on the second part of the course compared to the first part. It was a bit curious, wasn’t it? Maybe he just got an indication of how fast Nibali and Evans were going and adjusted his pace accordingly. It’s all about calculation like Sean Kelly keeps telling us every day 😉

    • That’s a good point Mats, reducing attacks from Nibali, Evans, Hesjedal, Gesink and others would be a tough two weeks for Uran and Henao (the Sky train definitively looks weaker than last years TdF version). But surely, if that was Sky’s clever plan they too must have been surprised by Nibali’s time, as Wiggo’s 1.16 deficit is a minute too much at this stage of the race.

  10. Wiggo : all drills, no skills.

    You can’t teach panache and you certainly can’t learn a set of cojones. Until he grows his own pair and starts to race like he’s willing to lose (ala Nibali) he’s going to come up short. Can’t wait for the big hills!

  11. heh, liking the Wiggo love in the comments. When Wiggo was winning everything people were praising him and now suddenly he can’t descend, climb or ride his bike. I don’t like Wiggo much either but I don’t think he’s a one-dimensional rider. Kerrison and Brailsford claimed before the start of the Giro that Wiggo is in the form of his life but we didn’t see the numbers. I guess we don’t need to see them. Also, the Giro parcours was never going to be Wiggins territory who’s more comfortable on the steady gradients of the Alps and the Pyrennees.

    Today’s stage seem to be a potluck, Vacansoleil will be desperate for a stage win so Marcato will be in the break, same will be true for Vini-Fantini. But I predict a TST victory – Manuele Boaro anyone?

  12. Agree on the sketchy TV production.

    It was a great TT route with the technical section, power section, climb finale format. The splits seemed ideally placed for these distinct sectors but then there was a total lack of information.

    That said I still thoroughly enjoyed it, just a shame it could have been even better watching.

    • I would agree with that. great shame the tv production don’t make it far more exciting with on screen time checks. TT’s are not my favourite stage by a long chalk but let me know what’s going on, its hardly rocket science!

  13. Could all the Mystic Negs get together and tell me the losing Lottery numbers for next Saturday. Then I can sort out the one winning number. Thankyou

  14. I think the situation is now perfect for an exciting Giro, that is already exciting.
    As Inrng said, and I am thinking the same, Wiggins will have to attack sooner or later, so that can only make the racing more ‘human’, less SRM-oriented, more fun to watch.
    May the best win!
    (but I am not rooting for the Sir.)

  15. Looking forward to the first rendezvous amongst the kom competitors ! Nice stage and a technical finish. Not exactly Wiggo territory. Disappointed to see Ryder drop anchor and drag home two minutes in arrears. His TT and TT performance were un Garmin like. Should be an exciting stage. Rain in the finale will make for an interesting finish.

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