Giro Stage 18 Preview

An uphill time trial but one that’s not strictly mountainous as it features wide roads with a regular gradient and fresh tarmac.

Indeed today’s course offers the kind of certainty and mild weather that Giro organisers RCS crave ahead of the big mountain stages on Friday and Saturday which are threatened by poor weather.

Yesterday’s Stage: readers of these daily previews were not caught out but the final climb and narrow roads yesterday seemed to surprise others. With its one star rating and lone climb, many took it for a sprint stage but closer analysis revealed otherwise and we saw the proof on the climb to Crosara. OPQS set the pace and Cavendish was initially well-placed but the gradient was too much. Ahead Giovanni Visconti was the strongest rider, able to bridge across to the move up the road and then go solo. Behind the others could not organise the chase and the Italian kept on the power, presumably to the delight of Campagnolo who were celebrating their 80th anniversary.

It would be easier to cheer Visconti’s two stage wins if he wasn’t suspended last winter after documents were flushed out from the ongoing judicial investigation in Padua that linked him to Michele Ferrari. He denied doping, has every right to ride now and there’s no reason to suspect foul play in the Giro, indeed Cycling Weekly’s Gregor Brown wrote about this yesterday which is worth a read.

The Route: there’s not much to it. The start is novel with half a lap of the Velodrome in Mori before exiting into the town and starting the climb on the slopes of Monte Baldo in no time. The climb can be divided into three parts:

  • first, as far as the Brento, the road is wide and regular, constantly climbing at about 6% on a new surface
  • A short and gentle descent into Brento for the time check and then a false flat for about 3 km
  • The final 7 km of constant climbing at 7-8% all the way to the line

Journalist Guillaume Prébois has visited to check the route and his photos and videos speak for themselves.

The Scenario: the wide roads and regular gradients make this a course for those able to deploy their time trial skills uphill rather than the kind of terrain where mountain goats get to improvise. Holding an aero position matters because riders could be at 25km/h on the uphill sections. Above all experience in pacing is needed, to hold a steady rate all the way up and to sustain the power for the upper slopes.

It’s hard to see Vincenzo Nibali losing. He was fine in the long time trial but the Giro’s third week can throw up surprises. The GC is looking solid now with riders spaced by big intervals. Cadel Evans was fastest up the final hill that day so it’ll be interesting to watch him today. Even if Evans were to win today, it’s hard to see him making much of a dent into Nibali’s lead. But with the weather threatening the rest of the race today is the day for Nibali to win his stage on the way to winning the race overall.

Riders will set off at one minute intervals except for the final 15 riders who go every three. This matters because on a long climb a rider can see the man ahead and have a target to chase. But it means the riders in the top-10 won’t have this to aim for.

It’s hard to see less riders on GC surprising like Alex Dowsett did for the Stage 8 time trial. Still the likes of Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp), Kanstantsin Siutsou (Team Sky) could set early times to beat and Astana’s Tanel Kangert is riding very well although perhaps he needs to save his legs for the next two days? A mention of FDJ’s Francis Mourey, the cyclo-cross champ who could cope well with the intense effort and sits 22nd overall.

For everyone else this is a day off. Riders must meet the time cut to avoid being eliminated but pushing a big gear to the top is to invite sore legs ahead of the big mountain stages to come and many will try to conserve energy so they can cope with what is coming. In other words this is race for some but a tempo ride for most.

Weather: a light tailwind and some sunshine mean the forecast for today isn’t the story. Instead it’s the next two days in the mountains. Friday’s short but vertical trip over the Gavia and Stelvio is looking particularly threatened. Snow is forecast and even if the roads can be kept open, the prospect of descending in sub-zero temperatures could be too extreme. RCS race boss Mauro Vegni will be working overtime to make the race happen, it could be that we get the final climb only but this is not known for now.

TV: it’s not technical and watching riders pace themselves uphill whilst hidden behind large visors is not great TV. Nibali will be the last to leave at 4.33pm Euro time so tune in for the final 45 minutes to see how he fares.

History: Eddy Merckx won a road stage of the Giro in 1970 that, like today’s stage, finished in Polsa. It was the day he took the overall lead in the Italian race.

Eddy Merckx Giro

24 thoughts on “Giro Stage 18 Preview”

  1. Although, there are two more mountain stages to go, Nibali should win this stage otherwise it could be like Contador of 2008 when he won the maglia rosa without a single stage win.

    • It’s possible that not only will Nibali win GC without having won a stage; but that Evans will win the Points Jersey and Betancur the White jersey, also without having won a stage.

      Furthermore it’s possible that Cav will make it over the mountains to win the final stage and still lose the points jersey to Evans despite having won 5 stages. Would that be fair?

      Has there ever been a Grand Tour when all of the main jerseys were won by riders who never won a stage in that year’s race?

      • …and Pirazzi hasn’t won a stage yet…

        Strazzer did win the maglia ciclamino in 2001, without taking any stage, in spite of Cipollini winning 4.

        The points classification (called, interestingly, “regularity classification”, in the Vuelta) isn’t, I think, especially intended to reward the most successful sprinter, but the rider who is most adept at finishing regularly in high placings.

    • Hmm. A while back I had this as the stage that Wiggins would make a significant gain on Nibali. Not sure I can see Nibali winning the stage, although with many taking it easy today and few TT specialists, he probably won’t lose much time, maybe a bit to Evans.

      • Oh well, about as wrong as I could be! Nibali does look as if he’s improved all round and produced a great performance.

  2. Could anyone clarify if there are points available for the red jersey today please? I’ve heard contrasting reports…

    Nibali has been the dominant rider of the race by a distance so I’m going for an appropriate stage win for him today.

  3. This sort of stages were great fun in the pre-EPO era, and caused a lot of surprises. It was very difficult to forecast how you would perform on a single climb like that, after so many days of racing. Blood-doping seemed to make everything more predictable: uphill TTs would basically replicate the GC. It was probably very easy to plan when and how you would alter your blood parameters for this very stage. If we have no big surprises today, it might be an indicator of the direction cycling is taking. Gaps should at any rate be quite considerable today.

    • Well no big surprises. That settles it then — cycling is going nowhere. But we know that — denial notwithstanding of course!

  4. You have raised an interesting point. What if, WHAT IF, on a day like TODAY (late in the race, short day) all the NON-contenders (20+ minutes off GC) were just left out of the race?!? It is just a curiosity. Yes, I know people that come for the show will miss out seeing 200+ riders dressed like speed racers, but than again, it is only a 30 minute race and you would get an extra rest day for the gregarios, which could sparkle even greater racing on the following days… Maybe I am just tripping… But, what a heck is a fun thought.

    • That would mean that those left out would not have completed the entire Giro course and would not, therefore, be eligible for any prize or jersey.

      Top 3 in Mountains eliminated (jersey to Betancur);
      Cav eliminated – Points to Evans;
      Intermediate Sprints comp – all eliminated;
      Top 4 combative eliminated (Betancur wins);
      Top 2 Azzurri d’Italia eliminated (Betancur wins)
      No Team Prize;

      hmmm. Are you a Betancur fan? Is this a cunning plan?

      • Well, I think guys competing, such as Cav, Betancur and what not, would need to go…But I am talking about all the other 100 gregarios…They really could care less. Anyway, it was just a brainstorm type of activity! 🙂

  5. To be honest, this is more Wiggins territory than Nibali’s. He’d probably prevail as the race leader but Evans might make good progress on him.

    I wonder how would Uran fare today and whether his previous ITT performance was a result of the technical nature of the course (as per Nibali) or actually his time trial power.

  6. Merckx certainly cut a fine figure back then, hard not to have a man crush…

    Will be interesting to see equipment choices today, how many will opt for aero bars on the road bike vs the full TT rig?

  7. Did we witness a Campagnolo equipped team “gifted” the stage into Vicenza yesterday? The chase seemed to falter when initially it seemed destined to catch Nibali.

  8. What kind of equipment will be used today? Aero bars, solid wheels? Or, just a regular climbing bike?

    Unfortunately, I will now know until photos are posted, TV (non-)coverage on this side of the Pond being what it is.

    • I reckon we’ll see the front runners and TT-specialists in full TT kit- but it appears some back markers and sprinters are going with regular and/or climbing bikes without aero bars.

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