Giro Stage 19 Preview

A late change because of the weather sees less climbing and a small increase in distance but for all the alterations this is still a brutal mountain stage and the Giro cannot alter the weather.

The start and final summit remain but what if the biggest difficulty of the day was the bad weather?

  • Update: today’s stage is cancelled. As suggested below a change of route was one thing but the race can’t avoid the cold weather. Riders will be cheering the extra rest day but will still have to work and go for a ride. The forecast for tomorrow looks better but the stage is far from certain.

Yesterday’s Stage: La Gazzetta described the mountain time trial as “match point” in the Giro. If the stage was a tennis match then Nibali smashed everyone with a grand slam performance whilst Cadel Evans double-faulted along with Mauro Santambrogio who also had a bad day, building on his problems after the rest day on the stage to Vicenza. Robert Gesink suffered too.

It leaves no doubt about Nibali’s superiority. In early stages he’d used attack as a form of defence, stretching and testing other riders but you wondered if this was in part because he’d run out of team mates to set the pace. Now we know he’s just the strongest. But match point has yet to come, the whole point of these mountain stages is to put the riders under pressure.

The Route: the start is the same but instead of heading north, the riders go east to take the Passo Tonale. Listed on the profile above as 7.5% average, it’s actually less and rolls quite fast although it has to two separate stretches where the gradient is above 8% for a kilometre at a time. The road is large, big enough for two coaches carrying skiers to pass without problem in the winter season and the same for the descent. It’s a regular in the Giro and typical fare for a climb early in a stage.

The race turns into the mountains through Preghena, switching to narrow roads and then on to the Passo Castrin, also known as the Hofmadhjoch. It’s new to the Giro, in fact the road is new. So much so the ascension is characterised by a regular road and a very long tunnel to offer temporary shelter but no TV of course. A regular descent follows and then a long section on valley roads.

The Finish: the race funnels up the Val Martello, a wide road that gradually gets steeper and more narrow the further you go. This means the 22.4km distance and average of 6.4% is not real, as the climb gets much tougher than the average suggests. Note the constantly changing gradient on the diagram above, it illustrates just how irregular this climb is.

A series of hairpin bends lie near the finish as the road rears up to 14% and only the final 70 metres are flat.

Weather: snow and freezing temperatures have forced the route to detour but the stage is hardly swinging by the Mediterranean. Instead the race will avoid some of Europe’s highest mountain passes but still finishes two kilometres into the sky.

Today the zero isotherm, the altitude at which the air temperature is 0°C (32°F) will be around 1,400m. In fact the thermometer will be hanging around the freezing point at the start. In addition it’s wet with snow falling at altitudes above 1,000m. This might turn to sleet but it means wet clothes for the riders no matter what.

This means the top of the Tonale and Castrin will freezing and the long descents will be an extreme test. At best it’s a logistical exercise with teams posting staff to supply warm clothing for the descent but warm and dry clothing doesn’t stay like this for long if the weather is foul. At worst, well use your imagination. Imagine a peloton caught between stopping to don layers whilst riders trying to steal an march on the descents, taking time but also taking bigger risks.

In addition cloud cover could interrupt TV coverage but more importantly it means damp clothes and wet roads for the riders. Given all this if they’ve diverted the race there’s still a chance the stage is cancelled or perhaps the riders will be driven in convoy to the final climb?

The Scenario: if the day begins in Ponte di Legno (“Wood Bridge”) many riders will have wooden legs after yesterday’s efforts. The new route will allow riders a chance to stretch the legs because even if some take off to get in a breakaway others can seek shelter on the wheels of others with the early slopes of the Tonale at 5%.

The Passo Castrin is hard but cross the top and you have 80km to go meaning it’s to far for any of the big names to attack because they’ll be reeled in on the long valley roads. This is the real change in the course, the orginal route was either going up or down but now there are long valley sections.

The final climb is so long that a breakaway will need a big advantage and it’ll have to include some good climbers to be in with a chance of staying away. Amongst the big names there are still many hunting for something, whether a place on the GC or a stage win. These two objectives can be opposing goals. A rider trying to secure a high place overall has every incentive to track Vincenzo Nibali for as long as possible and defend their position whilst a stage winner needs to take risks on the final climb.

Nibali seems in such good shape that he might want another stage win. Michele Scarponi has recovered from a mid-race dip in form and could be a threat. But the climb seems suited to the punchy climbers like Carlos Betancur or the confident Rafał Majka, both duelling for the white jersey too.

But the weather is the big story and anything can happen.

TV: this stage is planned to be broadcast in full with live video from 12.30pm Euro time until the finish five hours later. But the weather could hamper the transmission as it did on Stage 14 to Bardonnechia.

Word of the Day: Joch meaning pass in German. The literal translation is “yoke,” the wooden frame used to harness cattle to pull a plough but the Germanic word is used locally in this part of Italy to mean a mountain pass. The famous Passo Stelvio is also known as the Stilfser Joch.

We might think of Italy as a land of Italians but many parts of the country have people speaking regional dialects. In this area of Trentino they speak a different language altogether, German and along the way the riders will pass bilingual road signs warning, say, of hairpin bends in Italian and German.

Top 10 Overall
1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 73:55:58
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:04:02
3 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling 0:04:12
4 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-Merida 0:05:14
5 Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-Merida 0:06:09
6 Rafal Majka (Pol) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:06:45
7 Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Col) Ag2R La Mondiale 0:06:47
8 Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Vini Fantini-Selle Italia 0:07:30
9 Benat Intxausti Elorriaga (Spa) Movistar Team 0:08:36
10 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:09:34

35 thoughts on “Giro Stage 19 Preview”

  1. well, i suppose the race is pretty well wrapped up for Vincenzo, assuming that he doesn’t crash or have some bout of tremendously unfortunate luck?

    • Aside from the first week, this Giro was almost anti-climactic. Once Wiggo got sick and dropped out, and the weather-neutralized Queen Stage coming up with 2nd and 3rd placed riders over 4 minutes in arrears, there’s little suspense left. Nibali bravo!

  2. There are still two podium places wide open. I expect Cuddles will be defending for all he’s worth because Rigoberto will be hungry like the wolf.

    • The real battle remaining is for the other podium places, I think it will be a battle and after the TT Evans will need to ride above himself to fend off Scarponi, let alone Uran.

      • The weather may defend his second place for Evans. I don’t think Uran can take the 10 seconds out of Evans on a flat (unless Sky infect Evans with Sir Wiggo Virus), let alone Scarponi’s minute.

        Hopefully that’s not going to happen.

        Just ask, is it absolutely impossible to reschedule stages rather than simply cancel it?

  3. Great to see Samu Sanchez put in a fine performance yesterday.

    Looking forward to seeing how the Evans / Uran battle plays out as well.

    • Yeah, it was a fantastic ride! I was really hoping Samu gets the stage win, but with Nibali storming to the first time check it was highly unlikely. Even himself said to the reporter that his time won’t be enough. Anyway it was great to see his facial expressions while on the hot seat 🙂

    • Thanks but note all stage previews are freshly-baked each day so there was nothing to change. I find if you pre-write previews then you can’t put in the context of form for different riders, the weather and more.

      We’ll see if the stage goes ahead. There are some webcam images doing the rounds this morning of white snow everywhere but actually the roads can be cleared. The problem will be wet roads and freezing temperatures.

  4. Snow in Cortina this morning where we headed after the crono stage. Might be buying some warmer clothes for tomorrow – if they’re going up ANY of Tre Cime, we’ll be out there! Didn’t come all this way to simply watch TV.

  5. I’m pretty sure a certain Manxman will be absolutely delighted that today has been cancelled. Not only does it mean that he won’t have to drag himself over those mammoth climbs, it surely puts him in with a much greater chance of winning the Maglia Rossa.

    • The Passo Tonale is blocked because of snow. The finish is open but could change too with snow at 1000 metres. But temperature matters, racing in subzero conditions for hours is almost impossible.

      • Well, if the Tonale is closed, not only to car traffic, but even for bicycles, there must have been something like a historic avalanche or else the snow plough operators are on strike. On temperature, dunno, I know a few people who can certainly ride at -5º for a few hours if fed. And I’m talking about amateurs, without Castelli super-expensive gear or two-part gloves or thermal balaclava or things like that. Riding today in those conditions would have actually made excellent advertising for some Italian brands.

        • I’m disappointed we won’t get today’s stage in either the changed form or the original. But I don’t blame them for cancelling things. We’re talking about 5-6 hours in subzero temperatures while wearing clothes that are dripping wet from sleet & snow. That is bad for human beings. Combine that with avalanche threats, I’m sorry but you are being unrealistic.

          • I’m not there so I can’t be sure that the cancellation is unjustified. But the temperature argument, alone, doesn’t stand, imho. But at the very least, Danilo di Luca should be forced to ride today. 😉

  6. For those who watch Eurosport in English, I wonder how much the absense of David Harmon has contributed to the slightly dull feeling of the race. Declan has done a valiant job but he doesn’t bring the racing to life, seems to struggle to recognise all but the most well known of riders and has singularly failed to engage Sean Kelly in conversation. I don’t think the weather has helped, the next few days look to be a wash out and frankly Nibali is in a league of his own. On the upside, I’ve enjoyed both of Visconti’s successful breaks.

    • I agree, DQ hasn’t enhanced the coverage, he’s detracted from it for me. He’s a trier, but I think he’s sorely out of his depth at this level. He just waffles on too much, Sean struggles to get a word in a lot of the time. Hoping DH will be back for the Tour.

    • I think you are being excessively kind. I now turn the commentary off because it does not add anything. Yesterday I watched the ITT with the commentary from the Tour of Belgium!

    • +1 Sometimes I would love to just hear the ambient noise.

      DQ does sometimes have some interesting things to say and a there’s occasionally been some enjoyable banter between him and SK, but I really wish he’d stop waffling, constantly.

      DQ (I’ve heard you mention this blog, so I’ll adress this to you), if you make a point then please just make it once, don’t say the same thing in several different ways one after the other, just to be saying something. Silence can be your friend (and ours), extra waffle detracts.

      Also if something starts happening, say a rider attacks, then stop making your extended point on the colour of someone’s shoes and give some analysis on the situation at hand. The stories and what you’ve read about are fine for when nothing is happening, but if there’s some action then either add something to it or keep quiet.

      I’m sure its an impossibly hard job, there’s no pleasing everyone and SK is rarely helping you out (is he taking extended toilet breaks, as he sometimes doesn’t say a word for ages?). Commentary should not be just to fill the space and tell us what we can already see happening, but to add some insight to the situation, OK and maybe a bit of excitement occasionally.

  7. Thanks for the heads up about todays stage being cancelled.

    I see another of our ‘reformed characters’, Di Luca has been found positive for EPO. When will we not be forced to watch these tainted characters blackening our sport, and sponsors (even personal) chased away ? Even his team management were unhappy about his inclusion in the team ! There have been critics of the SKY approach to zero tolerance, but maybe if more teams followed their example we would not be in the continuing mess we are. The mantra that ‘its all in the past’ clearly doesn’t wash.

    • How many times has Di Luca been caught now? I am in favour of second chances but surely this is a clear demonstration that second offences need to result in life bans. Hopefully more and more teams will refuse to give chances to riders like Di Luca, who clearly don’t regret doping merely being caught.

      • His inclusion was because of the will of title sponsor. It was a very bad decision and not just because of this recent bad news. Afterall he is old and has a tainted past. Vini Fantini is a very attractive young team. Santambrogio was going really well all spring. Why to shift the public’s attention from him to a proven doper? I know the ‘Killer’ still has/had many fans, but is this really the message the sponsor wants to send?

  8. Bored of the Giro.

    Sorry, I know a lot of people put a lot of work into making these races happen – but this has been far from a classic. The claws have been removed from the most of the big mountain stages and it remains to be seen if we are going to see any action in the last few stages. Weather conditions have made it interesting in places – but hardly absorbing racing. Add to that – the lack of real GC contention and an incomprehensible neutralised section on stage 15.

    Vive Le Tour.

  9. With Nibali showing that he’s in another class to everyone else and Visconti riding away from everyone twice, Di Luca’s latest failed test brings back all those fears for pro cycling again. (I’m off for a lie down in dark room)

  10. With Friday’s stage cancelled and Saturday’s shortened and perhaps cancelled as well, it looks like Nibali will be able to come out of the Giro in fine form. I’d have to tag him an early favorite for the TDF.

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