Giro Stage 4 Preview

If Italy is shaped like a boot, the Giro reaches the metatarsal area. The second longest stage in the race, Stage 4 rolls along the coast for 190km before turning inland for some climbing. This isn’t a summit finish but it does gain altitude fast and there’s only a short descent to the finish.

It offers another chance for exciting racing although yesterday’s frantic action is unlikely to be repeated because the roads are more straightforward.

Yesterday’s Verdict: not bad for Stage 3! Luca Paolini won the day with a clever move and was allowed to go away by the others because he’s no overall danger. Not that he applied for a visa, it took skill and power to escape.

Several riders put a foot down at the start of the climb

But the excitement was not in the stage win, more with the other names. The first climb was as steep as yesterday’s preview predicted and many riders were caught out by the sharp bend and sudden incline in Mezzatore di San Mauro Cilento. Several were dropped instantly, including red jersey wearer Mark Cavendish which makes you ponder why OPQS were pace-setting before the climb.

The second climb saw plenty of moves with Ryder Hesjedal and Vincenzo Nibali at the front. It was only Stage 3, it was only a third category climb but the defending champion was on the rampage. Astana looked in control and for a moment Sky were caught out. Televisual adrenalin.

The only downside was the potential for danger. With the overall classification still tightly packed, sending the bunch down such a twisting road to the finish was risky. The morning was wet but luckily the road dried out and there were no accidents.

The Route: normally the bunch would be treated to two sights for hours. On their right, the shimmering Mediterranean sea with its crystal clear waters, an incentive to stop for a ice cream or even a fish lunch. On their left the hazy hills of Campania and Calabria that rise away from the coastal strip where tempting roads slip into the hills. Only the weather’s not co-operating and cold conditions will rob the day of any sense of tourism, if not the view.

Instead the first 190km are a coastal procession and the action comes at the end. The first climb of Vibo Valentia is 14.9km long at a gentle average of 3%, apparently there’s some 10% along the way but it’s a large road that shouldn’t prove too selective.

The Finish: the final climb of the Croce Ferrata (“iron cross”) is fast and starts for real in Soriano with a series of hairpin bends through Sorianello, an uphill toboggan run and the steepest part of the climb. The second category label seems generous but it is long and takes the riders up to 900m above sea level in no time. Coming late in the stage it should be a selective point but the soft gradient means its for the punchy riders rather than the mountain goats, turning over a big gear matters and the speed will be high to reward sitting on the right wheel and positioning. Any moves on the steep part can be reeled in by teamwork or co-operation on the latter part of the climb.

The descent is fast and wide, it suits a bunch speeding down. The last 600m are marked “pavé” in the roadbook and like many towns in southern Italy the road is laid with large flagstones but today’s are not the medieval variety but are reasonably level to allow a fast sprint although the first 600m are rougher, the final 200m are smoother.

The Scenario: if an early breakaway goes there’s a good chance it’s kept on a tight leash. Katusha came to win a stage in the race and now that’s done, they will back Paolini to retain his jersey and chase down breakaways. The OPQS team might lend a hand if Cavendish can win an intermediate sprint to reclaim the points jersey, he’s one point of Paolini. But easier said than done on the second longest day of the race (Stage 13 is 254km). Yesterday’s stage prised apart the overall classification, many riders know their chance to wear the leader’s jersey is over. Three quarters of the field at least five minutes down on Paolini, this imposes an order and hierarchy on the race. Katusha can afford to let many go up the road.

Will we get a showdown on the final climb? Yes because it’s the place to win the stage… but it’s not as technical as yesterday and so will be less a test of nerve and skill and more about brute force and teamwork where riding tempo can pay. It looks like a finish for the likes of Lampre’s Filippo Pozzato, or say Vacansoleil-DCM’s Grega Bole and Enrico Battaglin (Bardiani-CSF). But take your pick from a rider able to get in a move and finish fast.

Weather: cool, the temperature will be 17°C (62°F) which is a pleasant day in March rather than the norm for May. Rain showers are possible. Most relevant is the tailwind, a gentle 15km/h for the final climb but important as the bunch will speed up.

TV: if you can’t find it on TV, and are the go-to sites. The live feed starts at 3.10pm Euro time, but the climbing only starts around 4.00pm. The  finish is expected around 5.15pm.

Local info: the finish is named after Bruno, a German hermit who became a saint. He founded a monastery and the town grew up around it. Monks often sought out isolated places and the Carthusian monks are also found in the French Alps and are visible when the Tour de France rides by.

Word of the day: borraccia meaning water bottle. Some riders claim the further south they ride, the more the locals shout borraccia! borraccia! to get a souvenir water bottle. There aren’t enough to go around of course but when a rider has emptied the bottle, a well-targeted throw can ensure a child goes home with more than a memory from the day.

20 thoughts on “Giro Stage 4 Preview”

  1. Loved yesterday’s racing and Hesjedal’s audacious move. Today will not be the same and I believe riders from – Vacansoleil, Androni, Vini-Fantini, Lotto-Belisol, Colombia & Cannondale will once again animate the stage. It’s hard to pick a winner but I will go with the breakaway.

    It’s a long stage so classics specialist should feel confident – Pozzato, Lars Bak, Gatto, Modolo and Matti Breschel will be my picks.

  2. Say what you want about time bonuses, I like ‘m. GC contenders sprinting for 2nd place on stage 3, that is awesome. You can’t have that every day of course. Not a bad day for a late breakaway.

  3. What a finish we had yesterday! This is proper bike racing. I think teams have been doing some thinking of how to better respond to the relentless Sky clockwork. Charly Wegelius (Garmin’s DS) looks like he knows what he is doing. Today’s stage calls for a punchy finisher. I wonder if Danilo Di Luca still has what it takes?

  4. Excellent preview! Despite having the Giro printed guides here, it’s great to visit your site each morning and read your thoughts. There was talk on RAI TV about fines for tossing away bottles in isolated places with replays of the offenders shown on the broadcast. How they can enforce this is probably like the peeing in public issue – though nobody will be asking for souvenirs of that!

  5. Shaping up to be a great race, of amusement are comments re weather, here in north east England people are stripping of and sunbathing at 15c 🙂

  6. Fantastic stuff yesterday a really exciting climax to the stage. Chapeau Evans, I thought he had missed the crucial cut at one point but good to see him get right back in contention. It’s too early to lose the big hitters but if this is an example of how the race will be run then who knows what can happen.

  7. It seemed to me yesterdays attacks were not only about regaining a few seconds for Hesjadal et al but also trying to put Wiggins in Pink; force Sky to try and control the race for three weeks which they would be unable to do.

    Collusion or not it was a good tactic for Astana and Garmin. Whichever it made for great racing, three weeks of this will be epic!

  8. Well, another not-so-short stage. People are going to be very tired very soon, which is good.
    …by the way, will n0body ask Astana why they chased Hesjedal instead of leaving the job to Sky?

  9. “The morning was wet but luckily the road dried out and there were no accidents.”

    There was an incident involving Scarponi, where he went down on a bend in the last 5km, after one of the Blanco riders fell. He wrecked his bike and had to wait for a new one.

    He came in a minute down on Paolini – whether he had a chance to win the race in the first place is debatable, but yesterday’s incident certainly didn’t help.

  10. Amazing stage yesterday ! Kudos to RCS for making a descending finish relevant. Last few years the GT’s have moved away from Alpine descent finishes in favor of more uphill finishes. This goes to prove good descending skills are important in any race.

    Hopefully todays stage is just as animated.

  11. Whoa – great call on the stage winner, IR!

    “It looks like a finish for the likes of… Enrico Battaglin (Bardiani-CSF). “

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