Giro Stage 8 Preview

The decisive stage of the 2013 Giro? No, let’s not hype things up too much but after a week of light sparring, time for the first heavyweight contest.

Stage 8 will define the race for some time to come but it shouldn’t determine the race. But it’s made the race what it is because the prospect of a 55km time trial was an invitation for Bradley Wiggins to ride. Only Wiggins is now late to the party, his losses yesterday change the script for the race.

Adam Hansen Giro

Yesterday’s Stage: on paper an exciting stage but it looked like it wouldn’t come alive. After a lot of fighting in the first half an hour of the race an early breakaway got away and it all looked so predictable. The tempo set by Vini Fantini suggested the move could be caught but when their rider Fabio Taborre rode away he didn’t pull out much of a lead. It began to rain and the road turned into a skating rink, cutting the chase. Ahead Emmanuelle Sella and Adam Hansen had dropped their breakaway companions. Sella wiped out on a corner but got back to Hansen only for the Australian to drop him à la pédale on the penultimate climb. Hansen was in the best place, alone and pacing himself over the treacherous roads.

Behind, carnage as riders slid all over the road. It wasn’t just the race, the roads seemed to have a slippery film with spectators and following cars slipping at times. Some would say Bradley Wiggins was the biggest loser but arguably Team Sky lost the most because if Wiggins lost time, so did Sergio Henao and Rigoberto Uran.

The Route: if the distance is the obvious point, the secret is in the detail. Glance at the profile above and it almost looks tame and within a set range of altitude. But the course twists and turns and finishes on a steep climb with cobbles.

It’s a tough route that is technical in places. If the distance was designed Wiggins the course isn’t what he’d pick. Normally he’d like a flatter, faster course to put the likes of Vincenzo Nibali far behind. But the way the course changes direction and incline means pacing yourself at, say, 430 watts, is a tough task. Instead riders have to constantly change gear, brake, corner and accelerate. Now this isn’t wild but look for yourself, the route takes a road that twists like a corkscrew on the way to the first time check in Pisaro, it’s said there’s a corner every 200 metres.

Gabbice Mare time trial

Can you count the bends? And if this section isn’t hard enough, take a look at the finish. In short it’s not like the final time trial of the Tour de France or the Olympic time trial.

And if the maps, profiles and words are still not giving you an idea of what happens, here’s a useful overall summary from Daniel Lloyd and the production crew of the GCN channel on Youtube.

The Scenario: a voyage into the unknown. Today’s stage is the longest flat-style time trial to feature in a grand tour since the 2006 Tour de France put on a 57km stage. Consequently very few riders in the bunch have raced over such a long distance although Bradley Wiggins did and also rode the 2007 Tour where slightly shorter distance features. Of course plenty can be replicated in training but it’s still a long distance, a unique effort in the year.

The stage is for two types of riders, the TT specialists and the overall contenders. Given the course is so technical it’ll suit the overall contenders who can change pace rather than those who can turn a big gear for an hour. Still, we can expect the likes of Alex Dowsett (Movistar), Stef Clement (Blanc0), George Bennett Jesse Sergent (Radioshack) and possibly a recovering Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing) to set the early fast times. Watch for Astana’s Fredrik Kessiakoff who’s become a TT expert in the last year.

As well as the battle for the stage win, there’s the fight not to lose too much time. It’ll be interesting to see how the likes of Michele Scarponi, Robert Kiserlovski and Mauro Santambrogio fare. But the real interest is in Vincenzo Nibali, Cadel Evans, Ryder Hesjedal and Robert Gesink. Nibali’s spent time training on his time trial bike and working on his aerodynamics but this is still not his event, however he’s now in a prime position. Visually Hesjedal looks like he should perform well only he’s usually top-20 material in a time trial, good but not world class… although until last year he’d never won a stage race. Evans has been encouragingly visible this week, sprinting for time bonuses and now we’ll get the big picture. Gesink’s improved a lot in time trials, what will he do today?

As for Wiggins, the mystery remains. Just as his mood varies in interviews, now we’re not sure what legs he’s got. Much has been made of his crash yesterday and the problems descending but he was dropped before the misfortune struck. Was he in the wrong position after a nervous descent off the previous climb or is he simply not in form? I thought he’s looked a bit pale at times but it’s hard to tell with the TV cameras. You can have your theories but the answer will come today. Either way he’s now starting the time trial with a significant deficit on his main rivals for the overall and even if he wins big today his cushion over the others will not be as planned. The course might not be the flat route to leave Nibali floundering like a fish out of water but Wiggins is an obvious expert at pacing himself and if there’s climbing that won’t cause problems. Will he be the hero at five o’clock?

Finally Beñat Intxausti. The maglia rosa has been knocking on the door of stage racing for sometime with a string of top-10 placings in one week stage races and even a time trial win in the Vuelta a Asturias in 2010, one of his two career wins. Can he keep his jersey? I suspect not, there are too many riders within close range for now.

Daily Routine: some riders will do the course twice today. It might seem odd doing 55km in the morning but it’s one way to stretch the legs and, crucially, to check the course. Others will get driven over the course in a team car but could perhaps ride a section too. A mix of riders have checked the course before but others, for example Cadel Evans, have not. This makes a difference because it’s not a flat race where a rider just paces themselves in a big gear. Knowing which corners to ride into at full speed makes a big difference, the same for that little hill that turns out to be a long drag.

Weather: it’s been easier forecasting the winner than the weather. Yesterday’s weather forecast said rain all day but this only appeared at the end of the stage. Rain is promised, with showers early in the day turning to heavier rain later in the day. Only light winds are expected and the course is sheltered by buildings and vegetation for most of the way.

TV: often a time trial doesn’t make for great TV but this stage will determine the overall classification. The last rider is expected for 5.15pm but tune in earlier to see who is setting the pace and who is losing the race. If you can’t find it on TV, and will cater for your internet feed.

Word of the day: maxichrono because a chrono is a time trial in Italian only today’s stage is a giant. A time trial specialist is often called un chronoman which is distinct from un passista which means rouleur or literally someone capable of pacing themselves. Maxi is used before other words and this week we’ve had maxicaduta, maxi-crash.

40 thoughts on “Giro Stage 8 Preview”

  1. I’m sure Bennett reads this he will be ecstatic to have TT and fastest time mentioned in the same sentence, probably never happened before… 🙂

  2. Fantastic to see aggressive riding paying of for some of the favorites’ and a brave rider taking the stage.

    Wiggins has shown very poor ability to position himself correctly throughout the first week. His form seems questionable, as does the SKY mantra that ‘we stick to the plan’. Sometimes a plan ‘B’ is a good idea. I was somewhat dismayed to see both the Columbians bought back to help a leader who was clearly not up to the job physically and mentally, especially as one could now be in pink. You are correct about the form and temperament of Wiggins, who appears to be doing his best to upset team mates who have given their all for him. SKY needs to get a grip of the situation otherwise they could find more riders casting around for new teams.

    All that said Wiggins, if he has any form should be up there in the TT. If not then SKY will need a plan ‘B’.

    • Yesterday was wild on the roads but as you say he’s been caught out at other times. But the first week is always odd and Wiggins might prefer the more linear climbs to come after the time trial… then again it could all go wrong of course too. Either way the race is opening up and the cast of contenders is, for now, bigger than the Wiggins-Nibali duet.

      • Am I the only one who suspects a link between Wiggo’s lack-lustre performances from stage 4 onwards and the announcement that Froome will be the team leader at the TdF? The announcement was made on 8 May, but you would expect that Brailsford informed Wiggins before that. Of course, it may be just a coincidence, exacerbated by foul conditions yesterday, but there is always a reason for a lack of moral.

        I hope today’s stage is the start of a fight back.

  3. I think Sir Bradley, wounded in his pride, can turn this TT into a historic carnage. As for the rest, there will be surprises: some will lose their Giro and self-esteem by losing 4 or 5 minutes more than expected, some will find they are better TTists over long distances than they ever thought they were.
    While I miss TTs over 90 minutes long, one at 60 minutes is already a significant mental challenge: long enough for one to undergo, as in a marathon, inevitable “bad” moments, that you have to fight to overcome. The battle becomes psychological as well as physical and technical.

  4. I’m looking forward to see how Luke Durbridge handles his first Grand Tour Individual Time Trial. Maybe too many twists to fire up the Turbo.

    • +1. Not many Europeans know how well Durbo can climb when he needs to. Tuft is always reliable too. The weather could be key here, especially if it closes in late afternoon.

      I wonder what difference it will make for Wiggins to have bunnies in front of him every 1 minute rather than every 3 minutes had he been further up the GC. He’ll be hoping to be behind a good descender on some of those technical bits…. He really need to be pull his head out of his **se tonight – he just looked to have given up last night after falling – and there’s nothing worse than a rider with no ticker. If he can recover and we have him, Nibali, Evans, Gesink and Hesjedal all within “one big mountain attack” of each other, we could have a cracking Giro. I don’t want a crash to decide the winner so I hope they all stay upright tonight (are you listening Gesink?).

      I usually don’t like watching TTs but this one has me ready for a late night in Oz.

      • +1. I agree with everything you just said. I was expecting this to be night of sleep but with the way the GC has gone this TT will be very interesting.

  5. Who knows, with the rain starting light and turning heavy, maybe the difference between starting at 3 and starting at 4 might be a blessing in disguise for wiggins

    • I was wondering that as well, I had also heard that the wind was due to change direction later in the day which could suit those going out earlier?

      It was interesting to see the different reactions from Nibali and Wiggo yesterday to falling off. Nibali was immediately looking for his bike whilst still sliding on the Tarmac. As a Brit I naturally root for Wiggo but I have been impressed with Nibali and Hesjedal’s attitudes in the Giro so far.

      As ever an exciting race!

  6. At the 2009 Giro there was a TT of 60km to Sestri Levante which gave Menchov the pink jersey… Garzelli performed very well then..

    • Some of the media are saying today’s stage is “the time trial of the century” but surely that one was. I left that out because the time trial across the Cinque Terre area was so wild it doesn’t compare, it was like several mountain time trials held one after the other and many riders used normal road bikes on the day to help with climbing and descending.

  7. Somethings not right with Wiggins, I suspect a head cold or gastric complaint, or who knows, maybe something emotional, psychological in his private life, at this level such things can make the difference between first and last place.
    Brailsfords interview after yesterday’s stage 7 with (Orla Chennaoui I think) was very awkward to watch, he seemed to be stumbling over his words in an effort to avoid saying anything negative. Maybe he’d just had a strong espresso though! Viva l’Italia!
    This sort of thing is why I like the grand tours so much, three weeks is long enough to make it feel like an epic journey, an immersion in drama and spectacle, a journey to a foreign land, absolutely wonderful. Everything could change between now and Brescia, all to play for.

  8. I agree that it was strange to make both Colombians wait, after so much talk from sky about the mistake of only having a Plan A in the 2011 Tour.
    In a way I’d like to see Sky chasing rather than controlling for a change. Either way I think this makes it all very interesting, and very difficult to call between Evans, His Nibs, Ryder and Wiggo (if he can just lighten up a bit).

  9. While I don’t like to see anyone falling off, Wiggo’s travails certainly make the race more interesting since his big time gains (assuming no more crashing on wet roads) of today will just put him back in contention, making the “wipe ’em out in the chrono, hang on everywhere else” strategy a non-starter. That style of racing is boring, no matter who is demonstrating it. The technical aspects (and the weather?) of today’s chrono route might have me tuning in before the final hour, unlike a more typical against-the-clock stage.

  10. Sir Wiggo most definitely wasn’t the bravest knight of the realm. Looks like Sky needs some training riding down-hill/in wet. Given their home-turf is the British islands, finding suitable weather shouldn’t be a problem at least and there should be some good decent up in the Northern part of the country.

  11. Wiggins has been miffed with some thing and didn’t look particularly happy yesterday when the rain started to fall. I think he will win the Stage 1 and manage to put decent time in to Nibali and Hesjedal (less than a minute though). Its already been a fascinating Giro, 100 times more interesting than last year’s Tour, and I can’t believe that there’s so much more to come.

    I’m going for a Wiggo win and Kessiakoff in second place.

  12. I agree that Wiggo won’t like the first part to Pesaro (ahem, not Pisaro) very much. Very curious about his performance today. He doesn’t seem to be motivated at all, but who knows.

  13. It seems that there are no wet descents in Tenerife. So much for the Sky mantra of “we’ve trained proper for that”. On the other hand, Ryder and Cuddles, as ex-mountain bikers, looked completely comfortable yesterday,

    • Wet or dry, there is a big difference in road surfaces. The Canaries use a tarmac with volcanic ash which has a lot more grip.

      I think it’s more that we’ve just witnessed his Achilles heel(s); it’s no secret that he dislikes cold, wet conditions, he’s not a star descender, and, maybe most importantly, he’s not the toughest competitor, mentally.

      Karma, for messing with Froome before he won the Giro. Afterword would have been much more of a power move.

  14. Hey there! I don’t know if I’m the only one, but having the “yesterdays stage” synopsis smack in the middle of the intro and the details of the next stage confuses me quite a bit… I was thinking hard if i could remember cobbles on yesterdays stage only to realize we went back to the time trial. That is my only issue, otherwise, they are great writeups and enjoy reading them!

  15. so impressed with Nibali skidding 40 metres on his backside and jumping back on his bike to keep his place in the pecking order. Takes more than a steady 430 watts to win this race

  16. Coverage suggests he punctured but it still wasn’t a very graceful handover when you’re riding the sponsors new model on debut. Still, a good result and he may have won without that hitch. Evans , Nibali & Hesjedal had good rides though; as did Henao and Uran. Am enjoying watching Evans punch his way back into the ring.

  17. This Giro is bringing out the worst in Wiggins. Like Cavendish, petulance rules when things aren’t going his way. Not the behaviour of a champion. Brailsford should be putting a rocket up his arse.

    I’ll be shouting for Cuddles but don’t mind if Nibbles wins, given his aggressive, exciting style.

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