Giro Stage 19 Preview

A giant mountain time trial, a maxicronoscalata. This stage is long and deceptively hard. We could and should see Nairo Quintana win but the greater uncertainty is over who could claim third place overall. Not that today will settle everything, push it too much and a rider could be cooked for tomorrow’s crucial Zoncolan showdown.

Stage 18 Wrap

The signing of the year? Certainly the move from Team Nippo-De Rosa was a leap for Julián Arredondo but he’s landed on his feet at Trek Factory Racing. I thought he was fading in the third week – and a GC push is something else – but a deserved stage winner. Behind Pierre Rolland made a move on the final climb that took up up the road and the overall classification but the attacks and chases were too much for Cadel Evans. It’s a remarkable Giro for the Colombians.

The Route: it’s only right? Factually correct but this very long for a mountain time trial and there’s a solid 19km uphill at an average of 8%. After an opening flat section to the first time check the climb begins. It’s tough from the start with series of hairpin bends through woodland where the road is cut into the rock. With the foliage it can be hard to measure progress although locals know the landmarks on the way up, a rock here, a bend there.

The Finish: it’s uphill to the line, in fact it kicks up above 10% during the final kilometre.

Prediction: we can extrapolate ride times today. It should take 9.40 to get to the first time check based on 48km/h. Given Fabio Aru clocked a VAM of 1650 the other day let’s imagine the winner today is fresher because there are no proceeding climbs so they ascend at 1,700m/h. This means he should do the 1540m of vertical gain between Semonzo and the finish in 54 minutes (1540m/1700m x 60 minutes). So the winner’s time should be around 1.03.

This is back-0f-the-envelope stuff and others can probably craft a better estimation by modelling more factors. But there’s something in the maths here, it shows us how reductive an uphill time trial is. There are no rivals, tactics or other extraneous factors, just pacing and concentration. You might feel different but I find there’s something missing if today’s stage selects the overall winner, as if we should see the rivals locked in a battle, mano a mano or more appropriately gamba a gamba.

The Contenders
I think this is for Nairo Quintana, he’s climbing well, has won these type of races before and can pace himself. For more motivation he needs a stage win to prove he’s above the rest, to collect the “moral winner” label that’s often so important in cycling.

Domenico Pozzovivo has been dreaming of this stage for some time but he’s been ill. We should him challenge but he’s no longer the top pick.

Pierre Rolland is third overall and has three riders within 22 seconds. Rolland is a great climber not so good a time triallist and his pacing strategy is crucial. The same for Fabio Aru who’ll be roared on by the crowds but he started too fast in the Barolo time trial. I think Rafał Majka – 4th in Barolo – is the best pick as he can climb and time trial.

Rigoberto Uran could be the surprise. He’s faded in status only since the Stelvio and will look to regain time today. He might not be able to count on improved aerodynamics but he should shine, a top-3 is likely. Meanwhile Wilco Kelderman could be the outsider but the Dutchman is more TT specialist than climber.

Nairo Quintana
Domenico Pozzovivo, Rafał Majka
Rigoberto Urán, Fabio Aru, Wilco Kelderman

Weather: sunny with a temperature of 24°C. There’s a mild headwind of 10-15km/h.

TV: the race is on a variety of TV channels according to where you are in the world. Eurosport is covering the race across most of Europe. beIN SPORT has the rights in the US and France. There’s and for TV schedules and pirate feeds and more.

The top riders will start soon after 3.30pm Euro time . The finish is expected around 5.10pm.

21 thoughts on “Giro Stage 19 Preview”

  1. 1. Which of the non-GC guys might fancy the stage (if any)?
    2. Assuming 1:03 is correct what would the cut-off time be and could some be in danger?

    Cheers and keep up the great coverage!

  2. Can’t help but thibk that the comment about tt stages lacking in tactics etc does a bit of disservice to the time and effort that goes into selections of equipment gears and position. Such choices are just as important as knowing when to attack, they are just less obvious.

  3. 1) Wow. What a great “spettacolo” yesterday by the guys in the breakaway. No one could find the right speed, there were ups and downs all the time, everybody tried to ride faster than he could sustain, and in the end it was about mental fortitude (consequence: the stubbornest guy won, delivering a tremendous performance). Another example of classic mountain cycling. Why can’t GC contenders ride like that more often, instead of just behaving like fish shoaling or ducks walking?
    2) Today Quintana should win, but let’s not take it for granted. This exercise is not only about fitness and pacing. There are a lot of psychological forces at work, and risks (that is, starting quicker than what is reasonable) can pay off. Actually, an uphill TT should be won like that: by having a special super-day, and by riding faster than you thought you could, by digging deeper into you physical and mental resources than you ever thought you could. For that, you need to over-pace yourself, suffer and endure, overcome the inevitable crisis, and hope for the best. You can also lose 5 minutes if you run out of strength with 5 km to go, but that’s the beauty. This is how Jeff Bernard won that TT atop the Ventoux in 87, unpredictably, and beating superior climbers like Herrera and Delgado, who finished fresher but went all out only too reasonably, too late.
    3) Mountain TTs actually used to be most spectacular and unpredictable of all GT stages. A not-so-good day, and you lose your shirt (and there’s always some big names who do), someone always had a special good day, the GC always got turned inside-out. But it’s true that, like all TTs, the exercise has become too predictable. It’s impossible to think that power-meters and the rest of measurements that help riders pace themselves are not to blame (and I’m surprised media don’t take the issue further and louder, because the future of cycling is at stake).
    4) Rigo Urán is usually good at pacing himself, perhaps even too much. In Barolo he finished fantastically; last year in Polsa, he was the fastest in the second part of the stage, he had only begun too conservatively. Today he must do the opposite: start flat out, take advantage on Quintana and put pressure on him like that. And, again, believe in yourself and hope for the best. I still think Quintana is stronger, even mentally, but Urán should play all or nothing, I don’t think anyone knows his real limits, and he’s got nothing to lose. He should be brave and stand up to the test. He could win (and I’d like him to).
    5) Another obvious value of uphill TTs is for climbers to recover the time lost elsewhere. It is very thrilling to see how many minutes can your climber put on your rouleur, just as it is thrilling to see how much time the rouleur can gain on a flat TT, and to see both of them give everything, especially in a terrain that doesn’t suit them. So, with modern GT routes with little o no flat TTs (and mountain-top finishes where differences are usually counted in seconds and half a minute is considered booty, and downhill-finish mountain stages where nothing happens), an exercise like today may look like a dinosaur in a chicken coop. But it’s not the uphill TT that is a problem, it’s the whole concept of chickenized GTs.
    5) Tomorrow: this was the Giro’s best idea. Before the Zoncolan, it’s great to have a big TT where no one can hide or spare themselves. Today or especially tomorrow, some top riders will crack. I think all 3 GTs should take the cue: place big TTs (flat or not) right the day before tough mountain stages.
    6) Still I would like to have seen the uphill TT in the first week, or even as a prologue. No one can keep the same level for 3 weeks. And a GT should be a contest between those who begin at 100% and finish at 80% and those who evolve the other way around. Otherwise, what we get is what Movistar has done: prepare the whole team to be at its best only in the last week.

    • Wonderful analysis. Thanks!

      The only thing I’d add is that, wearing the pink, Quintana races right after Urán and knows his rival’s time checks. If I were Urán, I’d start fast and hope Quintana burns himself out on the lower slopes trying to match my times. Otherwise, Quintana can just match the pace.

      • Well, so much for my analysis. Urán started off fast, but Quintana started even faster. Quintana seemed to relax a bit after the first time check, when he knew he had the GC in hand. Then, with 5km remaining, why not try for the win? A pink rocket!

  4. @antoni:
    Arredondo had the legs to do it. But I don’t think there’s enough motivation for him to win this stage. He already has a win and a jersey, and he might want to save some juice for zoncolan.

  5. I’m rooting for Wilko Kelderman today. He’s been going really well during this week and is normally good against the watch. Urán is a bit of a question mark. He seems to have up and down days. Maybe today is a good day for him but can he beat Quintana? It would be a big surprise if he did.

    • I think Wilco is not as good climber as Quintana and today climbing skills will be the most important. And Nairo is a fine TTer in flat so i doubt Wilco can gain much time on the first flat part of the course

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