Giro Stage 5 Preview

Decisive? No. Dangerous? Yes. Today’s finish is uphill and steep enough to eliminate some sprinters and the race takes a steep descent with several hairpin bends on the finishing circuit.

After yesterday’s chaos today should bring some order. It’s forecast to rain at times but with a break up the road it’ll be near-impossible for the bunch to neutralise the stage.

Stage 4 Wrap
The results show Nacer Bouhanni won and everyone else on the same time… but it’s only half the story. The Frenchman would say he had a broken wheel and then two punctures and chased to get back in the final kilometres. As others fell he rode through the bunch like an acrobat. For the rest of the peloton the stage was a washout, un bagnato. Rain made the roads slippery and the riders started a go-slow. Over on Twitter many fans were understandably annoyed. It’s only rain, right? Well no.

If this was TV, we’d cut to a man wearing a lab coat now to explain it’s not the water, it’s tiny particles on the roads. Italian roads are typically very grippy in the dry but when it rains everything can change, especially in the drier parts. A emulsion of oil, dirt, diesel, oil, and rubber forms with the rain; you don’t get this in, say, Ireland, because the roads are washed almost daily by downpours. The problem with the go-slow was the chaos was live on TV, nobody seemed to know what was happening.

If that’s the theory we saw the practice in action on the last lap. The racing resumed as did the rain and when cornering at speed much of the peloton looked to be riding on ice. Dab the brakes and you went down. The TV cameras picked up three successive crashes leaving a small group to come to the line, mainly comprised of the Giant-Shimano sprint train. But without Marcel Kittel, DNS with a “fever”. Bouhanni timed his move perfectly and won. He punched the air. Everyone else shrugged.

The Route: if Italy is boot-shaped, the race sweeps around the Gulf of Taranto, the foot arch of Italy. Tarantino describes someone from Taranto but for most of the day the race has nothing of Hollywood’s Tarantino, instead it promises a long predictable procession with few changes in pace, cutaway climbs or violent descents. Instead today’s route is more like a James Bond, grand to look at but obvious, you know the ending before it happens. Today it’s sweeping landscapes before a controlled bunch sprint from a reduced group.

After days spent racing by the sea the race heads inland and, being Italy, this means climbing with the first mountain pass of the race. The Valico di Serra san Chirico goes up but gently will not be selective.

The Finish: a hilltop finish in Viggiano, a small town. The town is raided twice, first as practice and second for the finish. Don’t get visions of a Tirreno-Adriatico finish where the race scales the walls of medieval town, today’s a more gentle visit and the finish line is drawn on the edge of town. The race passes the finish line once to head into the village and then starts a descent with seven hairpin bends. The road isn’t narrow but the frequency of the bends means it’s hard to make up position.

The descent over the road drags up to the line first with an easier road, then via a snaking road that is 6% for the last two kilometres on average but more like 4-5% before steeper ramps before the line. There are no sharp bends but the road does twist and turn. Freshly surfaced in 2012, the road is in good condition.

The Scenario: a sprint but from a reduced group. An early breakaway can try its luck but Orica-Greenedge will want to defend the maglia rosa and besides, Michael Matthews is a good pick for the sprint too. This suggests a concerted effort to pull any moves back.

The Contenders: Ben Swift is the prime pick. We’ve already seen him sprinting well but go back to April’s Tour of the Basque Country when the Sky rider won a stage on a far more hilly stage. By deduction and reduction he is the sprinter who can cope with the hills better than the rest… but he crashed yesterday. If he’s aching then Edvald Boasson Hagen is Sky’s obvious choice and a perfect pick too.

Michael Matthews is in the ideal position. He too is fast in these kinds of finish and as race leader doesn’t have to take risks, he can afford to come in the top-5 today just to defend his lead but in doing this he can sit tight until the line. Among the other sprinters Nacer Bouhanni can just about deal with this climb too and the same with Davide Appollonio of Ag2r.

The 6% gradient should be enough to tempt some new names into the mix. Astana’s Borut Božič for example. Fabio Duarte of Colombia is punchy and we might even see Cadel Evans in the mix. Nicolas Roche is another GC contender with a sprint in his legs. It’s said Lampre-Merida pair Diego Ulissi and Damiano Cunego don’t get along, perhaps their overlapping skillset prompts the clash and today’s finish suits both. Bardiani-CSF’s Sonny Colbrelli and Enrico Battaglin are a fast pair. Trek’s Fabio Felline is another name. Finally Europcar’s Tony Hurel is a long outsider, when he turned pro he was promoted as the new Laurent Jalabert but has yet to become Nicolas Jalabert.

Ben Swift, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Michael Matthews
Borut Božič, Sonny Colbrelli
Fabio Felline, Nacer Bouhanni, Enrico Battaglin
Appollonio, Duarte, Evans, Roche, Hurel

Weather: a chance of rain again, some showers and cool temperatures. There will be a moderate wind of 20-30km/h at the finish blowing from the north meaning a crosswind/headwind as the riders tackle the final climb.

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. The promised Gazzetta free stream seems non-existent so there’s and for TV schedules and pirate feeds and more.

The finish is forecast for 5.10pm Euro time with the approach to the final circuit starting around 4.30pm.

Giro di Basilicata: this is one of the few world class international junior stage races. Held in the same region as today’s stage, Viggiano often features on the route. Past winners of the race include Matej Mohorič, Gatis Smukulis, Marcel Sieberg and Danny Nelissen… as well as plenty who of others who are presumably working in bike shops, offices and factories today. The 2013 winner was France’s Aurélien Paret-Peintre.

28 thoughts on “Giro Stage 5 Preview”

  1. Rain is so rare down there the oil residue builds up and when it finally does rain, especially if it’s not coming down in buckets, things can get pretty slick. Oddly, it’s dry and sunny up here in the north of Italy, I hope this year’s percorso escapes the bad weather eventually, unlike last year. Domenico Pozzovivo’s from Basilicata, perhaps he’ll give it a go today in front of his friends and family?

  2. Other than ‘Bond escapes clutches of evil villain’ and ‘Bond uses toys’ and ‘Bond gets girl’, I can never tell what’s going to happen in the end of a Bond film 🙂

  3. Why the inverted commas around “fever”? Bit early for Kittel to drop out as there are a few sprint stages left. His drinking tweet seems a big incongruous.

  4. Based on this from Ben Swifts Giro guide on the BBC website doesn’t sound like he fancies it:

    “”It is likely to be a day when there will be a select group of riders at the finish. It’s not a big mountain finish but it looks a decent kick up to Viggiano. I’d fancy it if this was finishing on the flat after the climb but there’s not much point putting myself in the red to stay with a group who are more adept at ascending. None of the General Classification riders, the favourites for the overall race win, will stick their noses out yet though. It is a stage for the puncheurs – riders who go well in the one-day Classics.”

  5. Kittel’s “fever”.
    There has been a “polemica” between two Italian journalists during the last two-three days, because one of them (a well-known witch-hunter, who could see many of his accusations proven in the last years, but who also has been forced by a court to admit publicly that he spread false news about Nibali)… had reported a *voice* about Kittel, apparently training in Tuscany with controversial company. The other journalist says it’s just mud. That is, in his opinion, whether it’s a fact or not, you shouldn’t publish this kind of information if you aren’t ready to disclose something more.
    I suspect Kittel was maybe someway annoyed by the accusations…

    Italian roads. Slippery roads are typical in the southern part of the country, or this is what Cassani used to say on TV. I’ve never experienced this phenomenon in Umbria, Tuscany, Marche, Abruzzo, which are the more southern regions where I had an occasion to ride my bike (nor, obviously, in the northern part of Italy). I guess it’s just as Larry says, since the South is drier.
    In Catalunya it doesn’t rain so much, either, but apparently it’s enough to avoid these unfavourable circunstances.

    • Presumably the doctor is Cecchini? If I had €10 for every rider who has been seen with him, I’d not have to ask for ads on here. Kittel was asked about this and said he hasn’t been training in Italy.

      I’ve experienced the roads in the rain, it’s more an urban/semi-urban thing.

      We’ve seen it several times in the Giro, last year’s stage to Matera when Degenkolb stayed upright and Mezgec and others crashed was a recent example. Here’s another:

      • In my personal riding experience, when the roads are wet, they’re more slippery, generally, in France, Spain, Italy or Denmark 😉
        Therefore, we can easily remember riders falling on a more or less rainy day.
        In a urban context, the problem is more relevant, that’s for sure, but I never noticed it as something with the kind of impact on riding we saw yesterday. And, when in Italy, I use to train in a urban circuit.

        In Pinerolo I recall that the problem was related to the advertising stripes painted on the finish line, but I could be wrong.

  6. Anyway, a reflection about the choice of materials would be quite opportune: for example, the Giant guys chose 25-tyres, while Paolini whose riding with super-high-profile wheels, it seems.
    Just as in 2011 when Team Sky used the wrong wheels in the fifth stage, then went on weeping so much about “white roads” that we had a negative fall back on that idea which I still find promising, even in a GT.
    The organization has big responsibilities when including in the route a “complicated” stage, or when the conditions are hard. Riders’ safety first, always. But even the teams should be responsible: sticking to a given material because of the sponsor and so? You’ll get corresponding results, and let’s see if the sponsor likes that.

    • Interesting points – one thing about Toscana or Umbria, or any place they grow and harvest olives, is the roads can be slick on a perfectly sunny, dry day when they’re collecting olives. I remember sliding all over the place one sunny day in Campania…and it wasn’t on diesel fuel or motor oil! I’m wondering why a tire company doesn’t get serious about a wet-weather tire? Sure, it’s a niche market, but think of the promo opportunities if your tire company is the “go-to” tire/wheel (think Gabba jacket) when rain is threatening. An open tubular with a super-soft compound and some chemical trickery to make it stick like a MOTOGP wet-weather tire combined with an aluminum rim or braking surface for superior braking control. It could be like when Michelin paid guys like Fignon and Chiappucci to ride their clinchers – tires that allowed them to ride rings about their competitors in wet stages. Even if they wore out after one or two stages, a clincher could be instantly replaced and ready to go the next time rain threatens. How ’bout the spectacle if it started raining and teams had to decide whether to swap onto their rain tires?

      • Schwalbe makes the ultremo aqua, which i never tried but from reviews i read they are just what you describe. Good grip but wear like crazy. Why Schwalbe sponsored teams don’t ride those in the wet is beyond me.

        • If they really work, someone’s missing a great promo opportunity by not supplying some aluminum clincher wheelsets mounted with this tire. A great PR coup of the entire team riding on these things zips past the rest on a rain-slicked descent. I can still remember Chiappucci doing just that – he’d get dropped going up and blast back into contention going down. With all the talk of “marginal gains” one would think someone would give this a try?

  7. Strange how the slippery roads tend to affect some riders more than others. I remember Wiggins’s ‘descending like a girl’ at last year’s Giro, while Nibali seemed relatively unaffected. Who in the peloton has the clout to order a go-slow nowadays?

  8. Hello inrng,

    As ever, sublime stuff.

    Looks like you made a good call not tipping Nathan Haas in the end. Do we know what happened to him that led him to roll in in last position?

    Keep up the fine work.

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