Giro Stage 6 Preview

The longest stage of the race thanks to a landslide which has added 10km to today’s stage. A flat route before scaling the road to the hilltop abbey of Montecassino, a visually spectacular finish and the Giro’s commemoration of a 1944 battle.

Stage 5 Wrap
This was always going to be about the finish. The day’s breakaway included several sprinters, a bid to bag the points at the intermediate sprint. They were caught on the final circuit just as the rain began to fall. The tricky descent brought several crashes but wounded only pride.

Onto the final slope and Katusha set the pace although there was enough slack for a brief Pierre Rolland Energy Wasting Attack. At one point Katusha’s Moreno was charging so fast to the line that he split the group and it seemed Joaquim Rodriguez would get it… but finally Diego Ulissi was the best. A double-junior world champion, he’s won a stage before, is named after Maradona. This year he shone in the Tour Down Under but vanished results-wise in the Ardennes classics although that’s just age, he’s 24 and needs to learn the roads. It’s worrying for Rodriguez, he could follow through on Moreno’s effort. Cadel Evans took second place and with it the time bonus, note his aggressive racing more than the placing.

The Route: the race is already heading north now and today’s another stage that’s all about the finish. The race skirts Naples and the hills of Campania where buffalo for the famous mozzarella cheese.

The Finish: the race leaves the town of Cassino to climb to Monte Cassino. It’s 8.5km at 5% average, nothing steep. The profile above shows a a regular road but in reality it snakes up the hill via seven hairpins and more bends. The gradient softens as it approaches the finish line. The road is wide.

The Scenario: several teams will want to set up the leaders for the finish and set a high pace on the approach to the final climb. Once the race scales the rock we should see a reduced group left to contest a sprint. The maglia rosa could go from one Australian to another as Michael Matthews might find the climb too long compared to compatriot Cadel Evans.

The Contenders: we could get a replay of yesterday’s stage with similar names in the mix only the climb is longer and therefore more selective. Diego Ulissi is the prime pick as he’s clearly in form and has a fast finish.

Cadel Evans is next, he’s looking hungry but does he really want to take the race lead so early? It’s a paradox that if you want to win the race outright you don’t want to lead the race too early. Evans has been sitting the highest on GC compared to all his main rivals but has managed to outsource the actual work to Orica-Greenedge.

Julian Arredondo is the third pick. His compact rounded figure resembled a cannonball yesterday and he could surprise. Those who believe in fate might back Rafał Majka or Przemysław Niemiec as both are candidates to win but Montecassino is the site of a large Polish war cemetery. Watch Joaquim Rodriguez, he messed up yesterday’s finish and a mistake today would be a big blow to the morale.

Can Michael Matthews do it? He’s got the help of a solid team but I think this could be too long for him. If he can track the wheels then the way the road flattens out to help his sprint for a stage win. Edvald Boasson Hagen is tipped for the same reasons with the same risk factors.

Diego Ulissi
Cadel Evans, Julian Arredondo
Rafał Majka, Rigoberto Uran
Matthews, Boasson Hagen, Rodriguez

Weather: a chance of rain but a calmer day with only a light breeze and warmer temperatures of up to 21°C.

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 finish is forecast for 5.10pm Euro time, tune in at least half an hour before to see the approach to the final climb.

History: Montecassino was the sight of a large battle in 1944. You haven’t come here to read military history and if you had, there’s not enough space to do events justice. See Wikipedia for a start.

The Air Punch: that’s Gianluca Brambilla being interviewed on TV wrapped up in a hat and a thick scarf made from a towel. It was unseasonably cool yesterday for the south but he appears dressed for a polar conditions. One reason is the Italian phobia of the colpo d’aria which translates as an “air blast” or a “strike of air”.

Nobody likes a cold draught of air and many around the world link it to illness. But the Italians take it to an extra level with a specific causality and topicality. Leave your shirt untucked and you risk an air blast to the kidneys with all the fearful consequences that entails. Leave your neck exposed and sudden gust could cause a sore neck. If you’re ill, the diagnosis can be a colpo d’aria and not a virus.

Note Brambilla’s doing the right thing, the body is tired and fragile and has little body fat for insulation against a chill. Other countries have their quirks, I should cover the French obsession with the liver one day.

24 thoughts on “Giro Stage 6 Preview”

    • He’s often putting in an attack that just gets brought back. It’s great to show in the race but his move was always doomed: – nobody else in the front group was on the ropes, it had been an easy day
      – it was a fast climb to the finish, not steep
      – there was a roaring headwind
      – a strong Katusha team
      – nobody’s tired and in the first week of a race

    • You’ll find many pro cyclists doing it too, it’s sensible to keep wrapped up as the body cools down and you’re still sweaty. Maybe it’s anecdotal and self-selecting but I have seen more Italians with hats and scarves after a race than others.

      • My wife says that the Spanish have the same phobia about cold air. She used to get dire warnings about having wet hair and then opening a fridge door!

        • In Colombia, this is referred to as “el sereno”. Basically, it is unwise to leave a door or window open when living on or near the mountains (like 70% of the country’s population), otherwise El Sereno will come in and make you sick

      • I have visited Italy, and noted the lack of ceiling fans in buildings and homes?
        I was told by Italians that is very rare? perhaps related?

        Cadel looks good (measured yet never extended) he will just hang tight second wheel or so.
        Age/experience possibly trump youth and exuberance.

  1. The battle of Montecassino (1944) and the destruction of the abbey “helped” to justify the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program by the Allied forces. The Monuments Men (also depicted in the homonymous 2014 movie) as they were known, went in operation a year earlier (1943) but the outcry over the destruction of the historic abbey and the ensuing propaganda exploitation by the Nazis solidified the role of the “Venus Fixers” as they were known in Italy.

  2. On a cold day (or when you’re sweating like a pig) when you stop, wrapping a towel around this part of the body feels might good, even if you’re not Italian. I was cheering for Brambilla, so much wanting his daring attack to succeed…I like a guy who tries after all. One correction on the Campania buffalo – they’re not in the hills like Buffalo Bill’s critters, but down on the flats since they’re WATER buffalo…make some mighty fine cheese, but the stench if the wind’s blowing the wrong way is pretty bad. On the detours – the past winter was pretty brutal all over Italy, up here in Piedmont I’ve already discovered a couple of recently washed out roads – and with the economic austerity, who knows when they’ll be fixed? Luckily, most are still passable on the bike though one might have to get off and climb over a barrier.

  3. Evans needs to build as big a gap as he can on Quintana. If he can get more seconds today, he should, regardless of whether he gets in pink or not. His team wouldn’t need to control the race anyway, because Evans needs the race to be as chaotic as possible.

  4. Rafał Majka already said that he will try to gain white jersey today. Because of historic context polish fans are hoping for some good ride from Niemiec and Majka.

  5. As much as I like to have a dig at Rolland my self, I have to ruin your joke because it was actually Romain Sicard who went on the attack. They look exactly the same on a bike.
    Rolland finished 11th on yesterday’s stage.
    But don’t worry, he’ll be back soon enough…

  6. Can’t wait to read what you have to say about the French and their liver. I seem to recall being told when I was a kid, by my French mother not to eat too much chocolate: she was afraid I’d get a “crise de foie”. I guess the literal translation would be “a liver crisis” — sounds funny come to think of it.
    I wonder what else you’ve heard about the liver and the French… any distraction until the GC race heats up!

  7. Duly noted (though I never before realized how much similar Sicard looks to Rolland while on the bike)!

    Maybe we can bring the Pierre Rolland Energy Wasting AttackTM under the hat of a broader generalization, such as, say, Europcar EWA, or better still French Style EWA? It seems, at least to this humble poster, that EWAs have somewhat higher subscription rate among French cyclists than almost any other nation. I was pondering upon it and the only proposition I can make is that it has to do something with the oh-so-French concept of panache.

    As this excellent INRNG piece on “plume of feathers transformed to a rule of conduct” quotes, it is “…a gentle refusal of tragedy; panache is the modesty of heroism”.

    Now we all like panache, that seems to be undisputed. But, as any other thing and as the ancient Greeks taught us a couple of millennia ago, everything should be done in moderation. Otherwise it grows into a l’art pour l’art feat.

    Regarded as the utmost display of nobility in cycling, the quest for (sometimes elusive) panache may explain such high incidence of EWAs among French riders and teams. Just a thought, but in these times when cut-throat battling gives way to (sometimes way too much) calculated approach to the achieving designated goals (here you should look through your window, possibly to the Sky), is there a possibility for improving French cycling results by considering something said by Cath Wiggins for Roleur Magazine (also quoted in the aforementioned INRNG piece). Less the arse-kissing part, of course.

  8. I’m sure that you understand that “chills, colds or flu” are caused by viruses, not by getting cold nor by the weather. You get viruses from other people who cough or sneeze over you, thus spreading the virus to you, or by touching virus contaminated hands or objects, and thus infecting oneself. Putting on lots of clothes and keeping warm does nothing to prevent catching a virus. Hand washing and keeping away from sick people will prevent viral colds/flu, but very difficult when sharing a bus and hotel for 3 weeks with up to 30 riders and support staff.

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