Giro Stage 7 Preview

A day for the sprinters with an outside chance for a breakaway? That’s how it seems but yesterday saw a linear stage with a short summit finish offer drama, ejection and rejection.

Stage 6 Wrap
247km of nothing. The longest stage of the race as measured by distance and boredom. Eurosport’s Sean Kelly remarked several times how boring it was to watch.
But everything changed with two crashes in close proximity. In reality things had changed prior to the incident. The pace had gone up, it began to rain and the bunch was charging into town. The maxicaduta, a big crash, in Cassino saw Giampaolo Caruso (Katusha) and Janez Brajkovič (Astana) crash out but the incident sent waves through the peloton. BMC and Orica-Greenedge led the bunch and behind the riders fell like bowling pins. In the end Michael Matthews won and Cadel Evans took time on all his rivals but this was a stage where half the action happened after the race was over. First the GC had to be calculated with several GC candidates losing a lot of time. Then we waited for reports from hotels and hospitals and with them came news of Joaquim Rodriguez’s abandon… but was he ever in the race? He annouced he’d started with broken ribs despite telling TV interviews he was 100% recovered from his Ardennes ardours.
Polemic? Make one if you want. But the point is to be ahead so if there are crashes you’re safe. This prompts a vicious cycle of riders fighting for position, increasing the crash risk and therefore the need to be at the front. But neither Evans or Matthews saw the crash and then attacked to profit, they profited because they were ahead of the danger. Not that there’s any justice in seeing so many riders injured and others saying ciao to their GC hopes. It’s bad luck but what did you expect from a rainy day in a town called Cassino?

The Route: the profile’s hilly but this is a gentle stage. The early climb of Arcinazzo is ideal for a breakaway to go clear. Later the Valico della Somma is easy, a wide road of 4-5% used by trucks to cross the landscapes and only enough to dump the out of form sprinters, but if they go so might the chase effort.

The Finish: a flat run into town. It’s not got anything wild and takes place on modern, wide roads but there are several bends with pinch-points from street furniture. A wide U-turn at 500m and the roadbook lists a bend and then just a 160m finishing straight but there’s no sharp corner, just a sweeping road.

Omen: Foligno is famous for a jousting tournament with Roman heritage called… La Giostra della Quintana. Will Nairo Quintana get knocked off today?

The Scenario: breakaway or sprint? Several teams want a sprint finish, notably FDJ and Cannondale. Orica-Greenedge will do their duty too. Any early break can establish a lead over the first climb and the bunch can calculate the effort needed to bring it back. If a move is to stick it’ll need some strong riders rather than the usual chancers, think Adam Hansen as opposed to a Neri-Sottoli rider.

The Contenders: the two prime picks are Nacer Bouhanni and Elia Viviani. They’re the fastest in the race. Close behind is Giacomo Nizzolo and then several pretenders.  On paper old men Tyler Farrar and Alessandro Petacchi are next in pedigree but watch Roberto Ferrari, Francesco Chicchi, Nicola Ruffoni and Manuele Belletti. Giant-Shimano have Luka Mezgec able to sit tight on their sprint train… but sitting is his problem. He fell on his rear yesterday and is reportedly sore; the same for Ben Swift.

If there’s a breakaway watch some of the stronger riders like Adam Hansen (Lotto-Belisol), Johnny Hoogerland (Androni). Neri Sottoli often flood the breakaways but today’s stage finish is close to their home region. Expect them and other Tuscans to be active.

Nacer Bouhanni, Elia Vivani
Giacomo Nizzolo
Ben Swift

Weather: Wet again. Showers and cool temperatures of 16°C. There’s a light headwind of 10km/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 finish is forecast for 5.10pm Euro time. Tune in early to check if anything’s happening like a breakaway but if it looks like an inevitable sprint, save your viewing for the dash to the line.

Il processo alla tappa: “the trial of the stage” is the post-race TV show from Italian broadcast RAI. It puts riders up against invited journalists and others to debate the day’s events. It might seem your average post-event sports punditry but once upon a time it was revolutionary. I can’t confirm this but it’s said it was the first ever show to be screened after a sports event to digest the action. It began in 1958 as a radio show and moved to TV in 1962. Soon after, the first ever TV slow-motion was screened and apparently the autocue was invented for this broadcast. A lot of innovation.

Separately today we take for granted a sports broadcast with a host joined by a co-commentator but this is also another cycling invention, this time from France with television commentator Robert Chapatte being joined by a colleague to add insight and an extra voice.

It’s ironic that today the cycling output of RAI and France Télévisions has become conservative and old-fashioned with the production innovation to be found on coverage of Formula 1 or the America’s Cup sailing, not to mention the web today and the rise of the GIF, as vital today as slow-mo.

37 thoughts on “Giro Stage 7 Preview”

  1. 57 pages of chatter in a popular cycling forum today discussing BMC’s actions. A little tiresome?

    Are armchair fans more in love with the idea of the peloton’s “unwritten rules”, rather than actual racing? Bike racing is messy, opportunistic and a big part of it comes down to luck – both the good kind and the bad. It’s not a tea party.

    There is some argument to be made if the Jersey-holder goes down in a big crash – taking the jersey off the back of a fallen rider is pretty poor form. But the Jersey-holder himself was in the breakaway group. Is it just me? The reactions in the forums today have me somewhat perplexed…

    • Maybe a lot of cycling fans are fans if the sport cause of it’s unwritten rules, not of the assholeness of other sports.
      But that loook on hings wouldn’t fit in some stuck in ancient Wild-West minded bunch, I see.

    • The unwritten rules are part of the fascination and you can see how today the internet, whether forums or Twitter, allows for immediate post-race debate. It’s as if the Processo della Tappa is now done outside the confines of the TV studio.

    • The reason for the negative comments is simply that it was Cadel Evans, an Italian or Spanish rider and it’d be actually about what a great ride it was.

      Evans is so much smarter and experienced, he hardly ever gets caught up in the crashes.

  2. Good for Evans. He always does the little things right. How many other teams do you see keeping their GC riders right at the front during every stage? OPQS? Katusha? Moviestar? Nope. Kudos to them for riding their balls off every stage, same for OGE.

    • Agree totally. Fortune favours the brave. And lets not forget the plenty of times that luck has gone the other way for Evans (and others). Like the 2009 Vuelta (I think) when a Spanish “neutral” service took ages to change Cadels punctured wheel, while all the other GC contenders stepped on the gas ….

      • FWIW it was Shimano neutral service. But I do not know whether there is one group of mechanics doing the Grand Tours and WT races (in which neutral service is provided by Shimano) or there is one group of Dutch/Belgian/Italian/French/Spanish mechanics doing the WT (and other) races in the Netherlands/Belgium/Italy/France/Spain.

        IIRC the other GC contenders did not step on the gas, they descended, The bollocks and the delay was due to some confusion about the question of 11- or 10-speed cassette. Evans lost more time in a poorly timed and badly judged bike change and he lost additional time after being unable to follow Samuel Sanchez’ wheel.

        There is such a thing as poetic justice, but there was no need for it because of Vuelta 2009.

        OTOH I wouldn’t judge Evans et company too harshly – but I do find the post-stage excuses ridiculous. BMC and Orica-GreenEdge implying that they would have waited if the other team hadn’t stepped on the gas and team managers blaming it all on chaos, poor communications and whatnot…

    • Exactly. This first week has played out for Evans much like the first week of the ’11 tour. Here’s hoping he gets enough time to hold off Quintana in the final week.

  3. Still not convinced that Evans will win… Since joining BMC the team has offered him great support in such stages and opening weeks of GTs, his problem has been support in high mountain passes.

  4. So much to like about this stage, great team direction by BMC and GreenEdge, and great execution of those directions by the riders.

    Every team was trying to get to the front, as Rodriguez said (credit to him for being so magnamous, plenty of others in the peloton whine when they crash out, ey AC?). Big fail by the other teams and GC riders, this was racing #101.

    BMC and GreenEdge would have not raced any differently to the way they did, protect the GC rider and or maglia rosa, get him in a good position, bury yourself for him, and hope the f#ck that he can deliver. Too bad the other teams got caught up but that was their bad luck mixed with poor planning.

    Morabito was a legend, and Durbo left it all out there too. In the end, everyone there had something to gain so it was always going to stay away and get time. Cadel literally punched holes into the GC contenders. It was a very strong finish from him, dragging Bling to the line.

    Quintana showed another lapse of judgement by letting him go and rolling in 19th. Quintana can climb sure, but he’s made some big errors in a couple of Grand Tours already. Uran Uran is his biggest rival on the GC so I’m surprised OPQS wimpered when it mattered too.

    I think GreenEdge have quietly made a statement with little Aussie battler Santaromita, sending him with Matthews was smart because it was a win/win (he helps Matthews stay in pink, and gets time himself). Maybe this is their first genuine GC contender. A top 10 finish maybe?

    Cadel deserves a whole heap more respect than he gets in Europe and the UK. Today was a huge ride, but I’m not really surprised he hasn’t been given any credit or coverage, based on previous bias.

    Time and again he races smarter than the others, hardly ever gets caught up in these situations by riding up the front and always watching. Have a look at the GC and (apart from Rigoberto Uran Uran) you’ll see his nearest rivals are 2+ minutes behind, if it was Wiggins we’d be having a national holiday…

      • Not a conspiracy (well there were those who saw the 30 sec time loss waiting for a wheel at 2010 Vuelta as one), just lack of respect from media and fans (UK snipers mainly). I thought that was pretty obvious? He rides smart then has a real dig, yet the talk is all about him supposedly breaking the rules of racing and relying on misfortune of others. If there was a conspiracy, it would be about the aliens who gave abducted Team Sky, are they still in the Giro?

  5. I hope I’m not jinxing Evans but usually he’s on the opposite end of the luck situation, so perhaps he’s getting a karmic payback now? Ya gotta love Mathews, proof the leader’s jersey does something to a man. He was bobbing around like he was barely able to hang onto the BMC express up the climb, then has the strength to pip his fellow Aussie at the line? BRAVO! Interesting to hear and read the various opinions on why there’s so much crashing – plenty of races get run on wet roads after all. Seems to be Evans’ race to lose now, but remember years ago he croaked big-time while looking like he could win. The rest have no excuses for not attacking him, they’ve got no high-placings to defend so let’s see some racing to win for a change!!!

  6. Another boring piano stage with everyone fresh and being told to hit the front just before the base of the climb – result on wet rubber impregnated roads, carnage. Is anyone really surprised. Good show from Evans and company for keeping the pressure up. All this talk about waiting for those left behind is a nonsense, the race was in full flight. It is a race I assume ?

  7. Man I hate these crashes. I know they’re so hard to avoid they are de facto part of the sport but I cringe every time I see a rider hit the deck. And on top of that it sucks that we now are going to miss out on the quintana – purito uphill battle.
    The only positive is that after the Barolo tt Evans will probably have a huge lead on a fairly large group of climbing specialists so we can expect some interesting tactical battles and maybe even long-range attacks in the high mountains. I haven’t checked all the gc standings but as far as I remember there are no gc contenders left that have a lieutenant still high up the rankings, so Quintana, Uran, Majka etc will have to cooperate to wear Evans and Sanchez down.

  8. The unwritten rule is great, and as someone above said it’s why some people are drawn to cycling and such sports because of the sense of fair play. But it will always cause grey areas. For me, today was good racing and they shouldn’t stop, but instances like tacks on the road means they do stop – ie this is outside of racing.

    Punctures on the other hand I’m not sure about – an even greyer area perhaps.

    (I still think Quintana will take all this time back, but it has probably cemented Cadel’s podium position)

  9. people crash in bike races of every cat on every night of every week in every city in every country… lets just face it… bike racing is mad bad and really really hard as fuck but thats why we love it and hate it with equal measure.

    if we sat up for every crash then where does it end?

  10. I personally don’t like the way Cadel races, he’s always conservative and defending. A proof of that was the time when he won the WC, I think everyone got surprised when he attacked and stayed clear. Anyway, he is at almost 2min from Quintana, but if I’m wrong, in the 2012 Tour he was up there in the first week and when they reached the big mountains he started to fade away, so I won’t be amazed if the same happen in the next weeks as well.

    A lot of km still have to be ridden so I think is a little to early to say that this is a race to be lost by Cadel considering his racing style and mountains to be faced.

    About the waiting thing, it’s totally BS, this is a cruel sport, un-written rules just really exists in the mind of who’s racing, if they though that was not the time to wait, that’s the way it is.

    • Strange first sentence, you don’t like his defensive style and then mention his atack from a long way out to win the rainbow jersey?!

      • He’s a got a big Diesel engine, so his attacks simply aren’t as sharp as say Purito or Bertie. He also has to defend at times because he’s having an off day, unable to benefit from Spanish beef like others.

        • Oh yeah, dopers don’t have off days, while clean riders have off days *because* they’re clean. I love the magical-mythological vision of doping some people share. Arguing on the basis of the worldwide famous and papal-infallibility-like MAPEI seal of quality would be more convincing (and it’s not very convincing, be assured).

    • he certainly didnt take the most aggressive racing line to the line in the sprint… however just before then he had to visibly slow to correct his line straight to continue hugging the barriers, maybe he was afraid of skidding out when jumping out of the saddle while turning slightly left?

      there was that bar slam just after the line, i doubt he expected to beat Matthews in a sprint, but he was a bit miffed to lose even 2nd to Wellens.

  11. I think the finish has (has to have, looking at the road layout) a sharp left and right between the hairpin and sweeping right hander. The hairpin puts them onto Viale Oberdan, which leads to Viale Luigi Chiavellati, but they need to be on the parallel Via Nazurio Sauro

  12. I think a point must be made, that hasn’t been underlined so far. As Inrng rightly points out, the battle for positioning is the major force behind the ever-increasing size and importance of first-week crashes. Hence the very serious need to reduce the battle for positioning. 2 main proposals in that sense: reduce the number of competitors (that is, the number of teams, more perhaps than the number of riders, 12 teams would be perfect), and design routes more generally selective, where no specific moments in the race deserve a battle for positioning.
    As for the stage being boring, it was. But no one should be expecting live entertainment for the whole duration of a stage. The first umpteen hundred kilometers are only there to tire everyone out.

  13. What Cadel did was not “fair play”, IMHO, but I just like him so much as a rider that I would nevertheless “forgive” him 😛
    I appreciate his hunger for victory, but – as a (Spanish 😉 ) journalist wrote today – maybe “he was trading away his soul”.
    It’s true that a lot of grey areas exist, but here we’re speaking of more than fifty riders hitting the deck, like a 25% of the peloton. It’s just so silly in such a circumstance to say that it depends on you to fall or not. Often true, but not on Thursday. Not to the mention those who just had to stop or were slowed down.
    The “good for you if you’re on the front” argument is quite feeble, too: it was a front fall, and the ten or twelve men who escaped were luckier than especially clever. In fact, a good number of Orica and BMC riders who were on the front (ahead of their captains, indeed) went down hard. The teams that wanted – and could – bring their captains on the front suffered the most, while those who went through it nearly unscathed were riding in the back of the peloton (Neri, FdJ, Giant).
    I can’t see much grey, here.
    The false question of “how many people must you be waiting for?” is easily solved. You just wait at cruise speed 30 or 40 seconds, instead of going flat out. It’s not about waiting for all the world to come back, it’s about having something like a *peloton*, with a decent number of teams represented for instance, from which you’ll eventually attack.
    Here the *winning move* as such was created by the accident.
    We all know that the problem is to break the group so that you can go faster without working more than your opponents… or even working for your opponents’ sake. Because of that, you need to *attack*, which requires the risk of burning yourself out and so. It’s already quite unpleasant when a *winning move* is due to a single rider’s problem causing him to lose the wheels… but when you don’t have any opponent left, without having done anything special to *deserve* it, well, it’s just ugly.
    Anyway I love this “dirty side” of cycling, and I find it especially interesting that it involved a clean, kind and *very human* person like Evans. It’s ok, according to the written rules he had the *right* to do that, and he decided to take a chance.
    With regard to unwritten rules, they imply (equally unwritten) trial and punishment by the group. That’s the most entertaining part, indeed. We may see something interesting in the upcoming days…

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