Giro Stage 14 Preview

This year’s Giro might have only one solo time trial but today’s stage compensates with a route so long and challenging that it’s worth two time trials, one flat 30km effort followed by another 30km in the hills.

If the overall classification is still a jumble of jigsaw pieces waiting to be put into place this will give us a better picture. The Alps start tomorrow.

Stage 13 Wrap: a procession with no action. For hours on end the bulk of the TV audience must have consisted of hospital patients in traction with the remote control out of reach plus locals waiting to see their house on television. As expected the sprint finish happened and once again the sprint and result was reduced to a side classification following a crash just outside the 3km to go safety point. Among the many delayed were Alberto Contador and Richie Porte. Contador lost a little time and Porte lost a lot. Game over for Porte? The team will wait until Sunday night to draw conclusions, to see how he fares today and then on the summit finish at Madonna del Campiglio. Fabio Aru collected the maglia rosa and was perhaps a touch too triumphant on the podium given he’d won thanks to the crash of a rival.

Back to Sacha Modolo’s sprint win, it wasn’t stylish given the way the peloton had been disrupted by the crash but he’ll take it after riding the Giro for four years without a stage win. He always looks miserable, a frowning face, the peloton’s Droopy Dog but finally he had a reason to smile. Meanwhile Giacomo Nizzolo takes yet another second place and is equal first on points with Elia Viviani but as is his luck the Sky rider takes the jersey.

The Route: two time trials for the price of one. The start in Treviso is right by the Pinarello bike shop, the home of the bike company. The opening 30km to Conegliano are totally flat and on a regular wide road to the first time check just after the river Piaveideal for the time trial specialists to churn a 56T chain ring. Only with every long pedal revolution they are getting closer to the Conegliano hills, famous for their wines.

At Bagnolo the climbing begins to San Pietro di Feletto with over 2km at 5%. Not steep nor long but a big change in rythm and the vertical gain is quickly felt as the road climbs up via three hairpins on the way to the second time check followed by a regular descent.

The route carries via the feedzone – this is so long getting a second bottle matters – and then to Col San Martino where soon after more climbing begins. The profile says 10% max and 12.2% but it’s wrong, it’s not that steep. It’s followed by a fast descent with several bends but with open visibility. It drops to Valdobbiadene before the final 400m to the line rears up.

Route summary: a maxi chrono of two halves: one flat, the other hilly. The second section is not wild, the roads roll well and riders can spend most of the time on the climbs in an aero tuck if they want. It’s not so much the climbing – the total vertical gain is ~750m – but the distance that will tell.

The Contenders: the distance means today is unlikely to throw up a surprise, it’s such a big effort that it requires experience. But picking a winner isn’t easy. We’re now two weeks in so pure time trial specialists don’t have an automatic advantage but those who have been given “rest days” without too much team work can surprise. Among the obvious names there are many discount factors, Uran has been ill, Porte bashed his knee, Contador has doubts about holding his TT position and so on…

Rigoberto Uran

Rigoberto Uran is the top pick. The Colombian has become a time trial expert borrowing from the experience and knowledge of working with Tony Martin, he’s even had a haircut this week to improve the flow of his locks. But doubts remain, he’s not been at his best so far and crashed at Imola, he got light injuries but that means uncomfortable sleep and another day in the rain won’t help the wounds either. He won last year’s Barolo time trial stage but that was a heavier course which suited him more.

Richie Porte would have been joint equal prime pick with Uran but finished yesterday’s stage and refused to get on the rollers complaining of articulatio genus inflammatorius or in Australian dialect “my knee is f—-d“. It’s not Sky’s style nor his to seek revenge for the misfortune he’s endured. Sky like to be logical not passionate and Porte is just laid back but even if he wanted to rip it up today the concern is that a knee injury is going to ruin things. At the time of writing there’s no diagnosis. Assuming he’s ok this stage has been Porte’s first big rendez-vous of the race. He’s excellent in the time trials too including on the flat where his times could rattle rivals like Contador and Aru. Team mate Leopold König has been seen as a climber but had an excellent time trial at the end of the Tour de France last year where he finished fifth in Périgueux. He’s now ahead of Porte on GC but this is anecdotal, Porte is still the boss. Domestiques Vasil Kiryienka and Kanstantsin Siutsou might be given their chance too and both are candidates for a top-10 today.

Alberto Contador is the key rider today. He crashed yesterday. It’s one thing to pull your shoulder out, it’s another to crash with this injury so he could be sore all over again. Contador is a competent time triallist but not the certainty he was when he worked with sulphurous coach “Pepe” Marti. A top-5 position will be fine for him especially if he keeps his rivals close but given Uran and Porte’s woes he could get the better of them too. Team mate Roman Kreuziger sits fourth overall but the time trial isn’t his forte. He’d probably settle for a top-20 position today.

A story of things starting to go wrong for Fabio Aru was emerging after two stages where he didn’t look so aggressive but the script changed as he collected his first maglia rosa yesterday. He’ll have enjoyed the post stage interviews but the euphoria and huge cheers along the way could see him swept along. But like Inspector Columbo scratching his head might say, “there’s just one last thing”: he’s no good in a time trial. There’s nothing to say he’ll be terrible for eternity but it takes time to learn. He was well off the pace in the Vuelta last year: in the 37km TT stage to Borja he lost 1.48 to Uran and 1.24 to Contador, add on 20km and extrapolate. In mitigation he’s got to work in the windtunnel and on the track and he probably won’t bomb as much as some expect. In this morning’s La Gazzetta Dello Sport Paolo Bettini says Aru should lose 25-30 seconds to his rivals but I suspect he’d settle this morning for losing 90 seconds. As good as he’s been so far this week team mate Mikel Landa is a climber with little time trial pedigree and likely to lose ground here. But Dario Cataldo and Tanel Kangert are powerful rouleurs who are likely to be sent out to to set fast times, Cataldo especially as he was 11th in the Barolo time trial last year.

Ilnur Zakarin

The Outsiders: The real mystery is Ilnur Zakarin, the Katusha rider won a stage in convincing style the other day  and three weeks ago he almost beat Tony Martin in Romandie on a wet and technical course, the kind of course and conditions the German loves. Today’s distance is a novelty for him but he’s a man of surprises. Meanwhile Jurgen Van den Broeck is as stealthy as ever and of all the stages this his best chance to get a win and establish a position high on GC. He was fourth in the Romandie time trial and will find the long course even better. Movistar’s Beñat Intxausti and Ion Izaguirre are both solid riders in the time trial but look like top-10 pretenders, especially with Intxausti going all out for the mountains jersey now which means he might back off today to stay fresh.

The Specialists: Trek Factory Racing’s Kristof Vanderwalle is Belgian national TT champion but a win today would be huge and unexpected. In years past Sylvain Chavanel would have been a contender but he’s fading these days and his time trial style of starting full gas could be very costly today. Giant-Shimano’s Tobias Ludvigsson is an outsider, the lanky Swede copes well with hilly courses but the distance will tell. Finally Orica-Greenedge have two outsiders in Luke Durbridge and Michael Hepburn. “Durbo” was supposed to be the next big thing in time trialling but a big win remains elusive outside of team time trials while Hepburn the new Durbridge but they’re 24 and 23 respectively and have time on their side.

Rigoberto Uran, Richie Porte
Ilnur Zakarin, Alberto Contador
Van den Broeck, Ludvigsson, Kangert, Durbridge

Weather: cold and wet at times with intermittent showers. The variable conditions could alter the result especially as the forecast is for a headwind on the long flat first 3okm for the early starters which could swing to a tailwind for the last riders but this timing isn’t precise.

TV: the first rider is off after midday they go every minute until the last 20 are three minutes apart. They go in reverse GC with Fabio Aru starting at 3.42pm and expected to finish around 5.15pm Euro time. There are three time checks on the course to help tell the story better. Cyclingfans and have the pirate feeds if you can’t find it on TV.

The Giro is: wine. As races cross the landscape they pass many different times of local produce but wine is indicative for the landscape, the grapes need warm weather from May to whenever they’re picked and the presence of wine often indicates hilly slopes. Put another way if you find vineyards you’re probably in good cycling country too. Today’s route celebrates Prosecco, the Italian sparkling wine.

53 thoughts on “Giro Stage 14 Preview”

  1. On Stage 13 I’d go so far as,’locals hoping to see their houses on fire., on television”.I’m looking forward to at the first of many Zakarin surprises.

  2. “.. if you find vineyards you’re probably in good cycling country too. ” I’ll second that! The forecast they were talking yesterday was for rain in the morning, then clearing so all the bigs should have equal conditions today. Aru’s got everything going for him, the jersey’s inspiration, going last so he’ll know just how he’s doing, etc. Now we’ll see if the work they’ve done on his chrono ability will pay off. I’m thinking a minute deficit to Contador, probably more, which will key up some interesting attacks in the Giro’s final week, especially if Uran can get back into contention. I want to see the 3 aces fight it out all the way to Sestriere! W Il Giro!

  3. I don’t know about others but for me Aru is becoming something of a villain. I don’t like his team and I don’t like his attitude. Hope today sees Uran back in strong contention for the GC win.

    • He’s becoming a star in Italy, front page of La Gazzetta dello Sport and lots of promotional coverage and profiling inside the paper today while his gentle voice is appealing to many. Be interesting to see how the final week shapes up in audiences for RAI.

      • Other than being very happy to wear the Maglia Rosa for the first time and perhaps celebrating a little too enthusiastically given the accidental aquisition thereof, what else has he done that is so villainous?

        • Apart from the ‘magical’ recovery from dysentry (just 22 days prior to Giro start) that saw him shed 5kg and somehow find top form? (Or did he? Onya Hendo for saying what others were just thinking)

          • maybe you can add some weight & pay for Onya Hendo’s legal fees for doing something so stupid as publicly calling another sportsman, without apparent evidence, a cheat. I don’t mean a little contribution a la Kimmage Fund, really dig in & pay for the lot. Otherwise the pat on the back for Hendo is all a bit weightless.

          • Wow, “just 22 days”? Guess Smart Hendo would have had a lot to twit in 2013 when Aru (a neopro at the time) recovered from that kind of illness *during the race* (and what a race) – going around under the light of the lanterne rouge for some days before he could climb on the penultimate day such a climb like the Tre Cime in fifth place. Not that this hasn’t been noticed here before, but I suppose we’ve got some lovers of that Goebbels quote around the place (and here I am, with ye good ol’ Godwin’s Law 😛 ).

        • I wondered how the Maglia Rosa ceremony would go too. Considering he’s a young guy wearing the jersey of his national tour for the first time in his life, I thought he was fairly understated in his celebration. And in the end it was a tactical move by his team to make sure he was in front and out of trouble until the 3 km marker. The teams of his rivals came up a bit short in this…is that Aru’s fault?

    • “(Aru) was perhaps a touch too triumphant on the podium given he’d won thanks to the crash of a rival.”

      Times are changing: Merckx refused to wear the yellow jersey the next day when Ocaña fell in 1971. And I think there are other examples of that type nearer to present times.
      From another hand, I understand Aru is the Italian rising star and this is the Giro, but frankly speaking, winning the jersey thanks to a crash of his rival just 200m before safety zone after having tried everything in the previous days without succeeding is not something to fancy about.
      I am not sure whether it would have been better for Aru’s image to be a bit less “triumphant” on the podium.

      Next to that, Kontador is crashing a lot in this Giro, and he is a rider which didn’t use to fall often. Something has changed (rider attitude, way of riding of the peloton…) or is this just bad luck? Difficult to know.

      • Come on, it isn’t like Contador is out of the race or lost all chances, neither is he hurt that much. It maybe was Aru’s last chance to wear that jersey this year. Let him have his moment.

        • Fair enough, you are right, my comment was maybe a bit extreme in mentionning Merckx/Ocaña episode. And being a bit empathic I can understand young Aru’s happiness to get the jersey, mostly because it is maybe his last chance this year.
          However, at the light of the circunstances (crash just before safety zone, rivals wounded…), I would have found more elegant to at least skip the champagne stuff and so on… But maybe I am a bit too “gentleman”…

          • It didn’t look great but he’s a young man who maybe half his life dreamed of such glory, & he simply was too lacking in guile to be able to keep all the happiness in.

          • I understand. But he still is only 24, carries the weight of a nation and has seen his chances on pink slip away the previous two days. That’s a lot of pressure. So I don’t mind him showing his happyness. And – Merckx and Ocana had a different and special “relationship”.

  4. The best thing for the race would be for Porte and Uran to clock top times and Aru and Contador to do badly… but I predict Contador will end up with at least a minute difference from second and will take even more time tomorrow leaving the final week as processional…

  5. If Aru falters in the rain and say Cataldo hits the heights he’s capable of, will Astana change their tactics going forward?

  6. More dithering by Sky when their leader had a problem? CN says Porte had a “phalanx” of team mates with him at the time. Maybe a marginal gain would be to have one who uses the same size bike.

    • Porte had plenty of team mates around and could have chosen any bike, so why Kiriyenka’s?
      And even then, as he got on his bike at the same time as Contador (as the replays showed), how did he lose 1.5 mins to Contador?
      Does anyone know of any explanation for this? Seems an obvious question that no-one has asked.

    • And have the poor teammate riding around Italy in a bike that is a tad too small and collect long term injury?

      Have to admit, I love u guy’s double standard. One moment you criticise Porte for not sleeping with teammates in the hotel, on the other you want a teammate to ride in an uncomfortable position around Italy just incase Porte would need his bike? All the while demanding this personal bike transporter to follow all the actions in a bike position that is not to his optimum? It would be lucky for you if you happen to have a teammate of similar physics as you do. When you don’t nothing can be done.

      On the other hand, the “spanner” thing in the external help rule appeares less outdated than it was two days ago. If only Sky could have an Alen Key to adjust the seat height.

      • “And have the poor teammate riding around Italy in a bike that is a tad too small and collect long term injury?”

        mountain bike-style dropper posts in the pro peloton as a marginal gain for bike swaps. You heard it here first.

        • I have a solution to the bike problem!

          Sky can have a helicopter with a exact spare for Richie Porte in tow and if he has a problem, bingo
          instant bike!

          Might have to do some lobbying with UCI but Sky has the money.

  7. Whether you a fan of time trials or not today was supposed to be the setup day for the final week in the mountains. Now it seems Contador will go into that week, which obviously plays into his strengths, with a decent lead, unless Aru has improved his time trialling beyond all belief.

    Today is difficult to call simply because of the unknowns: Contador (shoulder?/second crash), Porte crash/knee?), Aru (TT-ing improved?/pre-race illness), Uran (crash/pre-race illness/form?). Zakarin is obviously “interesting” but the distance is a big unknown.

    Just for a bit of fun, here is my prediction of how the GC will look post-ITT. Obviously given the number of unknowns these could look awfully silly come the evening. Anyway, just the pre-race big four.

    Contador @ 0:00
    Uran @ +1:05
    Aru @ +1:55
    Porte @ +4:20

    • Not far off the prediction I’ve made on FB earlier today:

      GC Places for 4 ‘favourites’ after TT will be roughly:
      1. Contador
      2. Uran +1.12ish
      4. Aru +1:50ish
      10. (±a few places) Porte +4:30

    • Few references, since he hasn’t often been so well-placed in a GC, but he performs quite well in short ITT with a reduced field, whereas when distance are longer and competition stronger he tends to suffer, performing more or less like Aru (or worse).

  8. It’s being a very good Giro. For work reasons, I’m not able to watch anything, but just reading all about it at night is being great.
    On the TT, at last a real one, how I’d lile to see a TT withour tri-bars. Keeping the aero position on drops, for more than an hour, is so demanding for shoulders, wrists, the back, and finally on the head.

  9. Do you think any of the contenders will change bikes going into the hills? Especially if there is rain, this would seem advantageous.

  10. Inrng, sorry for digging this back up, but for a “calmer week” which was going to be “for the sprinter” we’ll end up with just one mass sprint finish and more or less everyday some important change or attack in GC 😛
    Just joking, I don’t intend to be pointed: you know, I appreciate a lot your work and it was impossible to preview what happened, I only wanted to quote that to underline how impressive this Giro has been until now. Two weeks of stages with hardly one insignificant day (if we also take into account Contador’s fall on Greipel’s stage and Pozzovivo during Matthews’).

        • Poor Porte! Vamos, he’s not just a detail… nor that other GC men lost between 40″ and a couple of mins to Aru. It may be irrelevant in the end, but in modern cycling 30″-1′ differences as such are not something you’d look down to as insignificant, even if they now look like they are. And the fact that GC men attack each other is *a fact*, even without time differences: you have material for debate, how is Aru, how is Alberto and so on. However, now the risk is that the fireworks we could expect for the spectacularly designed final week result seriously diminished. Can’t complain at all till now, but…

  11. Apparently because of too many users trying to access, the intermediate times official website crashed. Oooh, RCS, pleaaaaseee :-S

  12. König takes the keys of the motorhome. We start to see why it wasn’t such a good idea (even if I’m no motorhome hater 😉 , just to make that clear).

  13. Now Ryder Hesjedal finally managed to be in front of Davide Formolo again. But still: after 2 weeks of a Grand Tour over, still being in the top 20 after 2 crashes and without much team support for him – that is excellent for Formolo!

  14. I said something about Porte’s “hardness” and killer instinct yesterday. Seems I proved myself right. He is not the big 3 week stager some seem to think he is.

  15. Stunning ride by Contador. Been saying it since after stage 8, but now it really is all over.
    All quiet from the ‘Astana are all doping’ crowd then?
    As many of us have been saying for almost a week, you wait and see how fatigue affects people towards the end of the race – you don’t judge on the first week or so and cry ‘doping’ without evidence.
    Felline and Kruijswijk a bit of a surprise?

  16. “Contador is a competent time triallist but not the certainty he was when he worked with sulphurous coach “Pepe” Marti.”

    Whose he working with now?

    Laughably vintage. Imagine without the wind.

  17. Inner Ring can you please explain why you ranked a 6 time GT winner and possible top 5 all time rider as much as a favorite for the ITT as Zakarin?

    • Because I felt like it. As mentioned above he would have beaten Tony Martin in Romandie and recently he’s won a stage but not just dropping everyone else in a breakaway but putting big time into them. He’s also been taking it easy on some stages in order to select his stages… turns out yesterday was one stage where he sat up too.

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