The first uphill finish of the Giro. The climb to Abetone isn’t normally that selective but the way Tinkoff-Saxo and Astana are riding at the moment we could well see a GC showdown.
Stage 4 Wrap: an action-packed stage where the scenario kept changing. Many races can be a slow burn to watch before an exciting finale but this was a Hollywood action thriller with well paced action throughout. It started with a plot twist of a giant break where it was hard to know who had gone clear. By the time the list of 24 riders arrived the group had split. Crucially Roman Kreuziger was among the fugitives which put pressure on the other teams although it didn’t stop Tinkoff-Saxo from leading the charge behind, presumably not to chase down their Czech lieutenant but to try and put the hurt on everyone else. It came at a price because when Fabio Aru tried a sharp attack on the final climb as Alberto Contador was isolated.
After Stage 2 saw an idiot on a beach cruiser “join” the bunch and provoke a crash it seemed a local junior decided to infiltrate the race with Formolo’s cherubic looks. With the peloton approaching the final climb to Biassa about to start Davide Formolo attacked the surviving riders in the breakaway, catching them by surprise as they prepared themselves for the ascent. He quickly built up a lead and extended it on the steep part of the climb and rode solo to the finish. Aru is still the future of Italian stage racing but Formolo seems a future rival too. It was a great day’s racing, a thrill to watch, yet for all the excitement it was not decisive and race-defining.
There were several losers, the biggest was Rigoberto Uran. He’s already lost team mates Pieter Serry and Gianni Meersman and now he’s lost 42 seconds after being distanced on the late climb yesterday and he’s got a cold with a blocked nose. Game over? No but he’s lost a life already. Ilnur Zakarin lost lots of time too; no specific news but team mate Vorobyev quit the race with stomach troubles. Movistar’s Beñat Intxausti and Ion Izaguirre have also lost plenty of time too.
The Route: 152km means another short stage. The Foce Carpinelli is 10km at 5%, a fast climb where it pays to sit on the right wheel to save energy to cross into the isolated Garfagnana area. The road starts climbing again through Bagni di Lucca tracking the Lima valley upwards on a large road, ideal for teams to impose their tempo.
The Finish: full details on this in the Roads to Ride piece but it’s a “power climb” rather than something for the mountain goats but it’s still got 8km at 7% to shred the field. Also beware the profile above as for once RCS seem to underestimate it, the “max 10%” segment appears once but there are actually several ramps of 10% including a final one just 2km from the finish. It levels out to the line at the top off the pass.
The Contenders: normally the final climb isn’t that selective, it’s hard but could allow some punchy riders to hang with the climbers and then bag the sprint. But there’s been nothing normal about the start of the race so far with Tinkoff-Saxo and Astana keen to rip up the race. If this continues then the finish could well be reserved for the GC contenders as they eject the likes of Philippe Gilbert or Diego Ulissi.
Abetone has been the springboard to Giro wins by Coppi and Merckx so the trio of Alberto Contador – Fabio Aru – Richie Porte might want to take the win. Aru seems to have the strongest sprint but this is no velodrome and it’d depend on who has the most energy left. Can Rigoberto Uran get back on terms with the three?
This is also the training grounds for many Italian riders so expect them to crowd the breakaway. One local, at least by region is Diego Ulissi. He’s thrived on uphill finishes before but has he got last year’s form? Another local is Giovanni Visconti who uses this climb for training but he could be rinsed from yesterday’s efforts. An outside bet is Damiano Cunego who has been waiting for this stage but it’s questionable if he’s in the mix yet alone winning.
It’s worth watching two Colombians, one in Esteban Chaves who is looking very good and well-placed to continue Orica-Greenedge’s razzia. The other is Carlos Betancur as the climb would be perfect for him if he’s in top shape and we’ll quickly know if he can do anything.
Finally what of Katusha? Zakurin’s already abandoned GC hopes but could have sat up to save himself for stages while Yuri Trofimov was climbing well in Romandie and Pavel Kotchetkov dropped everyone from the breakaway two days ago.
|Fabio Aru, Alberto Contafor, Richie Porte|
|Ulissi, Chaves, Cunego, Visconti, Kotchetkov|
Weather: sunny and warm with temperatures of 25°C. There will be a breeze with a 20km/h tailwind helping the riders.
TV: the feed is supposed to start around 3.10pm and the finish is forecast for 5.15pm Euro time. Cyclingfans and steephill.tv both have links to pirate feeds with the latter also listing where you can view the race properly too.
The Giro is: …nostalgic. The climb to Abetone was first used in 1928 it’s become more famous because of the 1940 stage from Florence to Modena when Fausto Coppi took off on the climb and went on to win in Modena, his first Giro stage win and he took over the race lead which he kept to the end: the Coppi legend was born here. There’s a small Coppi memorial on the way up, a square stone embedded in a wall. The Giro is full of legends, myths and history and the race makes good use of them, arguably more than the Tour de France. It pays to look back because a large segment of the audience is made up of senior citizens – most Italians are at work – and they might enjoy reliving the tales of Moser, Gimondi and possibly Coppi and Bartali.
John Foot’s “Pedalare! Pedalare! book recounts much of Italy’s cycling history and is a recommended read. A historian, Foot brings in a wider socio-politico-economic context to the role of cycling in Italy over the years but with cycling the central subject and expert detail about the sport, from the pedalling style of Fausto Coppi to the blood chemistry of Marco Pantani. Read this book and you’ll understand why the Giro enjoys looking back.