Giro Stage 14 Review

They say the Dolomites have pink hue because the granite rocks contain pink crystals. As the sun sets this evening on their peaks the pink glow could be more vivid than ever as the mountains bask in the glory of the Giro d’Italia and a fine day’s racing. The race finally saw a major shake-up including the collapse of Alejandro Valverde. The maglia rosa now hangs on the broad shoulders of Steven Kruijswijk while Vincenzo Nibali and Esteban Chaves will plot ways to turn the race to their advantage.

The stage started with a flurry of attacks but it look a while for a move to go clear, finally a giant group of 36 riders went clear with Darwin “El Puma” Atampuma of BMC Racing present, Kanstantsin Siutsou (Dimension Data), Georg Preidler (Giant-Alpecin) and Diego Ulissi who took the intermediate sprint in Arabba as part of a charge to take the red jersey away from the few sprinters left in the race and he’s now just 20 points behind Giacomo Nizzolo.

The stage saw yet another sprinter abandon as Arnaud Démare quit with stomach woes. Ryder Hesjedal was forced out for the same diagnosis. The Canadian, a sort of Coen Brothers character re-enacting Aesop’s the Hare and the Tortoise, had been hoping to climb back into the race in the final week but it wasn’t going to be.

After tackling the early climbs Ruben Plaza, Orica-Greenedge’s new but old recruit at 36, led the race onto the Passo Giau – which rhymes with “ow” – as the day’s biggest difficulty. The Spaniard had nine minutes but this began to melt like roadside snow in the sunshine as Astana led the chase. Soon Andrey Amador was in trouble and churning a huge gear, not for him a measured effort to try and pace himself back instead he was giving it everything and over the top of the Giau he rejoined the main group on the descent.

The Valparola was the final mountain pass of the day and Darwin Atapuma attacked breakaway remnants Preidler and Siutsou in his bid for the stage win and presumably somewhere in the pressrom someone was dreaming up a headline involving “Darwin” and “survival of the fittest”.

Vincenzo Nibali Domliti

Behind no sooner had Amador got back on than he was in trouble again as Michele Scarponi finished his work for the day. Nibali took over with an attack. This did damage notably to Alejandro Valverde. As shark attacks go Nibali bit chunks out of Valverde’s legs but revealed once again Astana’s focus on Movistar rather than everyone else, Nibali got rid of Valverde and Amador for good only to find his problems just beginning. Esteban Chaves and Steven cruised across while Rafał Majka, Ilnur Zakarin and Rigoberto Urán were battling to close the gap. It was uphill but being on a wheel mattered with the 5% slope. The trio made it across to the Nibali group only for Esteban Chaves to attack and only Kruijswijk could follow with Nibali going solo in pursuit. The trio formed but then Kruijswijk jumped and only Chaves could follow. The pair took time on Nibali but not lots, again being able to work together on the climb helped them and while the cameras dwelt on the forlorn Nibali he wasn’t losing that much time.

Passo Valparola Giro d'Italia

Darwin Atapuma and Vincenzo Nibali both paid the price of the linear descent to Corvara, the long sections rewarded a group of riders able to swap the lead instead of a solo rider and the lack of corners meant Nibali couldn’t put his risk-taking descending skills to use in order to claw back the others. Atampuma got reeled in by Chaves, Kruijswijk and Preidler. The tall Austrian has impressed in this race and as they approached the finish he had every reason to sit in given Chaves and Kruijswijk were out to take time, for them a stage win is almost incidental. But the Austrian launched his move from so far it was as if he was the one who heard a clock ticking somewhere and sure enough his long range sprint saw Chaves pass him in the finishing straight, the Colombian make the sign of the cross as Preidler just looked very cross with himself with a Vaudeville bang on the handlebars.

Steven Kruijswijk

Kruijswijk now takes the maglia rosa, fitting for a rider nicknamed The Coathanger because of his broad shoulders. Can he keep it? From those shoulders must hang cavernous lungs and he’s clearly strong enough to ride away Nibali. As we’ve seen before in the Giro the third week should pose no problem, last year he was so fresh in the final week he should have been on billboard ads for Jumbo supermarkets tagged “fresh produce every day”. But he’s going to have to carry a lot of weight on those shoulders too as he’s not got much of a team. Enrico Battaglin helped him the other day only him and Rozglič finished in the top-50 today. Put another way he’ll be lucky to have help on the penultimate climb, yet alone the last climb of the day. The Dutchman has to watch out on two fronts:

Nibali is only 41 seconds behind. He was beaten today but as bad as looked on TV this was a strong performance, to only lose this much time after two early attacks, get countered and find himself dangling solo in the wind could have been a disaster but he kept his cool. This isn’t the Nibali of 2013 who ravaged the race but he can improve then the third week is his to profit from.

Chaves looks the most tonic of all the climbers. It was he who attacked on the Valparola and this wasn’t even a climb that suits him, his light build will ideal for the steep climbs to come. But at 1.32 down on Kruijswijk he’ll have to start taking risks to claw this back, he cannot count on a time bonus here or there. Sometimes riders are happy to defend their positions on GC and third overall is great for Chaves but he’s got 90 seconds on fourth-placed Valverde already and Movistar’s leader must now fear the even greater altitude yet to come which means Chaves can out to play in the high mountains and his fluent Italian ensures plenty of support in the media too.

It’s not the Tosca moment either for Rafał Majka or Ilnur Zakarin who can see themselves towards fourth overall at Movistar’s expense which means they’re only a puncture, crash or undercooked rest day burger away from the podium.

All to play for. As Kruijswijk collected his pink jersey on the podium he sat down on the step and proceeded with the celebrations as if he’d already begun the recovery process ahead of tomorrow’s tough uphill time trial.

34 thoughts on “Giro Stage 14 Review”

  1. In the sixth paragraph, you mention the fact that it was Chaves who attacked Nibali and only Kruijswijk could follow. Wasn’t this the other way around, or is my mind playing patriotic trics on me? Because I think I remember watching the Human Coathanger attack, leaving Nibali with Chaves behind. In the post race interview with the Dutch commentator, Kruijswijk said he was glad that it was Esteban who followed his move, so they could work together to gain as much time on the GC competitors as possible.

  2. congrats again on getting such a quality review up so quickly. Ref Amador, he “rejoined the main group on the descent” and then nearly lost on the very first sharp left hander after it, locked up the rear and went sideways around it.

    Excellent viewing for both the racing and the scenery- planning a summer break riding out there and using Daniel Friebe’s Mountain High and the Col Collectives videos as additional research.

    • As well as Mountain High, Mountain Higher has more Dolomites too.

      If anyone’s interested there are lots of good roads including the Passo delle Erbe, perhaps the most scenic and see for info on the climb but also the links to Igor Tavella who runs a bike friendly hotel in the piece. Worth declaring he’s sponsored this website for a month so there’s a loyal connection there but he’s not paying me to say he knows the area very well and offers a good base for anyone interested in exploring these mountains.

  3. It was such an obvious tactic by Astana: Movistar should not have ridden early (never mind the tradition of having to protect the jersey) and should have been riding solely to protect Valverde. Mind you, Valverde hasn’t looked like winning a GT this decade and I never thought he’d win this one.
    But the race has been kept alive by Nibali’s (slight) weakness. Looks like Nibali will have to try to pressure Kruijswijk on some descents – SK’s biggest weakness seems to be his descending, although Nibali didn’t gain on him today.
    Tomorrow will be fascinating: I’m hoping that Chaves can do well enough to stay in contention and make it a three horse race.
    Nibali will be delighted if he watches the highlights and sees Fuglsang leading the Valverde group at times. You ride for your leader – as Valverde will surely be mentioning to his team this evening.
    As with last year’s TDF, Movistar’s tactics in trying to work for two riders has backfired.
    What was Preidler doing? That was the longest sprint I’ve ever seen. I was bellowing for the Puma.

  4. LOL “undercooked rest day burger away”
    Thank you Inrng for another great review!

    Chaves strong and a very cool customer, but had the impression that Kruijswijk was the strongest man today; the gap to Nibali seemed to grow more substantially when he was pulling on the front.

  5. Excellent write up.

    It was a decisive stage with lots of non-programmed action.

    It really makes tomorrow’s time trial interesting.. I suspect it will be easy to take or loose 60s or more. In 2014 there was a 4 min spread between 1 and 10th but that had 19km of climbing.. with half of that it will still be something quite interesting.

  6. As I watched the race hit the Giau, with the attendant fireworks among the GC contenders, I thought to myself: This is why I watch this sport, and this is what makes the Giro so special. An impossibly difficult stage; some of the most beautiful country anywhere; and top GC contenders taking a risk and making attacks – attacks that could easily backfire. I was stunned (and thrilled!) to see Kruiswijk pulling away from Nibali, and could hardly fathom Valverde falling off the way he did. And I definitely didn’t expect Chavez to follow along as he did.

    But… there is a lot more road to ride/climb; nearly anything could happen tomorrow. And that’s the point. W il Giro!

    • PS: Huge respect for the way Nibali fought on after he had been distanced. It would have been easy for him to throw in the towel; instead, he reached deep and showed his mettle. I’d be happy if I could report honestly that I had even half the fight of any of these guys.

      • Agreed – Nibs did well to keep the gap to around 30s… Zakarin, Majka & Uran were not so far behind when he dropped and it would have been easy to let them come up and contribute.. good decision – as they ended up losing over 2 minutes!

        At first I thought that having missed the acceleration, Valverde waited for Amador to come up, and they would bridge together – as it was he even missed the accelerations of Chaves, Kruiswijk and even the Majka, Uran, Zakarin trio….. then it became evident he was spent.

        • Nibali probably threw in the highest average watts of the whole field, in a very consistent way, too, during the last half hour or so (it would be interesting to actually see the data), but he clearly couldn’t match the top wattages in the typical five-minutes effort. Which makes for a promising third week, or at leats I hope so. It’s also interesting to see how this will be mirrored by today’s ITT result, although it’s pretty clear that the main if not nearly-single factor will be each’s rider recovery, which obviously depends heavily not only by the relative “quantity” of the effort they did yesterday, but also by the kind of effort involved.

  7. A lot lies on tomorrow’s time trial. Chaves and Kruisjwijk will do well to pair up against Astana and Moviestar for their own GC chances to negate their weaker teams.

    I am loving the way that each week this Giro reshuffles the pack. No team seems to be able to stamp their domination on the race, and as each team tries thinks they have grappled control the prize slips through their fingers like a slippery pig.

    It’s as if the race is like one of those nightmarish mazes that reshapes to confound those trapped within. At the moment you cannot say that there is a clear candidate for the win. This is one of the reasons I love the Giro. Compare that to the domination many candidates have shown in the TdF, where the likely candidate can carry the maillot jaune for 2 weeks or more. The tension of who will win is much more palpable with the Giro. Pick your winner now…..

  8. I wrote this two days ago: ‘I’m interested to see how Chaves goes in the next week. I think he has been the strongest climber thus far. A lack of team support may mean he will be limited to late snipes rather than stage domination, but I think he is on his way to a podium.’
    Mind you, given how the race was playing out hardly a bold prediction. He’s looked the least troubled by attacks and has a smooth pedaling style that’s very easy to watch in comparison to most of the contemporary GC riders. From here it will be hard for Chaves to get onto the top step, but I think he will eat into Nibali on the two road mountain stages, but probably lose a little time tomorrow.

  9. Great blog as always…
    I have a slightly pedantic geology comment. The rock in the Dolomites is dolomitic limestone, not granite – great for rock climbing on!

  10. I dare to conclude from you’re even more inspired than usual writing that you enjoyed watching the stage 🙂 . Thank you, I enjoyed reading it.

    Finally a queen stage that provided the action one could expect from stages like that many years ago. In the more recent past those stages (especially in the TdF) have often not lived up to the expectations. But thanks to the balanced and broad group of contenders we saw in this edition (at least up until now) a fireworks like today’s could develop.

    Martinelli’s brain will run on all cylinders over the next two nights in order to produce an idea how to beat Chaves and The Coathanger since the strategy they applied to crack Movistar won’t work for those two. It could rather backfire another time if they keep climbing like this.

    What a great race! We’re entering the third week and the competition is still very wide open.

  11. Thanks for the recap. I wasn’t able to watch live after about 45km to go, and the video recaps that I can find online leave a lot to the imagination.

  12. The Dolomites are called the Dolomites because the principal rock type found there is…Dolomite. Not Granite (which granted can be pink). Dolomite is an exceedingly hard, dense version of limestone which is ultimately a sedimentary rock (think warm coral seas). Granite is igneous (think volcanos and lava). Otherwise great report as ever, you just tweaked my inner nit-picky geologist!

  13. Great write up – that was the best stage of grand tour that I can remember for a long time. Does anyone have any other contenders?

    • Stages 18 and 19 of the 2011 Tour de France are pretty hard to top in terms of drama and excitement. I’d also cite stage 13 of the 2013 TDF, even though it was flat the crosswinds made it gripping in terms of GC impact as well as the stage win itself.

  14. Agreed about 2011 (that was five years ago, though, which I’d call a pretty “long time”), whereas the 2013 stage was great but not quite on this same level because of different factors (essentially but not exclusively because once the *situation* was established with what we can consider one *move*, there weren’t many other *events* besides the, albeit really gripping, wrestle between the groups… the stage win wasn’t that very much contested, either, it was quite a sort of a on-way thing).

    However, we’ve got a certain number of good GT stages in the last years – let’s say from 2010 on – which I’d deem on a level comparable to yesterday’s, even if it’s very hard to say if you can make an ordered list (and… must landscape be included? 🙂 ).
    Fuente Dé or Cercedilla in the Vuelta, Aprica, Val Martello, Gardeccia or Montalcino in the Giro (and, with a different scheme, maybe a couple of Zoncolan stages, too). Without doubt, the pavé stage in the 2014 Tour, and, albeit on a clearly lesser level, the 2013 Mont Ventoux, too.

    Anyway, I think that Hound is right in that this Dolomite stage could place itself in a top-ten of GT stages of the last 5-6 years, or, if anything, just outside that same *very virtual* top-ten (depending on personal prference, too).

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