Giro Stage 8 Preview

A stage only the Giro can do. A ride up the Tiber valley, central to the myth of Rome before the Alpe de Poti and its steep gravel road and then a wild descent to the finish in the medieval city of Arezzo. Roman history, a medieval city and gravel roads that evoke cycling’s early days, the Giro as a time machine. In more practical terms this is the first proper test of climbing in the Giro, a chance to measure Vincenzo Nibali, Tom Dumoulin and the rest.

If you have to ration your Giro viewing this weekend then this stage is the one to watch given tomorrow’s time trial is important but unlikely to be as exciting.

Stage 7 Review: after a fast start with Nippo-Vini Fantini keen to get Damiano Cunego clear in order to take points for the mountains jersey the race split with two thirds of the field, including Ilnur Zakarin, suddenly chasing to stay in the race. Things calmed down soon but it made for a sapping stage. The breakaway had its strongmen, notably Stefan Küng who stayed out as long he could; and Daniel Martinez, the 20 year old Colombian who impressed. Anecdotes aide the inevitable sprint finish happened with André Greipel a clear winner. Marcel Kittel punctured, denying us the contest but he had been huffing and puffing all day.

The Route: the early climb to Assisi is postcard-scenic and maybe just enough difficulty to let a breakaway go and then there’s a long road up the Tiber valley, the Tevere to the locals. The road rises to the hilltop town of Anghiari, not a marked climb but it’ll start to sap the riders before the road narrows and they take the Scheggia pass before descending back to the plains and use relatively small roads as they pass Indicatore – home of Tinkoff’s Daniele Bennati – on the way to Arezzo. They pass the finish and head for a 31km loop in the hills.

This is hard climb, cut out the flat start and the reported 6.5% average is more like 7% but crucially there are over 3km at 9%. It starts on a tarmac surface but that’s little comfort, it’s a rural road with a rasping surface that’s cracked like an old oil painting and it’s steep and narrow too. Then comes over 6km of strade bianche amid a stunted oak forest. There are double-digit gradients to begin with and some hairpin bends and this is going to be a very hard moment in the stage but those who can stay in contention here ill find the second half easier. The riders might be done with the climb at the GPM point but the climb isn’t done with them, there’s an awkward ridge section to cross on a rough road, perfect for a rider to jump away and profit from those who thought the mountains marker signalled the top. Then comes a tricky descent on a narrow road through the woodland back to Arezzo with little opportunity for those who have been dropped to get back on.

The Finish: if yesterday’s finish in Foligno looked familiar, a repeat of 2014’s Giro arrival then there’s an air of déjà vu again. This time the finish in Arezzo is identical to that used in the 2015 Tirreno-Adriatico where Greg Van Avermaet beat Peter Sagan and Zdeněk Štybar. The race runs into town on the usual suburban style roads with bends and roundabouts before going back 1,000 years in time at the kilometre to go banner. Here they pass under the old city gates and start climbing an irregular road paved with large flagstones and a 5% slope all the way to the line outside of the city’s cathedral.

The Contenders: the finish suits punchy, explosive riders but there’s the matter of the Alpe di Poti to tackle before. There’s also the time trial tomorrow which raises the question of how deep some riders want to go today.

Vincenzo Nibali needs the win more than most. After a good opening time trial his pride took a hit at Roccaraso and there’s a soap opera plot building about trouble in the Astana team. He’s expected to lose time in the time trial tomorrow – coach Slongo says 50-75 seconds to Dumoulin – so a win today would get his tail up. He can cope with the climb and he can sprint for the win too, especially if Astana can reduce the lead group and if pride turned the pedals he’d be going up the Alpe di Poti in the big ring, only it doesn’t and so question marks hang over him. One rider bound to be at ease on the strade bianche is Jacob Fuglsang, once a pro MTB rider. Some are wondering if the Dane committed lèse majeste by beating Nibali but Astana have two leaders, this was always the plan.

Tom Dumoulin should feature. This might be the Alpe but it’s not the Alps and the short intense effort suits him and he can put down the power for the final sprint.

Esteban Chaves was among the best the other day and now faces a longer test uphill. He should be at ease here too and trains on rough roads in Colombia. Form-wise Rafał Majka and Rigoberto Uran seen in a good place too.

Alejandro Valverde was the pick for Thursday but fell flatter than Nibali because if The Shark floundered he was alongside Valverde who’d sat on the wheels. Still if he can make over the climb with the leaders he’s got a good chance in the sprint. The same for Diego Ulissi, tipped for the top but he was a flop at Roccaraso. However the headwinds didn’t suit his style either but Valverde is probably the better climber for today if we had to split them.

When Dumoulin countered Nibali in Roccaraso Domenico Pozzovivo made the move too. He’s a rare winner but has a punchy finish today. Rusvelo’s Sergey Firsanov isn’t going to be anyone’s first pick but that’s the point, he can clip away when others are marking each other, it’s how he won the Giro dell’Apennino earlier this year.

There’s also a good chance a breakaway makes it. Look to the likes of Stefano Pirazzi, Moreno Moser, Darwin Atapuma and Igor Anton, all good climbers and punchy riders who are well down on GC.

Alejandro Valverde, Vincenzo Nibali
Tom Dumoulin, Esteban Chaves, Jacob Fuglsang, Diego Ulissi
Pozzovivo, Moser, Firsanov, Majka, Jungels, Uran, Kruijswijk

Weather: rain showers and sunshine and a top temperature of 18°C which suggests a damp climb and descent too, probably not a mud bath but it only takes one hard shower to tilt things. Forecasting the weather for the Giro can be harder than picking the stage winner sometimes, the predictions of various sites (3b, ilmeteo et al) often coincide with each other but not the reality on the day.

TV: coverage starts on RAI at 1.45pm Euro time with the International feeds picking up soon after. They cross the finish line in Arezzo for the first time on their way to the big climb at 4.15pm and the finish is forecast for 5.15pm.

Eurosport is covering the race across most of Europe. beIN SPORT has the rights in the US and France while Italian host broadcaster RAI offers the best coverage with experienced commentators as well as roving reporters on motorbikes to add extra coverage. As ever, cyclinghub and are the go-to sites for schedules and pirata feeds.

35 thoughts on “Giro Stage 8 Preview”

  1. Logic would tell you perhaps that this is a stage to safely usher your GC contender through.
    But logic is absent, to a large degree, from this race with moves aplenty off camera and difficult-to-predict finishes.
    So let’s go with this theme; Astana to try something? Etixx could, push for Jungels in Pink? Or even Dumoulin making another cavalry charge, he seems confident enough about today’s stage but, as Inner Ring points out, will he try to save himself for tomorrow?
    Spartacus, he survived the Via Apia unlike his predecessor, and today would be an appropriate stage to summon up the energy if he can?

    Today has got an Astana move written all over it, for me.
    I totally agree with Inner Ring’s Nibali / Fuglsang pincer attack.

  2. This stage will hopefully show that Nibali is indeed not at the races and that Fuglsang is the basket Astana must put all their eggs in. Zakarin to also make a showing.

  3. Here’ s my problem with using these roads. It’s a lottery with punctures and such. Cycling may be a mechanical sport, but that still means someone might lose so much time that they fall out of contention, which isn’t fair. That final climb, and the finish into Arezzo, would be exciting and decisive if it was paved. The Strade Bianchi elements in it really don’t do much for me.

    • Which “isn’t fair”? At what point did you decide that cycling was about “fairness”? Cyclists can puncture/fall over/get a mechanical at any time. An essential element of cycling is that it is random. If it happens to you then “hard cheese” as we were taught as kids.

    • What would you suggest, round and round a velodrome for 3,000km? The popularity of Paris Roubaix, Strade Bianche and a host of other races that visit irregular road surfaces would suggest that your view is in the minority, thankfully. These sorts of stages add drama and selectivity to a race and enhance the beauty of the sport. As inrng suggests, they also represent an insight into the sport’s history when dirt climbs (and descents) in the high country were the norm.

    • Punctures (and such) are a lottery, period. Is there even any anecdotal evidence to suggest that there are more punctures (and such) on the strade bianchi (or other similar unpaved roads) than on the normal asphalt roads?

      IMHO it is the debris on the road that causes punctures. Sharp flints of rock can cause punctures, too, but as a rule only when they have no other way to go between the hard ungiving asphalt and a relatively soft tire. On the strade bianchi the flints are pushed down into the gravel.

      OK, if the unpaved road is wet, some small particles can cling to the tire and cause a puncture later on, but usually they dig themselves deep enough ieven into the thinnest racing tire so slowly that they won’t cause a puncture until your next ride (if you are too lazy to inspect your tires) or, in the case of a pro race, not before your mechanic has thrown the tire into the bin.

    • I must agree with the other above comments. Punctures are part and parcel of racing. They effect all of us, from the commuter to the club racer. Sometimes you go to a race with the knowledge you’re fitness is great, you’re in the final cut and you get a puncture towards the end! Yes its demoralising, but you also accept that it happens.

      Surely the mark of a great rider and team is someone who can deal with a puncture and make it back to the bunch – just look at Vanmarcke this year, a great spring and the guy had (numerous) mechanicals and punctures in each race!

      It adds an extra layer to racing, for me the unforeseen and randomness of the sport is what makes it so intriguing, and brings me back each year.

  4. It might be a again a good stage for Wellens, with a ITT tomorrow which will be a rest day for him and an important one for GC contenders. The top of the climb is still 18km far from the finish, too. Launching an attack there may not be the most appropriate for the bigs.
    Maybe he can count on TD to tip him again…

  5. I am looking forward to the stage today and great preview as always Inrng. I think if Ulissi can hang on then he has a good chance out of the group of favorites, but as you stated, most of them will be conscious of going too deep today due to the time trial tomorrow. As a result there will be lots of riders desperate to get in the breakaway at the start of the stage and once the selection is formed and let go by the bunch I don’t think they will be brought back.

  6. So Landa could lose time here and tomorrow… he could go into next week potentially 4mins+ down.
    He’s good in the mountains, but I’m not sure he’s 4 minutes better than the field… And his support looks a bit average

  7. Do I undertand correctly that the dotted line at 3.75km on the profile of Alpe di Poti marks the beginning of the gravel roads?

  8. Well done on todays route, something different to the usual Driving Test route of roundabouts and road calming landscape. of course you can’t please all of the people! Looking forward to this, especially as tomorrow is another, ahem, boring tt.

  9. Ulissi and Valverde look the clear favourites. Out of the rest of the field how about Formolo for a surprise win? He took a mid-mountain stage last year, hopefully Cannondale let him off the leash today.

  10. I think the main contenders will look to save themselves for tomorrow. The only one who has shown good form is Dumoulin and he has the most to gain tomorrow. You’d have thought others will also be hoping that their legs get better as the race goes on and thus not launching any attacks now – particularly the likes of Nibali and Landa who, after tomorrow, are likely to be quite a long way and a long way behind Dumoulin respectively.

  11. “If you have to ration your Giro viewing this weekend then this stage is the one to watch given tomorrow’s time trial is important but unlikely to be as exciting.”

    Oh I wouldn’t be so sure about that.
    I have found time trials to be extremely exciting sometimes. Just a few months ago in Tirreno-Adriatico, for example.
    But the chances are you are correct, though!

    Hoping for two days of fun here, anyway 🙂

    • Yes! I also find time trials (especially team time trials) quite exciting to watch. In a different way, so you have to adopt your viewing habits a bit, but still. I prefer a time trial where something is at stake, or where there are couple of surprises (Roglic finishing 2nd at 0,022 sec for instance) more bearable then some of these guaranteed sprint stages.

    • I would imagine Cancellara will be saving it for tomorrow’s TT, even more that some GC contenders. I would love to be surprised though.

      I wonder whether some GC teams will try to pressure Dumoulin today to weaken him as much as possible for tomorrow. Risky strategy, as it could backfire, but you cannot give him a free ride.

      • Yeah, they should start pressuring by now, because Tom’s sure to build his lead tomorrow. They surely can’t gamble on the last week alone. However, I doubt that they can really make a significant move today. It’s still early, so everyone and their teams are fit, and Dumoulin should be able to digest today’s stage pretty well I’d say. On the other hand, If Astana/Movistar manage to isolate Dumoulin they might not need to break him today, but they can dish out a mental blow for sure.

        Let’s hope Giant gets some help from the two Lotto teams, one being fellow Dutch, and the other having every reason to stay on friendly terms with Giant.

    • Strade Bianchi hasnet had any gravel climbs that are remotely as tough as Alpe di Poti since the race was seperate from l’Eroica Gialoe – l’Eroica Giaole has in the form of teh backroad to Montalchino – aka the final gravel climb used in Giro ‘dItalia 2010 on stage 7.

  12. Formolo / Moser could and should get some opportunities, however, Cannondale is showing their best cards of the season with Uran. It may be all hands on deck today. Nice would be seeing Uran chisel seconds.

  13. My heartfelt favorite is Uran. Not to win, but to improve his overall standing. He is also a good guess for a clean pro and the bright light of a dull team.

    Of the two top picks, sometimes it’s too bad there can’t be two winners. Nibali needs a new team with loyal teammates. Valverde is living his life well.

  14. On the subject of the vagaries of punctures, anyone notice the slew of punctures in the final 10k of yesterday’s stage (on a wide paved road…)? Kittel’s in particular colored the race. Mechanicals are a part of the game. I am a big fan of throwing in pave and gravel roads. It’s cycling.

  15. An absolute joy to write here: Thanks to Movistar and Valverde we saw a halfinteresting stage today at the Giro. Bala was the only one committed to attack and make it count till Nibali joined. And: Nacer Bouhanni won the first and second stage of the Tour de Picardie. Yes!Glad that two of my favourite riders and my favourite team are doing fine.

  16. Fantastic by Brambilla: the big win has been coming for a while – and he was agonisingly close at the Strade Bianche. A brilliant ride.
    Yet more poor coverage by RAI – losing the GC contenders in the last couple of km (and why they can’t make their equipment function in the rain, I don’t know: all others manage). As for Eurosport, we had Flecha’s garbage as the breakaway started the main climb.
    Fuglsang: the legs will decide who is the leader… yes, the mouth should have stayed closed.
    Zakarin is this race’s new Dumoulin – how much time can he take tomorrow?

  17. I’d wager Inrng’s ridden the Alpe di Poti at least once or twice. What a detailed description, right down to the bumps in the road! Oh, yeah: great racing today. Bravo, Brambilla! Poverino, Dumoulin.

    • I’ve done it but only once and a couple of years ago, one of those roads that looked useful on the map as a scenic cut between the Scopetone and Scheggia passes, it’s only during the ride that you discover it’s actually a sterrato, a gravel road, but you’re too far down the road to turn back (as fun as gravel roads sound if you’ve just cleaned your bike and lubed the chain etc you have to do it all over again in the evening). Memories of the climb itself diminish a bit that day after meeting and chatting to a rider out on the roads only to realise after a few minutes it was Riccardo Riccò.

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