A taste of autumn with a course borrows, or rather copies the Tour of Lombardy including the lively finish through Bergamo’s citadel.
Stage 14 Wrap: a fast procession across the plains and then a warp speed ascent to Oropa. Movistar showed their strength in numbers on the early slopes and Quintana duly attacked. Only he couldn’t pull away. He never got more than a few seconds’ lead and seemed to sashay on the pedals, rocking the bike more than his usual rigid style. Crucially he kept looking back started looking back and amid the woodland shade he’d have seen the bright pink jersey of Tom Dumoulin leading the chase in person. The Dutchman soon reeled in the Colombian. Meanwhile the pace was too much for many, Thibaut Pinot opted out and paced himself up the climb, overhauling Vincenzo Nibali and Adam Yates who tried to hold on to Dumoulin but cracked. Bauke Mollema was the main loser, he slipped from third overall to sixth. Dumoulin exuded centrifugal force, each spin on the pedals seem to distance his rivals, right up unto the finish where he ejected Ilnur Zakarin and Mikel Landa and left Quintana as a spectator.
So Dumoulin climbing better than Quintana? Yes on a short, intense effort but things should be different in the high mountains, especially as Movistar can turn up the pace and send a rider or two in the early break to serve as a relay rider. But if they can do this, now they need to do this given Dumoulin took more time on a day when Quintana would have liked to have reclaimed time.
The Route: 150km across flat roads but not easy because this is Italy’s most densely populated region and so there are islands, roundabouts and more to contend with. Then the final 50km are copied straight from last year’s Il Lombardia route.
The climb of Miragolo San Salvatore is 8.7km at 7% and was new last autumn. It’s a hard climb as it snakes through Alpine pastures and past dense woodland with an ever-changing gradient. Changing so much that the Giro’s profile says the steepest section of 11% is near the top… yet when it was included for Il Lombardia the RCS profile showed the steepest part, again 11% was lower down. The lesson? It’s got several steep parts.
The climb to Selvino is easier, it lifts the riders away from the mountains one last time before dropping down to the plains via a long descent with one section where there are 12 hairpins in a 1.2km stretch.
Then comes a 15km flat section to Bergamo, all on big roads. For all the climbing so far here’s a long portion that will deter the climbers from solo moves and could allow the race to regroup and for some faster finishers to get back in contention.
The Finish: they arrive in Bergamo and climb to the old walled citadel on top of the hill via narrow cobbled ramps through ancient gates and medieval streets. The profile above doesn’t show the corners nor the cobbles which make the last climb a leg breaker. The descent is much more straight forward, symmetrical, it’s on wider roads with large hairpin bends and the road for the finish levels out in the last kilometre. Unlike Il Lombardia where they’ve turned right with 250m to go this finish is straight.
The Contenders: an Alpine interlude? There’s every chance the breakaway sticks so spin the roulette wheel of fortune and take your pick among the long list of possible winners. Note UAE-Emirates may sound foreign but their service course is in the region so this is their home stage so perhaps Valerio Conti can deliver the much-needed Italian stage win? Otherwise Omar Fraile and Gio Visconti look like likely suspects. Why not Vasil Kiryienka who is hard to bring back if he can get a gap.
Can we get a GC battle? Why not, the Miragolo San Salvatore is a hard climb and chased by the road to Selvino but Il Lombardia has many more climbs before and is a more intensive affair and so for the Giro the flat roads to Bergamo make it hard to sustain and attack.
|Giovanni Visconti, Valerio Conti
|Fraile, Pinot, Hermans, Kiryienka, Battaglin
Weather: the course may evoke autumn but it’s summertime here. 26°C and sunny in the valleys.
TV: the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CET. There’s live coverage on home broadcaster RAI in Italy and Eurosport for much of Europe and beyond. Otherwise cyclingfans.com and steephill.tv are the go-to sites for schedules and pirata feeds.