Giro Rest Day Review

The weather looks set fair for the Alps with cool but sunny conditions expected for tomorrow’s siege of the Stelvio and for the rest of the week too. Tom Dumoulin looks in command and even signalled he was the Giro’s padrone at one point during yesterday’s stage when Nairo Quintana had crashed by telling the main group to slow. As the Giro enjoys its third rest day there’s the sense that everything so far been antipasti to the dishes about to be served up in the Alps.

Talking of Alpine weather there’s talk that RCS will ask the UCI for a later slot on the calender next year, just a week further into May means the mountain passes are more viable. Certainly if you want to visit the Stelvio you’d not go before June but one other benefit is that more of the Giro would take place once Italy’s football season has finished, La Gazzetta is packed with calcio coverage and it might make commercial sense to have more of the Giro happening once the football is done.

After flicking past page after page of football you reach page 44 where this morning’s La Gazzetta Dello Sport is all about Bob Jungel’s stage win yesterday, the speed of the stage and the large crowds. Jungels took a fine win after a full gas stage, 46.5km/h for 199km with climbing too. The irony is that Quick Step’s grip on the race with four stage wins already means many other teams are scrambling for a stage win so they fought to escape on a breakaway day… only for another Quick Step win.

Time travel: the arithmetic is simple, Nairo Quintana is 2m41s behind Tom Dumoulin or 161 seconds. Let’s say Dumoulin is 90 seconds faster in the final stage time trial, this means Quintana needs 251 seconds between here and Saturday, to take back over four minutes in the coming stages in order to have a chance of the overall win. A late attack on a summit finish to chisel a few seconds here or there won’t cut it: Dumoulin has to crack, to be broken. For reference Steven Kruijswijk’s crash and lone chase cost him 4m54s. Viewed like this it seems misfortune and mistake are Dumoulin’s rivals, not Quintana, Pinot and Nibali. But a year ago Kruijswijk had already been tested in the high mountains, it was this that had put him into such a commanding position. By contrast the 2017 edition simply hasn’t had a “proper” mountain stage where we see a parade of passes and a summit finish. The idea is the repeat climbs will tenderize Dumoulin ahead of a summit finish where he could implode. If he is climbing as fast as his rivals on Blockhaus and beating them to Oropa then he can surely match their tempo one, two or three climbs? It’s not as if he came to the Giro hunting for time trial stage wins and the rest as a bonus: he’s spent time training on these climbs and did a training camp in Livigno just up the road from Bormio and the Stelvio. Indeed what if Dumoulin finds the Alps suit him even more? Certainly the roads ahead are often regular, the classic ski station access roads designed to let buses ferry tourists to resorts meaning level gradients and smooth tarmac compared the Blockhaus’s road which climbed like an irregular mule path: what better for a rider who prefers to pace himself?

Team tactics: Movistar still hold the key to the race. The tactic of sending a rider up the road to act as a relay is an old one but always a good one. Movistar can afford to send two riders ahead into the breakaway – say Gorka Izagirre and José Herrada – and still retain a core of support riders around Quintana like Rory Sutherland, Victor de la Parte and J-J Rojas for shelter before using Winner Anacona and Andrey Amador as booster rockets for a mountain attack so that the Colombian can bridge across to his waiting team mates who can then tow him to the next climb. Easier said than done: this is Giro and not Pro Cycling Manager but it’s just one example of the rich options available to Movistar. Similarly they could play a longer game by reserving the likes of Amador and Anacona while still forcing Sunweb to chase and run themselves ragged, then use them the following day for more relay moves. It all revolves around Quintana who may simply not have what it takes, his attack to Oropa was reeled in, he crashed yesterday and if you wanted to see his bidon half-empty then his sprint for time bonuses in Bergamo suggests he’s thinking about seconds rather than minutes.

Back in the 2015 Vuelta a España Dumoulin (pictured) lost in part because he didn’t have a strong team around him, Giant-Alpecin came built around John Degenkolb with barely a climber in support and the stage to Cercedilla where Astana took control of the race was like watching a nature documentary where a pack of hyenas isolate a gazelle, chase it to exhaustion and then devour it. This time Dumoulin’s got able support with Georg Preidler, Laurens Ten Dam, Chad Haga and Simon Geschke all valuable but can they stand up to Movistar? Sunweb team management will be consumed by this today.

The rest of the race is open. Vincenzo Nibali has tried a few attacks but they’ve come to nothing. Does he want a stage win, applause or a podium finish? He’s fourth overall so everything is open to him and he’s likely to go big before going home. His every move matters given Pinot and Quintana will mark him, they won’t just be basing their race on Dumoulin. Most importantly his moves show he’s able to attack, to make the race even if he’s yet to get a result: he’s in a far more comfortable position than he was a year ago.

What about Thibaut Pinot? He too enters his preferred terrain and style of racing. Full speed approaches followed by high tempo climbs are not his thing, he’s said it in the Giro but before too so it’ll be interesting to see what he can do, especially knowing that Nibali is looking strong in the time trials and Ilnur Zakarin is only a minute behind too, seemingly erratic yet somehow consistent given he’s sitting fifth overall. Has Bauke Mollema collapsed? No, he simply lost time at Oropa in the high speed summit finish and made the selection over the climb to Bergamo Alta yesterday, he could find the upcoming mountain stages more to his advantage but the third week of a grand tour is still the question for him, he’s fallen apart before. A breakaway here, a time trial there: the podium places are still up for grabs which itself will impact the tactics, hopefully encouraging moves but beware the defensive positioning where Movistar and FDJ look over their shoulders to contain moves too. Also you can be sitting in the top-10 one minute and then in hospital the next as Tanel Kangert showed yesterday when he collided into an unmarked signpost.

Around this there’s also the competition for stage wins with the likes of Team Sky, Orica-Scott, Cannondale-Drapac, BMC Racing, UAE-Emirates all hunting for stages and deploying strong riders who may get a result but will certainly shake up the racing.

The mountains competition is starts, Dumoulin leads with 51 points with Omar Fraile on 49 points, Jan Polanc on 46. Tomorrow’s passage over the Stelvio, the Cima Coppi as the highest point in the race, offers first nine win 45-30-20-14-10-6-4-2-1 points. In other words one climb will award almost as many points as the leaders have accumulated so far and there are seven first category climbs to come too.

The points competition is stitched up with Fernando Gaviria holding 325 points to Jasper Stuyven on 192 and again Stuyven needs to win every remaining stage without Gaviria placing to have a chance of taking; in other words Gaviria just has to reach Milan. He’s had a great Giro with four stages, Quick Step have five thanks to Bob Jungels and La Gazzetta resorted to claiming these wins are part Italian because Davide Bramati has been driving the team car. It all helps but the lack of an Italian win keeps weighing on the race with constant references to it in the domestic media.

What’s next? Tuesday serves up the the 222km tour of the Stelvio which is climbed and descended on all of its flanks. Wednesday keeps piling on the distance with 219km, in the Alps but not at altitude. Thursday’s saw-tooth profile delivers 4,000m of vertical gain squeezed into 137km across the Dolomites. Friday is the final summit finish of the race after a long valley road approach, Saturday is Monte Grappa and then the climb to Foza and on to Asiago: the last roll of the dice for the climbers before Sunday’s 29.3km time trial from Monza to Milan, billed by some as “downhill” but the elevation change between start and finish is 65 metres.

Tom Dumoulin
Nairo Quintana
Thibaut Pinot, Vincenzo Nibali
Zakarin, Mollema, Jungels

There’s a lot to digest in the coming days and if Tom Dumoulin is sat at the head of the table table we thought that of Steven Kruijswijk this time last year too. The Alps get serious this week and how Dumoulin digests these mountains alongside other rivals, each with their personal appetites, should be great to watch.

56 thoughts on “Giro Rest Day Review”

  1. Actually I doubt Orica-Scott will be out hunting stage wins. Now that Ewan has joined the sprinter exodus they’ll be fully focussed on advancing Adam Yates’ GC position and a solid top 10 and the white jersey is well within reach for him.

    • +1
      They’ve already won a stage, after all. Bringing a “double leader” means at least that the sprinter can “tick” the stage win box. Now go strong for Yates.

      I’m starting to wonder if the twins are confusing me… maybe I tend to attribute to both the sum of their qualities. Bold attackers with solid climbing and a fast sprint. But maybe Simon is more explosive uphill and more disposed to surprise attacks while Adam is more of a direct contender? Hard to say, I must confess (and it’s not very commendable on my part) that I struggle to remember who did win exactly what – while GT performances are easier to identify.
      Having seen the team working hard, I’d have expected a strong surge on the short final climb or, definitely, a winning sprint. Not at all a criticism, anyway, it’s just that, as I said, I feel as if I haven’t still an exact “portrait” of them as riders. Any hint?

      About the sprinters’ exodus: if Gaviria should reach Milan, he’d make a good point about his qualities. As I showed in the past, the greatest sprinters always took into account the importance of winning point jerseys, too. This isn’t against Ewan, since that jersey looked out of reach anyway, only a side point. Just as the final week isn’t too selective in terms of climbing in the finale, it has conversely got a hell of climbing in the first two thirds of the stages, which is probably the worst combination for the gruppetto. Good luck Fernando! Starting from tomorrow…

      • The Yates have similar palmares. For some reason Sky only wanted to sign Simon not Adam, and staying together was a factor in them signing for Orica. Sky’s loss.

        • I so really hope we find out in 10 years time that the Yates’ brothers have been carrying out a Prestige style scam and racing these GTs a day each. With the non racing one hiding in the team bus, watching the race, frantically trying to give him self matching injuries after a crash 🙂

          • But the best part is when we discover that Froome has been using a self-cloning-killing Tesla machine to start every day as a fresh rider in GTs…
            All that security around the team bus always looked suspicious!

        • They also were promised leadership opportunities at Orica while they were most likely to turn into helpers at Sky. Thomas, Kennaugh, Porte, and even Froome had to pain their dues before being given the chance to lead. They wanted to skip the apprenticeship and lead right away. Based on their results I think they made the right choice.

      • You pretty much on the money, i know it’s a few years back. But when Adam was targeting things like Tour of Turkey he was definitely showing his grand tour credentials, even if it was only going to be in week to ten day stage races, but the pair of them have pushed on at every level. Still think Simon would make a good Classics rider, personally. Saw him in his junior days hunting down riders and out sprinting them in hilly races, in a similar vein to how Dan Martin beat …. the Danish lad into Luchon in 2012(?) Simon has that surge like Dan and Alexis Vullirmoz of AG2R fame he won on Mur de Bretagne couple of seasons ago. Think Yatesey was 7th. He could win on the other Mur as well

  2. With two riders sent home on the eve if the race from a pro-conti outfit, no WT teams in the race and (currently) no stage wins. The 100th Giro is turning into anti-celebration if the decline of cycling in the country over 100 years.

    Hopefully a turning point and not a final nail in the coffin.

    • Rumors are flying about a big Italian sponsor getting back-in-the-game, perhaps taking over QS and adding Gianluigi Stanga, the ex-Gatorade/Polti capo to the management team.
      And let’s not forget there are more Italian riders in the WT than any other country, no matter the population, so I’d put the coffin back on the shelf… along with the nails.

      • By ‘back in the game’ I presume you mean one that has already been in before? That is interesting. And also, as much as their aren’t any World Tour teams who are officially registered in Italy UAE are an Italian team in all but name and registration, as is Bahrain largely and I’ve always considered Astana Kazakh funded, Italian led. It also has to be taken into consideration that Nibali aside most of Italy’s best riders aren’t there – Viviani, Colbrelli, Trentin, Brambilla, Moscon, Aru, Ulissi et al. That’s a lot of talent to be without.

        • Sorry, I did not mean to imply the sponsor had been involved before. As to what Gabriele is writing about, I thought the big issue was the lack of Italian sponsors rather than riders, staff, management, development, etc? There seems to be a steady stream of young Italian guys coming up via teams like Zalf and the like and I think Cassani’s doing a good job as CT though the results have yet to materialize. When/if the Italian economic crisis improves and IF there’s no major doping scandal, I believe there are Italian companies eager to spend their advertising budget on cycling. But if nobody has a job or money, throwing advertising money into your business is not wise whether it’s pro cycling or football.
          Meanwhile Saronni, Nibali, etc. have to grovel around and find the money in some unsavory places to fund their teams. I hope the big Italian sponsor rumors are true, even if it just means a different sponsor for the existing QS squad? W Italia!

    • The decline of Italian pro cyclists – which isn’t “cycling in the country”, thanks God – is indeed there, but it’s not about the last 108 years (Giro #100 doesn’t mean 100 years, sorry for pointing out a very minor point but I noticed lots of people confused about the subject).

      I’d say that it’s a *ten* years thing, more or less. And it’s quite much about the managing of the national federation. A look at a couple of dates would give some hints, but I won’t open a debate on a local topic.

      However, it should be noted that the health of a cycling competitive movement isn’t necessarily the health of “pro cycling” in general, which includes races, too: the Giro is having one of its healthier decades in history – and a healthy race means great competition which means that it might be harder for locals to win.
      The Giro di Lombardia is a way better race than 20 years ago, even if the stint of great Italian one day riders who won a lot of editions is over (you first had a mediocre race won by foreign riders, the race grew better and so did the level of Italian classics racer, now the latter declined but the race stays in very fine health, especially if you compare it to the Ardennes).
      The list of examples could be long…

      Most smaller races are suffering, indeed, but the worst aspect is about the teams. On a technical level, Italy hasn’t used up the capital accumulated in previous decade: a lot of the technical staff in foreign teams is made up by Italians. Yet, this won’t last much longer without significant Italian teams.

      Generally speaking, anyway, short-term results shouldn’t affect too much our judgement about the movement: just as the situation was already growing more and more worrying along the last ten years, even if Italy is the country which has “officially” won most GTs in the last decade (and only one less than Spain on the road), now it’s not a sudden tragedy if there’s a drought in terms of results. Top results, as such, come on go, you can have a decade of huge classics riders, than a decade of GT champions and no classics man around.
      But, yes, I think that problems are there and they’re wider and deeper than the stage wins along 2-3 years. Luckily, they’re 10-15 years old at most, not even two decades, let alone one century. What’s sure is that the longer they aren’t tackled, the longer their consequences will last…

  3. Tom Doumoulin is worthy of the kudos and the approving comments and headlines (“Fair play”, “Beau geste”, “Signore”) he has received for instructing the peloton to wait for Quintana are not out of place – but the incident has unfortunately drawn out a comparison with him and his team on one hand and Quintana and “the questionable ethics” of Movistar on the Blockhaus ascent (and in 2014 on the Stelvio descent) on the other.
    I really don’t see how anyone at all familiar with road cycling and its traditions and unwritten rules and all that can claim that the two situations are in any way comparable.
    (For that matter, I don’t think that the result list would look any different if the peloton hadn’t waited. Quintana would have caught it with the help of his domestiques in any case and would hardly have been too taxed by the effort. Well, maybe he wouldn’t have sprinted and got those six seconds..)

    PS Pity about Tanel Kangert, he was perfectly situated for a best ever GT result, a place in the Top Ten. And he had early in his pro career the better part of a year to a knee injury and a whole year due to AG2R not renewing his contract and a failure to find a new pro team before he found his current home in Astana

    • A couple of key difference between the situation that happened yesterday and the Blockhaus crash. One is that the race was full on at Blockhaus and slowing down would have greatly neutralized the stage by giving riders time to recover. Second Quintana is a 2 time GT winner and was sitting second after two thirds of the race. Thomas, Landa, and Yates are all good riders, but they don’t have the same palmares and at the time the GC standings were very much up in the air.

      Third caveat is that Sky and Movistar have a long standing rivalry and have a history of not waiting for each other.

      • I agree that Blockhaus and Selvino situations were generally different, but don’t think the GC situation was that different: the GC standings may have been closer earlier, but Thomas and Yates were still 2nd and 3rd at the time. (and indeed if it was GC status that counted, well see Kruijswick last year.) It’s the fact that the race wasn’t really on that seemed to matter.

    • “Unwritten” rules are not real rules at all. It cost TD nothing yesterday but it did bring him kudos. It reinforces his position as “Padron” even if he does not want it. In all probability it makes no difference at all but maybe, just maybe it will bring its own reward. Maybe be someone will hesitate for a moment or maybe NQ might (please note might) feel compelled to wait in a situation where he might otherwise have taken advantage, who knows

  4. In addition to the absent Viviani, Italian fans must also wish Diego Ulissi was riding. He’s been a consistent stage winner over recent years in the Giro.

    • Yes, a good provisional shortlist of away talents above by Richard S.
      A mix of bad luck (injuries), team decisions and long term programmes generated a perfect storm.

      Just last year, what a huge stage was Pinerolo? And Asolo? Praia? Arezzo? It’s the kind of stages I’ve been missing this year.

      • Now the Italians must know what the French go through every July – in the end they always seem to pull one stage out of the bag, but in years like 2013 it can be a close run thing.

        • Yes, but, besides having a couple of WT French team always there, the Tour tends to privilege French wildcards, whereas the Giro…
          In fact, normally and obviously all the best French riders go for the Tour, be it only for a presence in the breaks (Pinot at the Giro was also surprising because of that), while this year a lot of Italian riders just decided – or were forced to decide – otherwise.

  5. Tomorrow, the high altitude (2700 m) is a game changer in favor of Quintana. The colombian is the only gc contender that can ride there without much compromise. He will take 2 min on everyone. But that’s not the end for Dumoulin.

  6. Impressive sprint yesterday by NQ, perhaps a green jersey shot this July. All being well I would say Dumoulin has this Giro in the bag, hopefully, maybe, surely, possibly!

  7. Exactly one year ago, the Giro was over according to a whole lot of folks. Same s__t, different year it seems. I think they should continue racing all the way to the end and let’s see what happens. Same s__t I wrote a year ago but I admit it’s hard to imagine it being as exciting as last year’s edition.

    • There is a glitch in the cyclingnews discussion board this year that prints a few comments from the same stage last year. It is really funny to read those responses now that we know how that race finished.

  8. I think this Giro will be remembered as the coronation of a new GT contender, in Tom Doumoulin. He’s strong, he’s smart and he’s ready to step up to the top step. I believe he will survive the last week just fine, and put his stamp of domination on the final time trial.

    The fly in the ointment is his team’s lack of strength, compared to Movistar. There will be a critical test of Tom and his team, but I think he will prove capable of holding on. One thing that works in his favor in the last week is other riders trying keep their high placings and others trying to get higher placings. So he will not be the only one who will have to chase the inevitable attacks. So, even though he may feel like it’s him against the world, there will be some collusion of circumstance that could help.

  9. I think the team strength difference is overrated. Sunweb has some pretty decent climbers to support, and crucially Dumoulin doesn’t have to go after everyone because he has a big gap and the ones behind them are all fairly close. If they are together in a select group, and Nibali tries to go off the front, Pinot and Quintana have more reason to bring him back than Dumoulin does. In theory they could conspire but in practice this rarely happens.
    The key question is whether Tom has improved enough to prevent a Vuelta-like implosion in the last days. I do hope so, and not just because he is Dutch. Surely things will be clearer tomorrow after the huge mountains!

  10. Tickled by the fact Quintana took back six seconds in a flat sprint. Dumoulin may really come to rue that in a seconds game.

    • I was surprised that TD didn’t get out of the saddle and sprint – and he was obviously too confident that NQ wouldn’t get a place, but then who wasn’t?

  11. Thanks for the round-up.

    Tuesday: I reckon that Movistar do as you suggest – try to exhaust Sunweb. Quintana takes 30 seconds or something.
    Wednesday: ceasefire, the break will stick, and the main GC contenders will come in together.
    Thursday: Quintana goes. Early. It’s a short killer stage. As he did with Contador’s help at the Vuelta…

    Then he’ll assess the damage and see whether he’s put enough time into Dumoulin, who’s been riding fantastically. He’s taken the race by the scruff of the neck. The win at Oropa to back up the TT was spectacular.

    It’s gonna be an exciting week!

  12. It’s fair to speculate on dumoulin being the shoo in for his first GT victory, but his results from other stage races this year pale in comparison to those of Quintana. A single strong ride on a climb which suits his characteristics doesn’t allow one to speculate too much, even though his TT prowess is beyond question.
    My money is still on Quintana, for I think the impassive Columbian is keeping his cards close to chest feigning some vulnerability. As the slopes relentlessly rear up, and given Quintana is by far the best climber in this climbing heavy last week of Giro, my only worry is whether he can improve on his margin of victory last time around given the virtual deficit he is facing.

  13. It really is a difficult one to call.

    If this was Chris Froome and the Sky train chugging around France, then you would say, excepting accidents, that it was all over bar a bit of shouting for the minor places. Wout Poels, G, Mikel Landa or whoever would set an infernal pace up the climbs preventing any GC attacks and everyone would roll into Paris in the expectation of watching the sprinters championship play out. However Sunweb definitely dont have that sort of team.

    It is clear that if NQ wants to win he has to roll the dice big time in the hope of shaking TD loose. In the event he cant achieve that I guess that he probably doesnt care about finishing 2nd or 3rd ie he really wont be concerned about Vincenzo Nibali or Thibaut Pinot.

    Maybe he can channel Andy Schleck on the Galibier (though dont forget Cadel Evans not only limited his losses but triumphed in the final time trial) with an audacious long range attack. I am sure I will be corrected, but I dont see NQ as that sort of rider, Vincenzo Nibali yes not Nairo.

    TD seems very calm, very focused. He has spent a lot of time planning this. Not only visits to Teide but training in Livigno (presumably in winter conditions). He is fully aware of the challenge ahead, unlike at the Veulta in 2015 where it was all a bit of a surprise. To me he has a certain aura about him, the sort the top sports people have. A mixture of arrogance, self belief, single mindedness and an incredible focus on winning to the exclusion of all else. These things dont always make for popular or nice personalities nor always are good things (think Lance Armstrong……) but being the best isnt easy.

    Maybe I will be proved wrong but I dont think NQ has this, perhaps he is too “nice” a person or simply prefers to spend his time with his family (absolutely nothing wrong with that) rather than the months of a hermit like existence that seems to be required to nurture a contemporary grand tour winner.

    I continue to stick with the thought I had before all this began that NQ will be pipped to the post in Milan

    • Sky normally doesn’t set any *infernal* pace at all, especially in the last couple of Tours, before the last climb. Sometimes not even on that.
      Landa could, Henao, Poels, too, and others, sure, but they just didn’t. On the contrary, the climbing pace was often lowly and Froomey put his bully face on when somebody tried to shake things up (too little and too late).

      • Gabriele, I’m sure you have the data to back that up. I have believed so far without checking climbing speeds that on stages like last year’s second to last stage to Morzine – to name just one of many – that “tactic” is Sky’s recipe for success. If the speeds aren’t that high why does rarely someone try to get away and no one manages to do so? And why are those groups the Sky mountain train leads up the Cols is so small most of the time? Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying you’re wrong but you made me curious.

        • Let’s take the stage you name. I’ll use VAM because that’s easier to calculate, W/kg would be better but the figures are so impressive that we don’t even need to get picky.
          We had four cols, Aravis, Colombière, Ramaz and Joux Plan.
          Note that Colombière was being crossed 100 km from the finish, that is far but not irrelevant, with its descent ending 85 km from the line, and Ramaz started to be really interesting, some 50 km from Morzine, 37 km once its descent was over.

          – Aravis, more than 80 men bunch, VAM 1464 along less than 20′. De Gendt (a great rider but not precisely the greatest pure climber, especially when business is just starting) holds a VAM of 1585.
          – Colombière, VAM 1378 for half an hour. This is amateurish (literally),although a lesser gradient reduces the VAM. The bunch doesn’t shrink, De Gendt and Barguil are climbing at about 1500 m/h.
          – Ramaz, things finally start to get hot and the bunch is reduced to… 40 men (which isn’t precisely “a few”). The VAM rises to 1517 – but this time the gradient is “helping”. A steady rhythm but still realtively calm. It’s 2′ slower than what they were doing in 2003, doping or whatever, but it’s also 27″ slower than Valls and Charteau (!!! – with all due respect for both) in 2010.

          [SIDENOTE: some terms of comparison. When a team is pulling on the penultimate KOM in order to favour an attack from their *climber* on the final climb, on a gradient of 7-8% you should see an over 1550 VAM (at least), on normal TdF 30′ cols. Examples from that same Tour: on the Forclaz, same duration, when Astana tried a forcing a few day before, they were keeping a VAM of 1653. The group was down to 20 men. On Grand Colombière, that stage when Froome considered that he needed to scold Aru for making his team pull, the final VAM was 1530… Sky pulled for the first 20′, then Astana raised the pace during the last 14′, that was the final average, one team uder 1500, the other over 1550. Rosa was climbing at a VAM of 1600). Rosa’s pace had Henao falling back from the pack and actually reduced the bunch to 25 men].

          – Back to the Morzine stage. Eventually, the peloton was reduced to 15 riders on the Joux Plane. The last climb. VAM 1640. Now, that’s a different thing, isn’t it? Even so, some of the best could attack.

          The bunch is *not thin* on previous climbs. It often gets thinned up (relatively) only on the last one.
          Nobody else does anything for a series of reasons… 15-20 km between cols where a solid team can bring you back, afraid of losing your precious 8th place or whatever in GC, lack of collaboration by other teams, fear of bullying and vengeance. Look how the Sky riders behave when Rosa starts to pull on Grand Colombière, doing a sort of barrage, occupying the full width of the road and leaving him take several metres all alone on the front, not holding his wheel, before the new situation sets up.

          Movistar and Astana sometimes tried to work out something. What did the rest do? Waiting, drafting and celebrating, because a rival team was burning away its options, let’s not help until they kill themselves out. But a *single* team can rarely raise the pace alone, not even on a flat stage against wildcard riders to get them back for the sprint… If only one team works, even if it’s a superteam, it won’t be able to manage a whole (single) stage if its task is to *force* high pace. Not even Superastana could through all the necessary stages in 2015 Giro. The closest I’ve seen was again Astana in 2014 Tour.

          It’s more complicated than this, but this is a beginning to understand how things really go… and I’ve got no certainty about the real reasons, what I’m certain of are the figures, which surely don’t tell any *infernal pace* by Sky tale. Not before the last climb.

        • PS Forgetting the main factor: a lot of riders we see in high TdF GC get the same preparation as Froome or are selected on that basis, hence it’s to be seen if they could get any advantage racing differently….

  14. I thought that Dumoulin looked in a little distress at the end of yesterday’s stage, though it may have been a slight annoyance at Quintana taking the 6″ bonus (was that slightly cheeky after the leader held up the race earlier, should Quintana have come in alongside)?

    I still think that Quintana can do it, somehow. As the Spring Classics reminded us, cycling remains a team sport and the strongest team usually wins in the end.

    • How many times do you want the race to be neutralised?

      If TD decides to stop the pack – which he didn’t really need to do and which he probably did in the hope of perhaps getting similar favours if needed in the future – that’s his call. You think NQ then has to not race?

      • “…which he probably did in the hope of perhaps getting similar favours if needed in the future…”

        Really? Why assume that? It seems an unnecessarily negative take on human psychology to believe that it could only have been for cold, calculating, selfish reasons. Why is it not at least as likely that he just did it out of a sense of fair play?

  15. Besides other considerations about Oropa I had made myself, ammattipyöräily stresses two interesting factors about last Saturday: the riders were fresh (I’m leave it to that account’s expertise) and not only the stage itself was flat until the last climb, but the previous ones were flat, too.
    I found myself noticing that the Giro rarely, if ever, got to the last week after so little total altitude gain, even more so since a lot of stages “neutralised” the climbing with *very* long flat or descending sections in the final part, which made pointless for GC men to keep an high rhythm on those few climbs.

    I gave a fast look at altimetries, calculating approximate altitude gain. It’s not the same a GPS would track, but since it’s comparative and I’m using the same method, it doesn’t matter much.
    I know very well that course design matters more than altitude gain, but since the former is complicated to define I’ll use the latter, which tells us something anyway.

    This year only 4 stages exceeded 1500 m of altitude again (a normal MAMIL Sunday ride), two of which ended with 25+ kms of descending or flat terrain! Only 2 of them included more than 2500 m of altitude gain – neither was a hard-fought contest for whatever reason (the wind in one case, the course in the other).
    And they had *three* rest days by now!

    Last year we had 6 over 1500 a.g. stages, 4 of which were over 2500, one of which was over 4000.
    In 2015 we had 7 over 1500 stages, 3 of them over 2500, two of which were over 3000.
    Same in 7 (3) 2014, but just one over 3000.
    Same in 2013, with one over 4000.
    PCS doesn’t include altimetries for 2012 or back, and I’m not going to look for them one by one… But I don’t really need to check the Zomegnan era 😉
    I’ve some doubt about… guess what? 2012. Besides that (which I’m not sure of), you must go way more than ten years back to find a comparably easy first two weeks of the Giro.
    And it’s not like the last week used to be easier, in many of those Giri.

    • It’s a good analysis. But I can’t really fault Dumoulin for choosing to target the Giro this year, given they gifted him with 60km of time trialling and relatively “easy” climbing until the final week.

      I’ve a bad feeling that the Stelvio stage tomorrow will be so hard it will become neutralized. Of course the romantic epic storyline would be some favourite to show their cards on the Mortirolo or the first Stelvio Pass… but i think we will be relying on Nibali and Bahrain testing the GC group on the descents prior to the final ascent.

      Also, i’m not sure Movistar are desperate yet. If there is a chink in the armour they might go for it, otherwise tomorrow will be tranquillo and putting down a marker and attrition for the critical short stage in the Dolomites or the stages following it.

      Having said all that, if the rest day has impacted the GC favourites in positive/negatic ways and it all explodes on the Mortirolo, i’ll be first one opening the popcorn 🙂

      • +1 about everything. Mine isn’t a criticism to Dumoulin, not even by far. And this is still a Giro, harder than most GTs. He must be a real top GT contender to win this, this last week is not “favourable to him” at all, it’s just a bit less favourable to climbers than one could think at first sight. As a rider, you race and win the course you’re offered. All the better if you take advantage of a, so to say, “favourable” course, or – better said – more favourable than other years.

        Quintana wasn’t able to in 2015 TdF.

        (PS – my guess about the TdF’s courses is that they’re not trying to hinder Froome, they’re trying to favour their own nouvelle vague: chauvinism is a “French word”, after all, even if they haven’t got any exclusive deal on that sort of practice).

        • Interesting point about TDF… they intentionally cut out a lot of time trialling last year to favour Bardet and to some extent Pinot, but neither were able to utilize the opportunity thanks to how the route was raced (SKY in control, and Froome seizing different chances to gain time).

          I’ve always preferred the Giro, mainly due to it being the purist’s GT and usually the hardest on paper. They seem to race more aggressively in Italy too (as evidenced by Sunday’s fast and unpredictable stage). Even when the race appears to be won, a la Kruiswijk, the complexion of the race can change in a single afternoon, and the GC turned on it’s head.

          Hopefully we get some good racing today, and not just a procession.

  16. #16 is important for anyone who wants to gain on Tom. Nibali’s stage. Nibali has come out of the final rest day swinging before… He’s got what it takes to hold any lead off the final climb. I would not bet Nibali will win the overall Giro though.

    If the climbers don’t leave Tom behind on this stage, what is there?

    Sweet 16 is what We’ve been waiting for.

  17. Leading My attention span is Davide Formolo. I especially hope He comes out of this having a good day and hope He comes out of the home stretch intact to place up there in the GC.

  18. If they move the Giro then no-one will try the Giro/Tour double – and the likes of Quintana would not be here.

    Sunweb need to be canny and not chase any moves other than Quintana: if Movistar send riders up the road then let Movistar keep the distance to them bridgeable.

    Quintana needs to attack on this stage – there is no better one, parcour-wise, for him to test Dumoulin in the mountains, because there don’t seem to be large flat sections between the climbs (although if Movistar have more riders with NQ than Sunweb manage to keep with TD later in the race, then obviously flat sections would be to their advantage).
    I think if NQ doesn’t try today then he doesn’t have the legs (and he’d better be right about this ‘better in the second grand tour’ thing).

    With Kangert’s crash, wasn’t this on the exit of a roundabout/junction? Aren’t these normally not marked? Wasn’t the crash just caused by him bunnyhopping a kerb? He stays on the road, he’s fine.

  19. J Evans,

    I hear You;

    Q doesn’t want to come out of 16 with any regrets or 2nd thoughts. To some extent, it’s do or die.

    Our job is to control Our anxiety. -Can hardly wait.

  20. Inrng,

    Your choice of gastronomic and digestive language to illustrate the challenges the mountains serve up was quite prophetic:

    “There’s a lot to digest in the coming days and if Tom Dumoulin is sat at the head of the table table we thought that of Steven Kruijswijk this time last year too. The Alps get serious this week and how Dumoulin digests these mountains alongside other rivals, each with their personal appetites, should be great to watch.”

    Though “great to watch” is not I how would describe Dumoulin dropping his drawers in the valley for the final climb of Stage 16. Giro 100 has been the Tour de Toilet. Greipel’s on-camera, on-bike bladder relief, and now Dumoulin’s backdraft blowout. A grand tour does test every aspect of a rider’s ability, even those best exercised off screen. Climbing, time trialing, team support, and now mastication. The skills of the GC rider.

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