Giro Stage 13 Preview

Another stage for the sprinters, another stage with a late hill which was part of a previous world championships circuit. Today is also a relative rest day for the overall contenders ahead of this weekend’s mountain showdown.

Stage 12 review: the late climb of Tre Monti has just the desired effect, albeit with an added downpour, gusting winds and a sudden drop in temperatures which made the finish of what was otherwise a straightforward stage even harder. Tim Wellens again stirred up the race and in the final Matej Mohorič and Carlos Betancur were caught just before the line by Sam Bennett who surged out of what was left of the pack to win. It was a sprint, just, rather than a late attack and it worked well given nobody else had team mates or help to close him down. Elia Viviani still leads the points competition but is on 184 points to Bennett on 162 and the competition has come alive.

The Route: 180km north and a route so flat the race struggles to climb beyond 20m above sea level for ages, railway bridges become climbs before the race reaches Nervesa della Battaglia and a circuit, the same used for the 1985 World Championships. The joke goes that Joop Zoetemelk was so pale after finishing second in the 1970 Tour de France because he’d spent the month in Eddy Merckx’s shadow. 15 years later he won on this circuit aged 38. It’s a steady ascent through the vineyards and up to La Dorsale, the backbone-like ridge across the Montello, a popular local climb and the mountains point with 19km to go and a gentle descent but a road where you rarely see ahead more than a couple of hundred metres as it bends down through woodland.

The Finish: a fast and flat finish into town with a roundabout at 600m to go that’s not in the roadbook which either means the local authorities have removed it and the accompanying diving islands before and after for the Giro… or it’s there and an added danger. It’s followed by a narrow river bridge, nothing drastic but just a moment where there’s no room on either side of the road in case of emergency. Otherwise it’s a straightforward run to the line.

The Contenders: Elia Viviani needs the win today. He was dropped yesterday, a jours sans or a problem? If not then the late climb and the bunch sprint is no problem for Sam Bennett. As usual Sacha Modolo and Niccolò Bonifazio are the alternative picks and there’s a chance of a late breakaway although today’s descent is faster and better for the chasing pack so if they’re to stay away they’ve got to have a big engine nor have a sprinter left, think Tony Martin or Mads Pedersen.

Sam Bennett, Elia Viviani
Sacha Modolo
Bonifazio, van Poppel

Weather: cloudy and a good chance of rain showers, 21°C if the sun pokes out.

TV: Host broadcaster RAI offers the best coverage, Eurosport has the rights for many countries across Europe and Australia and it’s streamed via Fubo in the US and Dazn in Japan. The finish is forecast for 5.15pm.

38 thoughts on “Giro Stage 13 Preview”

  1. The word ‘rotatoria’ is actually there in the profile at 600m before the line. They’ve misplaced the flamme rouge above it. Rare mistake by such a large organization.

  2. I wanted to say that I really appreciate J Evan’s comments and hope he continues; I believe the site is better for having him.
    As for the Giro – this week has been terrific so far. I’m on the West Coast (Vancouver), so when I wake up the first thing I do is turn on the Giro, and every morning (last hour or so of racing) this week my first reaction has been “WTF is happening?”, which is nice for a change.
    I think it’s Yates’ Giro to lose at this point, as he seems just too strong on the climbs (with a fair bit of swagger too). I’d prefer Tom D to win, but think that all the bonus seconds that Yates will accumulate makes the difference. The only other rider who I think has a shot at winning is Froome, but I think it’s extremely unlikely. I just can’t see how Pinot/Pozzovivo/etc can win.
    As for bonus seconds, I have never agreed (I have been following closely since the days of Ullrich) with not giving bonus seconds for TT stages. I have heard all the arguments against and absolutely disagree with them. If a climber can have possibly 5-7 opportunities to grab bonus seconds, why can’t a TTer have one or two? Is there an actual UCI rule against giving bonus seconds for individual TTs, or is it up to race organizers?

    • What would be the point of bonus seconds in a TT? The bonus seconds are there to stimulate fighting for the stage win. Without bonus seconds, it is more likely that GC contenders in a small group up fornt will just watch each other, which gives more boring racing. In a TT, all the main contenders are already going full gas anyway, it’s not that they will try harder if there are bonus seconds on the line.

      The rules about bonus seconds are not about being fair, it’s just the context in which the game is played. If you make the TT 5k longer you also give 10 bonus seconds to the TT specialist GC riders.

      • You are right; fairness doesn’t belong in sports.
        A climber already has an advantage on a climb, why should he/she get an extra advantage by bonus seconds that are not available to a TTer?

        • And bonus seconds don’t necessarily benefit climbers. They benefit GC contenders with a decent sprint. The Valverde’s, Dan Martins, Alaphillipes, including Yates in this Giro. Guys like Pozzovivo don’t benefit much from it.
          My point about fairness is not that it does not belong in sport. It is that is is not why the bonus seconds are there. It’s not more or less fair to have no bonus seconds in a TT than it is to have a short TT. I’m sure Tom Dumoulin would much rather have two 50k ITT’s in this Giro than bonus seconds. Is that fair to the climbers? Is a summit finish on the Zoncolan fair to the rouleurs? The bonus seconds were thought up to create more attractive racing. Whether or not they are effective at that is an entirely different debate. But the main idea is that people don’t like it if the big stars of the race (the GC contenders) can’t be bothered about stage wins most of the time. The more experienced cycling fan might appreciate the two-races-for-the-price-of-one aspect but not everyone does.

          • +1
            Among other things (which I pointed out elsewhere), especially to: “And bonus seconds don’t necessarily benefit climbers. It’s a specific kind of “climber”, if anything. People tend to confuse “going fast when the road goes up”, whatever the sort of racing or road, with “being a good climber”.
            Performances, even on the very same gradient (which would be a chapter on his own), change a lot depending on the context.
            How long is the effort? How many days have been raced? What was the stage like? And so on. Sometimes – this is an extreme example – the range of performance can change depending on something like… road width! (which, I’d dare to say, is “mainly mental” [cit.], but so is cycling, after all ^__^).

      • If there are no bonus seconds on a climb, it forces the climbers to actually attack to gain time and not rely on the bonus seconds.

      • AK: ‘Without bonus seconds, it is more likely that GC contenders in a small group up fornt will just watch each other, which gives more boring racing.’
        I disagree. Without bonus seconds, GC contenders have to attack each other earlier in order to gain any time, so I think it results in more aggressive racing and long range attacks as opposed to a sprint over the last few km or even m.
        As you say, there is also the possibility that they would just watch each other, but someone will always want the stage win, at the very least, and you have to take time on your rivals somehow so I think it’s unlikely to happen too often.
        (Plus, my own personal feeling is that the winner should be the person who took the least amount of time overall and bonus seconds can skew that – I think Cobo won the Vuelta on bonus seconds, besides anything else he was on.)

        • I think having them there just makes everyone race slightly differently. It’s not a question of fairness, because it’s the same for everyone. froome won the dauphine on bonus seconds a couple of years ago (ahead of van gaarderen, I think) but no one was questioning the fact he won, or the fairness/legitimacy of it. if the bonus seconds weren’t on offer, he would have raced differently i.e. attacked earlier, or worked harder to distance his rivals.

          personally, i like the added drama it can bring (a bit the like intermediate sprint points which made the final stage of the 2013 giro more interesting than it would have been otherwise – cav needed molti points to overhaul nibali for the points jersey and he managed it by taking all the intermediates and the stage), but if they weren’t there I don’t the racing would have been that different in this race.

        • J Evans, you should also target other rules (I know you would!).
          For example, I’m far from sure that between Cobo and Froome the latter was *actually* the rider “who rode the course faster”: he benefited more than Cobo of another rule, the one which gives the same time to all the riders in a bigger group. And I’m not speaking of sprint stages: on two middle mountain finishes, Froome arrived in a group separated from Cobo’s (that is, he had lost wheels, I’m not speaking of “mere physical space occupation”, either!), where, despite being some “10-20 cyclists back”, he was awarded the time of the first man in that group – which is obviously the right thing to do according to the rules.
          I don’t know if this really makes for the seconds in question – I think so (they should total 7″ summing up the two stages, and I guess it’s more than probable), but it’s not like I care, that’s not my point. With different rules, they all would have raced differently, as frood says above.
          And the main reason why Froome lost that is still his team (which is also the main reason why he could compete for that, but that’s a different story).
          My point is that we’ve already got a good deal of adjustement, similar in magnitude, and we just don’t notice it anymore. Besides, I believe that sometimes the counterintuitive or surprising effects can be stimulating, they add more of a strategic element, the need to use your head under pressure… but that’s a very personal POV, I understand your “relistic” perspective, too.

    • Oh, the bonus seconds. The immortal debate. I think that AK explained quite well above why it’s about “race governance” rather than fairness (not because they’re not “fair”, just because the concept itself doesn’t apply at all); and why bonus seconds in TTs make absolutely no sense.
      You achieve fairness through a balanced course: if you want to shift the balance in favour of TTing, you make a longer, flatter or windier course (you can plan the latter, sometimes!).
      Bonus seconds are more of a “nudge theory” thing.

      A different question is if they work or not, and exactly how.
      They *surely* stimulate more last km attack trading among the GC men if the stage is on offer. OTOH, it *might* make less attractive to attack some 2-3 kms to the line. It shouldn’t have a great effect on longer range attacks (let’s say over ~3 kms). However, I suspect that the way they end up racing depends much more on each rider’s characteristics and the “fashionable” training approaches in a given period rather than on rules.

      There’s a slight question of “fairness”, if we want to call it that way (but, again, it’s more about “nudging”): unlike what happens in ITTs, on climbs, especially in modern cycling, the less gifted climbers can take great advantage of the slipstream, that is, better defend themselves just following wheels, be them their teammates’ or the rivals’. The bonus seconds partly compensate that situation, rewarding accelerations which do imply a greater risk and a greater cost against “negative racing” (which is as well part of the game, not really a *negative* thing). What is more, the kind of effort you produce in ITTs is highly effective since you can optimise it as you please; on a climb, if you *need* to drop the rivals to get rid of the slipstream effect, you’ll need the least effective (in terms of time) performance pattern: bursts of power over the threshold and waiting game. That’s why a cronoman can hugely reduce the damage by “just” pacing himself up.

      I get J Evans point, but it’s not like climbers don’t attack from far because they’re lazy. Things as they already are, 10″ at a time isn’t simply enough to allow you to count on that only (assuming that your direct rival doesn’t take any). Taking away bonus seconds would surely force attacks (no alternative…), but it doesn’t mean that such attacks would work. If any rider can reasonably drop a rival, he tends to do it. So, without bonus seconds we’d *maybe* see more attacks, but most of them would be the desperate sort of, and as a whole they’d be less rewarding, putting the “climbers” category at a serious disadvantage in GC. *Or*, more probably (we’re speaking of professionals with a staff, too) we’d see very few attacks, limiting them to the sparce ones which can be deemed decisive (Contador’s Verbier), often for strategic rather than athletic reasons (Sastre’s Alpe d’Huez).
      Generally speaking, we’d probably need to shift the course design towards steeper climbs, harder stages or taking away ITT (which is already happening) – and we’re are again to the point made above. Any question of “fairness” is better tackled by working on course design!

      Besides, the *main* reason for which they’re put in place, as AK said, isn’t about the fight among GC riders, it’s about motivating them to chase the break in order to get the stage win. I’d add that this sort of policy isn’t only about having big names winning: it’s also to improve the technical level of the race, hoping to avoid low speed racing with just a final surge both in the break and in the peloton which is bound to happen if trying to catch the break becomes irrelevant. The peloton strolls around and the break has no urge to raise its own pace.
      Again, we can see quite clearly that bonus seconds haven’t that much of an effect when compared to team strategies: Froome’s been winning his more recent TdF that way, despite the bonus seconds awarded.

      We had no bonus seconds at the TdF from 2008 to 2014 and I frankly can’t see much of an established pattern. We had some editions which seriously lacked attacking racing (2008, 2010, 2012 and partly 2009, too), others which were very much on the offensive, sometimes including middle to long range attacks (2011, 2013, 2014). Then again, we had a good edition in 2015 and two terrible ones after that.
      They tried an on paper very rational mixed system at the 2012 Giro… and it was the worst Giro in years!
      All in all, I think that the bonus secs (including intermediate sprints, now back at the TdF, too) can spice up the race with a further element of complication, competition and… debate. Why not. I really don’t believe that they can damp attacking racing more than other factors.

      • All very good points, particularly: ‘*Or*, more probably (we’re speaking of professionals with a staff, too) we’d see very few attacks, limiting them to the sparce ones which can be deemed decisive (Contador’s Verbier), often for strategic rather than athletic reasons (Sastre’s Alpe d’Huez).’
        The ‘fairness’ issue is of far lesser importance to me than trying to stimulate attacking racing. However, bonus seconds are nowhere near the biggest factor (if they are at all) in preventing that: overall team strength, to give one example, is a far bigger factor.

      • Where did I say “take away bonus seconds”? AK, you are absolutely right – Tom D would prefer a grand tour with two 50km+ TTs – which proves my point; no grand tour ever offers up long TTs anymore, the trend is to much shorter ones and less frequently. They are removing TTers advantage to make for more exciting racing (not that I have a big problem with this). I just think that a TT stage should have bonus seconds – it’s a stage in a grand tour, and if all stages have bonus seconds then all stages should have bonus seconds. I am aware of the “intent” of the bonus seconds – try and make racing more exciting, etc. – and I don’t disagree. However, the intent has unintended consequences that I think can be easily rectified by offering bonus seconds on TT stages.

        • If you are already that aware of their “intent” why do you suggest to add ’em to ITTs? It makes no sense! People are already trying to go as hard as they can from start to finish, there, why bonus secs?!
          What would that change in stage dynamics?

          If you feel that longer ITTs are needed in order to grant a furrther advantage to TTers (and I might agree… along with harder and longer mountain stages), that’s the point to defend.

          • To gabriele, my reply was, essentially -” I will make my own points, thank you.” With 1 or 2 degrees of sarcasm more but absolutely was not offensive, unkind or insulting in any way.
            To INRG – you write a great blog and have great insight but your moderation skills leave much to be desired.

  3. I wouldn’t be surprised if there have been some talk last night between DS’s to agree on an easy stage today. The past three days have been super hard, and the weekend will be brutal as well. Great for us spectators but I think the riders have the right to at least one easy regular textbook sprint stage now. I saw an interview with Tom Dumoulin yesterday, he was quite relieved to be in the bus in one piece. I’m glad nobody got badly hurt yesterday despite frantic racing in heavy rain. There have not been any big bone-breaking crashes this year I think, or did I miss something?

    • Why would the sprinters’ teams take it easy though?
      There’s a real competition on between Viviani and Bennett now, so you can be sure that QS and Bora will ride full gas.
      The teams of Inner Ring’s other contenders of today will join in; they need a stage win.
      It causes a ripple effect through the peloton, and it will surely kick off again later.
      The weather element is what make the Giro what it is, highly unpredictable.
      Says he who has predicted that Dumoulin will win this thing 🙂

      • What I mean is a textbook stage with some hopeless breakaway from non-WT teams, who know they will be kept at 5mins for a while so they don’t even bother to go really at their max, enyoy their TV moment and everyone has a relaxing morning at 40 km/h. With 50k to go Bora and QS take over from MS and reel in the break. What I mean is that the alternative, which is a similar scenario at 48 km/h with Tony Martin in the break, and another hopeless attack from Wellens on the tiny climb but in the end the same outcome, is less likely today than it would have been if the last few days had been eventless. It doesn’t mean that the sprinter’s teams won’t be going full gas the last few km and the sprint will be fierce anyway.

  4. Might Mohorič and Betancur have made it to the line if they hadn’t started freewheeling? They had about 3 seconds with 500m to go. Seemed like Mohorič didn’t want to tow Betancur any further, having done so for the last couple of km.
    Is holding off a sprinter 3 secs behind at 500m do-able? It looked it to me, just judging by other finales, but I don’t know the stats.

    • Yes it was a bit odd. One moment Sean Kelly was saying how impressive Mohoric had been and how it looked like they had held off the pack, the next moment they turned round and stopped pedalling and Bennett came screaming past. Maybe the camera distorted how far in front they were? I think in retrospect they would have struggled to hold Bennett off but Mohoric could have been the Haussler to Bennett’s Cavendish a la San Remo 2009.

    • I was wondering this as well. Seemed a bit odd to me to start freewheeling in the way Mohoric did so close to the finish. Even if Betancur could have won the sprint surely a podium finish is worth risking that for ? Bennett’s surge looked very impressive but if the other two had still been going flat out it would have been a very close call I think.

    • It’s hard to be sure either way but my instinct is no. They’d already used a lot of energy to get away (they were drilling it downhill and dropped Ulissi on that section I think?) and probably didn’t have a lot left. Sprinters can eat up the ground so quickly if they’ve had a little shelter coming into the final KM, I think they’d still have been caught in the final 100m. But who knows!

      • I think they would have been caught regardless, but Betancur playing poker certainly didn’t help. Considering the work Mohoric had already put in, it would have been the logical decision for Betancur to do one more shift and try to take it to a sprint a deux. Which he could very well have won.

        For today’s stage: intrigued to see how Quickstep react to yesterday’s trainwreck of a stage (for them). Surely today suits Viviani better than yesterday, but he needs to be a heck of a lot sharper.

      • Betancur had worked to bring Carapaz back before attacking himself so maybe he just didn’t have it. Mohoric tweeted a complaint that Betancur refused to work with him.

    • I think they’d have made it, but it’s not even a solid opinion.
      Mohoric said, as J Evans sensed, that he didn’t feel like dragging Betancur to the line because he believed that in that case he’d be pipped by the Colombian’s fresher legs. So his point was: if Betancur opens the sprint, I’ll try – on the contrary, it’s equally lost to me and I’ve already won one. Which, at least partly, makes sense.
      Personally, I’m more the “try and see, who knows what might happen” kind, but… Then, I think that Mohoric might in the very near future have a problem of people not collaborating with him because he’s evidently so strong and “tira il collo” to the break buddies (“wrings the neck”, that is, pulling so hard that people suffer just to follow your wheel): in that sense, on the one hand it’s good to make people know that if they don’t work, they won’t get any free tow to the line. OTOH, people might decide that they don’t like to be in a break with him – under that POV, giving away a stage you’ve lost anyway might be good marketing.
      Betancur’s mistake was already done before the finale (he should have *looked* more collaborative), then I’d agree that he should have opened the sprint, lost it and taken a podium spot. But the guy is… peculiar.

        • Probably true, especially if you take into account that they gave green light to “free Mohoric” a bit later than he had asked it: before that, the team allegedly opted for trying to keep things together. So, it’s possible that the Mohoric move had a tactical side from the beginning, even if, once they came so close to the line, he got all the same quite angry with Betancur for not lending a hand.
          Maybe Mohoric felt that he couldn’t allow himself to come second… just in case Bonifacio ended up winning the third-spot sprint!

  5. Bennett win also makes the points competition certainly more interesting.

    Always had a soft spot for him since he was latern rouge in TdF in 2016 and followed him closely since. Seems well liked by his team mates too

    • It is great for Bennett. An Post, Sean Kelly and Kirk Bogaerts put great faith in him when he was injured a few years back and he repaid them with his win at the Tour of Britain. Nett App had trust in him and subsequently BORA, even after the arrival of the worlds biggest star, kept with him after set backs and now they are reaping the reward. Couldn’t happen to a nicer fella. Nice guys do finish first!

  6. It’s always nice to see the cycling results make the 9 o’clock news as it did in Ireland last night, thanks to Bennett for the win. I’m too young to be nostalgic for them, but i would have loved to have seen the days when “local” riders such as Roche, Kelly, Millar, Elliott at al. were in their pomp and we saw this kind of thing more often.

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