Giro Stage 9 Preview

A summit finish, this is the highest altitude finish of the Giro but only the final five kilometres of the climb are selective. With luck we’ll get two races for the price of one, a breakaway to contest the stage win and the GC contenders in action soon after.

Richard Carapaz

Stage 8 review: the day’s breakaway had a chance until it rained, at which point the bunch became a lot more nervous and teams took up formations to place their leaders out of danger, increasing the pace. Koen Bouwman, the cherub-faced winner of a stage in the Dauphiné last year, was the last survivor of the breakaway but was caught by Mikaël Cherel who had just attacked what was left of the peloton with the white jersey Richard Carapaz in his wake. The Ecuadorian passed Cherel and rode off for the stage win ahead of a bunch that seemed indifferent in its efforts until Thibaut Pinot attacked and took some bonus seconds with Davide Formolo who has recovered from his Etna woes. Earlier on Chris Froome had a crash going up the final climb, inconsequential but adding to the noise that he’s not looking in control of the race but remember he was hitting the deck in the Vuelta last year too, crashing twice in a day… and won overall*. We’ll learn more today. It’s a big win for Carapaz who is a big talent and if he’s in the white jersey and aged 24 is already a father of two.

The Route: 225km is long, crossing the Apennines makes it longer. Next Tuesday’s stage is the longest in distance but today’s race starts earlier making it longer in terms of time spent on the bike. Still the route borrows some express roads to use big viaducts in order to level the route.

The first big climb is to the ski town of Roccaraso, a stage finish of the 2016 Giro when Tim Wellens won, but today only a stopping point but still 7km of steady climbing. The second climb to Calascio is 13km long and mostly at a steady 6%.

The Finish: a 26km climb? As the profile shows it’s more 10km at 4%, a pause and then the final 4km are steep, enough to force a selection. The top takes the riders beyond 2,000 above sea level and if this isn’t the Alps, the decor feels like it, an open space reminiscent of the top of the Galibier climbed from the south.

The Contenders: a good day for a breakaway where the climbers can win the stage. Alessandro de Marchi (BMC Racing), Felix Großschartner (Bora-Hansgrohe), Robert Gesink (Lotto-Jumbo), Ben Hermans (Israel Academy) and Tim Wellens (Lotto-FixAll) were cited yesterday and are good for today again, especially Gesink and Hermans who sat up on yesterday’s climb to keep themselves as fresh as possible. Let’s add Guilio Ciccone (Bardian-CSF) and given Astana have GC ambitions they seem happy to send riders up the road too so maybe Alexey Lutsenko comes good, he started ok in Jersualem but has vanished for a while?

Among the GC contenders Mitchelton-Scott duo Simon Yates and Esteban Chaves are obvious picks for this high altitude finish and Yates in particular looks leaner than ever. Thibaut Pinot isn’t big on altitude training camps while Domenico Pozzovivo is riding as well as he ever has both come to mind and it’ll be interesting to see how the riders fare, this is a hard finish at altitude so there’s the possibility to open up gaps in the finish. Finally for the fun of it where else can Davide “Roccia” Formolo win than the Gran Sasso d’Italia, the “Rock” atop the “Great Stone of Italy”, the headline writer’s pick.

Ben Hermans, Robert Gesink
Ciccone, de Marchi, Wellens
Yates, Chaves, Pozzovivo, Pinot

Weather: sunshine and clouds, a top temperature of 21°C in the valleys.

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.

105 thoughts on “Giro Stage 9 Preview”

  1. Why not Carapaz? His only effort yesterday was during the last 1.5km. If he has the legs today, I’d count him in.

    Thibault Pinot is looking strong and is aggressive. He really wants this Giro. Yesterday’s attack after Carapaz’ showed that when no one else seemed to care.

    Also, Chris Froome must be not just the most non-elegant rider, but also the must clumsy one. At one point yesterday he had to contorsion himself so as not to hit Henao. That was before his fall.

    • Yeah I’m feeling pretty good about Pinot as my tertiary pre-race pick, so long as he can not muck up the TT too badly. Looks strong and proactive, ready to scrap for extra seconds wherever he can get them, has the proven track record from last year. I’m sure that (relatively) near podium miss has stuck with him.

      • Pinot needs to cope with rest days better. Lost significant time the day after on both occasions in last year’s Giro

    • froome also nearly took out bennett yesterday – i think that was after getting back following his fall. a danger to himself and others!

  2. Inrng – thanks for all the writeups.

    A side note – In the US the race is also available on (at price quite a bit lower than fubo)

  3. I like how the asterix ‘*’ doesn’t need to be explicitly defined in the cycling community… everybody knows exactly what it means by now. Hopefully the Giro won’t need one too.

  4. Strange race. Froome looking ragged. Tom Dum not really imposing himself either. Lopez invisible. Yates, Pinot and Pozzo look the strongest riders.

    • True enough, but the real Giro’s only been going since Tuesday. Seems plenty of guys who plan to contest the Maglia Rosa came in not-fully-in-form and plan to hit their peaks in the third week.
      Note to INRNG – the highest elevation (and Cima Coppi) for 2018’s Corsa Rosa is Colle Finestre at 2178 meters.

      • True enough Larry and both the “major contenders” have come here stating they are going for the Giro/Tour double. Might they both have miscalculated and we get a surprise? I can see Zoncolan putting a few people in their race coffins.

        • The finish, yes. Finestre is a bit higher but comes relatively early in the stage, here the top riders will be going as hard as they can an an altitude >2000m, while on the Finestre they’ll probably be pacing themselves.

          • Yeah, and that’s why, depending on so many factors (starting with what the GC will then look like), it could be wise, for some, trying to force a far away battle, that day. Just pacing over it, getting tired legs of course, won’t make the most of one of the very scarce high altitude occasions available. One of the key features of the Giro which this year’s route has sacrificed… today’s finale will be a little more peculiar because of altitude, but it’s not at all like having to face more than one high Alpine pass.

          • Sorry, I missed the “finish” part and thought only of the highest elevation – the Cima Coppi no matter whether the stage finishes there or not.
            To the fellow who cries “hypocrisy” about honoring Pantani I’d point out that far too many Anglo-Saxons see Il Pirata only as a cheat or foil to BigTex. He was much more than that, in a similar way to Fausto Coppi decades before.
            Dope doesn’t get you out of a hospital bed after unfortunate crashes to come back to the top of the sport time after time. Pantani’s fighting spirit and tragic demise are remembered with the “Montagna Pantani” in the same way as Fausto Coppi is remembered with the Cima Coppi.

          • I’m guessing you haven’t read Matt Rendall’s Book then?! As his doping seemed to have kept him in bed (his hematocrit crashed because his body had stopped producing EPO), and then rescued him because one of his ‘buddies’ turned up and gave him to help recouperate.
            An unfortunate choice of words me thinks.
            It was clear that Pantani doped at the time. I just remember thinking “why can’t they catch this guy? Why don’t they test him more often to catch him”. Unaware that drug testing was pretty ineffectual against hormone based drugs.
            I wanted him to beat Lance, whose own return was a clear mockery of the sport. The fact that he competed with Il Pirata was as clear a sign of his guilt as anything. It all rather put me off cycling for a while, that and the stranglehold Postal had.
            Rendall’s book gave me some more perspective on things. While I admit watching him climb was jaw dropping I see a direct line between him and the teenage Dutch riders dropping dead in their sleep from doping too much.

          • The little detail you might have lost in your *reading* (modest book BTW – and the physiology recap above is even worse, besides being substantially false) is that when Armstrong and Pantani actually competed against each other, their doping situation was quite, quite different. And nonetheless it came a day when the Texan, however hard he tried, and with the noticeable help of a very specific team which wasn’t his own, couldn’t catch Pantani… doping doesn’t explain it all.
            It can explain why a great rider doesn’t win, and even why a mediocre or poor cyclist happens to win – it won’t ever explain why a great cyclist wins.

      • I wouldn’t write him off just yet – it hasn’t been a good (or probably fun) start, but it’s not like he hasn’t lost time on a climb before and still come back to win it all.

        If I were Yates or any other GC contender, I wouldn’t give him any breaks just yet.

      • It is well known Dumoulin will take back time in the ITT. But Michelton-Scott DS, Matt White, seems to know that as well as anybody which is why he’s having Chaves and Yates attack the climbs. Dumoulin has consistently trailed in at the back of the favourites on climbs. He hasn’t chased bonus seconds like Pinot. He’s 38 seconds down and, on the same tactics, he will lose more. I would just assume the Dutchman has this because I’m increasingly thinking Yates has a real chance. He’s clearly the best climber through 9 stages.

        • The late attacking seems to be a good tactic by Michelton-Scott. With a long range attack Dumoulin can try to get back on a steady pace (like he did twice yesterday). A burst to the line somewhere in the final two km’s gives Yates some seconds at least. It’s not much maybe but if you repeat it a couple of times… He has four or five opportunities left for this tactic.

  5. Thanks for the daily coverage. Already really enjoying this Giro, again living up to its billing as the best grand tour to watch as it has done the last few years.

    I keep deciding that Froome is going to get found out on the next sharp test, but, on the other hand, wouldn’t be too surprised if he gradually drags himself into some race winning form. With the other contenders riding well it makes it very interesting.

  6. After a very dry edition last year (not sure there was any rain at all) back to normal Giro weather. There might be a shower today too. The weather is on the change, there is going to be snow in the alps over the next couple of days and Tuesday’s stage looks as if it could be wet at times too.This is going to add to the general nervousness which very much influenced the stage yesterday.

    Chris Froome always looks ungainly and has a record of falling over (eg last stage in the pouring rain a couple of years ago at the Tour) which seems strange given his descending skills. He really does not look to be in a happy place, not sure drawing attention to his knee with the blue tape is a good idea.

    Today is going to be very energy sapping, the riders will need to time their effort carefully. Assuming the breakaway is unthreatening it would seem likely to stay away, though there are always some GC contenders who want time bonuses. As Inrng says the altitude might have an impact, especially as the most difficult part is the final few kms. Those who have spent the most time altitude training could benefit.

  7. I thought today’s final mountain would have merited a mention of the WWII German daring”rescue” of Il Duce by paratroopers / SS commandos?
    One of the main characters, Otto Skorzeny, was at one time considered the most dangerous man in Europe and his life is worth a read if anyone is interested.

    • I remember reading about him when I was a teenager. Was this the mission when they used a glider to land atop of a high plateau? I didn’t realized that this was the location.

  8. I think the podium ends up being Yates, Dumoulin and Pinot in that order, but I did look up some of Yates’ TT performances relative to Dumoulin (ok, his brother). On a similar TT to the one we have here at the end, he loses a good 2.30 on average. So he really needs to build a gap. Think today may not be the place, although I suspect Pinot wins the stage.

    • I think Simon Yates is a more difficult opponent for Tom Dumoulin than Nairo Quintana. NQ is probably a better climber but he is a bit conservative, there were times last year when he could have gambled a bit in the hope of putting TD under pressure. He didnt and came in second. I get the feeling if Simon Yates needs to be aggressive in the hope of winning but with the risk of loosing a place maybe even the podium he would go for the win and accept the risk.

      However TD has been at the sharp end every day. He missed Simon Yates’ move on Etna but so did everyone else. I also suspect he is keeping a bit in reserve for the challenges to come. Oft repeated but no less true for that “you dont win a GT in the first week but you can most definitely loose it”. To some extent if he can cover others’ moves in the mountains he has a route to victory, he would not be the first to use such a strategy.

      • Dumoulin is supposed to be doing the double so he must be somewhat undercooked here to maintain that hope. I think by the end of next weekend he may need all of that time trial to even give him a chance of the win. Simon Yates is time trialling better this year but a 2 minute loss is probably still likely. But Yates is looking very sprightly on climb whereas Tom is not extending himself or even chasing bonus seconds like Pinot.

      • Last year Quintana was trying for the Giro-Tour double, so perhaps by only giving 98% in the hope of saving something for July he not only didn’t win the Giro but was totally cooked by the start of le Tour and didn’t even finish in the top 10. Now a lot of that could be the infamous Movistar conservatism but even if the more tactically astute TD is keeping half an eye on July when Yates is going all out for this race it’s advantage to the Mitchelton-Scott rider.

  9. Froome has always been allergic to rain and cold, presumably because his body fat is about 1%. Recall Tour 2014 for example when he quit due to cold (the broken finger story was never very believable, given the injuries riders have won GTs with). Yesterday he looked like he was struggling to stay conscious. After all, he winters in SA, I don’t know if he’s even experienced in the rain much.
    I’d assumed for a while that this is why he’s avoided the Giro, whilst those that love cold such as Quintana have done well in its snowier stages (and less well in last year’s sun!).

      • @ dude:
        “Chris suffered a small fracture to one of the bones in his left wrist. The investigations also revealed a small fracture to a bone in Chris’s right hand, which hadn’t caused him any undue pain over the two stages.”
        Given that Contador won the Giro with a dislocated shoulder, and Thomas finished the Tour with a pelvic fracture, I’m still not convinced this is grounds to withdraw. However given that he could barely keep the bike upright, and this even before the cobbles started that day – that’s a better reason. He looked beaten, groggy – hypothermic, almost.

    • It is in this sense that Froome is an entirely atypical British cyclist. You could say he is only a British cyclist by virtue of his race license, but that might open a can of worms. There are generally two types of British cyclist, those that are very experienced at riding in the rain and cold, and those that are unfit. And most Brits consider anything over about 18c as ‘hot’. The Yates brothers won’t be unfamiliar with rain and cool temperatures being from the north west. Even Wiggins though dicey on a wet descent trained regularly in such conditions.

      • But the Infamous texan always fared good in biblical conditions while Ulle from the NorthSea coast was a fine-weather rider. So the individual preferrnce is quite big.

    • I think that’s a good point, coverage of this year’s Boston Marathon (v cold & wet) focused on effects of things like involuntary shivering and loss of muscle control due to ‘peripheral paralysis’ on athletes’ performance and even small differences in body fat % could make a big difference. Plus I expect Froome is not well adapted to the cold given his winter schedule, as opposed to, say noted skiing enthusiast Pinot. Might help explain why his handling looked so poor yesterday.

      • I think Froome has an inopportune habit of accelerating over painted white lines in the rain. Thought he’d be over this habit after that crash in the 2016 Your.

        • RAI commentators said it was bad luck, what a piece of nonsense! Tens of other racers passed the through the same turn and no one fell except Froome, it was his own fault entirely.

          P.S. I like the official coverage very much, but this comment was way out off, especially given their deep knowledge of cycling.

    • Just had a quick look at the ski station webcam at the finish. Already lots of dark clouds, the forecast on the site suggested cool conditions with thunderstorms, not ideal for a bike race

  10. I wonder how Thibault Pinot felt about being pipped on the line by Formolo for second place given the latter is well down on GC? Seems petty to me. Is there any history there?

      • Yeah I realise that and now 31st at 5:29 down sniping seconds from a real podium contender. Just seemed odd to me in a sport where etiquette still has some sway.

    • I don’t know about any problems with Pinot/Formolo, I thought Formolo just wanted a good result after his crash. He could still claw his way back into the top ten if things go well from now, he’s done that before I think.

      Why is his nickname Roccia, is that a boxing thing or something else? There’s a video where he looks like a pugilistic mountain goat.

  11. The Giro Twitter tweets that Gran Sasso d’Italia is “la Montagna Pantani 2018”. That’s right, in a cycling world full of fans and riders who excoriate (often from total ignorance) cheats one of cycling’s three major races names it highest stage finish after… a known cheat! Gotta love hypocrisy.

    • I don’t understand this ongoing fetishisation of Pantani, it’s not like Italy doesn’t have any other cycling heroes of the past or great riders of today to valorise.

        • Which becomes even more fascinating when self-destruction is prompted by being the target of a more than (un)fair share – sometimes bordering totality – of the powers that be in your environment (in this case, the sport)… and beyond.

      • On the one hand, it is *clearly* sickening marketing by RCS (see below). The popular impact of Pantani wasn’t achieved by later cyclists: and the organisers want to monetize that.

        On the other hand, we’re surely speaking of one of the best handful of climbers ever, and probably a serious candidate for the very top spot in that category (even more so given that he was explicitly endorsed by one of the other candidates for that same position, namely Gaul). That’s a detail which is quite hard to overlook, even more so since, as Gaul, he could translate that skill in GT victories or podia, which, especially at the TdF, is very hard for a pure climber.
        A relevant number of impressive actions which other top GT contenders struggle to achieve even once or twice in their whole career contributes to the mix.

        A very special personality, gifted with sort of an intuition which made the man understand much more than his formation would have allowed him to, adds interest to his figure, albeit (or because) that was also a key factor in his undoing.

    • The nauseating thing is not the difference between how the fans and other riders, on the one hand, *or* an organiser, on the other, do behave. Why hypocrisy, if we’re speaking of very different entities?

      If, say, Tom and Tim and fans had to decide, Sky wouldn’t have been paid to have Froome riding (now that’s been confirmed, by the way) – rather, they’d have been paid to keep Froome as far from the Giro as possible until his situation was over!
      Whereas RCS, although angry about the lack of information, welcomed Froome and spread the word through Italian media to leave that antidoping tribunal matter aside as soon as possiible.

      So, it’s quite normal that different POVs might exist within the sport.

      But, yes, I might agree that there’s a huge deal of hypocrisy in the shameful way RCS treated Pantani when he was alive (what is more, already knowing what everybody in the sport perfectly knew since then) only to bring him back as a marketing stunt when it’s too late.

      Even so, even if it’s pure hypocrisy, even if it’s too late, even if it’s all marketing driven, even if this people are making money with the ghost of a man whose death they’re partly responsible for… notwithstanding, I salute as a very opportune decision the acknowledgement of Pantani’s obvious greatness beyond the doping vicissitudes.
      Although it’s not being done properly, it still sends a fundamental message which too many fans fans, year after year, struggle so much to understand: in cycling there’s an overwhelming quantity of elements which are not doping related, not doping affected and definitely *can’t* be obtained through doping alone.

      By the way, other shady aspects of the sport do influence the results much more than the sheer concept of “doping”, even if that might often happen precisely through the management of doping (and antidoping) itself.

      But doping, when it really weighs in to heavily shift the framework, is part of a chain, not any sort of unmoved mover (which was also true for Pantani, but especially during a certain part of his career, before his later successes).

      • I’m so tired of this what’s or what’s not.
        Pantani, Armstrong whoever..

        I take it Froome’s a participant here, same as with Contador in 11.

        The rules are quite surely deeply flawed, but to take it on to the rider is just BS,
        As Ring has explained many times to depressiveness, it has to do with legal BS, as well as medical BS (it’s only BS for the sports, for all our personal medical and legal needs, surely it has to be so?).

        F*** it, he’s in the race, let’s treat the race as what happens in the race. Whatever happens, he’s as right to race as anyone else. It would be easy to name several others that shouldn’t be racing. And, he is one of the best racers here regardless.

        • I guess you had a problem with your “Reply” button, since, apparently, what you write doesn’t have much relation with what I wrote above.

          I don’t know where you could infer that it was relevant for my argument how *we* (you or I) feel about Froome being in the race. I frankly don’t care and I don’t think I expressed anything on the topic above.
          The point was just a perfect example to show Billybob Thornton how riders and fans might be currently “excoriating” a rider while a different entity, an organiser, has got a very different position – and there’s no “hypocrisy” in that, different persons, different POVs.

          BTW, since you named that, if Froome is recognised as a doped rider, he wouldn’t be “as right to race as anyone else”. In fact, it’s possible (not sure) that his results will be erased because of that. Just as it happened with Contador, whose performance in that Giro I happily cite from time to time if I need to analyse *performances*, but whose presence in the “albo d’oro” was removed, alas. Apart from that, I agree with you. Let’s enjoy the race, hoping that it will be as good as 2011. I’m sincerely happier to endure the “trauma” on the “albo d’oro” having had a great race with Contador in, than to have Nibali with one more Giro in his palmarés.

    • When they retro-tested the urine taken at the 98 Tour didn’t they find that all bar 2 of the riders were positive for EPO? So are we saying that 190 people (plus all those who didn’t start the Tour who were no doubt doing the same) were evil, cheating bastards? No doubt plenty of them were nice guys, just going along with what was the norm at the time. All bar a couple of us will speed in our cars even though we know it’s wrong and that we shouldn’t, and that there may be consequences. Pantani may have been one of those nice guys. Plus he raced in a way that people liked. I don’t have a problem with it. The only alternative is to pretend the 90s didn’t happen. There are the more obvious anomalous results. But if EPO had never been discovered a lot of those that took it would still have been professional cyclists, and some of them would have won things.

      • They found 44 positives from 33 riders, and 9 negatives from 6 riders when they “retro-tested”. That’s on top of the 18 Festina and TVM riders. However, one of the negatives was O’Grady, who also had a positive, and another was Hincapie, who later admitted using EPO during that Tour. So there were only 4 riders who were ‘clean’ for EPO of the 57 tested.

        Good luck drawing any conclusions about how many of the peloton as a whole weren’t taking EPO at the time.

  12. Marco Pantani has become am icon. He transcends his role as a sportsman in the way that he rose up the mountains, moving closer to the Gods. His tale is classical in this sense. A kind of Icarus, but one who was actually among us. In this way he speaks to deep emotions in people; mortality, nationalism, heroism, tragedy, triumph and victim hood. He is much more than a doper. More even tham a cyclist now. I’m pleased to see him honoured in the race, and, in a small way, to honour him here. May he Rest in Peace.

      • Don’t forget the Latin cheat and the Anglo-Saxon cheat, the former gifted with a *very special* personality, of course. ^__^

        • …but it’s you who forgot the Latin *chat*: caecus non iudicet de colore! Cum domino pugna semper sinistra fuit! Aliud noctua sonat, aliud cornix!… ^__^

      • It’s more about those who are actually great cyclists and those who are mere fake. It’s not always that hard to tell, especially in extreme cases.

        • I laugh at those who have no time for the Cheat Il Pirate, so so glad there are no cheats which walk amongst us in everyday life. He who casts the first stone and all that….Long live Marco.

          • Is that you, J Evans? (Personally, I think Pantani was treated shabbily, but all this martyrdom bollocks is an insult to those who genuinely make a sacrifice for the good of orhers)

          • Very good point Steve really people sacrificing for others.

            I feel I may have missed my point earlier. To rephrase what I meant: RCS are memoralising Pantani as a way to add depth to their brand. Through exploiting the love felt for Pantani among his fans in Italy RCS are creating an emotional narrative that reinforces the history of the race and the legendary status of it’s great champions. As so often with emotions, the narrative can stray beyond the purely rational.

            Pantani’s heroism on the bike intertwined with his tragic demise creates a narrative strong enough to outweigh the negative’s of his doping convictions. People are prepared to ignore the doping, or accept it, or deny it, because they have a need to believe in him as a kind of hero. This is how he becomes an icon. It’s why RCS see value I’m memoralising him.

            In many religions real people can transcend the mortal realm through achieving greatness in life, and after their death they are considered demi God’s. I believe Pantani’s legacy is becoming akin to this when we see people repeatedly paint his name on the road.

  13. Noble or Cynical.

    A cheat is a cheat who cheats for not only financial reward and fame, but more importantly cheats all those honorable competitors who attempt to compete on ‘bread and water’ !

    Back on topic. Froome was not up to the challenge today. Is it the beginning of the end ?

  14. Wow – so much rubbish on this comment section today!

    Oval chainrings causing people to accelerate on white lines? Whhaaa?
    Froome being able to continue with a broken wrist in ’14? (True armchair commentary!)
    Plus not convinced NQ was ever just giving 98% last year, you come in undercooked but you still give all!

    Anyway – that final climb was mad? That’s the second time in this Giro the final climb has effectively been proceeded by numerous KMs uphill to become a monster – think that kills the drama a little with teams doing more of the work than the leaders, but taking nothing away from Yates, both the brothers seem to be brilliant tacticians… so calm, very impressive – as far as I can see he has 4 proper uphill finishes plus the coming brutal rollercoaster Wednesday to take another 2mins from Dumoulin…

    12secs today+time bonus’, 26secs a few days ago+bonus’….

    Nail biting stuff.

    Think it’s a little bit of a shame that Pinot’s not more in the mix, have a feeling he’s too close to Dumoulin to take enough for the TT and too far from Chavez and Yates to jump both or both have a mechanical.

    This is Yates vs Dumoulin for me. Currently… I go Yates?

    • Worth pointing out (and sure will do so again in the comments tomorrow), after stage 9 last year Nairo Quintana was leading by 24 seconds from Tom Dumoulin and Thibaut Pinot. This year at an identical stage Simon Yates has 38 and 45 seconds on the same pair respectively. Yes there are less TT kms coming but also take into account TD’s Stelvio issues. There is the Zoncolan and Jefferau finishes but the other stages are much less likely to be problematic for TD. This is far too close to call, luck is likely to play a big part.

      • Very good point. Great comment.

        Just have that feeling (and it feels ridiculous saying given how highly NQ is/was regarded) that Simon Yates might be a tougher rider to dislodge from what we’ve seen so far than NQ last year, especially given he has Chavez to unsettle Dumoulin… it’s a hunch nothing more.

        Yes it’s close, crashes, coastal winds n’all could throw it up in the air – that aside though, I still think as a shameless armchair pundit that Pinot/Pozzo and others in the top ten are unlikely to push out all of the top three for the win and if Froome/Aru/Lopez align for a mad dash one day, surely again one of those top three will be alive to it?

        So my best mystic meg is saying one of those three will be riding away in pink in two weeks time and I gotta feeling it’s Yates, given his TT, climbing form so far and previous on steep gradients.

        (Was looking up what Dumoulin lost to Purito on the steepest climb in the Vuelta ’15 – was 51secs – think that may not be a terrible pointer for some of what’s to come. That was a fading Purito and young Dumoulin, and now we have an ascendant Yates and an older Dumoulin. )

        • Which are the references you have in mind for Yates’ ITT? This Giro’s prologue? It was quite a different beast from what the later ITT is going to be – and it’s his only top ten against the clock ever. Which might mean that he recently improved a lot, indeed. And, of course, we’ve also got lots of examples in cycling history when great form, the maglia rosa spell or being less worn out than the competition produce better ITT performances than what previous results of a rider would suggest. Yates apparently can get a top 20 and limit losses if the ITT is short and includes some climbing, but in longer, flatter ones he’s been quite terrible – until now.

          • You’re like the cycling police Gabriele… nothing get’s past you, especially when it involves the beloved Quintana!

            Yes, it was a casual slip up – I’m aware his TT’s previously have been poor especially on long and flat.

            My thinking on him being harder to dislodge are firstly there being less TT miles this year (excluding prologues there’s around 24/5 less I believe?), plus having Chavez as a partner in crime – finally (and this is just a hunch) I had thought Quintana was a climbing gazelle but as time past and performances became less impressive, I think Yates’ acceleration and what seems to be immense climbing form this year, might upset Dumoulin more than Quintana did last year.

            But as for the TT – I’m expecting around a 3min time loss to Dumoulin.

    • I know, that broken wrist guy above made me laugh. one of the most ridiculous sports armchair comments I’ve ever read, even by the lofty standards of that field.

      back on the current race, it’s still way too early to call anything, besides Yates looking fantastic + Froome looking done (whether just for this Giro or in general, who can say). I don’t think we’ll really know anything until the Zoncolan + the TT. agree on Pinot, think he still looks a good shout for a podium tho esp given Chaves’ horrific TT game.

      • Agreed – Pinot’ TT hasn’t been what it was in ’15 for a while though – but yeah, think Yates, Dumoulin, Pinot is a great shout, that would be my preferred podium if Froome’s a goner! (Was about time, amazing to see the young guns taking over.)

        • Even at his worst Pinot’s TT was never Chaves level absymal, and he’s been pretty respectable the last couple years, roughly comparable to Yates going by a quick glance at PCS. So he’s not going to peg back much time if any, and might lose a bit, so barring crashes/mechanicals etc he’ll have to decisively outclimb Yates at some point, which admittedly doesn’t look likely but weirder things have happened. I’m definitely rooting for him, he just comes across like a gritty individualist weirdo, tho Doom + the M-S duo are both fun to watch as well. Agreed that it’s nice to see the torch finally passing on, or at least the culmination of that process.

          • It wouldn’t be that weird for Pinot to outclimb Yates. It can reasonably happen (or not), it could simply depend – if no other reasons are immediately evident – on different kinds of stages/efforts or going deep into third week. Yates’ manifest superiority happened on two very similar occasions. Yates has probably just done a very relevant jump up in quality, as it was expected given his age and previous performances, but that also means that he’s a bit of an unknown – how high the jump was?
            Surely, if Chaves stays up there, that would be a huge element favouring Yates.

      • “The Briton crashed not once but twice in the early exchanges. Froome remounted gingerly after the first incident 35 kilometres in, but the second crash, shortly before the Carrefour de l’Arbre, saw him abandon the race with a suspected broken wrist.” – Cycling News after stage 5 of the 2014 Tour de France. “Broken wrist guy” wasn’t wrong.

    • My point, if you read it, is that cold and rain are bigger dangers to Froome than they are to other top level cyclists. Lots of cyclists have plugged on through serious injury, so Froome being more affected by nasty weather is significant by comparison with injury. I mentioned the (very insignificant, as Froome was back on the bike before the end of the Tour) fracture as I feel that his hypothermia was a more significant problem.
      Obviously serious injury prevents continuing as well, just as it did for Contador in 2014 as well.
      Not all cyclists have this weakness in cold – many have the exact opposite, they struggle in the high heat, where Froome shines. None of this is “armchair” or controversial.

      • Everyone, including Froome, would agree that Froome dislikes and is vulnerable to wet/cold (+ conversely likes thrives in the heat), moreso than many of his competitors. It’s not controversial at all. And I’m sure it’s an additional reason – beyond the obvious focus on the Tour – that he’s always had not to do the Giro. No one takes issue with any of that. What DAVE + I were ridiculing is the claim that it wasn’t the broken wrist but supposed hypothermia that caused him to abandon, and your armchair judgment of which injuries are + aren’t severe enough to make guys abandon. Neither you nor I will ever know with 100% certainty why someone abandoned but if a guy breaks his wrist going over wet, slippery cobbles, and abandons because “injured wrist + tough conditions made controlling my bike near to impossible” probably he abandoned because of his wrist. It seems very absurd to suggest the wrist was just a cover-up for hypothermia (in July, in lowland France) but if that’s what you want to believe I can’t stop you.

        If you don’t understand what’s wrong with your or I or any fan determining from a keyboard what injuries a rider should + shouldn’t ride through, I can’ t explain it any more clearly.

    • Whilst Yates has been very impressive so far I’m still not yet 100% convinced that he’s on an unstoppable roll all the way to Rome. The Giro so far has the bit of a feeling of a Vuelta first week with Purito Rodriguez or Valverde in the lead. I would say so far the terrain has suited Yates pretty well but I have question marks over his performance in the flat time trial, the multiple difficult Alpine mountain stages (as opposed to the one final climb stages we have had so far) and the third week of a grand tour in general. He may answer all of those questions emphatically, but its all an unknown just now. The fact that this isn’t following a grimly predictable script is making it all the more enjoyable. I wouldn’t be totally writing Froome off yet. He can take over a minute off Yates in the time trial, on a good day a lot more, and history has shown that he can take big chunks out of even the best climbers on big climbing days. Obviously it would require a massive turnaround in his form, but we have seen those too! Albeit not from him. As a wildcard although Chaves is almost comically poor in time trials he is potentially better on the really big climbing days. Its all very nicely poised.

      • Sure, very early days to be crowning Yates, long way to go. Tho he does have two GT top 10s, admittedly not the same as fighting for the lead but it’s not like he has no record of 3-week consistency. Also who besides maybe MAL are you picking to go out + tear up a multiple climb stage? Either way I agree the uncertainty and multiple viable contenders has made for a very entertaining race so far.

        And no one should completely write off Froome yet – I’m sure his rivals aren’t – but it’s not just the time he’s lost so far, it’s that he’s consistently looked bad, or at least not good enough to mount a serious challenge. You’d think if he was riding into form you’d start to see it by now. Still wouldn’t shock me if he turned it around but I’m not expecting it like I was up until Etna basically.

        • Yates is a huge talent and a rider whose style I love. But this Giro is where he’ll prove at what point of his improvement curve he sits. His age says that it’s precisely now when you can expect him getting greatly better, hence it’s hard to forecast what he’s going to be doing just because of past performances.

          In the only two GTs he made fighting for GC, he showed a good deal of consistency, but always had some difficult day of sort, or more than one, especially if things were complicated all day long and into the third week, although he never really cracked (say, losing over 3′ on a single climb).
          At the 2016 Vuelta, he suffered on his way to Aramón Formigal, losing more than a minute against the rest of his group (not the break!) on that easy final climb, worse than Froome himself. He suffered an hard blow by the likes of Mentjes or Talansky, performing on the same level as Bakelants or Ben Hermans. On the steep Mas de la Costa (one of the few Zoncolan-like references in his career, only way shorter) he lost a minute in 4 kms to Chaves, Froome, Contador and Quintana. Again, like Hermans or Talansky (or Formolo). I won’t take into account the last stage, where he again lost a big chunk of time, because he someway worked for Chaves (but the Orica backstage pass is very, very telling, if you watch it – besides being emotional and entertaining).
          Last Vuelta (rather poor) isn’t worth considering given that he had made the Tour, too. And a good Tour it was! Even so, he had a poor day on the Galibier stage, where he finished well behind… a struggling Aru (like 1’30” back!), and more than 2′ behind the best. He partly recovered on the more suited Izoard stage, but he didn’t look brilliant either, same as in the final ITT.

          But the trend is that he’s steadily growing stronger year after year, so I expect him to be better at this Giro than on those previous occasions, as he already showed. The question is: how much better?

          • Well ya ofc that’s what makes it so entertaining, a guy coming into his prime potentially making the leap from top-10 to serious GC contender, especially given how often potential GC guys fail to pan out, hit a ceiling + wind up as stage hunters, etc. We are fully in agreement.

            And yes I remember that Orica backstage. that + the one of Hayman’s Roubaix are both great.

  15. Side question/potential hot take: is this year Nairo’s last great shot at winning a TDF? Just as his omnipresent nemesis Froome is (possibly) winding down, there’s a whole bunch of dudes – Doom, Yates if he’s truly made a leap, soon enough one would think Bernal – who have either arrived or are soon to, and will be around for the rest of Nairo’s athletic peak. You’d think starting next year Doom will likely start focusing his season around the Tour thru team/sponsor pressure if nothing else. Bernal seems like Nairo but with a much better TT. None of the young guns besides Doom have anything like Nairo’s GT record, granted, but also when’s the last time he looked great in a GT? He’s only 28 so he still has time but it’s hard to see a scenario where he’s the favorite at any point going forward. A bit crazy, thinking back on 2013 when it seemed like the only question was how many he’d win. Can still see him picking off a Vuelta or maybe a Giro in one of those weaker field years maybe.

    • yeah, as much as i like nairo he never had nor developed that killer instinct to really strike when he had the advantage. a couple times he used poor weather which ended in some controversy and his really late attack up alp d’huez in 2016 iirc almost got him the tour, but none of that was ever super consistent.

      i hope i’m wrong because his physical talent is extraordinary. maybe he’ll have a great year and get it done?

    • Nairo Quintana has never had a “great shot” at winning the Tour. He isn’t an all-rounder and the Tour is the most “all-rounder” of the three grand tours. Even when they created the most mountainous course he was ever likely to get, 2015, he still didn’t win. He’s never worn yellow for even one day and now so untrusting are his own team in his singular abilities that they have to draft in every top rider they can muster into the same team, a counsel of despair. Quintana will never win the Tour and he may never even wear yellow.

      • @RonDe

        The “wearing yellow jersey” thing is sheer nonsense.

        Bardet never wore *any* leader’s jersey in any GT. Urán had a jersey (the pink one) *four* days in his whole career. And imagine that your original statement was about Quintana, who’s obviously better placed than that couple of guys.
        So, you’re essentially telling us that Froome’s competition “never had a shot” at winning the Tour. Since they didn’t wear the yellow jersey.
        That is, he won because the rivals were guys who had no chance whatsoever. I’d happily agree that Froome rarely had a serious competition, but implying that he won essentially because of his rivals, whose “jersey wearing” situation ontologically means 0% chances, is harsh… to him 😉

        Jokes apart, it’s quite obvious that if your strong point is high mountain and the third week, you’ll tend to get the jersey later – or not to take it at all. Especially in a race like the Tour, which, albeit less formulaic than in previous years, still sticks to a more rigid model than the Giro. You’ll never get a Blockhaus in the Tour’s first week, things as they are.

        Note that I agree with part of your general concept: unless the TdF mutation goes even further, it will also be difficult for a pure climber to win one. And rightly so. It makes the very sparse climbers’ victories even more worthy – and, above all, it’s the spirit of the race to favour the most “perfect”, average and complete specimen, rather than being open to a competition among very different physical types. In a TdF GC final top ten you’ll have a more homogenous range of physical types than at the Giro. That’s how it has been since decades!
        That’s why I’d agree that it’s just fair and logical that an under 60 kg climber should struggle to win and possibly never make it.

        Yet, besides the yellow-jersey-wearing delirium (Rohan Dennis has already worn the three jersey but, for now, he’s still far from having any shot at any of them), you’re dismissing for no valid reason Quintana’s 2015 Tour. He obviously had a “great shot” at winning it (no need to explain once again why, analysing once more times and team tactics) – but having a great shot doesn’t mean you’ll hit the bull’s eye. To me, more or less whoever is runner-up (and most of those who climbed a podium) “had a great shot” – the leader crashes, and there you are. Even more so if you’re less than a couple of mins down.

        • “So, you’re essentially telling us that Froome’s competition “never had a shot” at winning the Tour. Since they didn’t wear the yellow jersey.”

          And, what’s more, I’d say history has fully justified me in that respect. If you can’t even hold the jersey for one day how do expect to have it at the end? Historically, the overwhelming majority of winners hold the jersey for several days in the race that they end up winning. In short gabriele I suggest you try to understand the spirit rather than the letter of what I’m saying which is, of course, all relative.

          • I understand your point but look at how many days Cancellara and Cipollini have worn yellow. Probably more than some people who have won the Tour! Plus there are plenty of relatively unknown Frenchmen who have got in a break and worn it for a week. So its not necessarily a great gauge of your tour winning ability. But in the sense that Quintana has never really looked like winning the Tour, apart from for a few brief moments on Alpe d’Huez a couple of years ago, you’re correct.

          • My point above is that previous jersey wearing is not a good proxy. Too much depends on the kind of rider or how the race is organised. There’s no “spirit” in such a theory.

            You’ve been already shown that having worn the jersey doesn’t tell much about your winning options. Lots of guys wear it and don’t come even close to a podium, let alone winning.

            But is it necessary to have previously worn a TdF jersey in order to hope for a win? Not at all.

            Sastre took the jersey on stage 17 and went on to win. He had never worn a GT jersey before, I think, even less so the yellow one. Pantani never wore a yellow jersey before taking it on stage 15 and going on to win in 1998.
            LeMond ’86 shouldn’t have been a plausible candidate for you (he had podiumed both at the Giro and at the Tour but never wore the jersey, in short, a useless buddy victory-wise!); in fact, he didn’t wear any yellow jersey until stage 18 (!). Then he won that Tour.
            Roche had his first ever yellow jersey on on stage 19 or 20 or so in the 1987 Tour he went on to win.
            And what about Gaul 1958? He dominated several mountain stages, but he only dressed the jersey on the very last stage before the Paris sprint… stage 23, an ITT. He won it, *never* having worn the jersey before (he had led the Giro, sure, just as Quintana). Similar story for another great climber, Bahamontes.
            When Thévenet won in 1975, he had been once runner-up and had twice top-tenned at the TdF. Never wearing the yellow jersey. “He’ll never have a shot” had said RonDe at the start… then the man took the jersey on stage 15 and brought it to Paris.
            There’s a good deal of other names which I feel that could be good to prove you wrong (Van Impe, Pingeon, Aimar, Janssen…), but I don’t want to check them – some of the above were by memory, but some others needed to be checked 😉

            I’d say that Quintana could have quite well taken the jersey on stage 20 or even on stage 19 (hadn’t Valverde asked to slow down the pace on the Croix…), then brought it to Paris. And it would have been one more classical example of the equally classical “from-time-to-time-strong-climber-win”. It didn’t happen, and that’s totally fair – Movistar *and* Quintana’s fault, Froome and Sky’s merit. Perhaps Froome’s best TdF victory. That’s what it was. But don’t try to sell me that it *couldn’t be otherwise*… because Quintana had never worn a jersey before.
            Quintana might perfectly put the yellow jersey for the very first time in any future TdF and bring it to the finish – he’d be one more in a long list of winners who first took the jersey the year they’d be going to win the Tour.

            But I’ve got a good last one (even if for the previous ones I tried to insist on wearing the jersey late in the race and this is not the case).
            A certain Chris Froome had never worn a yellow jersey in 2013. He was already 28, and he had been twice runner-up in a GT, the TdF and the Vuelta. In fact, he had worn for a single day the Vuelta’s leader jersey, but no yellow jersey ever for him. Of course, RonDe then said: “No way, no way man, this guy won’t ever have a shot – runner-up? What’s that for? Has he ever worn a yellow jersey? My money is on Voeckler! 20 days wearing yellow!” ^__^
            (I could have named Valverde to look more serious, but Voeckler was more fun)

        • Gabriele – completely agree, days in yellow is not an accurate portrayal of the quality of a GC rider.

          And, using Ron De’s 2015 example, Nairo clearly proved that he was head and shoulders better than anyone not named Chris Froome that year at the Tour. In fact, if Froome had not taken over a minute on Stage 2 due to echelons and team tactics (Movistar was poorly placed – their own fault), the 2015 Tour would belong to Quintana.

          If you look at only the mountainous and TT stages, Quintana was the better rider, even though he never wore yellow. On the TTT, Quintana only lost 4 seconds! That’s unbelievable and shows he can pull out decent (I said decent, not good) all-round efforts.

          So honestly, Quintana’s current state is a bit of a fall from grace, because in his best years, he has shown to be the world’s best competition to Froome.

        • One more point, the 2017 TdF was a bad example, as you pointed out. Quintana had ridden 4 GTs in a row, all of them competing for the GC. That is way too much to expect, especially after winning the Vuelta and then nearly winning the Giro.

          Quintana is young and in the peak performance years of his life, I expect a bounce back 2018 and 2019. He’s still one of the top GT racers of his era.

    • The last time Quintana looked great in a GT?
      Oucj, I really need to make a huge memory effort, when was it? The stone age? Ummm, Vuelta 2016 anyone? He beat an on-fire Froome, the Chaves-S. Yates ticket and an inspired albeit already fading Contador. Not bad. *One and a half year ago*.
      The only thing we had in-between was attempting for the double, which rarely makes things easier for anyone.
      And he came pretty close to winning the 2017 Giro on an unfavourable course against the guy whom most people regard as the next big things in GTs, while beating Nibali and Pinot.
      He clearly looks as his growth curve came flat some time ago, that is, he’s not getting better while younger athletes will. But this sort of analysis show more than anything less a serious lack of short to middle term memory in most fans.
      People are being hugely excited by the last half a week or so… when this same Giro might even be reserving some surprises for the third week (or next weekend).

      • No, I remember the 2016 Vuelta well. He wouldn’t have won without Froomigal – that’s not to delegitimize his victory in any way, just to note that it was achieved at least in part through tactics rather than just sheer strength. He did take a minute off Froome at Lagos de Covadonga but took it right back the next day. Froome crushed him in the TT but tbf Froome crushed the entire field + Nairo managed a top 10. All in all I thought he looked good rather than great. I wasn’t super impressed by last year’s Giro either. his TT was mediocre, he didn’t couldn’t ever get any real separation on climbs. Absolutely, the terrible idea to do the double + four straight GTs overall is an extenuating circumstance, but still, not great by his standards. I think the last time he looked great was 2015. The inverse of Froomigal – losing time in crosswinds is bike racing, but on that parcours over the whole 3 weeks he was the strongest individual rider.

        So my memory is fine, I think we just disagree on what’s “great” which was maybe vague. I really meant the last time he looked like he could win a GT largely through sheer strength rather needing a seriously weakened field of competitors and/or a lot of variables (injuries, luck, etc) beyond his control to go his way.

        • I’m pretty sure Quintana would have won anyway, even without Formigal. He’d lose way less time in the ITT (added risk of crashing, but the latter doesn’t necessarily happen) and would have inflicted time on Froome during the last mountain stage. But this is just suggested by cycling experience, we’ll never know.

          I guess you must be among those who consider Froome such a mediocre GT rider, if Quintana taking relevant time difference on him climbing isn’t sheer strength for you (over the typical petty 10-15″, and on multiple occasions).

          And, no, your memory isn’t that good. After Covadonga, Froome couldn’t drop Quintana, not even by a single second, on the very favourable – to Froome – Peña Cabarga. And Froomey had already lost more than 30″ on La Camperona, too (not bad for Froome, either). The Vuelta is also a race which is normally better for a rider like Froome than for a Quintana. Short efforts, little fondo.

          Where’s the weakened field in that Vuelta? Contador was better than he ever was in any of Froome’s Tours. Chaves was very strong and fresher than the TdF survivors (Giro anyone?). Froome was going all in and motivated. Injuries? Which injuries? Luck? Is Formigal “luck”? Frankly, that would mean having a very distorted idea of cycling. That’s what cycling should be about, no element of luck in sight. And, BTW, Quintana faced much more wind than Froome that day and yet put another good chunk of time onto the Sky man just in the last climb, without considering the breakaway difference.

          And the same distortion is there for the 2017 Giro, where, anyway, I’d agree that he looked under par. I feel that you just don’t fully understand, for example, what it means to leave the closest rivals at 24″ (only 4 guys within a minute and only six, including the former 4 ones, within 2 minutes! Less than a total dozen of guys within 3′) on a first weekend monoclimb, however hard. LPSM was more impressive, I’d agree, but there are very few other terms of comparison, if any (Ax3 was along the lines of Blockhaus, or a little behind, not to speak of LPBF).
          From then on, he didn’t look brilliant at all, but it was easy to foresee with such a course – I had written it here before the Giro even started, I believe.

          I suppose that your definition of “great” ends up including *only*, dunno, the 2014 Vuelta by Contador in the last 5 years? Surely none among Froome victories (weakened field…), nor Dumoulin’s (given that even Quintana, the runner-up wasn’t that great), not to speak of Nibali’s TdF. We might speak of Giro 2015, too. Perhaps. Cobo and Horner might also be *great* candidates for greatness.

  16. Yeah, his sheer talent will always make him a threat if he doesn’t get it this year feels like he’ll need one of these absolutely everything went right years in the future. Those are hard to come by in the Tour. He’s a bit stuck between the Nibali/Froome generation + the new guys coming up. 2015 is the big what if, losing 2 minutes or whatever it was in the Zeeland crosswinds, but that’s bike racing.
    Hard to argue against Movistar’s general success in stage racing but I do wonder if he might have been better off as the sole focus somewhere else, like Contador.

  17. By the way, I loved the landscape on Sunday. I already knew it well, but the heli takes were great, the plateau looked epic. Normally, you’re more impressed by the sight of Gran Sasso in itself. The Giro is making some steps in the right direction as far as image quality is concerned.

    • Yes, I couldn’t quite believe how epic that valley was leading up to Gran Sasso.

      That must’ve been some glacier that ploughed through there.

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