Saturday Shorts

A look at some of the stories in and around the Giro away from the daily stage previews.

Yesterday’s Giro stage went through three tunnels between 10km and 5km to go and apparently at least one of them was not illuminated. If you’ve never raced through a tunnel it’s tempting to say you’re missing one of life’s more unusual experiences but you’re probably better off for it. It’s akin to riding with a blindfold on, all of sudden you can’t see the riders in front or beside you and in seconds you are disorientated, where is the way out? Even in a straight tunnel where you can see the light ahead if it’s dark around it’s nervous as you hear freewheels whizzing, or worse, the sound of brake pads on rims and riders calling out. Italy has a lot of tunnels and it used to be a risk of the race. Many have lighting now and the UCI has tightened up the rules:

They have to be illuminated meaning if they’re not equipped then it’s up to the Giro (or any other race organiser) to rent equipment if the local authorities won’t do it for the day. Note Wout Poels is taking the UCI to task but the governing body is not responsible for course design.

Talking of staying in the dark, no news from BMC Racing about their future. Word inside the team was that the 1st May was a date to here news about a new sponsor but this has passed without any confirmation, good or bad. What’s certain is that across all levels of a pro team this creates uncertainty. The most humble of riders will start to look for a job elsewhere now because if the team does fold later then their chances of a berth elsewhere are slim if they leave it late while the highest paid riders are such a big part of a team’s budget that they can’t just come on the market late in the year, any team looking to hire the likes of Richie Porte or Greg Van Avermaet needs to lock in the budget now and then start hiring support riders too. Meanwhile there’s a Catch-22 scenario where a replacement sponsor wants to know what they’re getting, ie will they have Porte and GVA to promote their brand or not? In short time is running out to learn if Tag-Heuer or Sophos is on board.

Continuing with the musical chairs in the teams, today’s Gazzetta Dello Sport reports that Trek-Segafredo’s manager Luca Guercilena could move to UAE Emirates. Unlike football or other sports management switches are rare in cycling because often the managers own the team but here UAE-Emirates look like they need better management to oversee their increasing budget and growing roster of star riders.

  • Away from the Giro and Cofidis are a team that have sacked managers in the manner of a football team over the years. The consumer loan firm has announced it’ll keep sponsoring their team through to 2022, extending a sponsorship agreement that first started in 1997. The ambitions and wins have been scaled back since then, the immediate question is whether the current management can patch things up with Nacer Bouhanni and whether he can return to his best. He’s just won a stage of the Four Days of Dunkerque but being outside the World Tour means he’s got few chances to test his sprinting legs against the best ahead of the Tour de France; if he rides the Dauphiné there’s barely a sprint stage in it.

UAE and Team Sky are among the big budget teams so they have money to spend. They’re the subject of another polemica where both hired helicopters to take them off Etna and fly to their hotels on the Italian mainland. Everyone else had to board their team bus, drive to Messina, queue and catch the ferry across the straits, then drive to the hotel which took hours while the chopper took minutes. L’Equipe points out today that helicopters are used in the Tour de France sometimes but they’re provided by race owner ASO and transport the riders leading the classification while private flights by the teams are not allowed.

A Giro FAQ about the daily profiles and their annotations. R = Rifornimento or Feed Zone, TV = Traguardo Volante or Intermediate Sprint and the initials below the profile indicate which province the race is in, eg today’s finish is in AV or Avellino, these same initials are on the vehicle registration plates in Italy. Finally the SDS on the right belongs to Stefano di Santo, the man behind the graphics.

The Tour of California starts soon. Readers have asked for daily previews but there are two problems here. The first is surmountable in that daily stage previews take up a lot of time – way more than any other type of post – so doing two a day would consume a lot of time but theoretically possible. The second is more serious, I don’t know my Big Bear from my Baldy, my South Lake Tahoe from Laguna Seca whereas the roads and regions of Italy, France, Belgium etc are much more familiar and if they’re unknown then there’s always the chance to go and recon them, something harder for California. Still hopefully the blog can take a look at this important race in the coming week because the race matters for several reasons.

27 thoughts on “Saturday Shorts”

  1. even as an american i’m not very interested in daily previews for the tour of california. a brief recap and extrapolation would suffice for me.

  2. Totally off topic – can you do an angliru road to ride? Been reading these pieces a lot recently and its about the only insane European climb missing from the list that I can think off. Thanks!

    • I need to ride it too… if enough people buy caps, jerseys, socks etc then maybe it can happen, both to cover travel costs… and to buy a special cassette with a 32T on the back. There a few gaps on the list, several of this summer’s Tour de France climbs like the Croix-Fry and La Madeleine, plus the Col de Portet needs to be ridden before writing up previews for July. The whole of Switzerland is missing and some more Italian climbs can go on too.

      • 32t ?? I would have thought a 36t at least. I feel quite sure that if you set up a crowdfunding request to pay for an Angliru recon you would find the money coming in 😉

  3. Apparently Chris Froome missed the helicopter because it took him too long to pee at the doping control. It’s really turning out not to be his Giro, isn’t it?

    • According to the (excellent) Cycling Podcast, he apparently thought he was good to go for a full sample post stage but fell short of the required quantity, which then resulted in a long delay and he just missed the chopper as a result…

  4. Thanks for the roundup INRNG. It will be interesting to see how the BMC problematic develops. Its not looking too good at present.

    I regret to say I am another who has little motivation to follow the Tour of California. I can never put my finger on why some non Euro events fail to catch my imagination. Nevertheless I wish the event all the best.

    J Evans. Chin up mate. INRNGs blog. Sometime we all feel unfairly treated, but life goes on. We are but players, trying to make meaningful observations and comment on a sport we all love.

  5. Yeah the tunnel thing is scary — I can’t believe there aren’t more accidents. I have raced through them a few times and my main reaction is to shit myself: you can’t even slow down because you know the people behind can’t see. Any of course everyone is wearing shades, covered in sweat. all it needs is one pothole….

  6. Re california I can’t get excited about it, the long history of european races is one of the main factors in my enjoyment of the cycling. Also the parcours and scenery of american races aren’t a patch on Italy (although the richmond worlds was great to watch). I wouldn’t mind if you ignored it completely, all the more time and energy for more great posts about the Giro 🙂

  7. I don’t know if anyone is still interested, but tonight I could have a detailed look to the Etna’s final attack.

    Yates actually made his move little after the -1.8km m to go sign, that is, some 300 m before the 7.4% slopes gave room to a 3.6% false flat. Perfect spot.
    The pace in the selected group in that specific moment was quite modest, some 20 km/h, taking breath before answering to a series of previous attacks.
    Chaves was riding steadily faster on the front.

    Yates threw in a brutal progression which raised the speed up to 30, 33 and then to nearly 40 km/h during those 7+% 250+ m. The sort of things you see in classics rather than in GTs.
    Pinot tried to chase but he barely achieved 26km/h when Yates was already at 30, then he saw that he couldn’t keep up with the speed and set his pace at some steady 30km/h while Froome et al., who had been dropped, came back in.
    As the road became flatter at -1.5 km, Yates kept his high speed at some 40 something km/h, while, behind, four men (Bennett, Pozzovivo, López and Pinot) opened the gas at some 37 km/h, instantly dropping Aru, Dumoulin and Froome who apparently needed to recover from the previous effort they had made in order to get back to the group, now barely riding at 25-26km/h on an easy section (that’s how you see that those four above hadn’t finished the steep section full gas, while the others were probably choking: going 26km/h on less than 4% is not, say, “just holding a regular pace”, not for a pro).
    Yet, as the road became even easier, the four men ahead couldn’t find an agreement and their speed stayed around some lofty 33-34km/h, let’s say easy pedalling, while the three chasers recovered and accelerated up to some 36-38km/h in order to regroup ocne again, which happened before the flamme rouge.
    Yates took huge advantage from this situation, because he faced the false flats full gas at some constant while not less than impressive 43 km/h. On the hard part, with his stingy acceleration, he had gained between 6″ (on Pinot) and 9″ (on Froome), but under the flamme rouge he had 20″ on the selected group of chasers.
    Chaves, up front, had on that group exactly the same 26″ he was defending before the flurry of attacks even started. Eventually, the exact some 26″ he’ll have on the line.
    On the one hand, this speaks quantity about Chaves’ strong performance, racing as most of the best in the last 2 kms at least after having 1) entered the break 2) been in the break all day long and 3) having attacked alone with some 5 kms to go.
    OTOH, without diminishing Chaves’ action, I’d dare to say that probably at least some of the chasers could do a little better if they hadn’t found themselves trapped in a series of dubious tactical situations which they probably didn’t manage in the best possible way.
    In the first part of the last km, despite it being even easier than the previous 500 m, Yates speed was slightly dropping to 37 km/h – after 700+ mts full gas (around 1’10” of top effort) he was probably feeling the lactic acid, or was simply managing himself. As soon as he had his eyes on Chaves, who was keeping some steady 35 km/h despite his previous efforts, Yates accelerated quite strongly again (40 km/h, yet rememeber we’re on a 2.4% false flat, which means Yates looks obviously a bit tired) to make contact as soon as possible. Chaves, on his part, slows down when he sees Yates coming, to join him soon and probably also preparing himself to the last effort.
    Once they join, little before the final 6% ramps, they go together steadily at some 28 km/h (which means more than respectable 1680m/h of VAM), accelerating up to 30km/h as they see the line approaching.
    We don’t know what was going on in the selected group of chasers, but we can assume that they were keeping a solid while not suffocating pace, given that in the last 200 m some of them had the strength to sprint strongly (Pinot rushed towards the line averaging some 36 km/h in the last 150 m at least).
    The three slowest guys, unsurprisingly again Dumoulin, Aru and Froome, averaged some 30km/h in that same rush, but the 8-men group stretched, the rubber didn’t break, and the 3″ or so they lost didn’t count.

    The full duration of Yates’ action, from his attack, was 3’02”. Around 1’10” full gas, some 30″ slightly recovering, a 10″ surge and a steady final 1’10”.

    • Great analysis Gabriele, not having had the opportunity to watch any of the stages this really paints a clear picture. It’s easy to overlook just how fast the speeds are up some of these climbs, the TV coverage often makes it look a bit slower when you are just comparing the relative speeds of the various riders. Thanks again.

    • “if anyone is still interested…”
      Of course!
      Great post Gabriele. I love this sort of analysis and appreciate the effort that must go into it.
      Thanks for illuminating us on these crucial aspects to a key finish and Simon’s attack. This adds hugely to the picture.

      • Gabriele, just a suggestion but why don’t you cover next years TOC in way of a “guest writer” to INRNG, doing the daily reviews etc. ?

      • Hi Ecky,

        whereas speed is easily available through timing (assuming that roadside signposts are accurately placed), W/kg would depend on a lot of conjectures. However, if you take this with (a little more than) a pinch of salt, I’d say that Yates averaged 6.77 W/kg in the last 3’08”. His attack was probably around 500-600 watts along the first 30″ or so (but please notice that the shorter the interval, the biggest the margin for errors). Chaves and most of the chasers averaged 5.95 W/kg, while Tom, Froome and Aru were at 5.85 W/kg.
        The main difference between Yates and Pinot is that the former could go over 9 W/kg, although we’re obviously speaking of a few seconds, while the latter, in similar conditions (that is, trying to cover Yates’ move or during the final rush to the line) topped at some 8-8.5 W/kg.
        When Yates was going full gas on the first part of the false flats, before losing a bit of impulse later, in the easier stretch, he was steadily over 6 W/kg. When the four chasers who had dropped Dum, Aru & Frum stopped pushing, thus being rejoined by the three, they were riding on at 5 W/kg, that is, maybe not exactly soft-pedalling, but, for a pro, a very relaxed pace, while the three came back at some 5.8 W/kg.
        Again: while the above is more or less fact-based, this is pure conjecture. Take it as an exercise of imagination. Others are way better than me (check the ammatipyöräily Twitter account for instance).

        PS Velon achieved the very notable result of publishing totally useless data for this stage. Cheers, guys. You obviously don’t want to disclose key information, but this way your publications can appeal only those who don’t understand them. It makes me think about last year when they published very strange data about Dumoulin, probably because of some calculation mistake or whatever, and pretty much nobody commented, raised an eyebrow or anything. Perfect silence. No surprise, most of the readers simply didn’t understand what the figures said, and those who could… had stopped cheking the Velon page a long time before.

        Sadly, one of the reasons because of which I’m not, say, having a blog of mine is that the time I have available is very variable and unpredictably so. These days I’m writing a lot but on short or no notice I could find myself drawn away from cycling comments. If one pays attention, in the course of a GT it is quite typical for me to disappear along several stages form inrng’s page ^__^ Which means that I could barely commit to anything which needs continuity. That said, I’m in the same exact condition as inrng described above, both re: timing & terrain knowledge. You might also have noticed that I tend to have lots of specific insights about stages in Italy and Spain when compared to France… California lies even further! Thanks anyway! (thanks to James and Peter, too).

  8. Inring, thanks for the effort and work to keep us apprised of all the giro action. The giro is obviously a more relevant stage race then the ToC.

    That said as a native California, it would be nice to see a ToC that actually was not just a day at the beach as Larry T’s description does present. The managing group AEG could perhaps strive to make a much more, beautiful, relevant, and difficult ToC. As I think that the current stage profiles lack pro tour province.

  9. If dark tunnels are an issue why aren’t riders and teams finding solutions themselves – a small flashing rear light could help a little. Sure it spoils the race bike asthetic, but thats half the point – journalists would ask about it and it would get the issue out in the open more. Not being able to bear the shame of it, next year’s giro tunnels would all be lit 🙂

    • To be fair to the teams, if the rules say that the tunnels must be illuminated, that should be that. They wouldn’t know that lights were needed until they actually reached an unlit tunnel.

  10. Count this as a vote in support of your doing a post or two on the Tour of California. These are tough times to be a fan of US cycling, but it feels like that might be gradually changing, and it’s nice to see knowledgable thoughts from non-Americans.

    And I’m of course enjoying the wonderful coverage of the Giro! Thank you.

  11. I vote for a look at the ATOC as well. The reality is there is real money behind it and sponsors that want to support it. Plus, the proximity of Specialized to the race is an important consideration. It means the likes of Quick Step, Bora Hansgrohe and domestic sponsored teams will be there because Specialized wants them there. While it may not be as exciting as the Giro or other big name Euro affairs, it is an important event for a non-continental race. And, I, for one, would like to hear your thoughts on the action. Chapeau to the Giro coverage. Stellar as always.

  12. @ Inrng: Speaking of supporter kits to make things happen this is well understood. Yet shirts and jerseys have only been available in size XL and upwards. Not really an option for the lean and mean cycling blog reader. Do you have any idea when smaller sizes will become available again?

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