Giro Stage 1 Preview

The Giro starts with a 15km time trial and an unusual course with cobbles, a cathedral and a 100km/h descent with a pesky crosswind.

The Route: uphill to the Monreale cathedral via a cobbled climb where the upper section has been tarmacked over temporarily (blacktop poured onto a plastic sheet) just for the race to preserve the ancient stones underneath. Then a left turn into a narrow arched alleyway and a loop around the cathedral before picking up the long descent to Palermo. Here riders will deploy the biggest gear their mechanics can find as it’s a long straight road downhill. Once in Palermo it flattens out and there are big boulevards to the finish.

The Contenders: Filippo Ganna (Ineos) has just won the World Championships and by some margin and he was well clear in the Tirreno time trial too. He’s the clear pick today, his build suited to the downhill run and more so because being Italian the maglia rosa has to be as big a goal meaning he won’t have switched off since Imola. His biggest opponent is himself, being pressured into a mistake on the descent or in a corner.

Victor Campenaerts (NTT) is in the shop window for a new team but might prefer the course in reverse, the same for several other contenders like Geraint Thomas and Rohan Dennis (Ineos) who’d get the edge over Ganna if it was an uphill drag. Other TT specialists like Alex Dowsett (Israel), Mikel Bjerg (UAE Emirates), Ben Thomas (Groupama-FDJ), Jos Van Emden (Jumbo-Visma) and Eduardo Affini (Mitchelton-Scott) could feature, normally Affini would be a top pick today but his form’s been down of late.

Filippo Ganna
Campenaerts, G Thomas, Dennis, Affini

Weather: warm and sunny, a temperature of 30°C, enough to invoke the local breakfast of brioche with ice cream inside. The wind will be blowing from the south at 30km/h which means the long descent is exposed to a crosswind and riders need to think about this. It’ll drop during the course of the afternoon.

TV: the first rider, Alex Dowsett, is off at 1.15pm CEST and TV coverage on RAI begins at 2.00pm with the finish forecast for 4.45pm.

43 thoughts on “Giro Stage 1 Preview”

      • Just out of interest what is INRNG’s opinion on this?

        I know time predictions aren’t your thing but the reason I’m asking is not having seen a downhill TT before, I’m not exactly sure who is expected to gain and lose?

        Obviously in a normal TT climbers lose time but I was wondering if some might mitigate loses because of the downhill or whether a weight advantage benefits the TT specialists?

        When I think of downhill specialists they do not always tally up against TT ie Nibali, Sagan, Alaphillipe – none of who are bad TTers but none are specialists?

        Does a TT bike also minimise downhill specialists advantage as they are less used to them again giving TT specialists a slight advantage…

        I have no idea really who this terrain benefits.

        • If it’s just a wide open straight ‘ski ramp’ downhill then it’ll all be about how aero you are, the size of gear you’re turning and to a degree how much you weigh as gravity will be in play. If there are no corners descending ability won’t come into it. If you think of climbers on TT bikes they usually aren’t that aero compared to someone with long legs and a long flat back like Ganna or of the GC men Thomas, they don’t have the outright power to turn a massive gear and obviously they don’t weigh much. Plus they get pushed around in crosswinds more. Someone, say Lopez or Majka, will take a packet.

        • I think you are confusing a few factors there, and some which are not relevant here.

          Heavier riders have an advantage on a downhill. All riders have low body fat percentages so extra mass equates to lean ballast (either muscle or bone) and so they’ll tend to gain more speed. Watts per kilo is not a factor and it becomes about total wattage and aero gains. Mountain climbers are therefore at a potential disadvantage – which Is born out by the fact most lose time on flat TTs. They may produce good watts/kg, but FTP comes into play and rolling momentum becomes increasingly involved (with the assumption that aero gains/losses are minimal).

          The advantage that Nibali and Alaphilippe have is their bike handling skills. Some of this comes from them being small compact riders, able to get a lower centre of mass than bigger riders, but as much comes from bike feel. The benefit is that when cornering they decelerate later, brake less and come out of the corner with speed.

          As this is a long straight downhill those skills will not benefit those riders, and the total wattage output they can sustain becomes increasingly more important.

          There could be some utterly astounding time gaps and interesting results, with some heavier Rouleurs and sprinters performing better comparatively than some GC riders…though unless they have aspirations for the Maglia Rosa most of them will be backing off as so many do on a day that has no meaning for their Giro aspirations (sprinting, climbing, breakaways or just being in the train).

        • I dont think this parcour will favour the ITT specialists at all.

          Its a parcour for a semi-sprinter with a sufficient punch to crest over the top, a fearless descender as you have to ride +100km/h on a ITT bike – and there are seconds to be won if your technical adapt to cut the final cornes perfectly AND accelerate out of the corners.

          The difference will not be made on the long middle section suited for the traditional big engine timetrailers. Especially for riders on rimbrakes, it will be an advantage to be in the 60-65kg range and not in the 75-80kg range.

          Søren Kragh Andersen is doing bigo-bango & classics, but on this parcour he would be the fastest in the world.

          • I don’t follow really. You might be right of course but Inrng has said the corners aren’t technical and the uphill section very short. In between is an 8km downhill stretch where the emphasis will be on sustained power output, aerodynamics and high speed. How long it takes you to sprint up to that speed should be fairly irrelevant. I guess we’ll find out soon.

          • That’s one spectacularly bad analysis with the added lolz of, surprise, a Danish rider being best suited to this course. Topping it off with no mention of the Danish time trial specialist who finished third is just icing on the cake.

      • I think Thomas could put 30 – 40” into Yates on this course, possibly a tad more.

        Just as well it’s not forecast rain, I shudder to think what that temporary tarmac-atop-plastic sheet surface would be like, leaking oily secretions everywhere.

    • Looking at the photos on Inrng’s twitter, the larger old stones look glass smooth, while mixed among them are little bumpy bits that could cause tires to bounce just enough to lose all grip. If that’s a downhill section and there is the slightest bit of moisture, I can imagine there could be a lot of slips and slides here, especially at the incredible speeds they’ll be going. I’m guessing, but even new asphalt has be to considerably grippier and smoother.

    • Trouble is that Ganna is likely to put 1:00+ into them today… he’ll be on a chainring the size of a family pizza and absolutely smoke ‘em!

    • I think it will be a semisprinter that is able to climb and do repeated accelerations with good ITT skills

      Demare, Sagan, Matthews are very good bets. Add Viviani to the list as well but im thinking Benjamin Thomas who has the propper acceleration and handling skills from the track, is lightweight and is very good in ITT’s too.

      Nibali will not loose time to any GC rider today.

      • But the last 10km, by the profile at least, look to be a false flat (avg -1%) rather than a downhill. That sounds like Ganna’s bread’n butter and real well suited to G.Thomas as well

        • Wind ended up making the difference today.

          Riders in forst group suffered too dangerous crosswinds.
          Riders in middle group had the optimal condition.
          Riders in last group suffered ‘no wind’ at all & a slight headwind and lost at least 1 minutte due to wind.

          As for GC streangth estitamtion the end result did not give any other indication but Fuglsang lost time to Nibali.

          G.Thomas losing time to Mikkel Bjerg is actually an indication that G.Thomas didn’t do well (compare to TA and Worlds).

    • If you’re a sprinter with a punch, why not focus on the mountains jersey. Probably the only chance to wear it and it wins some prize money for the team

  1. After Jakobsen’s crash on the downhill sprint, I’m wondering at the wisdom of asking pros to race downhill sections. What likelihood someone have a nasty crash on the two hairpins halfway down the slope?

  2. I have seen the thought that because the wind is due to drop considerably during the course of the afternoon the early starters will have an advantage. If this is true (forecast I have seen suggests peak mean wind speed of around 34km/h at midday with much higher gusts then slowly reducing) then Alex Dowsett and Victor Campenaerts could be a good call.

    Given the wind and expected high speeds I hope we dont see any accidents.

    • Bodnar was 22nd at Tirreno-Adriatico (52 s. behind Ganna) and 28th at Worlds (2:37 behind Ganna). He was only second in the Polish ITT. It doesn’t look like he’s one to watch for today.

  3. It feels strange to see the GC contenders placed almost randomly through the start order. Yates and Thomas are in the first part of the field while Fuglsang and Nibali are late with Majka last. Some gambles are being taken on evolving weather? (I assume teams are allocated slots and can place riders as they please, but when do they have to decide on individual placings?)
    The peak speeds descending on a TT bike will be quite frightening. A day for power, position, confidence in equipment (remember the Sky tri-spoke failures) and nerves of steel!

    • I found it odd that he left Lotto. If the Tour next year sees a return to TT’s and possibly a TTT then he won’t be short of offers you’d have thought.

  4. I’ve read somewhere that teams are considering adding weights to the bikes – is this within the rules?
    Would be funny to watch the riser throw the ballast once on the straight section.

  5. Well, that was a terrible course with little regard for rider safety. Far more technical that it looked due to some fast corners & patchy road surface.

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