Giro Stage 12 Preview

A tough day in the hills and on wet roads too.

Let me have men about me that are fat; Sleek-headed men and such as sleep o’nights” says Shakespeare’s Caesar. 2,000 years ago sprint trains weren’t a thing but being backed by the biggest guys works for emperors in the senate, just as it does for sprinters in the peloton, although don’t call Jacopo Guarnieri et al fat. Arnaud Démare’s train had the bulk and the means to depose any challengers, they toiled until Arnaud Démare launched with 150m to go and took his fourth stage win, there were no acrobatics, no fitting through a tiny gap, just a dragster race.

Démare has 14 wins this season, a decent tally in a season with or without a pandemic and when he finished the stage the joy was obvious, seemingly as if he’d won his first ever race and also the Olympics at the same time, despite this being his fourth stage so far, as in almost a third of the Giro’s stages. But will Démare and team sleep all night? They might be up checking the points as Peter Sagan finished second to secure points in the ciclamino competition and could score more. With only one obvious sprint stage left Démare is the best sprinter but far from certain when it comes to winning the points competition.

  • Fellow blogger Jakob Fuglsang’s diary for Danish newspaper B.T. is beginning to cause blowback. He can blast his team mates, that’s for him and the dinner table but some of the phrases about the south of Italy, such as “as all northern Italians say everything below Florence is Africa” require a gentle rebuttal. He now says these are not his words but the journalist typing up the pieces but either way this insults half a country and beyond. To paraphrase Orwell that the first duty of intelligent people is to restate the obvious so perhaps it’s worth reminding Danish readers that not everyone in the north of Italy thinks this and even populist, separatist politicians would blush at this kind of writing. Let’s leave it at that.

The Route: 204km into the Marche hills and back, today uses the same course as the Nove Colli (“Nine Hills”) gran fondo and the training roads of Marco Pantani (there’s a memorial – one of many in Italy – to him along the way). With almost 4,000m of vertical gain, this is a mid-mountain stage with several climbs which are not hard if ridden alone, instead the difficulty comes in the repetition, there’s little time for recovery and even the ascents are uneven with changing gradients. The descents are as awkward as well as they twist through the landscape. The final climb is listed as a fourth category ascent but as ever this is a label, the reality is over four kilometres at mostly over 8% and if there’s a brief descent not far from the top this just leads to a final wall over the top.

The Finish: the final 20km see the race head back to the coast and there’s a straightforward ride through Cesenatico and almost a two kilometre long finishing straight along the sea front.

The Contenders: a lottery stage, one to sit back and enjoy but this blog still has to pick some names? A breakaway or a sprint among the GC contenders? For the breakaway look to Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Jhonathan Narvaez (Ineos) and Diego Ulissi (UAE Emirates) as the first can just ride away and the next two have the finishing skills. Talking of which Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) is a defensive pick, he could go in the break or hang with the GC riders and get back for the finish.

Among the GC contenders it’s a test to see if João Almeida (Deceuinck-Quickstep) can get over this course with the big names but he’s got a good chance and he’s got a good sprint for the finish. Patrick Konrad (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Brandon McNulty (UAE Emirates) also have a decent finish too.

Diego Ulissi, Jhonathan Narvaez
McNulty, Almeida, Konrad, De Gendt, Fuglsang, Castroviejo, Sagan

Weather: wet and a top temperature of 18°C

TV: the finish is forecast for 4.30pm CEST but tune in early for the hills and thrills.

54 thoughts on “Giro Stage 12 Preview”

  1. Bravo for the “gentle rebuttal” of the Fulsang blog. He deserves universal condemnation for his comments and the lack of intellectual and editorial engagement in what is purported to be his “voice”.

    That “journalist”/ghost writer doesn’t deserve the job title and pay packet that goes along with it.

    As for the racing – I’d love to see this version of Demare and his sprint train at the TdF next year, as locked in as they are now!

    I sense that Mcnulty will be looking to take a flyer today, after having had a solid rest in the bunch yesterday after his 2nd place efforts the day prior.

    • Blaming the ghost seems an easy way out. Fuglsang rarely comes off very well in his live interviews either, unless he won on the day, and even then he can still have a little dig at someone. I don’t read Danish well and I’d likely make a lot more mistakes in comprehension than the person who translated his pieces, so I won’t try, but I can’t say I was surprised at the way he talks about his team or teammates.

      Wouldn’t have expected the seriously gross stuff that came out recently though. But it’s BT after all, the Danish equivalent of Bild or The Sun.

      It comes shortly after Quinn Simmons, promising youngster from Trek, had his name in the papers for the wrong reasons as well. A good reminder that even if you admire athletes for what they do on a bike, you don’t have to consider them role models in all aspects of life.

    • I don’t know how English Newspapers never mind Danish ones work but you’d presume there is some sort of editorial proof reading process, or maybe they are in too much of a rush?! Anyway it seems strange that such inflammatory comments would make it all the way from Fuglsang’s perhaps too often oxygen deprived brain all the way to print.

    • You can hardly blame the journalist – he/she can only write what Fuglsang says – and in my experience the columnist sees the copy before it’s punished and has the right to alter/remove/add anything – ie full sign off.

    • Have to say that I see blaming the journalist as being on the same level as blaming your domestiques. If you’re the leader/the name on the article, then you take responsibility for your performance and the performances of those helping you.

    • A small one, that they’re not friends these days. Nibali was interviewed on TV about this the other day and said he’d heard about some of the things Fuglsang’s said/written but things were ok, he thought it was being overplayed in the media.

    • he’s just an abrasive guy who’s seems rubs up against those he’s in close competition with (this is just my and a few others people impression from stories that filter out over the years) – my personal and completely unsubstantiated opinion is he’s one of those people who thrives on adversity and needs to create the ‘us vs them’ mentality to get the best out of himself, which can be a bit tiresome if you’re on the other side but he’s perfectly entitled to do.

      But I think everybody here respects him and his achievements enormously – we’re all aware you can make a strong case for him being the best rider of the last decade.

      • OldDAVE – I doubt many people would want to make the case that he’s been the best rider of the past decade. Unless you just mean from Denmark? And even then…

          • Nibali doesn’t come across well in the English-language media, partly he doesn’t appear in many interviews, profiles and doesn’t do much on social media. But he’s popular in Italy, gives some of his money to youth cycling clubs to help them, writes letters to kids to encourage them etc, it’s a side he doesn’t publicise much though.

          • I wouldn’t say Vincenzo Nibali comes over badly in English media. Cycling gets 0 coverage in mainstream media so the only outlets discussing him are cycling specific who are more likely to speak of his achievements. He’s not fawned over like Sagan is but he comes across no worse than anyone else. If he’s disliked on any level in England it’s likely to be by the Sky fans who view cycling in a more football fan way and disliked Nibali because he was for a time a major rival of Froome.

  2. I’m not gonna make any comment on Fuglsang, as INRNG said leave it at that which makes sense, he’s said all that needs to be said.

    I just want to thank INRNG for being so highly aware of seemingly every story in the cycling world and writing about this in a balanced and thoughtful way. Especially doing so for free. I’m glad to have read about it but no need to have the comments board taken over discussing it – I’m sure we all felt similar whilst reading.

  3. In terms of the stage my thoughts when I saw it previewed last night was that this was a day for the break. But could a team put Almeida in trouble? The final 30km makes it hard for a proper GC battle, but a wiley old racer like Nibali might be able to put him in trouble. I suspect the pay-off for the effort would be small.

    • The problem is the long run to the finish for the final 30km so all the GC riders wanting to attack probably need to go earlier, go together or – and watch for this early in the stage – send a strong rider up the road to act as a relay rider. It’s still early in the move to try risky long range moves but it’d be nice to see happen, some riders are looking to take back tim and keep attacking, eg Geoghegan Hart.

      • Yeah. Geoghegan Hart looks hungry and has been well positioned on some of the other stages. He seems like a good shout as someone wanting to improve their GC standing. If you got in a break with him you might get a bit of a free pass for the stage win as I think he would probably like to use this as a chance to make a case for a GC role.

  4. It’s a shame that this Giro will be overshadowed by Covid and perhaps later on the weather because the route has been and continues to be fantastic. Even if the start had been in Hungary with an extra flat stage and Thomas had stayed in the race with a healthy chunk of a lead from the TT. The route has provided regular opportunity to attack on terrain that is hard to control, and with plenty of opportunities for sprinters too (Demare could end up with 6 stages, a Petacchi-esque 7 if it had started in Hungary). Proof if needed that a properly varied route is better than Vuelta style hill reps.
    Today looks very Liege-Bastogne-Liegey, so I’d fancy Fuglsang to have a go at getting some time back today.

  5. Mr/Mrs INRNG.
    You write Fuglsang is insulting half the country Italy.
    Do you think it is insulting to be called “Africa” ?
    Why would you think that?
    Are you racist?

    • Blimey… KO AN…
      just before this escalates…

      INRNG is clearly not racist – he/she/they are reporting on a derogatory comment not saying whether it is right or wrong – what I mean by this is the phrase in question is used by whoever uses it as a negative about the South of Italy, and you can say that that are racist as it is meant in a way that is derogatory about Southern Italians and by extension is racist in how it reflects Africans. But INRNG is just reporting on someone else’s use of the term and how they and others who use it intend on it being understood.

      INRNG is making no comment on the phrase itself which I am sure he/she/they would agree does not reflect well on those it refers too and possibly worse on those you use it.

    • Your comments are not welcome as you either have an axe to grind or you have your brain switched off. Inrng is reporting Fuglsang’s comments, not his own.
      Playing the race card is a low blow.

      • Troll troll troll. A troll that one can see as a troll from a distance and a troll that one can smell a mile away.
        (It is a credit to this blog and fortunate that we haven’t had to suffer from the usual abundance of such characters in the past. Let’s hope it stays that way and let’s not reward them with eager, angry, passionated or otherwise emotional responses,)
        PS I think we – and I mean the regular readers – should leave the Covid-19 debate to others – and I mean other fora – as much as possible,
        PPS I don’t quite share the opinion that this Giro has been and that the winner’s achievement will be overshadowed by Covid-19. A small asterisk will perhaps be in place in history books, but there is no reason to view the race – now as it takes place or later when we are back at whatever comes after the new normal – through a keyhole.
        (I do hope that in 2040 new cycling fans will ask why on earth did they ride the Grand Tours in such order and at such a late point in the 2020 race calendar!)

      • It’s like blue/black or white/gold… I can only see a joke, yet many see something else. The horror of forums/social media is they are woeful for communication.

      • DMac, you must be a good person to watch a race with! I wouldn’t have thought it possible to put a positive spin on Ko ‘s original post. Terrific

        I would like to second all the posters who have asked for some restraint in the comments. The world around us is pretty dire at the moment. Let’s keep the virus, and the socio/ racial unrest and all the rest of the world’s troubles at bay and just argue fiercely about the cycling: that should be a bright spot in this dark world .

        I was smiling all day when I thought of Sagan‘a stage win ( and I am not his greatest fan). That’s what elite sport can bring to the rest of us less talented and dedicated mortals.

        • I’ll third that. I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to this, but one needs a break. Rob Hatch on Eurosport UK incessantly mentions COVID: we all know it’s happening, talk about the race.
          Today looks fantastic, and there must be a good 20 people who can win. Sagan could go for it again, and perhaps sew up the points jersey. Mind you, he might be pretty knackered from Tuesday. With the intermediate sprints not giving that many points, he might need today and Stage 16 to garner the required points.

          • I think the stage tomorrow could be better suited to Sagan, he has a good chance to drop Demare on the climbs near the end, and take up to 50 points at the finish line. Today will be hard to control for his team, and if he spends his strength in the break he might be tired tomorrow.

          • Lukyluk, true.
            It’s an oddly ‘weak’ break: I was expecting the strongest breakaway riders to go for this. Maybe they think it’s just too tough.
            I love these classic-style stages: just a shame that RAI don’t show the start – it would have been very interesting to see that break form.

    • If you read the blog he is pointing out that it is insulting to the north of Italy as it indicates that everyone there has a racist and ignorant world view. Which he notes is not correct. I would have though an intelligent reading of this would give sufficient context to avoid the conclusion you have come to.

    • Inrng has clearly defended athletes of all backgrounds in the past… Look at his record. Eg. He was against gianni moscons derogatory comments a few years back and has been an advocate for women’s cycling.

      Inrngs post above was a quick and brief response and basically said “fuglsangs comments have no place in cycling and I’m not going to waste much time laying out in how many different levels they are wrong/hurtful/etc”…

    • Think you’ve got the wrong end of the stick here, as others have helpfully pointed out already. Fuglsang/BT wrote “all northern Italians say everything below Florence is Africa” and I’d challenge you to find one northern Italian who says this, if you can I suggest they’re probably not evoking the verdant hills of Rwanda, nor the charming evening light of the Sahara, it’s a trope for a developing country, an insult. Let’s not make a big deal of this, much of Fuglsang’s blog is interesting on his team, in a gossipy sort of way, instead I just wanted to save one or two Danish readers here an awkward moment the next time they visit Italy by pointing out that one or two of the ideas published in his blogs are not jokey conversation topics Fuglsang’s picked up on his travels, they’re pretty fringe / rude views.

      • Danish humor and freedom of speech culture is rather unique and difficult to understand even from a neighboring Scandinavian perspective and jokey conversations about sensitive topics that would be interpreted as pretty fringe/rude views in most other context but Danish popular culture definitely would not be a first.

    • I’d love to see this but… is he? Since when has Tao been a particularly strong TTer? There feel like other riders who might be ahead of him in their ability to go solo and hold it today – although I think Sagan taking another solo victory is a strong possibility.

      • He is surely but slowly crawling towards a top 10. Probably not going to pull a Landa and get into top 5, this is still great performance from him if he can keep this up.

        Should he crack top time, this would put him on equal footing as Sivakov in terms of growing into Ineos’ future GC prospect.

  6. I want to see Sagan go on another raid and then thump his chest a la wolf of wall street as he crosses the line solo…

    This giro is likely the last race of the year so no point leaving anything in the tank!

  7. Unfortunately you can’t really separate the COVID situation from the racing. Would Sagan have been reeled back in had Jumbo Visma and Mitchelton Scott still been in the peloton? Race dynamics would be very different with Matthews, Yates, and Thomas still in the mix. Crashes and injuries are always part of racing, with potential winners dropping out. But this Giro is many degrees worse.

    • Sometimes the counter-factual is worth considering. But I don’t really agree. You can only beat the competition that’s there.
      Would Pantani have won the Tour is Virenque had been there in ‘98? Would Armstrong have won if Pantani wasn’t serving a suspension in ‘99?
      Accidents, illness and acts of God all come into play in cycling. One of the main thing is consistency, one off day and your hopes are dashed, and sometimes your GT is over.
      It’ll be interesting whoever wins this Giro. I would say in support of your hypothesis that the accusation is going to be that the field isn’t as strong as it would normally be coming so close after the TdF and just before the Vuelta, but Visma and Scott did not have their strongest teams. I think if you consider that Thomas was the head and shoulders favourite for this Giro that the other GC riders are not the highest calibre. But riders like Dumoulin, Roglic, Uran, and anyone else you care to mention all had a choice which might have given them a better chance at a GT but decided that just competing at the Tour was more important.
      I guess I’m saying that while COVID may have decided the race calendar I don’t think it has had a meaningful bearing on the race. It’s still running and the we have just over a week for them to keep it together. When I watch the racing I don’t think about how COVID has affected the race, I think about the riders still competing.

  8. I know it’s a question all the cycling mags are asking, but not really answering, but does Almeida have any chance of carrying the jersey to Milan (assuming the race gets there)? I know little about him, but he’s clearly precocious. Can you imagine if Evenepoel had been here too?

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