Giro Stage 4 Preview

A sprint stage. Although after yesterday’s stage, can we be certain?

Chain reaction: three things happened. First, Jonathan “Cubanito” Caicedo (EF Pro Cycling) won the stage from the breakaway, the Ecuadorian got in the early move of eight and dropped everyone to win atop Monte Etna. Second, two big GC contenders in Simon Yates and Geraint Thomas had a bad day, first Thomas crashed in the neutralised descent to the start and looked to be suffering on the approach to Etna, before losing over 12 minutes; Yates on the other hand seemed to be going well as his Mitchelton-Scott team took up the chase behind the breakaway only for him to get dropped halfway up the climb and concede three minutes to his GC rivals, even team management were surprised. Third, the other GC riders traded multiple attacks and were scattered all over the mountain, Wilco Keldermann faring best but his attack with over 4km to go only gained him 11 seconds on Fuglsang, Majka, Nibali and Pozzovivo. All these incidents were connected with the break succeeding in part because the chase behind wasn’t as strong once Ineos were out, then Mitchelton-Scott and the absence of these two teams left the other GC contenders confused, nobody was able to control the race.

It’s game over for Thomas but not necessarily for Yates but one summit finish and suddenly everything’s changed. Wilco Keldermann is in a great position, he out-climbed several climbers and has more time trials to come while Vincenzo Nibali is already in a strong position when normally he’d spring a surprise in the third week.

The Route: 140km and over the Portella Mandrazzi, a proper mountain pass but one without many steep slopes. The Giro has used this climb several times en route to a sprint finish.

The Finish: it’s too strong to call it a technical or twisty finish but there are some details to master. There’s a slight descent into sweeping bend to the left, and then a harder one to the right just before the flamme rouge should line out the bunch a little and reward a stronger train. There’s a sharp bend to the left with 800m to go and the finishing straight is 800m long and flat.

The Contenders: the first sprint finish for the Giro so who to pick? There aren’t many sprinters in the Giro so there’s the outsider chance of a strong break managing to stay away given only a handful of teams have an interest in a sprint… but this is more likely later in the race.  Arnaud Démare is the obvious pick he’s won more races than anyone else this year, he’s got his whole Groupama-FDJ train with him and they’re well-drilled… and yet he’s had a small break after his run of success and so doesn’t come into the Giro red hot, it might take him a couple of sprints to get going.

UAE Emirates have a stage win already but Fernando Gaviria is a top class sprinter. Elia Viviani (Cofidis) wasn’t supposed to ride the Giro but his poor Tour de France left him searching for answers and a win. He’s not sounding too confident now but still has a good chance. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) should be close but the win?

Now for two tandems, Decuninck-Quickstep have two options in Alvaro Hodeg and Davide Ballerini while Israel have Rudy Barbier and Davide Cimolai. Normally the first of the two named here would be the faster but both Davides are Italian.

Arnaud Démare, Fernando Gaviria, Alvaro Hodeg
Elia Viviani, Mathews, Barbier

Weather: warm and sunny, 29°C. There’s a chance of crosswinds for the final section but the forecast says it looks mild so it’s a mild alert rather than panic stations.

TV: the finish is forecast for 4.30pm CEST.

55 thoughts on “Giro Stage 4 Preview”

  1. Do you think this will mean Thomas pulls out and goes for the Vuelta? I watched the fan footage of the crash. That guy has no luck. A speed bump sent bottles scattering everywhere and he’s the only one who hits one. Still, one might note that to avoid that sort of thing you need to be at the front of the race. A tough break indeed.

    • Agreed, unlucky for Thomas. I hope he’ll be able to continue, recover and go for stage wins… but when you come to a race as huge favorite and it all falls apart, are you still interested in a stage win?

      If he pulls out, we could have the long-awaited INEOS-directed Chariots of Fire remake after all, with Froome, Thomas, Bernal and Carapaz all going flat out for the Vuelta in the hope of salvaging something from 2020. Not sure it would have the same ending as the film, though…

    • A bottle can be dropped at the front. Besides, it’s still in neutral and it wasn’t going to be a GC day from the start with a mono climb at the end.

      • Good luck dealing with the politics of that, DB.
        They’d all be attacking each other as early as possible to establish team dominance. (Although in reality the team will never support Froome because he’s off.)

        • Looking at Froome’s performance at LBL, he won’t be doing much attacking at the Vuelta or anywhere else even if selected. ISN must be having doubts about thier choice.

        • If froome was good enough they would support him. Just like greenedge with Adam Yates. Very few teams would knock back a grandtour podium for spite. But given those others will be going better froome is a likely helper. But given his injury from last year which effectively ends some careers if he can get to the level of a helper at this point that would be a good effort.
          It does not seem likely he will be good enough. But sometimes you can be suprised.

    • Thomas has to weigh if he wants to go for a stage win in the Giro against the increasingly uncertain prospects of the Vuelta. If I look at the number of Corona Cases in Spain, I would prefer to stay in the Giro.

  2. Simon Yates is an enigma to me, he always does well when you expect him to underperform, and has a spectacular collapse when he’s the favorite. One thing is certain, though – his performances are completely uncorrelated with his cocky press outings (or those of his DS).

    If it continues, it could be part of a plan. In 10 years, when Matt White or Simon Yates says they’ll blow everyone out of contention, all teams will disregard it and plan to leave him 10 minutes. That’s when he’ll make his winning move.

  3. What a bonkers stage. It’s hard to say who’s favourite now, it’s going to be a wide open race from now on and the winner could be a complete surprise. Given all the young riders who’ve had success this season watching Nibali, Pozzovivo and Fuglsang trade attacks felt retro.

    Re Yates, in the past he’s fell foul of the TUE process for asthma. Maybe rather than having imaginary cyclist asthma he has genuine asthma. I know that most of the time it’s fine but occasionally you have bad days where you just can’t ‘go’. That might explain his sporadic bad days. Or maybe he just suffers from Richie Porte-syndrome, or Thibaut Pinotitis.

    • You don’t actually need a tue for asthma meds though unless they have changed the rules since froome. You can’t abuse it though because the regulation are written pretty loosely.

      • I’m no expert, but maybe it depends on the treatment? S. Yates tested positive for terbutaline, which Wikipedia says is still on the list of drugs banned by WADA without a TUE.

      • You don’t need a TUE for the asthma medication salbutamol.

        You do need a TUE for the asthma medication terbutaline.

        Yates said that his asthma prescription was changed from medication without terbutaline to medication with terbutaline, and he didn’t know so neglected to fill in the TUE.

  4. It sounds like Thomas and Yates need a few gentle days in the peloton to try to recover from injury and, in Yates case, unidentified weakness, though today’s stage is not easy and tomorrow’s is back to serious climbing. Do MTS seriously think it was an isolated and unexplained off day. They must know much more but sensibly won’t let on.

  5. Lukyluk – maybe he’s planning to emulate Chris Froome and do a Finestre death or glory type of raid? Or maybe he just had a bad day. He’s not out of the GC hunt yet but can’t afford another similar day.

    • And as DJW says, there’s plenty of climbing very soon. Richard S’s asthma comment could be an explanation for the opposite of a power surge.

  6. It probably looks to be a more interesting race now, without Ineos, or any other team, dominating it.
    That was a really unlucky crash for Thomas. Who knows what’s up with Yates: sickness would seem the only reasonable problem.

    • Partially agree, in that the “set piece” finishes that happen in the Tour with Ineos and Jumbo trains are much less likely to happen, but any thinning of quality contenders has to be bad news – I think the race would have benefited from a recent Tour winner who was seemingly close to top form (and who was likely to be attacked repeatedly in the mountains given his TT ability). I imagine I might think differently if they were Brits (sorry!), but I simply care less when it’s Pozzovivo and Kelderman battling up a mountain finish when they’ve proven to be second (or tenth) best at so many previous races.

      The Yates situation is odd – as others have said, guess low-lying illness/asthma is the only possibility? Feels like an off-day needs an explanation when it looked like an ideal stage for him so early in a Grand Tour.

  7. Gutted for Simon Yates. No doubt he is embarrassed and frustrated. Shame for such a talented rider. Riders are not robots and can have bad days without being ill…. But you don’t win races this way.

    Honestly, now the Giro is a bit dull: do I really care about Krusjwick or Kelderman etc. Not at all. Hmm.

    • As much as I sympathize with Thomas and Yates, I feel the opposite concerning the spectacle.

      Ineos out, Astana crippled and MTS in doubt means no real train to control anything. Everyone and their dog will have a chance to take time in the mountains with a well-placed attack, and no outright favorite means there could be a lot of looking around before a chase gets formed, see Kelderman yesterday. This seems to be the perfect time for outsiders to try daring moves.

      • A few days ago I suggested that mountain raids where riders take minutes don’t happen anymore because there’s too many teams with strong domestiques riding at 6w/kg to allow anybody to get away…now there’s a chance to see if I was correct !

        I feel the same as Lukyluk – this Giro feels very exciting now given the lack of control in the mountains

      • They already started with +5km to go on Etna which is why Kelderman stayed away and Krusjwick almost manged to hang on.

        Tomorrow Monte Scuro will reveal more, its a nasty irregular climb – never did that side of Etna they climbed tyesterday, but i climbed Monte Scuro in 2016 (not sure if they will ride the normal road or the the new expressway thorugh the tunnels which is arguably easier).

    • Tommy – LOL – Cycling existed and was really interesting before the Brits were good enough to win…

      This race is arguably more exciting now that it is more open.

      Really sorry to see Thomas hurt again, at his age he will have a really tough time getting back to full form.

    • You make not care about those 2, but at least get their spelling right. Kelderman has had a lot of potential from the beginning but his career has been full of injuries and bad crashes. If he stays on the bike and doesn’t get sick, he is a good bet for overall victory. His time trialling skills are actually very good, despite the result in the prologue.

  8. Kelderman is going a little under the radar, as I know it’s only 12 seconds, but those small gaps early in GC can give clues. He’s finished top 10 in a Grand Tour for the past three seasons in a row (Vuelta) and isn’t a bad TTer. And the slightly ragtag bunch of GC contenders has a Vuelta feel to it. Not sure how he’ll cope with the Giro’s high mountains though? I’d still probably make Kruiswijk (if he can ride into it) or Nibali favourite, but it does feel very open, if a little B-list in terms of current GC elite. Could be very entertaining.

  9. There must be an awful lot of riders who were made by their teams to ride as domestiques in the TdF who are now thinking ‘I could win this at a canter’. But if you take the money of the big team then that’s what you have to do. Perhaps even more galling as the guy who won the TdF had virtually no team support at all.

    • Unlikely, but imagine a UAE repeat here with Brandon McNulty… he hasn’t got the same palmares going into the Giro as Pogacar had pre-Tour but he did come top 10 at Andalucia earlier this year and has a good TT. No idea how he’ll fair in the high mountains, though.

  10. IS Bora dropping the sprinters in the GPM and driving to the finish, like they tried at the Tour, an unlikely scenario? Pass not hard enough? Bora not strong enough?

  11. How many times are British Eurosport’s commentators going to suggest that Yates could ‘do a Froome’? Yates isn’t Froome. Throughout that Giro I was saying that riders should be putting time into Froome while he’s weak (as he was early in the race) because there was always a possibility that Froome could come back. I don’t in any way envisage Yates taking 3 minutes on Nibali et al.

  12. Does the UCI have rules about how strong bottle cages are? The amount of accidents from bidons flying about you would think they need to look at this

    • I thought about this too. The bottles don’t normally come out, and put in context, only Thomas came down which goes to show how unlucky he was.

      i know some carbon bottle cages are not really fit for purpose. They are more like sleeves and don’t have a ‘living hinge’ to grip the bottle. I don’t know if that was in play, there were bottles of all sorts on the road, so not just the Bahrain bottle which took out Thomas. So if it’s a problem it’s the same for a few teams. Not every bottle flew out so again, bad luck.

      Could the organisers have avoided the speed bump? Almost every road race has some traffic calming measure it has to navigate so again Thomas’ bad luck.

      The only mitigation I could think of, was that Thomas could have been at the front going through town. I still have Lance’s sage words about riding at the front to stay out of trouble ringing through my ears. Someone above said that even bottles popped out at the front, but if you are riding at the lead you’ll never face someone else’s bottle getting under your wheel. It’s not something you can anticipate, and rolling through the neutral zone it’s not something you expect. In fact, Thomas was in a bit of space and so if a rider had gone down in front of him he would normally have been OK. I’m not blaming Thomas, as not everyone can be at the front of the race – it’s just that if you want to keep your nose clean that’s the best place to be.

      When I analyse it it just comes down to most rotten luck you can imagine. I wish him a speedy recovery.

      • That was me about risk on the front. Last time Thomas got taken out on Etna, he was certainly front few wheels.

        Regarding the bottle cages. If the UCI fuzz about whether your seat was perfectly level Ona TT bike, surly they have the resources to fuzz about whether bottle cages are fit for purposes (which is arguably a more pressing safety issue).

        • Here’s a wild idea: while waiting for the UCI to get the red tape out of the drawers, how about teams agree within themselves to start using bottle cages that work properly, and accept the 10g weight penalty?
          Or don’t the managers know each other’s phone number?

  13. Always bad to see any rider leave a race with injuries, especially a GC contender. I never thought Yates would be on the podium anyway, maybe top 10, but at least he’s not injured.

    I like the fact that the race is now more open and not strangled by mountain trains and super domestiques. As I normally root for the underdog, I’ll be happy to see some “lesser” riders on the podium.

  14. Speaking of rider safety – apparently the Vini Zabù riders, Van Empel and Wackermann, that were on the ground at the finish, got wiped out because a low flying helicopter blew the barriers (with wind catching banners) straight into their path. Words fail.

    • Safety, Schmaftey!
      It seems that so many of the infrastructural accidents are foreseeable and avoidable.
      Falling inflatables, unhinged/misplaced barriers, finish structures too low for team buses, unpadded bollards, no obstacle markings, aggressive moto/car drivers, etc.
      It just doesn’t seem like riders of either gender get their due respect.

      This heli incident, though, can’t UCI fine the pilot? Or is there no way to stop this nonsense?
      I reiterate: all a lack of respect for the riders.

      • Don’t see how the UCI can fine a TV helicopter, unless they take power in a bloody coup and rename themselves World Police. They could review the Giro’s WorldTour accreditation, but… yeah.

        The helicopter thing happened before, last time I can think of it was on the Vuelta a couple years ago, Julien Duval was the one who went down. It seems to be a combination of crappy fencing and TV crews untrained to operate on those kinds of events. It’s totally unacceptable and fixable, now that attention has been drawn to it, you’d hope RCS will insist on stricter rules for the TV crew, but who knows.

        Even without those extremes, I’d be curious to know what kind of impact helicopters have on an average race. Long ago, there were reports of mischief from TV helicopters in time trials, trying to favor the local riders by providing a bit of tail wind, and hindering their rivals with the opposite. But I can see helicopters having a lot of involuntary impact on racing as well, and it’s much, much harder to spot than, say, drafting being offered by a motorbike. Maybe someone with racing experience at pro level can dispel those fears?

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