Giro d’Italia Stage 12 Preview

A hard day ending in carnage. No need to hype up the stage, that’s just the name of the final mountain pass today but it is a steep climb and followed by a toboggan run descent into the finish.

When the dust unsettled: several years ago Mauro Schmid’s mother would complain her son brought home so many bouquets of flowers that they didn’t have enough vases to put them in at home. Young Mauro was an apprentice car mechanic in school by day, but in his spare time a member of the Swiss road cycling team, the track cycling team and the cyclo-cross team and winning flowers and honing skills in all four seasons. Perhaps at exactly the same time as Frau Schmid searched for a spare vase, Remco Evenepoel was taking a shot on goal for PSV Eindhoven. Or when Mauro slogged around a frosty field in a forgotten junior cyclo-cross race, Remco was pulling on the red shirt of the Belgian football team. Hardly a wasted youth for the Belgian but while he was kicking a football, his rivals were developing handling skills that he perhaps hasn’t needed so far. For almost as soon as Evenepoel swapped football for cycling he was winning and in sensational manner, small things like positioning or riding on dirt weren’t keys needed to unlock victory when he could smash the door down with a stomp on the pedals.

So when Filippo Ganna got to work on the peloton on the road to Torrenieri, in the way a meat tenderiser works on a steak, Evenepoel was losing a few places in the dense peloton on the approach. Then on the descent of the gravel section he looked stressed, hands on the tops of the brake hoods and coasting at a time when others, like Egan Bernal, were low in the drops and pedalling. The amazing thing is that Evenepoel was in trouble for the final 50km of the race, he’d bridge back on but at the cost of team mates and his own energy but he only lost two minutes and this after spending a good portion of the final hour alone.

If the gravel did plenty of damage, so did the final tarmac climb of the Passo di Lume Spento. Several riders launched like boomerangs, flying off the front one minute only to come back and get dropped the next. Giulio Ciccone, Marc Soler and even Sacha Vlasov all resembled Australian souvenirs. Emanuel Buchmann was an arrow, he fired and kept going – perhaps because he didn’t have to be chased down – but having the energy to go solo and stay away was impressive and bodes well. Egan Bernal launched and got across to Buchmann and the pair took time on all the rest.

It’s now advantage Bernal and we’ve gone from him sprinting for a one second time bonus to having only one rider in Vlasov within one minute. Caruso, Carthy, Yates and Buchmann are all within two minutes and Evenepoel is only just over two minutes down. It opens up the prospect of several races, Bernal on the defensive (but this can include attacking), Vlasov waiting for an opportunity, the others too but also watching each other to see if they can rise up, all while Evenpoel’s still in contention for the podium. As for Mauro Schmid, he got in the day’s breakaway and won, collecting a giant bunch of flowers that will need another vase.

The Route: up and down, the race website says 3,700m of vertical gain but it’s more like 4,300m, either way that’s plenty. There’s a lot going on in today’s stage. First a start in Siena where the Strade Bianche usually finishes. Then a trip across the Chianti hills although it’s only May so no postcard images of the golden wheat fields as they’re still green. Then past Ponte di Ema, once home to Gino Bartali, then Sesto, home to the dapperest of dapper Alfredo Martini. Then bam, straight onto the climb of Monte Morello, a sharp climb with steep slopes.

The Passo della Consuma is 15km at 6% and the Calla is similar, these are big roads in the Apennines and steady climbs and descents.

The Finish: the Passo di Carnaio – “carnage pass” – should help pick the winner, it’s a steep climb with two descents included. The descent is more even but a tarmac Super-G course that twists down with awkward hairpins. Once the race reaches the valley floor there’s just over 3km of flat road to the finish.

The Contenders: the breakaway has a good chance today and the winner needs to be a decent climber. Dan Martin and Davide Formolo lost molto minutes yesterday but spent time chasing hard and so might be better picks for mountain stages to come.

Geoffroy Bouchard (Ag2r Citroën) has the mountains jersey but really wants a stage win. He’s got a chance but the day after his Campo Felice rampage he was in almost as much trouble as the sprinters on the road to Foligno so we’ll see if he’s recovered, this means he’s not an easy pick.

Deceuninck-Quickstep had their primary objective binned yesterday but they can still help Evenepoel to a good GC finish. Can they spare a rider today? If so Fausto Masnada is probably the best pick.

Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) is suited to this kind of terrain. Movistar’s Italian tandem of Dario Cataldo and Davide Villella come to mind. Gino Mäder (Bahrain) was last yesterday and with no injury reports he’s now got energy in the bank for today and today’s a good day for a rider like Pello Bilbao too. Diego Ulissi (UAE Emirates) is almost a local and still in the hunt for a stage.

A GC stage? It’s mountainous but which team is going to mow down the breakaway early and try to impose a tempo on the race to upset Ineos? Any takers… going…. going… lot unsold?

Diego Ulisso, Pello Bilbao, Bauke Mollema
Bouchard, Masnada, Mäder, Sepulveda, Lafay, TDG, De Marchi

Weather: sunshine but not summer, a cool top temperature of 19°C in the valleys.

TV: the stage starts at 11.30am CEST and finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST.

90 thoughts on “Giro d’Italia Stage 12 Preview”

  1. Really enjoying the coverage & insights – this blog has set a very high bar as usual.

    I was keen to see if Jefferson Cepeda would go for a stage win this year. He came into the race with good form but has been very quiet thus far. Could today be his kind of day?

  2. Lovely writing. “… all resembled Australian souvenirs” – I enjoyed that one :). You were spot on about Evenepoel and his handling skills. He went round the corners very cautiously on the hoods and like his teammate said they were only a little way back from the front of the peloton on the first gravel section but it meant they were sprinting out of the corners to keep up, and hence they wore out quickly.

  3. IR suggests that Evenepoel’s struggle was all down to the surface. I’m not so sure. Youth, very limited racing, and eleven under-pressure GT stages. In GTs, when things start going wrong, that slide often continues. We will see on the Zoncolan. In the words of the old TV series: No Hiding Place.
    Meanwhile Bernal has not even reached the high altitudes where he will have the greatest natural advantage.

    • I was thinking the same. Evenepoel said after the stage that “I felt the legs were pretty empty, that’s why I was in the last position and couldn’t follow. It’s the way my body reacted after eleven days of racing that came after so much time with no racing”.
      But no doubt a lack of bike handling skills and physical freshness could have coincided here.

      • Me too – it’s clear the surface played a role, but there appeared to be points when he was struggling the hold a wheel on flat/uphill stretches. There were obviously others uncomfortable on the gravel (Yates) who coped with riding at the back of the group. The racing looked hectic – could fuelling have been an issue? Otherwise, post-rest day dips in form are surprisingly common in Grand Tours. As IR commented on, it’s eventually impressive that he limited his losses and finished with a similar time to Soler and Ciccone.

    • I thought it was telling that he got dropped by Almeida who had fallen back to help him. His woes appeared to be a mixture of bad legs and uncertain gravel riding. But he’s still not totally out of the running.

      • Almeida was dropping him on purpose.
        He publicly showed on the Portuguese press his resentment for having been asked to stop in order to “help” Remco .

        • I’m curious about what he said. Could you please share a link to some of his comments? I’ve looked around and didn’t read anything too outrageous except a “muted” disappointment and saying he had to obey to the DS orders.


            That’s nearly it – and it’s ourageous enough. “I’d rather shut up rather than saying what I think”, you don’t need to be Grice to get the implicature of it. And it’s not just that you are de facto already sayin’ it, you also make it clear that’s something bad enough to be *unspeakable*, which actually makes it worse than more or less anything you could actually utter (without calling names, at least).

            Besides, even saying that he would have had “possibilities to fight with the best” of that he could “have gone far” is quite much inappropriate given that it wasn’t only during Sestola’s crisis when he wasn’t on par with the very best: barring Guardia Sanframondi he tended to look good, but slightly on the back foot all the same, especially if we consider that the terrain was very fit to his characteristics. Suggesting that precisely on the much selective Strade Bianche stage he’d be there with the very best doesn’t look good to me.
            And – was it so – what for? To have fun? For his pride? The stage was already gone, and – paradoxical may it sound – when you’re already FIVE MINUTES DOWN it barely makes much difference if they become seven.

            It didn’t look good, either, all that insisting on “I had to obey orders […] it’s a collective sport, we have to obey the orders which come from the DS”. Actually, a good cyclist wouldn’t have needed any order, information at most. And I say “at most” because he should have already been being attention to where his captain was; if confusion made him a bit lost, telling him that Remco was back but riding should have been enough to make him waiting. No need for “orders”.

            Whatever. I actually like quite much both Evenepoel and Almeida as athletes, but their public person (and now, in the case of Almeida, his teamwork skills) raise more than one question mark. I guess that’s fun for the drama, but perhaps they actually needed some years of U23 racing…

          • Thanks for sharing and taking the time to express your views Gabriele. While I disagree on the level of outrageousness 😁 in his comments, I pretty much agree with the main ideas.

        • I hope Almeida already had his next contract’s wages agreed before this Giro. Same could be said for Jai Hindley, but at least if he’s not at the very top he can probably work as a domestique…

    • The surface was a problem but look out he was out of position before the sterrato started, here he’s not one for rubbing shoulders and fighting for position (many aren’t) either. Once a rider starts going backwards in moments like this it’s hard to force themselves to improve handling overnight, this can only need to more mistakes.

      • When you rewatch the run inn to the first gravel section, it is interesting to see how much Deceuninq/Quickstep ended up out of position in a very short time.
        When they came off the wide road and on to the narrow just before the city, they were still well positioned. But in the time of the two left handed turns, shortly before the start of the gravel, they went from sitting with four man at the front, including Evenepol, to one at the front, another seven positions behind Bernal, and Evenepol alone seventeen positions behind Bernal. Who in contrast sat at the front with four teammates.
        I know it is not the classic team at the Giro, but normally this would be textbook Deceuninq/Quickstep strategy.

  4. Perhaps now some of the giddiness surrounding Evenepoel will subside? I’m starting to feel sorry for the kid – he’s getting way-too-much piling on from those who think (wish, hope) he’s the next, newest-latest Eddy Merckx. The poor kid is in his FIRST GT ever after being out of racing for months, so these folks should calm down and cut him some slack.
    I wrote earlier something about hating the sponsor but loving the rider(s) and I gotta admit I’m starting to think about INEOS in this way now – perhaps because their team here at the Giro has no Anglo-Saxons and even the DS is Italian? Yesterday IMHO they organized a textbook win but somehow I didn’t get the old “Sky train” feeling of dread that they’re going to suck the life out of La Corsa Rosa. I may be eating these words by Saturday but for now the only way I could be happier would be if The Shark was higher up in GC. I don’t think he’s dead yet but he’s not scaring anyone. W Il Giro!

    • I’m pretty chilled on big personalities and all the different types of people in the peloton, think I generally like them all but can’t lie Remco has got under my skin a little…

      Some of his interviews at the Giro have been a little arrogant, I would have more sympathy with your point if it were all his fans/media who stirred the pressure but it’s actually quite often been him. I agree as a young rider coming back from injury it was hard to imagine he wouldn’t have a day (let alone half a Giro) off the back and struggling – so it was a bit odd to hear his cavalier we can start dreaming of winning interview from last wk? I’ve not had him down as a favourite from day1, and even if I’d like to say I was right, in all honesty he’s surprised me to get to Stage11 where he was, he’s clearly special and will be a force for years but I’ve not got a lot of time for feeling sorry for him as he does pander to the hype rather than quell it when it was quite unlikely he had a genuine victory chance here.

      I honestly think if he had won or does win it would be the greatest victory I’d seen in cycling, to come back from injury, no racing, first GT and win. That would be nearly too amazing to believe.

    • Are you feeling OK Larry? Do you need a biscuit? Looks like we’ve found the soft centre to hard bitten, sun bleached Texan?!
      It’s interesting that Evanepoel has attributed the issue to his legs as much as anything. Three week tours require a consistency and conservation which isn’t really in the repertoire of riders who rely on power and strength to blow away their competitors. It’s more a steady scratch or tap, tap. Though I do wonder if he said legs to cover up an inherent bike handling weakness. The commentators focused on the fact that his time gap did not bleed much more than 2 minutes, though perhaps this is because he received support. Oh to be a privy to Joao Almeida’s thoughts who perhaps has more than just mild sense of resentment…

      • Texan? Where’d you get that? If SKYNEOS starts to suffocate the Giro I’ll take it all back….or at least some of it…and I’ll never like the “when his mouth’s moving…” Sir Dave B. no matter what his Giro team (which kind of seems like the butlers and kitchen help racing while the INEOS “royals” prepare for LeTour) does. And there’s a LOT of Giro still left to enjoy 🙂
        As to the “next, newest-latest Eddy Merckx” all I can do is think back to when I was his age and how I might have acted under the pressure and expectations piled upon him?

      • Feel a tad sorry for Almeida. I wonder what is playing behind the scenes due to the fact that he is leaving the team at the end of the year. Pity he had a bad patch last week as it looks like he is traveling along quite well now. His loyalty to DQS must be sorely tested!

      • As I said above, Almeida didn’t keep much for himself. However, it was already very apparent on the road – surely, without Almeida Evenepoel would have lost much more, but with a more committed helper he’d have probably lost only one minute (and, even more important, saved so many mental and physical energies).
        I wouldn’t be very enthusiast if I was Almeida’s next team. Hope for him they don’t read Portuguese.

        • I don’t doubt Almeida resented being called back. But Evenepoel would have needed more than one ‘domestique’ to limit the gap to a minute – especially as he looked properly spent.

          • He was left alone way too much time and then Almeida was often accelerating rather than riding at the most suitable tempo. Ciccone or Soler were actually “spent”. Check the evolution of the time loss in the very last kms…

    • I think the issue a lot of people (at least here in The Netherlands; no idea how he’s perceived elsewhere) have with Evenepoel is that he emits a very self-oriented, arrogant vibe. Hard to tell if that’s really his character, but it’s definitely how he comes across.

      Far more annoying though is the way the Flemish cycling media (and commentators during races) cover him. It’s unbearable: every race is solely about “Remco” and how he’s going to win. For what it’s worth, I think he’s a sensational talent and I’ve no doubt he’s going to win loads of races in his career.

      As for yesterday’s stage: absolutely brilliant racing, beautifully shot. This was a stage for the ages. Bernal looks to be the strongest by far and normally from here on he should be in full control. Still think Yates is keeping his powder dry for the last week, and I expect him to move up from Saturday onwards.

        • Because some white supremecists (in the UK and US in particular) have been using the term as a different way of promoting their vile opinions, progressives in the last few years seem to have decided that the term is no longer acceptable (even though white supremecists have been using the term for 100 years)

          • It’s pretty common in several European languages to mean Anglo-American people or ways, I suspect Larry’s got it from this every day use rather than time spent on white supremacy sites, I rather hope so. For example Italy’s PM Mario Draghi was called “anglosassone” the other day for his calm, calculating style; when the pubs opened in Britain people were drinking typical “anglosassone” pints etc.

          • Mr. Inrng – you have it correctly. My feelings about those I call Anglo-Saxons comes from years of following the Grand Tours with, well…Anglo-Saxons as customers.
            Anglo-Saxons as in English speakers, mostly from the USA but also from Canada, Australia and now and then the UK. They weren’t racists or even xenophobes IMHO, but too many were just ignorant and unable to get their heads around the fact that people in Italy or France might just have a clue about how to live well with passion, run a bike race, etc. I saw this frustration in the native guides we hired to work in these countries with them and tried not to be one myself. Especially with Italy that didn’t take long. as I fell in love with the place at the same time (1989) I fell in love with the woman (half Italian) who would become my wife.

            So I’m an unabashed Italo-phile, one who put his money (and his life) where his mouth and heart was, moving here from the USA for good in 2018. This no doubt makes me too sensitive to stereotypes thrown around about Italians (as well as the rest of those not Anglo-Saxons) and makes me recall the 1991 film “Where Angels Fear to Tread” to try to explain it. Perhaps my favorite line from that film is when the Helena Bonham-Carter character says something like, “We can take the beastly baby to Britain where nobody will love it but it’ll be raised properly, or we can leave it here in Italy where it’ll be raised badly but everybody will love it.” 🙂

        • Try telling a Scot that they’re Anglo-Saxon, you might get a Glasgow kiss in return 😃
          I prefer the historical context, in which case they’re originally north European (Dane, Dutch, German, part-English).

        • Too sensitive to stereotypes thrown around about Italians but perfectly happy yourself to throw them around about Anglo-Saxons. That’s the point, Larry, and sums you up to a T.

    • I understand your comments Larry T – this isn’t an anti-anglo-saxon post, I read his post as celebrating the diversity of Skyineos’ Giro squad, whereas many previous Sky teams have had a Brit Leader, a Brit Superdomestique, a Brit flat domestique (not including the Pole), a Brit DS, etc. It felt very much God Save the Queen on their GT teams, which isn’t bad, but it’s refreshing to have more diversity. Lol, and having Mike Barry, a Canadian, doesn’t count as diversity.

      • Can everybody either:
        a) stop talking about Anglo-Saxons; or
        b) stop being so sensitive about its usage.

        Either one.

        Signed the rest of the readers.

        There’s too much cycling to talk about to get bogged down in these fripperies.

        Talking of inflamed passions of Italian’s (a shameless stereotype) – Brambilla’s act of pique entirely gives away his annoyance at Bennett. I’m sure the former was upset at the later because they were both being canny and soft pedalling. Entirely self-defeating.

  5. I’ll be interested to see how Remco performs today when they hit the final ramps. He looked empty yesterday, physically and mentally.

  6. Is it fair to say now that descending is a weakness for Evenepoel? He’s been put under pressure twice in his career on descents, yesterday by Ganna and by Nibali in Lombardy. Both ended badly. He might be able to get up the long climbs in the Alps but it’s of limited use if he can’t come down them. Someone is bound to go to the front and put the pressure on every time. A nice reminder that cycling isn’t all about the engine.

    • I guess everyone will be altered to it now, but maybe let’s wait for the bigger ones to decide? I think both examples are on pretty difficult descents that he wouldn’t be alone in finding difficult the first time he’s ridden either. Plus he won San Seb which has a descent into finish.

      • He did win San Sebastian, but he was on his own on the descent; he can pick his own lines and speed without risking it too much.

        Both yesterday, and in Il Lombardia, we was put under pressure on descents, and couldn’t handle it. He has very little experience in these situations…..racecraft and handling will come with more racing, and maybe some training.

  7. Wow, that was a humdinger of a stage yesterday. Are there really any cycling fans who don’t think stages like that should be part of grand tours?

    A few weeks ago I was waxing lyrical about Pidcock (this was even before he was winning world MTB races), putting him alongside other the young superstars Pogacar, Evanepoel, WVA and MvDP. Somebody pointed out, rightly, that I had overlooked Bernal. He’s looked magnificently strong in this Giro, and hasn’t shown any weakness. Unless his back plays up, it’s difficult to see how he can lose this – there’s nothing I’m aware of in his history to suggest he’ll do a Yates 2018. His team looks good, too, even without Sivakov. Ganna reminds me of when I was a kid playing football or rugby and you’d just look at some big bloke and think ‘I’m glad he’s on my side’.

    As a one time Lancashire dweller, good to see the Lanky lads going well in 4th and 5th. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if one, or even both, ended up on the podium. Yates, in particular, is intriguing. He’s usually such an attacking rider, but seems to have made no efforts at all in this race so far – even Carthy had a little dig at the end of the stage. Until today I thought that perhaps Yates’ form just wasn’t there, but now I’m more inclined to believe that he has just been keeping his powder dry.

    In terms of Evanepoel, apparently he is human after all. It certainly looked a couple of times that he’d completely popped; over 2 minutes is not a complete disaster, but is still a fair chunk of time. At his age, with no GT experience, no racing for such a long time and with the huge mountains still to come, I suspect that he’ll do well to stay in the top 10.

    • Agree on Yates. Hard to tell if this is a new tactic or whether he’s not on top form.
      Bernal does look in magic form. In fact stronger than ever. But as other have hinted elsewhere, the Giro is one of the most unpredictable GTs, with riders showing late form to win, or else other riders dropping down the GC like hatchling out of a tree.
      So we’ll see if Bernal’s luck holds. In some ways Evanepoel is a prime example of how fortunes change. In any case this Giro has some great ingredients for a thrilling finale.

        • Good question. While I think he is gaining his time with relative ease I also think that he always looks like he’s gritting his teeth to get every second when he comes over the line.
          I’d say the difference with Yates though (and this is only my perception) is that generally Bernal does not appear to be wasting as much energy. Partly because INEOS team mates are doing much of the hard work (eg yesterday, closing down attacks), and just that his efforts seem well within himself. Though we didn’t know Yates would pop in quite the same spectacular fashion as he did…

  8. Where is Thomas de Gendt? Winning breakaways galore but yer man is missing. Is he stopping for a quick Chianti or maybe he is overtired by night time companions?

    • He can and does win big but hard to pick, he often bides his time. But it’s not always calculated, like he’s saving himself for a particular stage. The team might make big plans one day to set up a particular rider… only for De Gendt to ride off for the day. In other words it’s hard to know when he’ll strike.

  9. As ever well written insightful analysis, I am sure you could make a living at this if you wanted to.

    Egan Bernal was masterful yesterday. Winning a GT should involve ability on all terrains and he is certainly showing that. His team were (as we have come to expect) first rate and he finished off in some style. The back issues must be a nagging doubt in the background but for now the race looks his to lose.

    Aleksandr Vlasov looks quietly impressive, he probably cant hope to dislodge Egan Bernal but if there is any slip up he would be the best placed rider to take advantage.

    For the Brits both Hugh Carthy & Simon Yates did well away from their favoured terrain, I suspect they are fighting for podium rather than top step. Hugh’s superior TT ability might be crucial.

    It was the day when hype hit reality, it was also the day after a rest day, not something that Remco Evenepol has ever experienced before, especially as a intense a day as yesterday. DQS were poor as a team, they got it wrong going into the big left hand turn, riders spread out all over the place and never recovered. For the team that has dominated the Classics for years it was very odd, perhaps they have been caught up in the hype too and lost sight of the basics. Winning GTs is rather different than dominating in Flanders or bossing sprint finishes.

    That said Remco Evenepoel is only 2:20 down, Vincenzo Nibali and Chris Froome have both come back from much further back to win. However the riders in front seem much tougher and I wonder how much the stage will have taken out of RE, he looked totally spent on the last climb even if he did manage to recover a bit.

    • Adam on Eurosport was musing about the two Brits working together. Kelly was like, “no, not gonna happen. Look at Roche and me, we are more likely to go into a fight at the end of a stage”.

      Then Ola was like “how’s the relationship now?”
      Kelly gave a one liner “it’s fine”.

      That’s so funny.

  10. We could be getting soon to the point where the GC contenders are riding to gain or hold their podium position rather than risking everything for GC. Apart from perhaps Simon Yates, everyone in the top 10 has a lot to gain from just getting a podium – I’m pretty sure no-one else in the top 10 has podiumed in a GT before. This approach will be very helpful for Bernal.

    • Dusted being the appropriate word.
      My god, the amount of dust kicked up and the riders breathing that down.
      I’d honestly be tempted to wear one of those masks that you see on some cyclists pedalling their way through the noxious soup that is London’s air quality.

  11. Well I was as wrong as a wrong thing!

    Any thoughts on the comms between Remco and the team? You’ll recall that commentary was unimpressed with Joao Almeida’s slow response to try to pace Remco back.

    Did you see anything in that?

    Perhaps Remco didn’t communicate? Or Almeida didn’t want to drop back? Maybe the car was indecisive. I’d love to hear their radio!

  12. Yesterday was yet more fuel for my cycling crush on Ganna. He never seems to have a quiet day and was great entertainment again. On this evidence, should they line him up for a shot at Paris-Roubaix?

      • He’s won U23 Paris-Roubaix and does look Italy’s successor to Andrea Tafi, this blog’s been quietly tipping him to win… but he’s so useful to the team they may not want to risk him in the classics or have him in peak form in April when he’s needed in May etc. This year though he might because he could aim for the TT worlds and follow it up with Roubaix. The Olympics are the big goal but that’s a stretch as the course is hilly, he’s probably still the best pick but others have a good chance, it’s not like they’re racing for silver.

        • IMHO Italians are dreaming/hoping somehow, some way he’ll be the next Francesco Moser now that the Nibali-Aru (Moser-Saronni or Coppi-Bartali) fantasy has gone, with both of them in the twilight of their careers.

  13. As a regular reader, but occasional commenter, for five or more years I think that Mr INRNG has moved to a new level with the previews for this Giro. Informative, interesting and often just hilarious. I love the image of Frau Schmid rolling her eyes looking for another vase…

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