Giro d’Italia Stage 15 Preview

Many in the peloton will have their mind on tomorrow’s big mountain stage, today’s stage visits Slovenia and could see another breakaway rewarded.

Lucky Lorenzo: Scroll down the GC at the Giro today and pick any modest water carrier you wouldn’t recognise if they sat next to you on a plane and chances are they still bossed the U23 ranks, collecting flowers, trophies and jerseys galore. But Lorenzo Fortunato? His last win was in 2016 in a local race and that was almost accidental as he’d broken away with a team mate – Vincenzo Albanese as it happens, his team mate today and breakaway companion – and they both sat up to share the win and lucky Fortunato was fractionally ahead to get the win. But that’s it and he got his pro contract on the back of consistent climbing rather than wins.

Fortunato had the luck to get in the breakaway, at first chased hard by Ineos but eventually let away and if the move managed to stick it was because both Bauke Mollema and George Bennett had made it across with a team mate in Jacopo Mosca and Edoardo Affini. They pulled so hard riders were being ejected from the breakaway on the valley roads. Fortunato though was tucked up like a passenger who’d been upgraded to first class. Jan Tratnik was the first from the break to attack, then Fortunato looked around and saw Mollema and Bennett were in trouble so he went, caught Tratnik and won the stage.

Astana win the boomerang prize, they had riders on the front for much of the day, they even tried an attack on the descent of Monte Rest but when it came to the Zoncolan Aleksandr Vlasov didn’t have the legs and lost over a minute to Bernal and slipped to fourth place. Simon Yates was strong and mentioned “it wasn’t the best of first weeks but now I’m feeling better” which part-explains things but if he’s feeling better, Bernal is still going better. The Colombian started the day with 45 seconds on his nearest rival and finished it with double that.

The Route: a short stage, 146km and 1,600m of vertical gain. There’s a start in Grado, a town on an island and then onto the hard climb of Monte San Michele in the carso, the karst plateau. A fast descent and then across the Slovenian border for laps of a circuit in both Italy and Slovenia, a route designed by football coach Edy Reja. There’s a KoM point after a two kilometre climb at over 8% but the climbing isn’t done, a quick descent and it rises up again but on a bigger road and in the big ring and then a fast descent down to the plains. This is repeated twice again. It’s not a hard circuit but it can be raced hard and the difficulty could be the weather as the descents can be slippery.

The Finish: a ride into Nova Gorica and then out, via a small unmarked climb with 500m at 12% and a quick descent and then across to Italy and to Gorizia, the Italian town. There’s a dash through the historic centre including some urban pavé.

The Contenders: today ought to have been perfect for Slovnian locals Jan Tratnik (Bahrain) but he was in the break yesterday (and Matej Mohorič who has crashed out). This looks like another “Sagan stage”, shorthand for a route that’s hilly enough to eject most of the sprinters while the Slovakian sits tight and wins the sprint, just like he did in Foligno. Only it could be too hilly to start with, he too risks being in trouble on the climbs and also the early break today is likely to be a strong one rather than the usual “4×4” of four riders kept at four minutes. So Bora-Hansgrohe have their work cut out… and that’s if they chase, riders like Emanuel Buchmann and his mountain helpers need every bit of energy for tomorrow. So Sagan himself might be better trying to get in the breakaway.

Among the others Andrea Vendrame (Ag2r Citroën) can strike again although he is an infrequent winner, Gianluca Brambilla (Trek-Segafredo) can try again too. Hugh Carthy can spare Alberto Bettiol (EF Education First). Lotto-Soudal are down to three riders, they could send the team bus back to Belgium. But Thomas De Gendt was trying yesterday and Stefano Oldani is quick from a small group. Diego Ulissi (UAE Emirates) is an all-rounder with eight stage wins to his name.

Peter Sagan, Diego Ulissi
Vendrame, De Bondt, Oldani, TDG, Brambilla, Bettiol, Gallopin, Cimolai

Weather: overcast and the chance of rain, 18°C.

TV: the stage starts at 1.20pm, the circuits at around 3.00pm and the finish is forecast for 4.55pm CEST.

51 thoughts on “Giro d’Italia Stage 15 Preview”

  1. Nothing of substance to contribute beyond saying that “Lucky Lorenzo” was a breath of fresh air in his post-race interview. What a satisfying (and satisfied!) winner. Definitely has a good visage de la souffrance (however that might be in italian…) as well.

    • “Il ciclismo è fame, sudore, sofferenza, freddo e pioggia. E poi c’è la fatica.” The other four are hunger, sweating, cold and rain. And then there is the fatigue.
      Yet another totally unforeseeable winner with a career progression that cannot be described as a road rapidly rising to stardom.
      Stagiaire (or stagista, if you prefer) first with Tinkoff, then with Bardiani; both stints that led nowhere. Then, a neo pro with Neri Sottoli, the following season with Vini Zabù and now with Eolo-Kometa.
      But in between he managed to get a degree in sports science and he can be adresses as “Dottore” :- )

  2. Why do riders let Bernal sit on them when he has run out of team mates. It reminds me of Porte pulling Froome up Mt Ventoux (I think) but I had thought Yates a bit more cagey than that.
    Strong minds are needed as well as strong legs.

    • Yates also needed to make time on the others ahead of him on GC. I think we’ll see a different approach now that he’s second on GC.

    • As our host often says, the procycling manager approach of ‘set a massive pace all day then attackattackattack’ doesn’t often work (as much as fans can romanticise the later part). Especially if you’ve come off a slightly dodgy week as Yates has and you may still be in a slightly defensive mindset. I expect more attacking from Yates this week, but also expect Bernal to match most of them.

      • I never believe cyclists when they say ‘I was feeling unwell’. They could be telling the truth, but they could just as easily be making excuses (it’s right up there with the perennial favourite of the older rider who is no longer winning races, ‘My numbers are better than they ever have been’). Hopefully, he has been unwell and can now make a race of it, but I suspect he’s still the guy most likely to win if Bernal’s back gives out.

    • Unless there’s a massive headwind there’s no draft at Zoncolon speeds, so no advantage either way. Maybe Yates wanted to set the tempo or just see the road ahead.

      • If the air is still the rider in front is still punching a hole in it.
        If there is a tailwind then on the front might be OK.

        • On that final steep segment yesterday Caruso took the Strava KoM and averaged under 9mph. Bernal hasn’t uploaded anything but maybe he averaged 10mph/16kph. Draft at that speed is negligible to non-existent (unless there’s a headwind).

          Here’s a research paper on the subject: Cycling Uphill and Downhill by David P. Swain: “At very slow speeds (on the order of 16 km/h or less) air resistance is negligible, and drafting becomes nearly meaningless.”

          • Great paper and thanks for the reference.

            I wonder how much psychological help comes from having someone to follow on the steep climbs (as well as the pacing mentioned)? Or perhaps I’m just projecting what I think I feel (as an extremely non-pro professional rider).

          • Yeah, I agree the psychological factor comes into play. I’m an amateur rider too and I’ve definitely hung onto a stronger rider’s wheel uphill at a tempo I couldn’t have set myself.

          • I am not likely to have actual experience of the conditions that these guys do but I do have a feel for wind speeds from kayaking.
            16 km/hr is quite noticeable and 20 km/hr is very noticeable (just at the bottom of force 4).
            So, if their speed is 16km/hr then it only takes a puff of 4 km/hr to get it up to 20 km/hr.
            Zoncolan weather forecasts suggest afternoon wind speeds of 5-10 km/hr. Wind direction also matters of course but it is more than possible that the combined air speed is above 20 km/hr.
            Nothing is negligible in the world of marginal gains.

    • If Bernal is winning the race and he is in front of all the other competitors he doesn’t need to ride on the front. Yates wants to overtake riders in front of him on the GC, so he needed ride to take time.
      Looking at the obverse, where Yates argues with Bernal à la Brambilla, then Yates doesn’t overtake all the other riders, and Bernal still gains time on competitors, and potentially still rides Yates off his wheel.
      If Bernal now has an accident or illness and leaves the race Yates gets pink. The alternative if he doesn’t get second place is that he still has to overtake competitors later on (in this scenario). Game theory. Simples.

      • Yates saw a chance to put time into everyone, he took it and managed it, except for Bernal. Bernal was just very dominant, to accelerate with Yates and then to accelerate again and drop him and put in time, all this required a level of power significantly bigger than all the others.

    • The tactics of yates and bernal were perfect. They both did everything they had to do and had the strength to pull it off.
      Yates went from 5th to 2nd. Bernal put in a little time.
      The situation is now good for both. Bernal obviously but yates also. All the other riders then yates are not good enough for the moment and have to go on the speccy attack and hope for the best. Bernal has to respond to everything and yates can look and see if bernal starts to crack.
      Really the only stupid thing yesterday was astana doing ineous’s job for them. Brain explosion from the DS.

      • Hindsight is 20/20. It’s just plain wrong to criticise a team for trying. When INEOS feels like it’s good for them or for their leader to push hard, you won’t be able to change their game making them go slower!
        It’s when they don’t go full speed that you should try and call the bluff, or at least look for a different course of events. Of course, if it’s not a bluff or your leader falters, you get blown away – but it’s not like you’ve got this sort of occasions everyday.

    • As others said, Yates played it perfect, given the GC circumstances and the kind of climb. It’s to be seen if he’ll do the same in the *four* mountain stages the race still has got to ride through, all of them way harder than anything the riders have faced until now.

  3. Unsure about how bad the problem was, but Yates/BikeExchange seem to have managed that first week masterfully in retrospect – no admission of weakness at the time and just did enough to stay in contention.

    • Given that Cam Meyer has also been unwell, battling to stay in the race, I imagine Yates could well have had some pretty tough days. Worth noting the form of Nick Schultz for BEX throughout the race (and season) so far. He could be important for Yates success.

  4. Are Eolo-Kometa an Italian or Spanish team? It looks like, barring mishap, the win is sewn up. The rest of the contenders seem pretty closely matched and the race for 5th-2nd or so should be tight.

    • It was described on Eurosport as an Italian-registered, Spain-based team…
      Are cycling teams like freighters and cruise ships, registered in certain countries for tax and other reasons, but managed out of different countries for reasons of convenience, etc?

      • It was a Spanish team that grew out of Contador’s development team, Polartec. But they got Italo-Hungarian firm Kometa as a sponsor, now Italian telecoms firm Eolo as a sponsor. Nationality matters here as being Italian helps them get an invite to the Giro. But all teams can elect their nationality when registering with the UCI, Bike Exchange for example can be, say, Peruvian, if they wanted. All teams have a legal entity behind them and this can be in different countries, eg UAE Emirates… is run out of Switzerland, Bardiani… is Irish, famous Kakakh team Astana are legally Luxemburgers and Africa’s team Qhubeka-Assos has a Dutch address etc.

  5. Well done to Lorenzo Fortunato, of course there was a big element of luck but he also had the strength to ride away from some much more well known riders. I wonder when Alberto Contador will be announcing the dates of his ride from Madrid to Milan?

    As the riders rode up the slopes of the Zoncolan I am sure I could hear a hissing sound, the sound of a slowly deflating hype balloon. There is still time to pull off a Chris Froome / Vincenzo Nibali style comeback but with the team seeming less than united behind him it seems very unlikely. Perhaps he might be better served with some humility in his media statements and Patrick Lefevere might want to think before changing a winning formula.

    Simon Yates rode well, he never looked under pressure but he simply did not have an answer to Egan Bernal (not sure many would in any era in current form). He has put himself in prime position if Egan Bernal should falter for whatever reason, though given both Egan Bernal’s and Ineos’ experience that seems unlikely.

  6. Thank you for all the good previews.

    A small note/correction. It should be Carso with a capital letter. The plateau is called Karst in German and it gave its name to karst topography. Interestingly, various karstic phenomena are called by Slovenian names (e.g. doline, polje, uvala) or Italian names (foibe). I guess this just shows the mixing of culture in Trieste and vicinity.

    • The hills around Monte San Michele was the site of numerous bitter battles in WW1, as was what was the border with the old Austria-Hungary empire also.
      I wonder if any of the Italian riders are after this stage?

  7. and there was I, watching the breakaway on the final climb, wondering which of the two established WT/GT climbers (Bennett & Mollema) would win. An enjoyable surprise from Fortunato.

    A devent ride from EOLO”s Mark Christian too. Assuming he was – at best – with the peloton at the bottom of the Zoncolan, he lost only 4 minutes to Bernal over the length of the climb. Encouraging.

    Can Bernal hold form to Milan, can Yates find a little more, and can they both avoid misfortune?

    • Bernal has been absolutely rock solid so far, he’s ridden exceptionally well and looks a level, at least, above everyone here.
      His TT is decent to good but his GT success is not based on that discipline.
      Whilst it’s very refreshing to see, and makes for good viewing for us, how to beat Pogacar and Roglic, and possibly a top Thomas?
      He would have very little wiggle room for mistakes if her were up against those guys?
      He certainly looks good here though, all being well.

      • Thomas won’t be under any circumstances a reasonable match for a healthy Bernal. Unless the team manages it otherwise, whether on the road or in the backroom.

        Roglic should be attacked on long, high-altitude climbs and Pogacar from far out and tactically. Both options should be available to Bernal, but I’m afraid his health issue aren’t gone for good (that’s also what he said from the beginning).

        The Slovenians look unassailable, especially thanks to their feats in short stage races (if you actually think twice), but don’t forget that in 2020 a less than phenomenal competition wasn’t that far back, in GTs. Nibali still beat Roglic at the Giro in 2019, not exactly on his prime…

        Well, Pogacar surely looks on a different level when pure wattage is concerned, that’s more or less a fact to be dealt with.

        • Bernal has a small advantage when it comes to climbing. He managed to match Pog & Rog on climbs (save bounce sprints) despite suffering from severe back pain.

          The question is whether this advantage can mitigate the gap to two top TTers in ITTs. Not much can be done when Pog do a magic TT without even use a powermeter.

          • Implied by the above, but I’ll make it even more explicit. I think it’s safe to say that Roglic fades a little at the pointy end of three weeks. Everybody knows that including him and his staff, which means they’ll do everything to shift that balance (riding less races or less aggressively or changing preparation or whatever). It’s a weak point he sometimes overcame successfully – sometimes not.

            Pogacar has shown his sheer power also at the recent Tirreno. You simply can’t go mano a mano with him. Yet Roglic beat him in Euskadi… and that’s the way. At the TdF, Roglic and Jumbo were working FOR Pogi, if anything (not knowing it, of course). That won’t be the same many more times. Just imagine Ganna pulling hard on the front once Pogi is on the wrong side of a split 😉

        • Roglic seems to have it all (TT, sprint, climbing talent) yet he only managed to beat Carthy by a minute at last year’s Vuelta (and needed time bonuses to beat Carapaz), albeit at the end of an impressively intensive patch of racing. He does seem to need to make the most of TTs and time bonuses to give him his edge. Guess it will remain theoretical for some time, but I’d love to see a fit Bernal up against Roglic and Pogacar on a finish like yesterday – both can lose time on long super steep gradients (Roglic on Angliru to Carthy, Pogacar on Loze to Lopez). Having said that, I imagine there’s examples of them both coping perfectly well with Zoncolan-like climbs! Assuming he stays on his bike, I think a focussed Thomas will be surprisingly close to Roglic at the Tour.

  8. Todays circuit looks like a great short one day race circuit. Depending on the Sagan effect it may be a bit limp in a tour.

  9. After the over-hyping comes the backlash – probably by the same people. Evenepoel is 21 years old, has just come off a long injury and has never ridden a grand tour before. Those who believed he was likely to win were always deluding themselves.
    I’ve read people writing him off as a rider already, and many more saying that Almeida should never have been held back to help him. Almeida lost 4:21 on the first hilly stage, and had he helped Evenepoel a bit earlier and a bit more willingly, Evenepoel probably wouldn’t have lost so much time. I wouldn’t want to be Almeida’s team mate in the future.
    He’s an incredibly promising rider and will hopefully work on his bike-handling skills.
    Froome would be a good inspiration for that: back in 2011/12 he was a pretty awful descender. I’ve never seen anyone improve to that extent – I’m still talking descending here – and I think that’s the second most impressive thing I’ve seen in his career… the first being when he lamped that spectator who was running too close (Fortunato would have been justified in doing the same thing yesterday).

  10. So many first time winners, which is great to see.
    Which has me wondering: what percent of riders in a pro race have never won a pro race?

  11. Tomorrow’s stage could be epic and coud see a major overhaul in GC with some terrible weather predicted. Rain in the valleys and snow at 2000-2400 altitude which means that Giau, Fedaia and Pordoi could be ridden in awful conditions (Tre Cime 2013 flashbacks). Whoever copes best with the conditions could pull back massive chunks of time. A real shame for the spectators though because we won’t be able to see the picturesque Dolomites.

      • If it’s cold enough to activate the black ice warning light on a 4*4 I’m not sure I’d want to be descending on a bike in it.

    • Do we know how Bernal goes in the cold? So far he seems fine with what wet and cold there’s been. Remco doesn’t like it, clearly.

      • Difficult to say, he did well in the first week although it is difficult to draw any conclusions from that because those were not high mountain stages. Most of the riders are unknown quantity in such conditions. Ciccone did well in the Mortirolo stage a couple of years ago which was pretty cold. Nibali would be the guy tipped to shine, a shame he is well past his best.

        • You’re right re: Nibali. I guess he ‘s looking for some sort of iconic goodbye victory – Val Thorens 2019 could have been the right one, back then. Yet, it was a hard call when considering how that same season he lost the Giro mainly because of tactics, but was still runner-up beating the likes of Roglic, Landa, Superman López, Hugh Carthy. Looks incredible it was just two seasons ago, but in 2020 he actually looked quite drab. I suppose that pandemics was given the fault, so he still had expectations of sort for a “normal” year. But aging is aging, and in cycling a difficult year with suboptimal training and racing tends to imply another difficult season after that. Changing coach also looks like a desperate move. He might eventually get the win he’s chasing only out of class and thanks to his current position of GC irrelevance.

          • It’s sad to see his demise. To make things even worse he started to crash left, right and centre. Apparently today he was involved in another crash hurting his rib. He may even call it a day and abandon the race. I think it is also a sign of a rider being over the hill when he starts to crash frequently, when before he was mostly able to stay out of trouble. Contador suffered the same fate in his final years.

  12. If nobody calls for ye good ol’ EWP, tomorrow’s weather might well make obsolete most of what we’ve been writing about… 0__o
    Hoping that racing doesn’t just hibernate.

  13. An unknown rider from a second tier team owned and managed by dopers crushes some of the worlds best on one of the toughest climbs in bike racing? Sure. Nothing to see here, let’s move on.

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