Giro d’Italia Stage 18 Preview

A long day. 231km isn’t Milan-Sanremo but it’s not far off with the climbs in the Pavese hills.

Fittest of the Fittanze: a stage win for Dan Martin, he made the breakaway, he made the selection and he made such a pace up the final climb that for a long time, despite all the antics going on below, and we’ll get to that in a moment, the gap was hardly falling as he winched his way up the climb in a style that was more akin to a pecking chicken than an Irish jig. But it was effective and he took his first Giro stage win, joining the club of 100 riders to have won a stage in each of the grand tours. With Liège and Lombardia too among other lines on his palmarès he’s had quite a career and there’s probably more to come too.

Bike Exchange set a tough pace, deploying Mikel Nieve on the ascent of the Passo San Valentino to thin the field, a crash on the descent alas shrunk the group, with Giulio Ciccone among the victims as well as Remco Evenepoel, whose first grand tour has ended.

The Sega di Ala climb, the Passo delle Fittanze to give its proper name, is a very hard climb but it’s not famous. Take the Joux-Plane, a climb that has undone many in the Tour de France, several riders have cited it was their worst climb: it’s the same length as the Fittanze, but the Italian climb is more than a percentage point steeper. Astana set the pace at the foot of the climb but moments late Sacha Vlasov was the first to be dropped. Ciccone then paid for his chase. As Dani Martinez set the pace to chase his homonym, Hugh Carthy and Romain Bardet were in trouble meaning third, fourth, sixth and seventh overall were all going backwards. João Almeida attacked, he had the space to move but this was a powerful move rather than a speculative go. Simon Yates jumped and Egan Bernal covered, the two were away only for Yates to sustain the pace and suddenly the maglia rosa was in trouble. Among the GC contenders Damiano Caruso was steady, pacing himself when others accelerated and ultimately matching Bernal. Almeida had Martin in his sights but couldn’t get closer while Yates came in next, clearly ahead of all the other GC contenders.

Bernal had a wobble, not a disaster, Yates gained less than a minute and is still over three minutes down. At this rate Yates needs three more summit finishes and there are only two left. But seeing Bernal in distress is like a scene from a nature documentary when the lead beast of the herd starts limping, it gives rivals all sorts of ideas.

The Route: it’s a long 195km towards Stradella where the Po plains stretch out again, where the road is grey and the light is grey… or at least that’s what Paolo Conte sang, today is going to be sunny. The race roadbook, the Garibaldi, says there are “a few undulations over the last 30km”. Indeed, there are four climbs in the Pavese hills and none are wild but they’re all on narrow roads that twist up and down the vineyards, they’re a real tonal shift to the finale and will make for a lively final hour.

The Finish: a flat run directly into town.

The Contenders: the hills are enough to eject any heavyset sprinters, but they’ve all gone home. So the obvious picks are Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Fernando Gaviria (UAE Emirates) with Davide Cimolai (Israel) as a contender too. The breakaway has a chance but if an early “4×4” goes (four riders never given more than four minutes) then the final hills also offer a good chance of sport and can reward attacks.

Peter Sagan, Fernando Gaviria
Rémi Cavagna, Simone Consonni
Cimolai, Oldani, Roche, Felline

Weather: sunny and 25°C.

TV: the stage starts at 11.35am and the run to the hills starts around 4.10pm. The finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST.

73 thoughts on “Giro d’Italia Stage 18 Preview”

  1. That wild beast analogy is a great one! And it reminds me of the twinkle in the eye of that predator, Froome, in an interview after the stage in 2018 when Yates first dropped some time. Yates is no Froome, but that was a pivotal moment for him and he has ridden (and maybe prepared for) this race more like Froome than his pre-GT-winning self. Maybe I’m pattern matching and I don’t see a long range attack coming from Yates, but in hindsight, that was the point that the momentum swung in 2018 and it feels similar.

    Regarding today’s stage, those narrow twisty roads at the end sound like they could be an opening for Ineos to put Ganna on the front, Bernal locked on his wheel, and try to exploit Yates’ questionable positioning and bust up the peloton.

    It’s race on!

  2. Scenario: Bernals back pain has returned, he has another off day on stage 19 and he cracks on stage 20, ceding the Maglia Rosa to Yates who flies up the final climb of the race…but then dramatically loses the lead in the final TT to Caruso, who wins the Giro without winning a stage!

    • Lol – looked like Bernal was hungry, back should be fine to win the Giro. Bernal will rest then come back to win the Vuelta. Then will have a proper build up and win 4 TdF’s on the trot. Will never bonk on a stage again – amateur move.

  3. When Bernal is going well his fixed and seated position and high gearing are remarkably effective, but are they appropriate to a rider who suffers from back problems. A more fluid style and varied positions might be more appropriate, though they might not provide the same watts.

    Meanwhile, of the top riders, almost all have experienced good and much less good days. Traditional logic suggests that in GTs, when riders start slipping, they continue slipping. Here that’s not been the case with, for example, Yates having two good days mixed up with more moderate ones. At least that makes for great racing. Do more surprises await? It looks like a killer TT at the end with weary riders making a final effort and tight GC gaps almost everywhere.

    • Good points. Bernal has got a very aero climbing position – which counts at the speed he is going uphill – but in leaning forward and being so you low wonder about the load on back and hips. We’ll see if yesterday was a little as a missed gel, or a chronic injury.

      • I often wonder what part of the body Dan Martin’s uphill speed comes from. (And also Pogacar’s, who’s style is a bit Martin-esque.)
        Bernal has tried matching everything in this tour, maybe he’s paying a price for being a bit over-enthusiastic at times.

      • Yes. At my climbing speed the aero aspect hardly matters, but at Bernal’s, Yates or Martin’s it does. While Bernal might be an extreme good example others seem to accept flapping or loose jackets, open maillots (Yates!), and an almost vertical position with little question. The benefit of some effort at reducing drag uphill must far outweigh the grams they try to shave off equipment or themselves. Is Bernal’s aero climbing position an Ineos marginal gain?

        • For us mere mortals who climb at speeds under 20km/hr being aero is useless, I agree 100%

          Yates said that he faced problems during the first week that caused him to remain “hiden” not that he was saving his energy for the third week. Maybe true maybe a bluff, who can tell?

          Bernal said that his back is alright and he had a day sans, also unverifiable. If Yates was bluffing and Bernal hiding his back problems we’re in for a great fight!

      • I wondered why Caruso didn’t turn himself inside out and attack as soon as he knew Bernal was cooked. He didn’t seem to be on the limit but then some riders are very good at hiding it.

        • Same here. In fact he looked to have taken over the job of pacing Bernal, with Martinez riding in wing man. Guess it’s a case of protecting second on GC by not upsetting the leader.

          The Tell with Bernal is his head and neck position. If he starts to pull over on the R, he’s suffering. Head straight, back slightly arched is when he’s going well. Tallies with a scoliosis.

          Almeida is riding his next contract higher and higher. DQS did themselves no favours by being so quick to go all-in for Evenepoel, and Almeida now has a personal salvage mission to pursue. Will be interesting to see how he’s supported.

  4. Yesterday was a great stage. Dan Martin was phenomenal and was the rider of the day.
    What I liked most was that Yates was racing to win the Giro, after his first attack he had dropped everyone bar Bernal and Martinez, at this point he could have just ridden as fast as possible to put as much time into the others as possible. But he didn’t, he slowed and attacked again, constantly changing the rhythm trying to distance Bernal. I doubt Yates will win this Giro but it is great to watch him try instead of fighting for the podium.
    Great race so far.

    • Yates said in his post race interview that he didn’t know he’d dropped Bernal and couldn’t have ridden harder cos he was already going full gas

      • That makes Almeida’s ride even more impressive. Maybe his frustrations this year were because he’d trained hard to be good in the high mountains only to find Remco (& a bad day in the cold) took the leader’s role.

  5. Dan Martin has indeed had quite a career – much of it on the quiet. But most of his wins are, in one way or another, quite spectacular – and none of them came easy, so to speak. Disco Dan does it on the mountains!

    BTW I watched (the last hour or so of) the stage with a friend who is more keen on athletics and Nordic skiing. I think I made a mistake when I explained to him that Martin is a climber who is on par with the best and that the peloton allowed him to break away only because he was no threat to the top in the GC, because he had lost so much time on earlier stages.
    My friend was almost aghast at this: he thought it quite ridiculous and quite unsporting that a rider can improve his chances to win a stage by performing poorly in other stages! He was quite adamant that the fact that Bernal, Yates et al didn’t chase him all out and that winning the stage was of secondary value or lesser importance to them diminished Martin’s victory!

    • That’s interesting – I suppose it could sound very strange to a non-fanatic, but I rather like this aspect of road cycling, the whole race within a race thing. Yesterday the two almost married up, as the race for GC nearly overwhelmed Martin in the race for the stage. The tactics of it (politics, you might say) are fascinating.

      It’s explainable by saying each of the 21 stages is a one-day event in itself. The cache of taking a single stage is greater than finishing 18th, for example.

    • Your friend is right. Winning a stage from the GC group is much more impressive and difficult that winning from the breakaway. It’s one of the reasons one day races are so much better than GTs.

      • A good point indeed and true for most days. But looking at yesterday… Martin had a narrow lead at the start of a very long climb, after do a lot of work in the breakaway all day, after a very fast en hectic start, and still came out on top. They might have led him go because of his place in the GC but he was certainly the strongest.

        There are other examples as well, like Taco van der Hoorn. Yes, the breakaway were given a decent headstart but with the bunch expecting to catch only to miss out.

        To me GT-stages like these are very close to one day races.

      • Logically your comment doesn’t make any sense. The difficulty level is impossible to measure adequately. They are both extremely hard and it’s not possible to say one is better than the other.

        With that being said, yesterday was an awesome stage. This entire Giro has been one to remember, not only because it feels “normal” in a bonkers year. Each stage has had some amazing moments and has been very exciting. To the fans who find it boring… it might be time to find a “better” sport.

    • Your friend is both correct and wrong at the same time. Winning the GC group is the more impressive effort.
      But sometimes the breakaway is not gifted the win and even when it is the wining rider has to ride the front rotation all day, not just the last 1km. This was the case yesterday as the breakaway was not gifted the win but Martin in particular had to force it with great riding from a long way out.

      • Absolutely – there’s significant nuance here. The commentators were concerned that Martin was doing too much by himself in the breakaway (in contrast to the armchair ride that most GC contenders must have got, relatively speaking), yet the time gaps at the bottom and top indicated that he climbed Sega di Ala significantly quicker than many GC contenders.

  6. Not sure yesterday was a Prato Nevoso rerun. The day after a rest day often throws up odd results amongst the GC riders but also Egan Bernal seemed to recover to ride sensibly to the finish. Simon Yates might even regret not pushing his advantage further though maybe that was not an option. Today being a non GC day also is rather different than the next day being a tappone as it was in 2018. Egan Bernal has been doing some stretching exercises whilst riding but didnt spot that yesterday. It would be a very strange scenario indeed if Simon Yates was going to win based on a final TT.

    As race goes on the more it seems DQS put their eggs in the wrong basket. A strong ride from Joao Almeida, you must think if DQS had supported him rather than using him as a gregario he would be fighting for the podium, no wonder he is moving on. Perhaps this is being harsh but as noted by Dan Lloyd in commentary, Remco Evenepoel’s crash seemed to be avoidable for a pro cyclist. He appeared (though slow motion replays often deceive) to deliberately crash into the armco when avoiding the pile up in front of him would have been an option for a better bike handler, maybe this adds to the evidence that his general bike handling is an issue.

    Not convinced Peter Sagan will want to chase the win today, seems more interested in the points jersey and will ride to ensure his competitors in that competition dont pick up any significant points ie let the break go.

    • Not sure Evenepoel could have avoided the crash. By time he was rounding the corner he was already committed to the left side of the road. His options were the barrier or go into those already fallen in front; I don’t think there was any space to get between the two. So he was going to go down one way or the other.

      Incidentally, it didn’t look to me that he went *over* the barrier; he seemed to hit it and ride along the top for a bit, but then fall back towards the road. Still painful no doubt.

      • My initial thought on seeing him crash was that he’d yanked on his (disc) brakes and locked his bike up.
        I’m not sure about disc brakes on lightweight road bikes, they’re almost too powerful?
        I’d use them in the wet but avoid in the dry I think.

        • Easy to lock up with rim brakes too.

          The difference is that you’re better able to brake hard without locking up. Applies in the dry but more valuable in the wet.

          If Remco can’t turn and can’t brake he will have long term challenges with winning bike races.

          • It’s difficult for us to say about that. We had the TV view, in slow motion at that. We weren’t there so couldn’t know the view round the bend, road camber/state and what was going on in his head – was there a momentary lapse of concentration for instance as he thought about his girlfriend? – could he hear a car behind him?

      • It seemed to me from the slow mo, Nieve’s concern for Remco was due to crashing in to Remco AFTER he’d pulled himself off the railing. The post crash crash may have done more damage than his initial contact. Appreciate if anyone can confirm. For sure it was tough to see.

  7. ‘With Liège and Lombardia too among other lines on his palmarès he’s had “quite” a career and there’s probably more to come too.’

  8. I saw Evanepoel had a crash. Did he abandon during the race? Or, did he pack it in at the end? Is this a precautionary end to the Giro? Or, did he sustain a serious injury? It’s been a steep learning curve for the young man. But I guess he will have learned a lot.

  9. I’ve always said that losing time deliberately in order to be allowed to go on a breakaway is not an honourable conduct. Not sure that Martin had lost time deliberately this time, but GC comes always first. By the way, Caruso was wrong to help Bernal yesterday in his moment of crisis. He should have attacked him instead. Never waste even one bit of chance of overall victory in order to defend your second place. Who knows if he will not lose the Giro in the end because of this?

    • To win the Giro he has to also beat Yates. I think the most likely route to the top step for him is that Bernal falters and that he limits his losses to Yates enough so that he can overtake him in the final ITT.

    • But did it help Bernal on purpose or just couldn’t help it that by riding his own race, i.e. at his best sustainable pace, he happened to help Bernal?
      It seemed to me that he was going on a limit: he could’ve attacked, but that would’ve meant a pretty quick burn-and-crash that would have cost him time against Yates (and conceivably allowed Bernal, who was aided by Martinez, to catch him and open a gap before the finish line).

      • He happened to help the maglia rosa right at the first moment when he had hit a crisis. He should have stayed behind him, until summoning enough strength, and being close enough to the finish, to accelerate successfully and drop Bernal for good.

  10. “Astana set the pace at the foot of the climb but moments *later* Sacha Vlasov was the first to be dropped.”

    Keep up the good work INRNG, always a pleasure

  11. By the way, I am amazed at Castroviejo (been for years, honestly), and still more amazed that the guy has never contested a GC, even on a short stage race. With his lightness and aero position, his power and pacing, his TTing and his diesel climbing, able to drop half the top-10 onvery hard slopes, he could really have won something some time!

    • The way he rode on Sega di Ala. Wow.

      You are absolutely right! A weeklong stage race or something like that seems within his reach. It would be great to see him ride for himself on a climb, I don’t think we’ve ever seen that.

  12. Poor Almeida, look how strong he is. One wobble in the first hilltop finish and he was left to pull for Evenepoel. Tough. The way he attacked that steep climb made it look like he is even better than last year. I hope he gets a stage win in the last two mountain stages.

    I’ve never been a fan of that Yates way of attacking a group, then looking back and flicking your elbows mocking people for not taking a pull. But he seems like the only person now who is willing to sacrifice his GC position for the win, so perhaps I will become a Yates fan by the end of this race after all! Everyone else are securing their podium I bet.

    • Completely agree on Almeida, although I keep wondering what proportion of his output is ‘anger watts’ after Lefevere’s dreadful behaviour towards him just before the Giro started?

    • I don’t recall any mocking elbows but certainly Almeida has been super impressive. Much more than last year. Whoever has purchased him seem to be getting a super rider with good bike handling skills to boot. If he wins a big stage race no doubt ineous will buy him to use as a domestique.

      Evenepoel’s crash this time was mostly just bad luck and he wasn’t the only one caught out Either way he needs to get his confidence back descending because its lacking. He not only got dropped on the dirt he also got dropped badly another day entirely his own speed at fault. You don’t need to be a demon descender but you do need at least some confidence. At the moment he makes Porte look good and its not hard to see why he went over the bridge last year.

    • In some ways the issue with DQS is the team they picked. Having both Almeida and Evanepoel was likely to give rise to such tensions. The fight is obviously to get your nose in front and then get the other “star” rider to be your super domestique.
      As aiming for the GC of a Grand Tour doesn’t seem to be a big thing for DQS they perhaps they don’t have a strong team ethic with respect to team hierarchies. Having witnessed the occasions where overwhelming numbers has resulted in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory I suspect Lefevre likes his wolf pack hungry and ready to eat their own. But you would expect that some decision about who would be team lead or co-lead would be made and how they dealt with changing scenarios out on the road.
      I suspect Evanepoel’s reputation and wage packet probably gave him initial bragging rights to be team leader.
      Of course when Evanepoel takes the lead early on it also becomes incumbent on his team to protect his position, which Almeida didn’t seem particularly inclined to do, understandably. No one could predict Evanepoel’s collapse, but if you are Almeida you’d be crossing your arms and saying “i told you so!”

      • That intra-team competitiveness is at the heart of DQS’ success as a Wolfpack though, surely?
        They presumably go into a race with a framework of a plan but the riders parts in it are flexible and down to their legs on the day as well as circumstance of the race.
        It is, however, incumbent on those riders to accept how the situation plays out and react accordingly and in line with their DS’ information and instructions.
        Usually this is the case – after a DQS win, we see all the riders celebrate together as a collective ‘job done’.
        In this case, there appears to be some disharmony on Almeida’s behalf or just that he was slighted by what he saw as disrespect from Evenepoel’s attitude towards him possibly.
        Whatever the dynamic was, the end result has been more negative and the riders have not bought into the usual way of doing things.

        • In a one day race, it is very clear which rider is in a better position. The implication of that position is also quite immediate (very rarely for riders not making a decisive move to come back. Also, if a move Peter out, your guy behind will instantly be on the front).

          This is a very different case in GT. A rider experiencing an initial drawback may turn things drastically around because a combination of better at preserving form and more room because of GC deficits. You can’t do your usual knee jerk reaction as if you are in a one day race. You need to have much more confidence in your leader and give him continued support despite a setback.

          All these are new concepts to DQS.

          • Agreed and good points but was there a clear leader for DQS here?
            It was either Almeida or Evenepoel and the road was to decide which.
            That cooperation and support from the other riders, and mainly Almeida, looked to be confused and incoherent.
            With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, DQS should have just had Almeida as the main leader.

  13. Great to see Dan Martin take an epic win. He’s an easy guy to cheer for, maybe because he seems like a rider from an earlier era. He’s actually number 102 in the Grand Tour Trifecta Club – Sagan’s impressive Giro stage win last year made him the ‘centurion’ of that club (I know, that’s not what centurion means, but to my Anglo ears it seems to fit).

    I’m expecting Gaviria and Cimolai to force Sagan to go for it today. As I wrote yesterday, I think he’s gone into ‘defend-the-Ciclamino mode’ since his stage win, but the guys in second and third have not given up the competition, so he has to react to them. I think Cimolai deserves more than a single chain ring given the way he has raced in other Giro stages with some lumpiness.

    • Martin from an earlier era is interesting, when he was winning races like Liège some other riders found this an inspiration in that they knew as far as they could he was a young, clean rider and they thought if he could win, perhaps they could too, that things weren’t always going to belong to an older generation with questions.

      • LOL, when I said he’s seems like he’s from an earlier era I was thinking of the era before the 1990s-2000s, when both biological and bicycle technology went berserk. One of the reasons I find him so admirable is for exactly what you mention, that he does it clean.

  14. Almeida seems like a man on a mission here.
    I’m not quite sure what that mission fully is, ostensibly at least it’s to improve his GC position and possibly threaten the podium, but his ambition can be Yates’ ally on the remaining climbs.
    It’s always fascinating to see an impromptu entente cordiale form in a stage race, especially given the shape shifting nature of the sport.
    I’ve felt that relations between the respective Aussie and British teams in the peloton to be generally good (please, no mention of that ridiculous Anglo Saxon description) but Bike Exchange really have to press home any advantage they may have.
    I wonder whether some teams are wary of tucking up Sky / Ineos in grand tours for fear of retribution many fold at some future point?

    • It will be interesting to see which team Almeida joins next year (do we know this yet?). Definitely one with potential to win a grand tour, which would be unlikely with DQS. For all of Remco’s undoubted talent, in not sure DQS it the team for him either if he has GT ambitions.

    • Nizzolo went home after his win, saying he hadn’t been climbing well and needed to look to the rest of his season. Viviani has been climbing OK, but seems to have gotten a little more lost with each fast finish stage. I expect him to at least start this stage with a plan to be there at the end, but it doesn’t seem to be in the cards for his at this Giro.

      • I also question Cofidis as having the right support for him. But Viviani was never all that successful at Sky because they weren’t set up to be a Sprinter team.

  15. Bernal really is really winning the hearts of Italian fans. He got the endorsement and a visit from the Pantanis, was even shown Pantani’s Trophy.

  16. The profile link on the home page is giving a 404 error, although the post is still available on the “Continue reading” link. Thought you’d want to fix.

    Another point of criticism: “chase his homonym”, brilliant. How long has that been up your sleeve?

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