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Giro d’Italia Stage 19 Preview

Was it a jour sans for Egan Bernal or is there a deeper problem? You probably want to know and we can bet his rivals do too although today’s stage lends itself to a quick test rather than a reversal.

Stage 18 Review: a break of 23 riders and they built up an invincible lead by the time they reached the Pavese hills. The attacks flew and it was was on of those enjoyable finishes that was neither sprint nor summit finish and full of subtleties. Only Alberto Bettiol was having none of it, he was simply too strong for the others. Rémi Cavagna had gone solo but Bettiol was in pursuit, at one point Nicolas Roche managed to get to Bettiol’s wheel on the descent into Broni. Roche sat on but on the next climb Bettiol just rode away. He had Cavagna in his sights and got to him on the final climb. What next for the two strong riders? It turns out Cavagna wasn’t so much in oxygen debt, he’d defaulted and his legs had gone into liquidation. Bettiol went solo and had time to sit up and celebrate his first win in Italy.

The Route: 166km and a change, the Giro won’t climb to Mottarone following the recent cable car disaster and instead sticks to a lower road going Gignese, a more gentle road up and then a quick descent down to shores of the Lago di Maggiore and with the Giro di Lombardia feel, first woodland then past crowded housing, then the valley to climb the Passo dello Colma – a pleonasm as Colma is the local word for a pass – which is 7.5km at 6.5%, a gentle climb and more a warm-up than a place to start racing hard. Then it’s down to the Valsesia, the valleys that sit below Monte Rosa, Europe’s second highest mountain.

The Finish: a ski station summit finish? Only the Alpe di Mera is more a car park and a few chairlifts that open if conditions allow, the finish is only 1531m above sea level. Correspondingly the road today is small and hard going, you can’t drive coachloads of tourists up here. After a gentle start it ratchets up and stays tough all the way to the finish, the max of 14% is for a brief moment.

The Contenders: it’s a Simon Yates (Bike Exchange) kind of climb, it’s not at altitude, it’s not too long and it’s steep. But João Almeida (Deceuninck-Quickstep) was faster than him. Still Egan Bernal (Ineos) was strong on the Zoncolan so is hard to look past either.

A breakaway has a good chance so look for Dan Martin (Israel) again, if he’s not in the break then Diego Ulissi (UAE Emirates) is climbing well but has been busy for the last two stages. George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma) is more rested and might appreciate the warmer weather and like Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) they can try today and if not tomorrow.

Dan Martin, Simon Yates, João Almeida, Egan Bernal
Bennett, Mollema, Ulissi, Bouwman, Rubio, Cataldo

Weather: sunny, a pleasant 24°C for the first part but cooler later in the valleys, 17°C.

TV: the stage starts at 12.20pm, the Passo della Colma begins around 3.40pm and the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST. Tune in

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  • Stuart Friday, 28 May 2021, 6:48 am

    Today’s the day we see if Bernal has lost his legs or if he just had an off day the last time the road went uphill.

    • CA Friday, 28 May 2021, 2:40 pm

      Or a bonk, it looked like he was bonking

  • Frood Friday, 28 May 2021, 8:22 am

    Yesterday was an absolute beauty (so glad it didn’t rain, though I think it would still have been an engrossing final few kilometres if it had). It’s hard to see past almeida for the stage win today, but I could be wrong.

    • oldDAVE Friday, 28 May 2021, 8:34 am

      I’m really happy for Almeida – he dropped around 3/4 mins supporting Remco. Despite Remco being second at the time it must have hurt supporting a rider who hasn’t completed a three week race and coming back from 9months off when you’d finished 4th the previous year.

      He might be in 4th position now with eyes on a podium had that not been the case. I wonder whether Almeida will end up being a better Grand Tour rider than Evenepoel if it turns out Remco’s incredible numbers can’t go the three week distance (this post will likely look laughably stupid when he’s won ten grand tours on the bounce but I still feel sorry for Joao over the last few wks).

      • AndyW Friday, 28 May 2021, 9:55 am

        I wonder if DQS had planned on joint leadership but then had a rethink after stage 4, where Almeida lost over 4 minutes to other GC contenders. As far as I can remember, this had nothing to do with Evenepoel. At the time, it therefore seemed reasonable to pace Evenepoel on stage 11, given that it could have just been one bad day for a rider who was only 14 sec off Bernal at the time. Hindsight…

        • Il Brontolo Friday, 28 May 2021, 10:36 am

          +1

  • Brent Sword Friday, 28 May 2021, 8:51 am

    From the detour podcast after the previous mountain top finsih. Why did the bike exchange DS set the team to chasing so early. From Matthew White. ‘A 20 man breakaway went up the road and we were not in it’. I think tangert was supposed to get into the break and go for stage win but there is little chance he would have beaten Dan martin anyway.
    Worked out well for them as they put the pressure on the penultimate hill and it paid dividends thinning the strength out of several GC contenders and domestiques.
    How subtle unexpected changes in tactics can affect a race.

    • HT Friday, 28 May 2021, 12:36 pm

      Yates was after the stage win, hence not letting the breakaway getting too far up the road

  • RQS Friday, 28 May 2021, 8:52 am

    Mollema’s tactic of wins not GC has paid off in spades… this probably is the best day for him. I wonder how Nibali and Ciccone feel about his decision.
    Any predictions about Vlasov? Go hard, blow race apart, finish further behind…
    Also, has anyone seen Movistar this Giro?
    Although evidently in some trouble on the road to Sega di Ala, Bernal was not looking like his account was about to be closed at the bank of Oxygen (lovely metaphor on Cavagna btw), this has to be his back. The boys on Eurosport commented how tough the climb really (planche de belle fille I think was the comparison) and I would guess that he will be good today – but his rivals will be keen to test his back.
    My friend did some work experience at a zoo. He was told that the lion keepers needed to make sure they always kept their footing. The lions treated the keeper as the Alpha in the pride. They come up and put their front paws on the keepers shoulders. If they slipped it was game over. The lion paws will be on Bernal’s shoulders all day I think.

    • RQS Friday, 28 May 2021, 9:08 am

      It’s an analogy not a metaphor… just couldn’t think of the word

      • RQS Friday, 28 May 2021, 9:52 am

        And, now I’m second guessing. I need some coffee

    • Ecky Thump Friday, 28 May 2021, 9:12 am

      It’ll be interesting to see where the real action starts today; the last climb or if someone really is able to go for it and moves on the Passo Della Colmo.
      It could be one of those delicious situations where a chain reaction of events bursts forth, depending on who moves and where.
      It’s just that one initial and critical move that can be the catalyst.
      I’m hoping that Almeida could be that compound but he’d likely need some support from allies or teammates if he goes early, and I’ve been disappointed in DQS’ climbing support at this Giro.
      It can be odd how the narrative of a three weeks race plays out.
      Almeida was almost cast as the villain of the piece at one point.
      He still could be, depending through whose eyes you look, but he could also become a virtual kingmaker.

      • RQS Friday, 28 May 2021, 10:06 am

        What are the points on offer at the intermediate sprints? Could this affect Sagan? I wonder if he, or his fellow points competitors inadvertently set things off today. It might mean no break forms and we have a super competitive team battle up the climb. This probably plays into Bernal’s hands as he won’t want things to get fractious.
        The worst scenario for Bernal is if a large break forms with a GC rider in it, but I don’t think there’s a rider out there at the moment that could keep INEOS at bay for a whole stage.
        Could Nibali be in with a shout if he gets off the front after the first climb? He’s not got the punch over his younger rivals like he used to.

    • KevinR Friday, 28 May 2021, 11:24 am

      Bernal lost a fair bit of time on the steep stuff in probably less than 2km before they hit the easy gradients for the last 2km. The TV pictures showed him going very slowly (for a pro) and unable to hold his team-mate’s wheel. Bad legs day or start of bad form day? We’re about to find out

  • jc Friday, 28 May 2021, 9:05 am

    Not sure if the fine for Peter Sagan yesterday implies any longer term changes in application of the rules. Blocking the front of the bunch seems to be a pretty standard tactic, I know some dont like it but I cant see a big issue with it. Peter Sagan must have been very aggressive to have merited a fine.

    No doubt others will test Egan Bernal though he is likely to have a much bigger team around him today. Not impossible that Pippo Ganna will get over the first two climbs, so Ineos could have plenty to ride tempo. Bike Exchange are looking rather thin. Ineos likely to be happy with a big break to mop up time bonuses and not sure how many other teams have the strength to control things first off. Either Dan Martin and his chicken tribute act or Bauke Mollema seem good options today.

    • DJW Friday, 28 May 2021, 10:37 am

      I can’t see any genuine top three GC battle before the final climb, and even that will require Bernal to be isolated. That’s hard to imagine as Castroviejo could be with him into the final kms and Martinez to the end.

      • KevinR Friday, 28 May 2021, 11:30 am

        That is the problem for anyone wanting to test Bernal out early – he’s going to have a super strong team to do the work for him. Some clever tactics may be needed earlier – teams joining forces maybe (DQS and Bike Exchange have shared interests for instance) and maybe Movistar will want to finally prove they’re at the Giro!

  • Tovarishch Friday, 28 May 2021, 9:33 am

    Well I guess it will be Carthy, then

  • Ecky Thump Friday, 28 May 2021, 9:43 am

    There appears to be universal appreciation for RCS’ course design this year, on paper at least if not how they were able to put it into practice.
    It’s been a hard Giro so far, with lots of action, and the weather, of course, has been a major influence as always.
    I wonder in designing a course over three weeks if it’s possible to do so in a scientific manner?
    And in the same way that a construction project team will account for, say, a 10% overall cost margin for unforeseen works in its budget, could a margin for weather effect also be built in?
    We’ve already reached the point that teams can now ride virtual stages on a turbo trainer and calculate the predicted energy consumption of the riders on it. I suppose they could probably allow for a certain % tolerance + / – for weather as a rough guide too.
    So could this approach could be turned around to help design an entire course?
    Do the course designers do that already or is it done through experience and ‘feel’?

    • Steve Friday, 28 May 2021, 2:46 pm

      This is the difference between golf and snooker, pretty much. Though I would probably watch a Zwift contest if competitors were forced to enjoy staged extreme wet weather, oxygen restrictions for high altitude stages (a nose clip maybe), unexpected crosswinds made with industrial fans borrowed from film studios etc.

    • CA Friday, 28 May 2021, 4:23 pm

      Interesting concept – I think there is definitely something to that, and it would be interesting to hear from RCS/ASO and the other big organisers to hear what goes into course design. Obviously, part of it is based on which towns want to pay a fee, and some of the course is geographically determined, but there has to be some method to their madness.

  • Ferdi Friday, 28 May 2021, 9:46 am

    Good end of the stage yesterday, but the peloton’s “politics” (Sagan, Viviani, etc.., in this case) always seem to decrease competition and combativity, and make me wish there was are hard-headed scab rider, bent on crushing all non-competitive dynamics.

    • Anonymous Friday, 28 May 2021, 12:12 pm

      You are Henri Desgrange’s grandson, aren’t you?

      • Ferdi Friday, 28 May 2021, 1:48 pm

        I’d rather be Henri Desgrange’s ghost. We owe such a lot to that bastard.

  • keith warmington Friday, 28 May 2021, 10:12 am

    “pleonasm” a new word to me , but a good one .

    • David Q Friday, 28 May 2021, 11:25 am

      I think it might be more directly a tautology, like Gobi Desert or the wonderful City of Townsville. A pleonasm would be more like “déjà vu all over again”. I guess they are a little interchangeable, which proposes the existence of a “tautological pleonasm” and that’s just lovely.

      Anywho, back to the cycling, Yates to win today 🙂

      • cp Friday, 28 May 2021, 3:32 pm

        ((Not to keep the digression going, but as someone who has written on pleonasms in German lit and cinema, I can attest–having read it with my eyes–that the wikipedia page on pleonasms is pretty good: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pleonasm#Literary_uses
        It addresses, to an extent, the relationship between pleonasms and tautology.))

  • DJW Friday, 28 May 2021, 10:14 am

    The podium places seem fixed now with Vlasov almost three minutes behind third place. It’s the order of the first three that could change, and even that requires major surprises. Yates, to win must need at least 1’30 out of Bernal today. Is that possible when Bernal has by far the strongest team?

    • RQS Friday, 28 May 2021, 11:33 am

      Astana are like a team of crack specialist soldiers trying to steal a stage. They rush in, do their damage, only to find their commanding officer has surrendered himself to time deficits. Still, INEOS were the chief operators of this last year.

    • KevinR Friday, 28 May 2021, 11:35 am

      Can’t see it happening but never say never at the Giro. In case it does, who do we reckon will do the best TT out of the two of them at the end of three hard weeks?

  • Steve Friday, 28 May 2021, 10:36 am

    I expect Chihuahua Meida, as Rob Hatch calls him, to put in a dogged performance today.

    • Watts Friday, 28 May 2021, 10:45 am

      My favourite is in Chris Horner’s youtube channel; here he goes by the name of Joe Allen Almeida. Gold

      • hoh Friday, 28 May 2021, 12:17 pm

        The Eurosport guys don’t really distinguish between him and Gino Mäder when pronounce their names (at least for my Asian ear). Cause me no small amount of confusion when Gino Mäder abandoned.

        • Ferdi Friday, 28 May 2021, 1:45 pm

          The guy on the English Eurosport version is excellent pronouncing about any language (German and Portuguese included). He obviously works a lot on it.

          • jc Friday, 28 May 2021, 6:08 pm

            Rob Hatch did a degree in modern languages, no idea how many he speaks fluently but it is quite a few, he can clearly get by in many others too. It does mean he can correctly pronounce most names. There is of course Carlton Kirby…..

            His grasp of history isnt always quite so extensive

          • Steve Saturday, 29 May 2021, 4:44 pm

            Generally Hatch is excellent, but he does pronounce ‘Joao’ to rhyme with ‘bow-wow’, and once that dog is in your ear, it won’t leave it.

      • JaimeRoberto Friday, 28 May 2021, 4:52 pm

        My favorite Horner-ism is Campernauts. I’ve been thinking of turning his show into a drinking game. One drink for every mispronunciation. One drink for every on-screen correction. One drink for “My man!”.

        • Watts Friday, 28 May 2021, 8:04 pm

          That’s an absolutely lethal drinking game! I don’t think I could get through one without blacking out.

    • Anonymous Friday, 28 May 2021, 12:15 pm

      Hope you’re not barking up the wrong tree here.

  • Nevman Friday, 28 May 2021, 12:12 pm

    The last 35kms yesterday were terrific racing on good fast roads but tribute to the coverage as well,rarely see such gripping images, it was like being onboard.

  • CA Friday, 28 May 2021, 4:26 pm

    My prediction is Yates will go all-in today, but will blow up catastrophically. Caruso and Bernal will run away together, Caruso pipping for the stage win. Yates and the 4th-10th places on GC will lose 5 minutes.

    On Stage 20, Bernal will stamp his authority all over this race, taking 2 minutes on everyone at the finish. Then in the TT Bernal, holding a 4 minute lead on Caruso, and over 10 on anyone else, will ride a tricycle, giving up all but 5 seconds of his lead but will still win.

    • hoh Friday, 28 May 2021, 6:35 pm

      Hilarious. Are they allowed to put on balancer wheels?