Giro d’Italia Stage 2 Preview

The Giro rolls out of Turin and crosses the Padan plains for a likely sprint finish in Novara.

Turin test: Filippo Ganna beat his body double Edoardo Affini by a wide margin, more a second faster per kilometre. Ganna can pump out the watts but his line in the corners was just as impressive. There were no big surprises, Affini and team mate Tobias Foss beat expectations. Rémi Cavagna didn’t and finished just behind his team mate João Almeida. Otherwise the main GC candidates all limited their losses with only Landa, Bardet, Buchmann and Martin more than 30 seconds down on Almeida. Yesterday’s Gazzetto Dello Sport’s editorial talked about the Giro back in May with the “thread of normality” returning to Italy and Ganna in pink seems part of this.

The Route: a start by the old royal hunting palace and then 179km north east via some climbing in the hills near Asti – home of spumante wine – with a small categorised climb to launch the mountains competition, a virtual finish line for many of the smaller teams who can collect the jersey for a day. Then the route flattens out and there are few secrets, it’s on wide roads and they’re exposed, past many rice fields.

A reminder that the Giro has two intermediate sprints a day and both offer points for the maglia ciclamino points competition, but the first each day also has points for the intermediate-only sprint prize, while the second has 3-2-1 second time bonuses

The Finish: via an industrial estate to the municipal sports field. This is a dragstrip with few technical features, a wide right bend with 1.6km to go, a dip under a railway line at the flamme rouge and then direct to the line.

The Contenders: sprints in grand tours have a Bayesian feel, the more of them we get the more a pattern is established. Today there’s no pecking order so instead Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) and Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) are the obvious picks based on their career records but the form this year isn’t so brilliant for Ewan, only one win when he could have landed more while this is Groenewegen’s first sprint since Katowice.

Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) is the next pick, capable of picking off the best sprinters in the world on his day only regularly enough, but he’s got a whole team in support. Elia Viviani (Cofidis) is still hunting for a big win to end a long spell without a World Tour sprint win, ditto Fernando Gaviria (UAE Emirates). Them take your pick from Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) who is hunting for points, Giacomo Nizzolo (Qhubeka-Assos), Matteo Moschetti (Trek-Segafredo) and if Groenewegen’s easing his way in then team mate David Dekker, who rode well yesterday, might make a more media-friendly story.

Caleb Ewan
Dylan Groenewegen, Tim Merlier
Viviani, Gaviria, Nizzolo, Moschetti, Sagan, Dekker

Weather: sunny and mild, 23°C and a calm day.

TV: it’s live from start to finish. The flag drops at 12.55pm CEST and the finish is forecast for 5.00pm CEST. Tune in to watch the hustle and bustle on the approach in the final 30 minutes.

45 thoughts on “Giro d’Italia Stage 2 Preview”

  1. A few strands in the thread of normality are still missing when former Quick Step sprinters are rated more likely to succeed than any of the current DQS selection, none of whom rate a mention.

    • They won’t partake in the sprints I think, only Honoré might place but only on the punchier finishes. If Ewan has the form he might take a couple this week and next and then conserve his legs for the tour.

      • They’ve come for other stages. It’s odd they don’t have a sprinter but with Almeida and Evenepoel they’ve got other plans. It’ll be interesting to see what space Masnada and Cavagna get, are they expected to be windbreaks for team leaders or can they go in the breakaways?

        • Speaking of Remco – I saw the news recently that he had signed a five-year extension with Patrick Lefevre. There’s been talk of Remco as a GT rider; if that turns out to be prescient, we will know within these five years.

          Does this imply that if Remco really does blossom into a GT contender, that PL will support him in a more traditional GT way – which presumably means giving up on the Wolfpack mentality of stocking your GT teams with riders who can win a variety of stages, in favor of a single-minded pursuit of GT glory? If so, that would represent a meaningful change of MO for PL, right?

          Or, to put it differently – if you were Remco and you thought you might grow into a GT rider, what might compel you to sign such a long contract with a team that seems averse to making the kind of commitment that pursuing GT victories requires?

          That said, I 100% appreciate that, from PL’s perspective, locking up Remco for five years seems a great way to ensure the continuation of your team (and the interest of the sponsors) for at least that period of time.

    • I read the sentiment above that the more sprints we see, the more predictable the result. I’d argue that its inaccurate to use the term Bayesian for this.

      A Bayesian creates a statistical model for a situation, for instance a model for who will win a sprint. Uncertainty in the model is captured by describing the range of values some underlying parameters might take: one parameter might be how many Watts Ewan will put out in the sprint; we don’t know its value but likely could estimate to within +/-100W… or better.

      This model is then combined with observed data, the outcomes of previous sprints, and Bayes Theorem allows us to update the plausible parameter values based on these observations: eg. perhaps narrowing our +/-100W range to +/-50W. This model could now be used to make predictions that combine both your prior model for the outcome, with observed data.

      However: there’s no reason that seeing more observations will increase our certainty about parameters: If Ewan wins the first two sprints, but drops his chain in the next two then perhaps our range of likely Wattages would in fact increase to +/-200W.

      Consequently: observing more data can increase the uncertainty in a model’s predictions of the race winner.

      • You may know more about Baysian stats, but I don’t think you know much about grand tour sprinters, and as a result I think Inring is more correct than you are (specifically that getting more information won’t be helpful in predicting future sprints and could lead to more uncertainty).

        Why? I think we all have a very good idea of what wattage these riders will put out and that kind of specific information. We know how aerodynamically they are in their sprint positions. None of them will surprise us with a new, more efficient bike. But what the early sprints will show us are the important things for top-level sprinters, such as:
        – how is their general confidence? Winning a stage tends to be self reinforcing.
        – how are they dealing with personal issues? Groenewegen knows he’s going to be under extreme scrutiny, and Jakobsen just called him out in a shaming way that could really mess with his head. It’s not just confidence in his sprinting that matters, it’s confidence that he can ride aggressively as much as he needs to. Other riders have specific personal issues that are likely taking up brain space too, and the ability to shut those out and just ride is easier said than done. The first race will give lots of info about who is shutting out all that stuff, and who isn’t.
        – how is their sprint train? Most of these sprinters need an effective train, and their are question marks about all of the sprint trains as Inring has highlighted.
        – how is their conditioning and training? Are they peaking for this race, or are they just here? For those who have been ill, are there lingering signs?

        My impression is that at the start of a grand tour there is often a handful of sprinters who have legit changes of winning multiple stages. But by the end of the tour, often one sprinter has 3-4 victories, and a couple of top contenders none.

        • Yes, that’s more what I think too. We start with some assumptions based on past patterns. But a couple of sprints in to a grand tour and we can begin to layer in new data (and bias).

        • Apologies if I wasn’t clear:

          I’m not suggesting that having more information will lead to increased uncertainty, I’m just illustrating that it can: and hence the observation that data improves predictability is not synonymous with being Bayesian.

          Also to clarify – I’m not saying that a model based on wattage estimates would be particularly good: it was chosen as a toy just to demonstrate the point; the additional factors you provide are good examples of the complexity that wattage cannot capture.

          I’d like to think I understand Grand Tour sprinting to a degree – but that’s (largely) learnt from our host, so definitely bow to their superior knowledge on the topic!

          • Not that I want to encourage further pedantry, but my understanding of Baysian probability is that a key aspect (and I’m sure I’ll mangle these terms somewhat) is coming up with initial probably guesses (prior beliefs) and updating those probabilities based on emerging evidence to a more accurate probability guesses (now posterior beliefs). And with further evidence, the posterior belief is further updated and should become more accurate. That is how I think Inring was using the term – until he can update his priors with a sprint stage or two, his probability estimates will likely be less accurate.

      • Only here could there be a discussion of the relevance and correct interpretation of Bayesian statistics to cycling. Almost as impressive as Pippo Ganna’s ride yesterday 🙂

  2. Not sure that much can be gleaned from reading the tea leaves after the stage yesterday, an impressive ride by Filippo Ganna, he looks to be in a good position for an Olympic gold medal. JV did well, perhaps an indication that they have put in a lot of effort & money in prepping for TTs with July in mind. It looks as if DQS could be in pink before too long, I guess the other main contenders will be happy enough with that, let them take the additional stress of leading and media hoopla. It will be interesting to see who might be trying for bonus seconds over the next few days.

    As to today, I cant see Dylan Groenewegen coping with the pressure first time out, Caleb Ewan seems the best pick though I did read that he has never won the first sprint in a GT.

    • The stat for Ewan in stage races is that he’s only won the first sprint stage once out of 23 stage races, which surprised me also. Definitely food for thought.

      I agree about Groenewegen being unlikely to win, given the pressure and scrutiny he’s under, especially since it appears the run in to the finish has some roundabouts that could require aggressive positioning. I think all the issues each of the true sprinters have give (small) openings for Sagan to pull off a surprise, though I think a second or third is more likely.

  3. Fantastic place to eat about halfway today –
    Makes me (again) wish I was up there – ride there from our resort (which will not open this year, sadly) enjoy lunch, watch the race pass by, then ride back. Instead I’ll settle for a ride this morning, a Tuscan-style pranzo followed by the TV coverage. W Il Giro!

    • Looks nice! I note that the chairs do not appear to give the ultimate seating comfort … Anyway posts like these are good for my Sunday morning mood

      • I’ve spent many happy hours sitting on them – perhaps the food is so good I didn’t notice or perhaps my cycling shorts made up for any lack of padding in the chairs?
        The first time I went there I felt like I was going into Grandma’s house rather than a commercial eatery. They have terrace out back with a nice view, which is better for sweaty cyclists anyway…but more than once we’ve eaten inside when it was explained to us the server didn’t want to “catch a chill”. I don’t care, just bring us the anchovies in green sauce and a bottle (or two) of Barbera! MMMmmmmmmm! 🙂

  4. Will be odd not seeing a DQS line moving up to the front after the 3km mark, what are the chances they do anyway, from force of habit, and Remco nicks it?

  5. I’m fascinated by the second sprint competition. It appears so unnecessary (except for shoe-horning in an extra sponsor and extra podium ceremony) when not even all the intermediate sprints will count, only the second one each day (if I’ve understood correctly).
    How will we recognise the leader of this competition? There is a maximum number of special jerseys, and I assume the coloured numbers are for a particular leading team. So, what can be worn? A special helmet? Little red flag? Shiny cards between the spokes?

    • Correct, it’s the second intermediate sprint each day, so a rider needs to get in the break that sticks for most of the day before being caught by the sprinters/GC contenders later on. No jersey, nothing. Just a visit to the podium each day. The Giro does have a lot of prizes and even the keenest fan can get confused by them.

    • Regarding how unnecessary it is, it seems tobe something for the small teams that tend to put a lot of riders in the break, as an extra incentive for them to get in the breaks and push the pace. The KOM jersey functions that way early on, but after a couple of big mountain stages in the third week the small-team KOM chasers are quickly swamped. The points jersey usually ends up worn by a likely winner within the first few stages, so small teams rarely see that beautiful purple jersey. So it seems the intermediate sprint competition is a bragging-rights jersey for the breakaway riders who can’t compete for the early KOM, and whose teams could easily ride hard all 21 stages and come away with zero honors. Small beans to any WT team, but important to the other teams, and especially to the individual riders who have to spend so much time on forlorn long-range efforts.

      • It does reward the small teams like this. Look at the prologue yesterday and Eolo, Bardiani and Androni finished last (bottom 3 on the team classification) but can get these small prizes and a photo in the newspapers, a moment on TV post-stage etc. Mauro Vegni said last year he didn’t want teams going in fruitless breakaways but his race explicitly incentivises just this, there’s a virtual finish line for smaller teams at the intermediate point.

        • I felt sorry for the poor Androni riders yesterday (I presume it was them in red skinsuits with Selle Italia on their bums). Their only purpose seemed to be to emphasise the speed of their minute men! There was one in particular who I think Jos Van Emden passed who looked pretty forlorn. I hope they get themselves a stage win.

    • I say let ’em go ahead with “..shoe-horning in an extra sponsor and extra podium ceremony.” I don’t think RCS is getting rich here.
      I’ve already ordered a box of official bubbly in the special bottles, have my grocery guy getting me some of the official pasta and bought some of the official chocolate. Might even spring for some of the official espresso though our supply of KIMBO is more than adequate. I’ll be looking for the official salumi next time at the grocery as well.
      If nobody cares to try for the extra prizes, who cares? But then again I’m a guy who saw nothing wrong with the descending prize (wasn’t Pirelli the sponsor of this?) they tried to hand out a few years back before encountering all kinds of complaints.

  6. Didn’t put it in the piece above but if today is a sprint finish, which teams will work to ensure this? It was a question posed in the sprinter’s preview post earlier in the week. We have several teams with sprinters and a leadout but not the “tractor” who works on the front all day to keep the breakaway under control, a giant rider who is worth three from Bardiani. Even teams that do have a rider like this might prefer another team to start so we might have a stand off for a bit.

    • I expect jumbo and lotto will plus Alpecin.
      There are so few flat stages they will be all in except for people saved for GC aspirations. Given there are so few chances for a sprint few teams are all in on a sprinter so that increases they chances of a win for those who do go all in.
      Even though jumbo have a “GC” rider or 2 they will be in on the sprints showing support for there sprinter to try and get his confidence back with a win or good place until such time as there GC riders appear to getting an slightly unlikely chance for a win at GC or podium.

  7. That was as an impressive win by Ganna. Predictable in hindsight, but he obviously has that champion’s quality of rising to the occasion and coping with maximum pressure. And his cornering yesterday! He looked like a moto GP rider and a class above the rest.

    Max power, max skill & mental strength. Chapeau!

  8. Top Ganna felt the need for speed, as Inr Rng mentioned, his lines into the corners was jet-like scary.
    Very interesting chat from Dan Bigham on Eurosport too.
    Seems that there’s still very substantial differences in the quality of kit, TT bikes, support, training etc in the WT and a change of team for a rider can make for a considerable change of fortune, good or bad.
    Obviously Ineos and Jumbo-Visma are at the upper end of this spectrum.
    Evenepoel looks good, 20” or more on most of the other GC men.

    • Budget helps a lot, teams can invest in regular wind tunnel use, ride the wheels they want rather than the sponsor ones, employ staff dedicated to just this and make special handlebars to get the ideal position for riders, even with different bars for different courses. But it’s not all money, Qhubeka-Asoss for example look a wiser than Cofidis or Lotto-Soudal for example.

    • “Seems that there’s still very substantial differences in the quality of kit, TT bikes, support, training etc in the WT and a change of team for a rider can make for a considerable change of fortune, good or bad.”
      Dunno what this guy said but IMHO they make very little (if any) difference. Ganna would have won even if had to use the same equipment yesterday as Guy Niv. Of course the folks who sell all the stuff don’t want you to believe that, but thank gawd pro cycling is not F1…yet anyway.

      • The differences are quantifiable Larry, in watts and seconds and, all added up, would make a crucial difference to a rider’s TT.
        Of course there are other important variables, the weather chiefly but also mental outlook.
        Brian Smith cites enjoyment in riding, which is what I think you’re alluding too also.
        I can agree with this but, at the same time, if a rider felt his preparation is the best it can be, surely that would mean for a more confident and content rider too?
        Ganna has it all, awesome TT.

        • The faster they go, here we’re talking 60km/h on the straights, the more equipment and tiny differences help given air resistance increases to the square of speed. I don’t think it made the winning difference yesterday between Ganna and Affini but that’s because those two teams have spent a lot to start with. But, for example, Yates “only” beat Bernal by one second yesterday but he probably expended more energy.

        • Sure, but that is BELIEF rather than FACT. Exactly what the marketing-mavens are selling, no? If I wasn’t lazy I’d go back and look at the chrono results of all the top guys yesterday and see over the years how their results didn’t matter as to what bike, components or team they were on – they got onto those teams with the fat-budgets BECAUSE they were good, not because they were riding some super-duper equipment their competitors didn’t have. I hope that never changes so that cycling doesn’t become like F1, where equipment plays a way-too-important role in the results. If I was the king of cycling all this chrono crap would be banned and they’d race against the clock on the same bikes they race against their competitors on the road!

  9. A question for a moment of a lull in the action: what, exactly, is the rule with following cars? We’ve seen Ganna and a few others following an Ineos car after a bio-break. Allowed? Not? You hear about fines, etc. for this, but then it seems to be done all the time.

    It seems someone needs to mark the intermediate sprints more clearly!

    • You can ride back through the convoy but can’t be paced back… too much. Most commissaires know the difference between riding back to the race and cheating, you can often spot the difference on TV too but not always with speed, wind direction etc.

  10. I’m looking to find on U.S. television what is arguably the second-most important race in cycling. Nada! Zip! No problem finding curling championships, though! Is this how far the sport has fallen? I know I can use a VPN to pretend I’m in Europe, but you’d think just one of the umpteen streaming services available to US viewers might consider it worthy to show the world’s best aerobic athletes in action. Have the sport’s promotors totally given up on the US market?

  11. Can’t find the race on French TV either, Eurosport 1 and 2 were showing judo and something else this afternoon. Anyone know where it’s to be found? I’m trying to watch it on S4C and failing!

    • A couple of years ago I decided to subscribe for one month to Eurosport for £6.99. I’m still with them, means I get to choose to watch adfree and on catch up if I want. PS Its not Carlton its Rob Hatch doing most of the chatter. I’ve also finally seen the classics and week long stage races.

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