Giro d’Italia Stage 3 Preview

An interesting stage where the day’s hardest climb masquerades as an intermediate sprint and it’s chased by tricky roads to the finish. Which sprinters can hang on in this hectic finale?

Merlier, earlier: a break with the three wildcard invitees from which Vincenzo Albanese won the sprint for the sole mountains point. He then punctured and a bungled wheel change saw him adrift and quickly swept up by the peloton, something which was going to happen, but happened faster. Disc brakes with thru-axles are fine for the trail or weekend ride but an engineering prize awaits the manufacturer who can invent a faster way to swap wheels in a race.

We got the expected bunch sprint and no team was able to dominate the frantic finish. Tim Merlier launched with 250m go to and held off the others, crossing the line to make a “W” with his hands in tribute to Wouter Weylandt. Alpecin-Fenix are team van der Poel and with Jasper Philipsen and Merlier on their books it can feel like overlapping but it’s more substitution, while MVDP is busy racing his MTB, Merlier pops up to win a Giro stage ahead of the World Tour pros.

The Route: a start in Biella, a town at the foot of the Alps from where a baker called Giuseppe Acquadro hails. He is now a rider agent and with many key riders on his books is practically the human resources manager at Ineos, Astana plus Androni and Arkéa-Samsic, having fulfilled the role at Movistar too before things blew up. It’s south away from the mountains and back to Asti for the hills with three categorised climbs amid the vineyards. They’re all regular climbs with few surprises.

It’s the unmarked climb to Guarene that is the trap today. Just because it is not a categorised climb doesn’t mean it’s not a tough, in fact it’s probably the spiciest ascent of the day and all with 15km to go. It climbs quickly through the vineyards, there are tight hairpins and if it levels out on the ridge, there’s a final steep kick to the top to come in the town (which is also a KoM point for the local GP Vini Del Roero, a junior race that plenty in the peloton have done). After a false flat the descent begins and the route is on small, undulating roads that make it hard for dropped riders to get back, particularly the small wall to chapel by Occhetti. With 5.7km to go the race picks up the main road into town.

The Finish: it’s flat but a frantic Mario-kart chicane section between 1km and 500m to go as the road twists and turns through Canale before a 700m finishing straight.

The Contenders: a tough stage to pick. The finish is hard for the sprinters but if they’re going to be dropped it requires other teams to force the pace and then have riders who will attack? Can Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) get over with the best? Has Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) got his Milan-Sanremo legs? They’re far from certain picks but in a stage that’s open to many but pick riders who might get over the climbs better like Fabio Felline (Astana), Gianluca Brambilla (Trek-Segafredo), Simone Consonni (Cofidis) or Tony Gallopin (Ag2r Cirtroën) only they just don’t win that often anywhere.

Both Remco Evenepoel and João Almeida (Deceuninck-Quickstep) can clean up from a small group but they’re probably safer picks for tomorrow. Diego Ulissi (UAE) did a good time trial and is a punchy rider adept at winning Giro stages, the same for Valerio Conti and the pair could try to make moves while Fernando Gaviria tries to hold on. Gianni Moscon (Ineos) is the archetypal rider for this with his recent win in Innsbruck in mind and this morning’s Gazzetta tips Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-Nippo) and there’s a long list to chose from which should make for an exciting finish.

Peter Sagan, Gianni Moscon
Nizzolo, Ewan, Gaviria, Bevin, Consonni, Almeida, Evenepoel, Merlier, Dekker

Weather: cloudy, then rain and a top temperature of 16°C

TV: the start is at 12.30pm CEST and the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST. Tune in for the hills from 4.00pm.

67 thoughts on “Giro d’Italia Stage 3 Preview”

  1. Are there three seconds at the top of the final climb? I can see Evenepoel dashing for them to extend his lead on Almeida, then pushing on maybe?

    • Not sure but he’s not the first pick in a flat finish. He can do well on a few hills, his win in the Italian championships in 2018 could be his career masterpiece after he beat Visconti and Pozzovivo on a tough, hilly circuit.

  2. 2nd half of today’s stage more of my favorite terrain. A few minutes north of Guarene is Castagnito where another fantastic eating experience awaits, though for this one you’d have to go post-race for dinner. Ostu di Djun has no website, their business cards are hand-scrawled on oddly cut pieces of colored construction paper – but Luciano’s and Carlo’s (who serve you) mother can COOK! And the boyz know their wine. Too bad the skies will be gray today, it’s a beautiful part of the world as long as you don’t get lost in Alba, which IMHO has some of the worst directional signs anywhere!

  3. The new barriers may well have prevented a nasty crash yesterday when Fernando Gaviria made a mistake and ended up getting pushed into them by his team mate. This could have been very nasty with the old fashioned metal ones with protruding feet. The finish yesterday hardly seemed to have been chosen with rider safety in mind.

    The forecast for today is pretty wet (though the worst of it might be a little further west nearer the mountains) which could well cause issues on the narrow descents. Would not be surprised to see a contender lose time today in a crash or other incident. I guess we shall see a fight for the bonus seconds on the hilltop sprint which is likely to add to the stress.

    Whilst this feels like a typical “Peter Sagan” stage I do wonder if Remco Evenepoel & DQS will try to turn this into a GC stage., If someone or a small group gets a 15 second lead at the final sprint point they could be very difficult to bring back on wet twisty narrow roads.

    • Molano and Gaviria did well to stay up but are the barriers new or the same as before, not sure? Today’s finish is much harder with the chicanes in town but hopefully with a reduced group to reduce the danger; tomorrow’s stage in the rain will be more dicey, I rode the second half of it in the dry and with rougher roads it was “molto technico” on some of the descents, tempting to go fast but corners tighten up etc.

      • You might be right. Just looking at the images the finish barriers are not the same ones as in Flanders. These are angled boards covering the base of normal type of metal barriers. The boards must be fixed on in some way, perhaps they are padded or have some structure. They certainly helped keep Fernando Gaviria upright.

        • I think the key was that the barriers were well secured to each other and very well lined up so that there were changes of angle from barrier to barrier. I doubt there was padding, as that would be squishy and make it less likely that Gaviria would just glance off them as he did. Perhaps it was the relative lack of crowds pushing on the barriers that kept them from getting askew, as is often the cases in road races. Gaviria was very lucky, and Groenewegen was lucky he wasn’t close by!

        • These are not the “new” barriers that have been talked about, those are still under going testing. Hopefully we’ll see them later this year but for now all races are using whatever they want still.

          Those at the Giro yesterday are quite common, metal fencing covered in advertising is pretty much the standard for a finish. These did look well secured and weighted down, and were helped by Gaviria knowing what was happening. He braked and came in at a very shallow angle which reduced the impact a lot. (this was one of the big issues with the Poland crash, there was a lot of speed and direct force involved as well as not great barrier build).

      • I’m eager to see your preview for tomorrow’s stage. I know the area and rode around years ago, but I didn’t have the occasion, back then, to ride all the roads which now make the exact Giro route. Did you also test the Montemolino climb or didn’t you start the route that far back? I had some doubt about the road they’d finally use to climb it (even more so because of some slight discrepancy between the timetable and the climb profile by the usually very accurate SDS). I think that it should finally be via Santo Stefano (…or Stefano di Santo? 😉 ) but, apparently, they had thought about an even harder option at first.

  4. The complexity of IR’s well-described final 20kms seems like terrain where some careless or unlucky GC riders could easily lose 30 seconds or more. Who will it be?

    Also, harking back to the opening TT, Pozzovivo’s excellent 21st place seems to contradict time-trial theory that style = speed. Sorry about that Domenico.

    • “style = speed.” That ship sailed when they allowed the use of aero bars back in the late 1980’s. Even worse today is the “cat scratching his a__ on the carpet” way too many of these guys ride chrono bikes.
      I count the crank rpm’s between each move while hearing Danny & the Juniors “Let’s go to the hop” playing in the background 🙂 Most can’t do more than a dozen turns of the cranks before “the hop” .

  5. I’m backing Ulissi for today. For 3 weeks of the year he’s the best rider in the world on punchy climbs. It’s almost like on the 1st May every year Julian Alaphilippe goes into a phone box in France and emerges out of one in Italy in a different kit.

  6. Impressive win from Merlier yesterday. Seen as he’s only really emerged in the last year or two on the road I presumed he was younger than 28.

    • got him in my velogames fantasy team – think he’ll get one or two more. He’s out-shining the WT sprinters this year.

  7. I think the rain is going to make certain riders miserable enough to impair them (here I’m thinking of all of the one-chain ring sprinters except Merlier), and make the last portions of the race dangerous and sketchy (here I’m thinking more about GC riders). Fears of crashes should plague many of the GC teams, but how to keep protected riders safe on narrow roads with lots of twists and turns? The weather and terrain are in Sagan’s favor, but this is the kind of stage where chaos will rein. Sagan’s my pick, but I agree there are no five- or four-chain ring picks here.

  8. I’m getting a bit tired of the low level of breakaways on most stages. I don’t want to think that there is some sort of agreement to prevent/block any breaks that might force the peloton to work hard and early on. On Acquadro, I would have thought that the days when riders’ agents made “la pluie et le beau temps” were gone half a century ago…

    • I wonder if Signor Acquadro is representing Joao Almeida ahead of his move next season?
      Perhaps Inr Rng has overheard some furtive whispers in the peloton as to his possible destination 😃
      Purely as a guess, I shall say Ineos or one of the Arab teams.

    • “I’m getting a bit tired of the low level of breakaways on most stages.”

      I’m not sure if you’re referring to being sarcastic in referring to this year’s Giro (i.e., you’re tired after a single weak breakaway), or referring to all stage races this year, or the Giro over the last several years. Yesterday seemed like a stage where the big teams were happy to take an easy day to ease into the Giro road stages and let some minor Italian riders/teams get some camera time and a stab at the mountain’s jersey. It was clearly going to be a bunch sprint, and any team with either GC aspirations or sprint aspirations had no incentive to make a spicy breakaway.

        • Yeah, after a stint of quite competitive racing for several years once Lance’s era was over, apparently in the last 5-6 years we’ve gone back again to the good ol’ *Cipollini way of life* when “managing the break” is concerned (Godfather OST playing). I think that Dowsett hastily posted sort of an involuntary confession on some social network before erasing it even more quickly – but it’s never fast enough, on the internet. Of course, it’s Israel Sportwashing Nation at the Tour of Turkey (with *big friends* helping, anyway), but the biggest the scenery, the highest the level of the teams involved.
          And it works both in terms of not allowing a break which could make it to the end, while at the same time “punishing” whomever might be keen to ride fast (Mario’s classic, more for sprinter stages) *or*, in case of hard stages, giving rein to a robust break with no GC men involved, which gets too huge an advantage in order to prevent any strategic move (plus, your GC rivals will be less motivated to attack in the finale because they won’t be able to think “at least I’ll try and grab the stage”).
          However, that sort of “engineering” the race by the biggest teams from the peloton might be legitimate and interesting, if it was done only by sporting means, even indirect ones (chasing, pushing, forcing etc.) – what’s sad and a bit worrying is that it becomes more and more a power play, with factors at play which are well outside the actual race, and sometimes even the use of physical force.

          • Thanks for the info. on the Dowsett tweet – others can see it here:
            No doubt this is why Vegni has complained about breakaways that have no chance of success. We always hear ‘It’s a part of cycling’, but it’s a part of cycling because the peloton will punish you ongoingly if you try to form a strong break. And isn’t physically blocking the road against the rules? (Oh look, another rule that is not actually applied.)

            And chapeau for ‘Israel Sportwashing Nation’.

          • That tweet is a classic in terms of displaying no self awareness. He genuinely thinks he’s in the right, but would struggle to be more in the wrong.

          • I’m not condoning the behaviour (but I’m not really condemning either), but I think his approach is probably of someone repeating a cycle of behaviour. This is how he was treated and this is the way it is. I sort of fear that we’ll be out with the white paint on everything until we’re finding a way for all riders to win a race together at the same time. Though I know there’s the old adage of sport reflecting life.

    • Agree with you. How did the break stay away so long yesterday? Were they being towed by the camera bike while we watched endless comfort stops alongside the peloton?!
      Luckily there was a proper race feat. Pidcock and Vanderpoel on at the same time, plus an amazing finale to Algarve with an out-of-contract fastest sprinter in the world doing a lead out job into the final climb. By comparison these other made the Giro look all pomp and little circumstance.

      • The majesty in Italy was surely the crowds on the race side, in every hamlet, village and town they turned out.
        It’s uplifting to see, and quite emotional actually.

          • As long as people are staying 1.5-2 m apart and mostly wearing masks (which it looked to me like most were), then standing outside is extremely low risk. I would also guess that when the riders aren’t coming by, most of those spectators are more spread out or inside their own COVID bubble. The mobbing together at the end of the race is probably the sketchiest part, but since all those people should be in their team bubbles and being tested regularly, it’s also low risk.

          • It’s the riders who will get though. All the roadside fans who still insist on leaning over, removing the mask in order to shout more clearly are just launching aerosol borne virus kisses straight into the heavily breathing athletes’ way. It must have a massive concentrating effect, since riders pass thousands of such people. Don’t be surprised if there are no teams left.

          • This from the WHO:

            ‘We know mass gatherings, whether they are, you know, gatherings for weddings or parties and pubs or whether they are sporting events or religious events, that all of these have the potential to become mass spreading events. And we know from many documented research studies done last year that mass gatherings did result in a huge increase in infections, which are usually seen a couple of weeks later.’

            So, not ‘extremely low risk’, as you suggest. The small towns they go through are possibly not a big deal, but at the end of stages and at the TT on Saturday there were large, closely-packed crowds.


          • J Evans, you’re saying the same thing I said. Standing at the roadside is not remotely similar to a “mass gathering.” Moreover, most of the examples given in the material from the WHO you quoted are indoor events. The research clearly shows being in non-crowded situations outdoors sans masks is largely safe, and we’re seeing quite a bit of mask wearing. I specifically pointed out that the finish areas is the most problematic bit. Again, people staying 1.5-2 m apart and mostly wearing masks while standing outside is extremely low risk.

          • Leave the health advisory to the public health authorities. Note that these are run locally in Italy, each region has different rates and restrictions according to case levels. Most of the high case load is at the other end of the country at the moment.

          • There are already several mass studies showing that outdoor transmission is very far from being significant on a populational level (and a number of experts have been even claiming that face masks outside aren’t that useful in terms of a comprehensive cost benefit assessment).
            That said, I suppose that when it’s about an actual “gathering”, in the strict sense, the problem may actually come from transport, or related closed-space situations (lots of people going to a football match by bus, then spending the night in pubs).
            However, most of the times that’s not the case when a cycling race like the Giro is concerned. The total number of people who actually “gather” in the *very same* place isn’t as big as to generate an impact on mass transport, although the total number on the roadside might be impressive; and most of the times it’s the locals going to the roadside walking or by bike, even more so given that logistics around the race might be quite complicated for private cars.
            Of course, we can easily name exceptions (some mountains stages in a GT, some circuit races, Flanders and so on). With proper caution when specific circumstances call for it, I don’t believe that the risk is that relevant.
            In that sense, just note the sort of events named by the source quoted by J Evans: considering the list as a whole, I’d say that the “sporting events” category appears there because they’re essentially thinking about “stadium events” or the likes – just check it against the rest of items.
            In fact, I’ve heard about several clusters related to football matches, but nothing about cycling races, although a number of races with roadside public have been actually held.

          • There were quite big crowds in Turin, with people crammed in together.
            My point is why take the risk?
            Nobody knows for sure, so just avoid this situation.

    • Acquadro is influential still has to follow the budgets/money. Still if Arkéa-Samsic hired Quintana, to get him they also took on several other of Acquadro’s riders in a package. Dani Martinez moved to Ineos despite seemingly being under contract with EF. See the Sosa Trek/Sky deal. Or how Androni’s Ponomar is 18 years old but starting in the Giro etc.

      What’s also interesting is how he has so many athletes on his books, riders know he’s also representing others who are effectively their rivals chasing the same roles/salaries. But having a big stable like this maybe gives him some ability to place riders and pricing power.

    • You write this on a STAGE THREE preview of the race? C’mon man, lighten up, the Corsa Rosa is just getting started…and nobody’s making you watch are they? 🙂

    • “I don’t want to think that there is some sort of agreement to prevent/block any breaks that might force the peloton to work hard and early on”
      Is it irony, or didn’t you read about what Dowsett published some time ago? (my reference above)

      • Did anyone watch the postrace commentators on GCN? Bora was severely criticized for “allowing” a breakaway with 8 riders. It was emphasized that they pro cycling malpractice for letting more than four riders to get away. No discussion of how Bora was supposed to do that legally, just that it was obvious SOP that Bora had supposedly bungled.

        • It’s called filtering. Now there are bully tactics like blocking the road but you can also jump on moves, close things down and ride until the “right” move goes away, or do this by reverse as in you let, say 4 riders go but if others try to bridge you jump on them to stop the group being so big. I wouldn’t be too harsh on Bora, they did the work but Cofidis and UAE only joined in when it was too late and other teams sat on too.

          • Yes, I know there are ways to limit the size of breaks short of overt bullying tactics, but it takes a lot of work to have some of your riders close down moves if there are multiple determined riders. We see that strategy a lot when a real breakaway threat tries to get away, but it seems to be less used when the break just isn’t that huge (it was initially just 7 riders) and not filled with the likes of De Gendt.

            I thought the harsh criticism of Bora by the commentators was overwrought. If they had caught Taco, Bora’s exact same tactics would have been praised for the way they shed so many sprinters and clearly exhausted all but Cimolai. If the weather had been as bad as expected (there were rain storms nearby all day – I was watching the radar weather images during the race), I think the breakaway would have crumbled much sooner, and Bora would have looked brilliant. But that’s why we watch these races, isn’t it?

  9. This “big stable” concept is problematic and should be kept in check. There are many dangers in it, for example the possibility of tactical collusion between riders from different teams but of the same “stable”.

    • Well, it has already had an huge impact on cycling… the way Movistar and Sky rode back then, when they were in very good terms from a “rider market” POV -___-
      Luckily, that’s changed quite enough – well, unluckily for Movistar, in a sense. At least, they can now focus on the women team which is were the results are going to come from.

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