Giro d’Italia Stage 8 Preview

A good day for a breakaway in a race that’s been rewarding the breakaways so this should make for an exciting start to the stage too.

Festina lente: a stage of languid torpor run at the dignified average speed of 38.5km/h, with a lethargic peloton in danger of catching the breakaway for most of the stage. Things speeded up for the finish with Caleb Ewan guided into the sharp climb in Termoli by his leadout Jasper De Buyst and when Fernando Gaviria jumped early Ewan bided his time for a moment before closing him down, rounding him and riding away from the others behind. Ewan’s now leading the points competition.

The Route: 170km and 3400m of vertical gain as the race heads into the Matese hills of the Apennines. There’s a big uncategorised climb with 5-6% slopes in the first 30km, the Passo del Lupo but it’s all on a big road and a good place for the breakaway to form. The day’s big climb is the Bocca della Selva, a long slog up of almost 20km but a big ring sort of climb, a test of back muscles as much as lungs. There’s a long descent and a lot of it on a rough road.

The Finish: an uphill finish but it’s a short climb, a drag at first off the plains through the olive groves and it only ramps up for the final 3km at 7% before easing in town. It kicks up a bit again in the finishing straight.

The Contenders: the breakaways have had a good time of things so far and today should suit again, tomorrow less as as the GC riders might reduce their chances. Who to pick from among the legion of contenders? Today’s winner has to be a powerful rider, there’s climbing it’s got more gentle gradients. Packing some punch for a sprint in the finish or just being able to barge clear solo in the finish is the way to do it. Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-Nippo) is looking strong, the same for Davide Villella (Movistar). Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) still has a knack of sniffing out the good moves but wins less these days aged 37. Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) might prefer to have today off in order to try tomorrow but can move. Andrea Vendrame (Ag2r Citroën) can finish well from a group on a hilly day. Valerio Conti (UAE Emirates) should be stage hunting too, the same for Diego Ulissi.

Alberto Bettiol, L-L Sanchez
Mollema, Guerreiro, Vendrame, Gallopin, Ulissi, Conti

Weather: some sunshine but cool, 18°C.

TV: the stage starts at 12.50pm CEST and could be worth watching for the brawl to get in the breakaway. The finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST. Tune in

30 thoughts on “Giro d’Italia Stage 8 Preview”

  1. One thing that’s weirdly fascinating is how the peloton becomes destabilised when there isn’t a breakaway. The other day when they caught the break by mistake the peloton became anxious — until a couple of riders went up the road and everyone settled down. Other than the psychology of knowing they are there, it should make no difference. It’s odd.

    • I’ve wondered about this too – in the early days of road cycling, did the peloton always know how far away the breakaway had got? I’m guessing they generally knew there was a breakaway and who was in it but the finely judged catch we see these days (which obviously doesn’t always succeed) must have been less common.

      • In the old days, no more than one team or exceptionally two would actively work for a sprint finish, so breakaway would normally succeed on most flat stages. These day, there is an enormous coalition of teams, who seem more interested in their sprinter having a 2% chance of sprint victory than the rest of the team having a 5% chance of victory by betting on a breakaway victory. I say “seem” because it’s not about chances of victory, it’s about the peloton’s collective decision to have a restful, non-competitive riding day on all flat stages. That’s how you get a 0% (0 out of 3) breakaway success rate on flat stages at this Giro.

    • They do seem spooked by the idea that ‘someone could attack at any moment’, whereas once they know riders have gone and who they are I guess they worry less. Fear of the unknown, I suppose.

      • But doesn’t having a couple of riders up the road in some ways make this worse? It gives a strong attacker a point to aim at, and a resting point for a further attack. It can work like this in 1 day races, but it never seems to in grand tours.

        • True, everyone seems loath to attack in grand tours. I guess that’s because they’re so focused on saving their energy? Therefore, they only attack if they think they have a good chance of success?

          • I don’t know why you find it odd if the peloton are all together without a break?
            All the teams have a race strategy, and a day’s racing is only a 20th part of that strategy (discounting the final day if it’s a procession).
            The strategies are organic, they’re all relative to rivals, and measured in seconds usually.
            So they’re an extremely delicate and volatile thing.
            Only a very few teams at most try to ‘win’ a stage, the rest are plotting and calculating what their rivals can and may do.
            That’s the one of the beauties of cycling surely?

  2. ‘Some sunshine but cool, 18c’, meanwhile I’m excited that it might nudge into double figures for my ride this morning.

    I think I’ll go for Bettiol today, he seems very motivated. Not the safest of picks considering how little he wins.

  3. Very impressive win by Ewan. He essentially gave two other sprinters a lead out up until reaching Gaviria and then burnt them off his wheel. Unlikely that he would have been able to do that with Bennet on his wheel, but very impressive nonetheless.

  4. Does anyone know what happened to Hugh Carthy? He clearly had some sort of issue, saddle perhaps and has disappeared from the top 20. There was a very brief shot of him having a discussion with the commissionaires but no post race detail I have seen or mention on EF twitter feed.

    Today seems likely to be a calm one for the peloton, though often when that seems in prospect something crazy happens, with the break very likely to win. First hour could be the most interesting of the day.

    • Seems that “HughC Arthy” as they call him here in Italy had his saddle break somehow, but luckily for him it was inside the final 3 kms so they gave him and the rest of the EF boyz who stayed back to help him the same time as Ewan, erasing the 2:21 gap the original results showed.
      When bikes have to weight 6.8 kg I scratch my bald pate wondering why the teams kowtow to the marketing-mavens/sponsors in critical areas like these? I recall a similar incident with Ivan Basso – the silly single rail saddle/seatpost nightmare his sponsors had come up with failed, though I don’t remember it costing him any time in the race.

      • That all makes sense, the Steephill list has him missing but I guess they dont update it. There was a discussion on Eurosport over whether a “saddle misfunction” counted as a “mechanical” under the rules, the consensus was it didnt but happily that appears not to be the case.

  5. If I was the pink jersey I’d think about going in the break: might gain time as well as avoiding losing it. As long as the break is big enough, he might not have to do too much work, although some will lean on him.

      • You don’t have to follow the ‘rules’. But, thinking about it a bit more, if he went on the cat. 2 climb, would they bother to chase him? Probably not, until he took more than 2 or 3 minutes. In all likelihood, if he tried to go in the breakaway from the start the others would politely ask him to leave, but 100km into the stage he could go for it and there would be a chance that the GC contenders would think ‘meh’.

  6. And what do you think the DS’s of each GC contending team is going to be screaming into the team radios when the Pink Jersey even thinks about going up the road?

  7. Curious to know if you think the final is selective enough to lead to some further small GC gaps? Also, there was much talk of Ineos doing things “differently” after last year’s successes in the Giro but there’s not been much evidence of this – could this be a day where they let Ganna/Moscon/Narváez go for a stage win?

    • Ineos: “From now on in GT’s we’re going to attack and ride with panache!” **
      ** Well, at least if our GC leader DNF’s and we have nobody else in the top 20

    • Small gaps are possible but just that probably but the wind could make things harder today. Tomorrow is a big day.

      As for Ineos’s strategy, it’s easy to see them saying this mid-Vuelta while they’re being beaten, now they’re all behind Bernal it’ll be harder to see them taking any risks, especially as you can imagine a scenario where Bernal has three team mates left and Evenepoel, Ciccone, Yates, Vlasov etc are on their own. We’ll see in the coming days, but could be interesting in the Tour if they can genuinely play multiple cards with Thomas and Carapaz as this is a way to take on Roglič and Pogačar.

  8. Interesting that GCN have plumped for Cavagna as their favourite, but he doesn’t make the cut here. Is that because you don’t think the course suits him, or because you think he’ll be on team duty with DQ?

    • I thought he might be on team duty, helping until the climbers take over and maybe having to save energy for later in the race, the same with Ineos where Narvaez would make a good winner today but he’s surely being told to stay put? With Keisse DQS could spare Cavagna but he’s also a relatively heavy rider, someone with more punch could get the better of him on the final climb if he’s not solo by then. So a harder pick… but typing this means he’ll surely win now 😉

    • Missed that but will complain about the RAI director – this fellow really seems in-the-pocket of..dunno..Shimano perhaps? Twice today now, first with Dan Martin, then with Simon Yates he jumps to another shot (cows in a pasture or Groupama beavering away at the front) just as they pull over and climb off their bikes. We don’t get to see what happens at all, though he does let us see them coming back to the group. I’ve griped about this before but today it seemed really, really blatant.

  9. Sagan seems to batter into people in virtually every stage – yesterday it was Pasqualon’s turn – and yet he’s never punished for it (unless he really tonks into someone), presumably because he’s a big name.

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