Giro d’Italia Stage 11 Preview

A big day for the sprinters with an arrival in Reggio… and perhaps a departure from the race for some of them ahead of the all the Alpine stages to come.

Stage 10 Review: a fraternal breakaway with three riders, two of who have brothers in the pro peloton in Laurence Naesen and Mattia Bais, and Alessandro De Marchi who had a brother who rode at a high level but didn’t turn pro. For a long time not much else was happening, the Giro paid tribute to the late Michele Scarponi as the race rode through Filottrano, the parrot Frankie was even in attendance and giant banners of Scarponi hung from buildings and were draped across fields. He’d have probably found it all hilarious.

The hills of the Marche saw the sprinters pop one by one until the final climb of the day when only Arnaud Démare looked to be left in contention but he was ejected thanks to the pace set by Ineos. It wasn’t just him, the peloton was shredded and the lead group reduced to thirty-something riders and the expected attack from Mathieu van der Poel never came on the climb. Instead he tried on the descent, at first with others but his presence intimidated them, then solo. All the while the Intermarché team were closing down moves with Lorenzo Rota, Jan Hirt and Domenico Pozzovivo riding like prison guards patrolling a perimeter fence, nothing was going to escape them.

We got a fantastic sprint, a duel. Domenico Pozzovivo was an improbable leadout and offered little shelter to van der Poel who was poised on his wheel. Then Biniam Girmay launched on the right and opened up a gap. Van der Poel chased, began to draw level and for a moment it looked like momentum was with the Dutchman. But he couldn’t sustain it, suddenly he stopped pedalling up as if he’d cracked. As Girmay sat up to celebrate, Van der Poel raised an imperial thumb of approval. It was a masterpiece of a win, the team work, the tactics and the powerful sprint and who’d have imagined this of Girmay and Intermarché six months ago?

The only thing more explosive than Girmay in Jesi was the bottle of prosecco wine on the podium, the cork popped in his face, injuring his eye. He was blinking on the podium but it was serious, he needed hospital treatment and left with a patch over one eye and his start in the Giro today is now uncertain, unlikely even.

The Route: 203km and as flat as a piadina, often on the long straight Via Emilia road which has existed since Roman times. Will anyone attack? Bardiani-CSF could move as this stage is on local roads.

The Finish: a tricky part of the course today is between 8km and 5km to go just because the race takes a side road. Then it’s flat and with few obstacles in the final 5km.

The Contenders: there’s no real sprint hierarchy yet. Sure Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) has two wins so far but he needed the photofinish camera the other day to separate him from Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) who should be over his crash injuries but had a long day yesterday after being dropped early. Mark Cavendish (Quick-Step) is without his leadout man Michael Mørkøv but still has a good train with big Bert Van Lerberghe. Fernando Gaviria (UAE) has been close too. These four seem ahead of the rest, especially for a big flat stage but there’s a second wave of sprinters, think Giacomo Nizzolo (Israel) or Cees Bol (DSM) for outside picks.

Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) might contest the sprint and has a chance, he’s looked so strong, too strong that he’s used up energy in crucial moments of late but here he’ll just have to surf the wheels.

The big question is whether Biniam Girmay (Intermarché) can start. He is just three points short of the points jersey so should be in the mix ordinarily but his eye injury sounds serious and so he might well be off home instead.

Caleb Ewan, Arnaud Démare, Mark Cavendish
Fernando Gaviria
Van der Poel, Bol, Nizzolo

Weather: warm and sunny, 29°C. There will be a 15-20km/h tailwind which could be a cross/tailwind in places so there’s a risk of splits.

TV: the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST. Tune for the final 15 minutes to watch the trains pick up speed.

Parmigiano Reggiano: today’s branded the “Parmigiano Reggiano food stage” in honour of the umami-rich parmesan cheese, all of which is made in the area. Yet for all the massive dairy production in this area, getting on for one fifth of milk production in Italy, where are the cows? Ride or race in the area and you’ll barely see a single bovine. A prize for the first reader watching on TV to spot a dairy cow from the live TV broadcast.

42 thoughts on “Giro d’Italia Stage 11 Preview”

  1. MVDP has been my favourite rider going back to when he was just a cyclocross racer. For some reason in road events he always seems to me be in a gear to small. Good acceleration but he seems to spin out but not be able to get the speed of others. It feels like he’s doing a low speed short cyclocross sprint.

    • Sure looks like that sometimes, but his publicly available wattage data contradicts this theory. Also, they train for sprints and probably think about what his optimal cadence is.

      Also, keep in mind, this sprint was on a slight gradient. Makes sense to keep a bit higher cadence to avoid getting bogged down in too large a gear when your muscle strength inevitably fades.

      MvdP said he probably took too much out of himself during his attack a few km’s out. He expected the descent to be more technical. Sure, Bini also did work to bring him back, but could stay in the wheels a bit longer. I guess with these legs and starting the sprint from so far out, Bini was allways going to win.
      I also think MvdP will learn a lesson or 2 about energy management in a stage race. In one day races, when he has the legs, he has often relied on initiative and his vulgar display of power method to make the selection. With fatigue buildup dampening power output differences between riders, I think he will have to adapt. If f.e. the Thomas de Gendt types plan some easy days and MvdP decides to attack from 140k out or does attempts to make the Blockhaus stage breakaway, it makes sense that suddenly he’s quite beatable.

      • Totally agree Jeroen, good points.
        It’s felt as if MvdP has been so good, he’s almost been able to take the P at times but, with Girmay’s emergence, no more!
        He’ll have to be very mindful of the Eritrean, and his team, from now on.
        I almost said ‘careful’ there but I don’t think that word exists in van der Poel’s world 😀

        • Yeah, probably doesn’t exist, but he’s used to being the favorite, a marked rider and having to fight against the best, not in the least van Aert and Alaphilippe. If Bini isn’t there, a few other star riders will be. He’s allways been in a tactical predicament, allways starting as the favorite and often without team support in the final.

          Have to look at the power data, but I’m pretty sure in this Giro he’s not at the level of some of his flashes of brilliance in one day races or last years’ TdF. His prep hasn’t been optimal and the bulk of the CX season was missing.

  2. Ineos were clearly trying to shake things up, not much chance of succeeding but it does suggest they will try again over the next few days.

    Caleb Ewan does not look to be in good nick, maybe he was just trying to save energy but he was a long way behind, initially on his own. I cant see how he is going to stay in the race after today. We shall see how Cav does without Michael Morkov

  3. What a fantastic victory. I guess Girmay now needs more practice popping open bottles, which it looks like he’ll get in short order with the way he’s riding. I’m guessing he has a corneal abrasion, which is moderately painful and causes non-stop and copious tearing in the affected eye. This happened to me when I was a teenager and I had to wear an eyepatch for three days while it healed. It doesn’t seem safe to ride in the peloton with reduced visual field like that, so I can’t imagine he’ll start. Such a shame, he looked solid for the cyclamen jersey, too.

  4. I have been watching the cork popping since the first stage when (from memory) MVDP almost hit his own eye. None of them make it look easy.

    • I think the problem is that the supersized bottles are so heavy that you cannot hold them with one hand whilst wrestling out the cork with the other. So people support the weight on the floor and lean over….
      Sommeliers are taught to hold the bottle at a thirty degree angle away from them (and of course, to be as gentle as possible so that it doesn’t foam out and waste the wine) . So pretty much the opposite of the celebration explosion. Better off with a joke bottle full of paper streamers, really .

  5. Surely rather than providing any shelter to Van der Poel Pozzivivo provided an obstacle for him to go around?!
    Girmay did a bit of an Asgreen on MvdP. Maybe if he has a weakness it’s that he can be beaten if you take him long in a sprint. If only Pogacar had tried!

      • The only thing I could imagine is both of them riding their own speed up the last climb(s) knowing Ewan would make the time cut. With this Roger wouldn’t stand in the line for the shower in the bus alongside with his teammate. From the outside, it looks strange when the captain arrives last with a gap right behind a teammate.

  6. Will the swannys’ podium bags now contain LEP in case of future cork misdirection?

    Regarding MvdP’s thumbs up and links to gladiators – isn’t it true that thumb up actually indicated an unsheathed sword, meaning you got the pointy end of it? Of course Hollywood (probably) has changed this to meaning the exact oposite. The flat thumb (now used by politicians to avoid pointing) means you’re saved.

  7. Those poor cows sweltering in enormous barns suggest a significant gap between the bucolic image of a “traditional” product and the truth of factory farming. A short google of “parmesan welfare” may add a different tang to the pasta. Perhaps Pecorino has a more natural flavour?

  8. MvdP mentioned on Wielerflits something like “Tomorrow I’ll sit back and recover and then come back for further chances.” So I guess that Chainring for today could be in doubt.

  9. Stage 10 was bizarre – capped by Pozzovivo (of all people) being the sprint lead out for the stage winner who then accidently injures himself whist opening the “victory pop”. The manic rush by one and all in the last 30 km (Carapaz seemingly crashing at one stage) was an appropriate prelude. Intermarché though were worthy of the win by their good teamwork. Stage 11 will be hard pushed to out do stage 10 but if the wind blows it might not be the straight forward sprint day. Bais and Taglian in the break!

  10. Girmay will forever be remembered for the wrong thing on a day when the GT breakthrough was most remarkable. The fact he’s wearing safety glasses on his forehead, and puts himself in the firing line of that cork simply adds to the hubris, but I feel really sorry for the guy who’s been caught out by what’s supposed to be a key part of the podium ceremony.
    He’ll be back.
    Meantime in addition to a champagne bucket and stand on the podium, please can a proper solution be found for feeding zone safety. Stupid swannies standing further and further out into the road when it just needs three marked lanes: Passing by, Taking Feed and Soigneurs Only. Enforced safe distance between each team. Done.

    • My local Eritrean cafe already has a picture of him winning the stage in its window. I strongly suspect that will be the abiding memory; the fact he then injured himself on the podium will be left for future cycling trivia quizzes. (Makes note to self for Inrng’s Xmas quiz this year.)

      • @Nick Curiously where do you live that there’s an Eritrean cafe? I’m in NYC and a quick google search suggests only one that seems mostly Ethiopian but offers some Eritrean dishes.

        • South London; you can find most things round here. I have to admit that I can’t read the script or really differentiate between the Ethiopian and Eritrean dishes on their menu, but they’re big fans of Girmay, so I’m going with Eritrean!

    • For me, the whole champagne bottle procedure can go the way of the podium girls. Both things are more than outdated and pathetic in our times.
      What’s the point of this daily champagne rain upon some poor photo journalists?

  11. Who could have thought one year and a half ago, when Intermarché was just promoted to WT, that they would do so well as to take a mid-hard stage of Grand Tour in their hands to send one of them to victory ? You were saying that you wouldn’t see how they could win in WT and we all felt the same way ; they prove us wrong with Taco last year, but this is different. Some very clever recruitments of old riders and special cases (Girmay at Delko), some small revelations (Rota for example, or Hermans who’s better and better)… Things go fast.

    • My thoughts exactly, a year ago van der Hoorn won a stage but it was written up as a big surprise, the breakaway stayed away and a rider from an unheralded team won… now in the space of a year they’ve got a star rider who can smoke van der Poel in a sprint finish.

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