Giro d’Italia Stage 14 Preview

Another Saturday, another circuit race and today’s stage is a tough one with steep climbs and twisting descents. It’s not the hardest stage of the Giro but it could be the most difficult, one handling error or a mechanical can spell ruin for the GC contenders.

Stage 13 Review: the day began with the question of whether the sprinters could get over the Colle di Nava with the peloton. That was settled in the affirmative but the surprise was that Romain Bardet couldn’t handle the pace. He’d been ill with gastric problem and as to borrow a French phrase, had “cotton legs” and saw the race ride away from him and with it the chance of a podium finish or better in just over a week’s time.

Four riders got away and they stayed away for a long time, the Colle di Nava meant the chaser couldn’t go too hard for fear of dropping their sprinters and so the escapees could build up a buffer which they kept right into the streets of Cuneo. It wasn’t a hectic sprint but Mark Cavendish had to go around rivals, Fernando Gaviria’s lead out man Max Richeze seemed to launch his own sprint and so all Arnaud Démare had to do was launch his trademark long straight sprint. Easier said than done given the work done already but he made it, just holding off a late charge from Phil Bauhaus.

When many riders win, the feeling is often one of relief more than joy, of a job done, a task completed, there’s more satisfaction than delight. With Démare – who wins a lot – it’s different, he’s often beaming with delight at each win.

The Route: a short stage, just 147km today. There’s a ride out across the plains for 17km and then the climbs start, a gentle one to start with some hairpins on the way down, a bigger one next and then it’s off to tackle the Bric del Pilonetto (bric is local dialect for a hill or mountain) and then a descent to Chieti.

All this is notionally a warm-up before the circuit, there are two laps of a 36km loop. The profile doesn’t do the circuit justice, it seems to be climbing or descending all the time and often twisting and turning, the only recovery section is the flat run through the city of Turin.

The Superga climb’s been used many times for the finish of the Milano-Torino classic and is a tough climb – but there’s harder to come – and this time it’s not a summit finish to the Basilica, instead the race tips down. From here the road chosen here is wider but still has blind bends before crossing the Col d’Arsete (a dip and not a climb here) and around to the start of the next climb with more twisting descending. Then comes a right turn on to a narrow backroad…

The road is much narrower but there are straight sections at first, then comes the really steep part and that 20% section is no exaggeration taken on the inside line of a hairpin it’s a real ramp between bends. It eases off as the profile shows to the Colle Della Maddalena, more a peak than a pass and the descent is on bigger roads.

There’s a small climb on the way down and then it descends via hairpin bends down to the Po river banks in Turin.

The Finish: downhill through the flamme rouge before it flattens out for the finish.

The Contenders: a breakaway or the GC riders? Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco) might tick both boxes as someone with the form for GC who can go in the break today but the state of his knee and the hot temperatures might be problems and he might find tomorrow’s stage is easier to win, it’s more straightforward.

Wout Poels (Bahrain) fits the bill, he can handle the climbs and isn’t a GC threat. Lennard Kämna (Bora-hansgrohe) isn’t as punchy for the climbs but seems in good form. Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) is an obvious breakaway pick but he might not have the high octane punch for today, tomorrow suits more.

Among the GC candidates it’s a hard pick as well, they’re likely to come in to Turin together so João Almedia (UAE) might have a good sprint while Pello Bilbao (Bahrain) is ideal too.

Yates, Poels, Kämna
Bilbao, Buitrago, Peters, Covi, Caicedo

Weather: warm and sunny, 29°C.

TV: the stage starts at 1.15pm and the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST. This could be worth watching in full, especially as tomorrow’s stage into the Alps lends itself to a team that wants to control the race, today promises to be wilder.

Via Cavour: the stage starts on the Via Cavour, fitting since it’s in Santena where Camillo Benso, the Count of Cavour, was buried. A statesman of the 19th century he was one of the driving forces behind Italian unification and Wikipedia will tell you more. Today’s note though is that seemingly every town and city has a street called Cavour, a Via Cavour here, a Corso Cavour there and so on. It’s not the most frequent street name, that’ll be the Via Roma. A study published by the University of Roma found that among the 8,100 municipalities (commune) of Italy, 7,870 had a Via Roma, 5,472 had a street named after Garibaldi, 4842 had one for Marconi. Next comes another figure of Italian unification with Giuseppe Mazzini in 3,994 while poet and writer Dante Aligheri in 3,373 towns. Next comes Cavour with 3,334 and today one of them is the centre of the world.

40 thoughts on “Giro d’Italia Stage 14 Preview”

  1. The GC contest is thinning out with hardly any GC stages. Looks like a contest between the craftiness of Carapaz and the time trialling ability of Almeida.

    • I like Bardet a lot as a rider and his withdrawal seems a bit of a reflection on the GC battle – riders dropping out of the race/contention rather than stepping up and taking control. I also like Almeida a lot so it’ll be interesting to see if his mountain training means he won’t fall away in the high peaks. Could Jai Hindley perhaps make up for the disappointment of the autumn Giro when I think he would have won if his team had backed him rather than sticking with their ever weakening leader.

      • Hey KevinR – I actually think this is harsh and you’re asking for a very adventurous, dynamic, risk-taking Director Sportif to have made a shout like that…

        It’s a rare occurrence that a young rider out performs a leader and sustains it to the end of a GT to nab the victory. Is Chris Froome the only other real example in the last decade? Or maybe Landa/Aru? It’s far more regular for a junior rider to weaken in the closing stages than a proven Top10 finisher, which will fairly play a large role in any decision.

        When you factor in how valuable a podium is for a mid-ranking team (as Sky also was in 2011), to switch your leader mid-race and risk ending up with nothing, should the young gun blow up, it is the sort of gamble that could cost a DS his/her job?

        I agree Kelderman had shown weakness to fade in GTs before, but Hindley was a near unknown and we do not have the inside knowledge of his training history that the DS would have again factored into the decision. :-* :-#

        I agree with you but only with the benefit of hindsight and I think it’s unfair to blame the DS/team with the info we have as watchers because the decision at the time makes a lot of sense also. It’s very much half a dozen of one and half dozen of the other. m-)

        If you were also to say Froome should have won 2011 Vuelta (at the time) , and Landa should have beaten Contador at the Giro, then likewise I firmly agree – but only with the benefit of hindsight – I wouldn’t have blamed the DS decisions at the time (even if Astana’s was as related to Aru’s nationality as his ability) as it’s extremely difficult to go with an unknown over a proven GT rider during the race.

        Hindley was actually almost less clear than Froome and Landa. *-)

        Final caveat though – maybe given the change in youth/experience with a lot of younger riders winning recently, you may be right overall and these kind of decisions will need to be made more regularly in coming years…? DS’ may need to learn the lessons of Froome/Landa/Hindley and read the sign quicker when the chance to win big comes unexpectedly. But it’s also asking a lot to deviate from the conservative decision in what is generally a conservative sport (being an endurance/long game sport) on the strategy side of things.

        I also usually find with criticisms that come back to team/DS’ the fault is structural rather than individual as the teams/DS’ do not have licence to be riskier because of management/financial implications rather than because they’re naturally cautious. -_-

        • I thought at the time it was the wrong decision to continue to back Kelderman, who was going backwards, and hindsight hasn’t changed that view. Maybe you’re right about it being structural problem but racing is about winning and they had a big opportunity and didn’t take it. Obviously there’s all sorts of team politics etc as well.
          That aside. can Hindley actually win the thing this time? Both he and Carapaz will need to gain a good buffer over Almeida going into that final time trial though.

  2. Big big shame that Bardet went home. That changes the GC a lot. Israel PT got all their men to chase for 90 km … and get a win for Demare. Think today will be about getting in the break and racing to the circuit as it won’t be easy chasing down escapees on 20% slopes and descents. Big hope is that this “circus” route won’t leave riders with broken dreams and bones. Ulissi if he’s got the legs.

  3. Think a break will win today though completely random who will get in it. I suspect MvdP is a bit cooked, otherwise would be perfect for him.

    Almost certain Ineos will try something, which will mean a lot of stress for the other GC teams. It could just be the day when the GC is decided.

      • Agree that GC riders will want to save for tomorrow and avoid risk on the today’s final descent. The stage is surely much too hard for MVdP but ideal for Yates given the steepness of the final climb and technical elements of the last downhill. That depends of course on his knee and ability to cope with the heat (both Yates are frequently seen with jerseys wide open while others are still zipped up. That may be Lancashire genes)

        • MvdP actually did very well at Lombardia. Offcourse he isn’t a true climber, but when on form he can limit the losses to such extent that returning on the downhills and flats is an option.

          However, I don’t think he arrived at the Giro in brilliant form and he certainly is far from fresh now. Had an easy day yesterday, but wasted power in numerous days before. I don’t know what caused it: Maybe lack of pre-season prep combined with CX, maybe just the nature of stage racing, but apart from stage 1 usually the vulgar display of power method (cue your favorite Pantera song) gets him more results and some great racing like solo breakaways or just riding away from everybody else to some extent. He really seems to be missing that final few percents.

          • It’s also hard being MvDP… he’s permanently marked… you have people screaming ATTACK and you have people criticising that he should use his team more (who were strangely absent at the close of the stage Girmay won) – he’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t… I guess it’s a luxury position but I feel sorry for him.

          • The cause was his ongoing back injury – remember that until about 2 days before the start of Milan San Remo, MvdP didn’t have any racing on his calendar due to the injury…given his lack of riding over the winter, it’s quite remarkable he’s contesting and winning GT stages. But he does appear to be more human than usual…

          • @Davesta, yeah he does. If you compare to last years’ Tour, it’s also in little things, like not really being able to ride to the front and string out the field in the sprint leadout role.

            I’m curious to see if he’s able to step it up a notch once recovered after this Giro. Sure he will have gained a solid base, but he’d still be missing the repeated high intensity CX and MTB has allways provided for him.

  4. I will be interested if UAE and trek save there legs for the team leader / pink jersey by not going in the break or will the management have faith in the riders Almeida and Lopez.
    With Almeida being a big favourite for at least a podium he should have full team support other than gaviria. But formolo has been up the road already and then not 100% recovered for the GC stage. If Almedia can’t get full support in the giro even with the weaker GC team lineup he should consider moving again. There are plenty of teams that would give him close to 100% in this race.

    • I would love Almeida to win tbh – not really for his team, but it’s always nice for a country like Portugal to have something to shout about in cycling and inspire the next generation.

      Bardet was the rider I wanted to win before yesterday.
      Were this a few years ago I would have liked Landa but my support for him is on the wane if I’m honest… Caparaz has won before, which leaves Almeida or Hindley to root for. And for some reason I’m going with Almeida, also because his presence will force attacks and make for a better race.

  5. Italy holds the world championships pretty regularly and it feels a bit like with this and the Napoli course they’re showing us their next two circuits!
    Big shame for Bardet who was looking very good. There’s nothing worse than that feeling when you’re genuinely ill and you try to do something but the tanks are completely empty. French GC riders seem to encounter more than their fair share of bad luck.

    • As above – likewise gutted reBardet. As I was Pinot at the TDF a few years ago (which he did look on course to win). But still also feel (despite Bardet not being on a French team now) that luck can’t be all of it and something in French cycling/teams is missing (probably at youth level rather than the teams?) that consistently holds their riders back from winning big GTs in in the last 30/40 years.

  6. Does the steepness of the climb open up the opportunity for Valverde to snatch a few seconds on GC, or a stage win if the break doesn’t go clear??

      • That would be great to see one final time in the Giro. Even better a farewell stage win for a true legend of the sport. If not today, maybe a week 3 mountains win as Nibali is known for his endurance late in a GT?

  7. Caicedo is a real left wing pick, available at 150/1! It’s such a lottery it’s hard picking a rider to get in the break, let alone winning. Buitrago has looked good on occasions.

    I wonder if Inez’s will chase if the break is not too far ahead, as Carapaz will no doubt back himself to win and pick up any bonus seconds.

  8. I can’t help thinking that Maestri’s breakaway companions must have been pretty annoyed to learn that instead of helping the break stay away, he’d saved enough energy for a last ditch attack right when the peloton caught them. Will that make it more difficult for him to be allowed into breaks in the near future – at least if AG2R, EF or Jumbo have anything to do with it?

    • I think many riders can be fairly sanguine about breakaway tactics knowing DS instructions may dictate other riders games, plus the need for all riders to bluff a little to win big from a breakaway – especially if they’re on a tiny non-world tour team.

    • Wasn’t it the EF rider that launched the first attack and put an end to all the cohesion in the group?
      Although really what doomed the break was when nobody pulled through off Eenkhorn’s wheel on the rise at ~2km to go…the pace came out of the break at that point. Though with that uphill section slowing them they perhaps had no chance anyway.

    • The gap to the peleton simply was too small to play games and with a breakaway of 4, there was allways going to be one or more riders starting to gamble too early.
      It’s just racing and the other teams will probably not be bothered to even remember who did what in the past, let alone base their own descisions on it. If the entire peleton would do that, everyone has beef with everyone in no time.
      Sports directors and riders allways focus on the future. Past events are just a distraction. Maybe Movistar is the exception to that rule 😛

  9. I actually think López is doing a great job and if he didn’t have to conserve so much as GC leader he could be in with a good chance today.
    Yes, Carapaz is waiting to pounce and misfortune can strike anywhere but he’s staying out of trouble and Trek still put riders in the break some days.
    This would have been a top stage for Bardet…

  10. Talking of streets today, and Fascist populism from a couple of weeks ago, the old Roman Legionary emblem of SPQR ( Senatus Populusque Romanus) was extensively used by Mussolini, often on manhole covers of all things.
    I can’t imagine if any of those survived, but they’d be worth a small fortune now.
    Look out for manhole covers on your travels IR 🇮🇹

    • Think they still have these in Rome and on the sides of the buses but I don’t think in this instance it being Rome it’s got much to do with il duce

    • The (early high) medieval commune of Rome used the abbreviation (both popular uprisings and the authorities including the papacy), therefore manhole covers etc. It has little to do with Mussolini, who certainly strived to portrait his regime as a new Roman Empire of sorts and used the abbreviation extensively; but his rule is hardly more than an anecdote in the whole context of Italian history, isn’t it?

      It wasn’t a legionary emblem, probably rather a propagandistic emblem of the principate / state power, i. e. a symbolic expression of the source of the power of the princeps (emperor) – the power representing both the senate and the poeple of Rome, the whole of Rome, the state itself.

      • (Mis)use of Roman iconography, visual symbolism etc is as widespread as roman influence over European history till today. Not only Mussolini or Nazi Germany used the ancient Rome as political inspiration and justification; look at the iconography of the United States with their palladian state architecture and aquilas of the US coat of arms…

  11. So the guy with a bad knee and heat problems wins today! And a 39 year old comes 5th and is 5th on GC! Pozzovivo – climber and lead out man! And there’s lots of climbing to come. Hope he can keep his current form. What surprised me was the way Ineos blew up when Bora attacked. Bahrain and Bora can isolate Carapaz easier then I thought so this GC-fight might not be over. What’s the future for Dumoulin? Hope he recovers to fight another day. Nibali’s fighting days are nearly over, but a good ride today – let’s hope there’s something left in the tank for tomorrow’s stage15.

  12. That was the kind of race that I like to see … the race leaders battling it out at the pointy end of the race. Hindley may not be able to time trial but he dies seem to have a handy sprint. Yates may have sat on all day but that didn’t ruin the race as a spectacle.

  13. “Hah!” Said I yesterday when I read this:
    “Next comes Cavour with 3,334 and today one of them is the centre of the world.”
    then decided to watch for others’ posts re same…
    One gets one’s amusements where e’er they occur.

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