Giro d’Italia Stage 15 Preview

The Giro goes into the Alps but today’s stage isn’t a summit finish, more a ride to the end of the valley.

Hyperga: a fine stage, a probable highlight of the year, if not a stage for the age. The Superga-Maddalena circuit always promised plenty, the question was whether the GC contenders could be persuaded to race it hard? Bora-hansgrohe supplied the answer. After a flurry of attacks sparked by Mathieu van der Poel, the day’s breakaway had formed and taken a two minute lead but once the race reached the first of the three laps, Bora-hansgrohe hit the front of the peloton and shredded the field. The likes of Alejandro Valverde and Guillaume Martin missed the split, the Spaniard needing a bike change as well. In no time the front group was down to 12 riders, four of them from Bora-hansgrohe thanks to Ben Zwiehoff dropping back from the break and Wilco Kelderman digging deep on the front. Bahrain had two in Landa and Bilbao, Intermarché in Pozzovivo and Hirt. Carapaz was there but without a team mate. Lopez was there with his maglia rosa, Nibali there and rolling back the years. Almeida was there but just, he was like a yo-yo at times but that seems to be his style.

Carapaz took off solo with 28km to go on the Superga climb and got 20 seconds easily but he struggled to get to 30 seconds as Buchmann and Bilbao chased. Onto the final climb of the Maddalena back road and Nibali attacked and only Hindley could follow, the move shattered the group behind, or was it just the slope and the heat? The pair closed down Carapaz on the infernal slopes and over the false flat across the top Yates got across. Yates attacked on the last rise to go clear, a powerful move but the others had an eye on each other and could concede the stage win. Carapaz takes the maglia rosa, Hindley takes time and Nibali takes plenty of applause. Just behind came Domenico Pozzovivo, the 39 year old who was without a contract at the start of the season and if he pedals like a crab, it’s because of all the injuries he’s had and the spinal pain he’s still got but still ahead of Almeida.

Yates is now in the strange position of being able to follow the leaders and then drop them for the stage win but knowing there’s no GC contest. This in turn gives him room for more stage wins as nobody has to close him down when he goes, he’s still 18 minutes down.

Tenth placed Lopez was at four minutes, 20th place Buitrago over ten minutes down, 40th place was over twenty minutes down: the stage did a lot of damage. We can count the time lost, today we’ll see what it’s done to bodies and legs.

The Route: the Aosta valley stage. There’s only one route into the valley for the Giro so it’s just the start town that changes. It’s up the valley following the Dora Baltea river and the early bumps for Saint Vincent and Chambave on the route are nothing much.

There are two ways up the first climb, the road or a ski lift. The road here is wide and well made but it’s steep in places with some kilometres averaging over 10% so it’s selective. It eases towards the top and is followed by a matching descent, steep but on a regular road. The race then passes the city of Aosta with only a brief flat section.

If the previous climb was the ski lift climb because it was north-facing, this is the vineyard climb as it is south-facing and more built up. But it’s a similar ascent in distance and slope, plus the way it eases a touch over the top. There’s another fast descent back down to the valley floor and little flat road before the next climb.

The race turns into a side valley for the final climb of the day. It starts steep as it twists through the small town of Aymavilles and its wineries before a small descent, some more climbing and then a long gradual road up the valley. It’s a big wide road with many tunnels and covered sections – and on a quiet day full of chamois and ibex grazing by the road in the Gran Paradiso national park. The road feels like a compromise, it’s well-engineered in parts but always has to follow the path carved by the river so it can be irregular in places. It’s part false-flat, part climb proper.

The Finish: it goes to Cogne and rides over the pavé in town… and then onwards to Lillaz, all a false flat up and out of town as the road follows the white water river up the valley, it’s generally uphill but for each steeper step up there can be a flat section or short downhill.

The Contenders: when the route came out this stage looked like the place where Richard Carapaz (Ineos) could go solo away for the win. He often can’t outclimb his rivals directly, instead he can hit them with an attack and use false flats and valley roads to ride away, after all he won the 2019 Giro thanks to an attack just around the corner here, taking time on the valley road climb up to Courmayeur and won the Tour de Suisse last summer in a similar fashion. Still, he’s known for this now so he’ll be marked but his Ineos team will prefer today’s wider roads.

Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco) can go again, if he attacks nobody has to close him down plus he can tag along with the lead group and there’s no duty to work hard either, it’s not like he can put time into others.

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) isn’t a priority to mark either and it’ll be interesting to see how he copes with these long Alpine climbs. His problem is everything he can do here, Yates can probably do better, neither are a priority to close down for the GC contenders.

João Almeida (UAE) just has to avoid trouble early on, once halfway on the climb to Cogne he normally shouldn’t be dropped. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) can still sprint well if he’s not cooked from yesterday.

A breakaway has a good chance today to build up an early lead. The likes of Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Wout Poels (Bahrain), Hugh Carthy (EF Education) and Lennard Kämna (Bora-hansgrohe) fit the profile for today. Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) lost time yesterday so he might be able to regain it today but he probably spent too much energy in the chase yesterday so maybe later mountain stages suit.

Yates, Carapaz
Valverde, Mollema, Poels, Kämna, Carthy, Nibali, Peters

Weather: the heatwave goes on, sunny and 33°C in the valley.

TV: the stage starts at 12.15, the first climb at 2.30pm and the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST.

Bonjour Aoste: today’s stage goes into the Valle d’Aosta, one of those valley that’s not named after its river. Aosta is Italy’s least densely populated region for inhabitants per square kilometre. But it’s not because of depopulation, it’s down to the Alps, the region is dominated by the jagged mountains making much of the area simply uninhabitable, it’s here you’ll find Mont Blanc, Monte Rosa and Monte Cervino, also known as the Matterhorn, although neighbouring France and Switzerland often grab the tourist credit. It’s notionally bilingual and while there are many places with French names, for example the stage goes through Saint Vincent today – not San Vincenzo – Italian is the spoken language on the street. Culturally it’s Italian with an Alpine topping, literally with dishes like polenta and sausage with fontina cheese baked on top. Today’s stage goes through a tiny village called Garin and if the name rings a bell, further up the race goes close to Arvier where Maurice Garin was born, he’d go on to win the first Tour de France in 1903. As well as cycling history there’s the future with the Giro della Valle d’Aosta U23 stage race, which sits alongside the Tour de l’Avenir, U23 Giro and Ronde de l’Isard as a discovery contest for stage race and climbing talent, the podium in recent years has featured many names who went on to big things.

38 thoughts on “Giro d’Italia Stage 15 Preview”

  1. Is that a typo or is Hurt the chosen nickname for Hirt?
    Also should probably be most of the area not being inhabitable in the last paragraph?

  2. Looking at PCS records confirmed my feelings. Yates is far more often first than second or third. When he’s in a position to win he frequently does so, and yesterday’s stage was made for his trademark late attack.

    • He’s also an unusual rider in that he seems to be able to collapse completely one day and then come back to life in a day or two.

      • Yes, I was watching yesterday’s stage thinking that Yates has made an amazingly fast recovery from the knee injury that ruined his GC bid. Then I remembered that he also suggested the heat played a part on that stage when it didn’t seem to bother him yesterday. Perhaps there’s something mental involved too. I’m not a clinician or a former pro so don’t have the informed insight, I’m just making a fan comment!

    • The culmination of the race yesterday was in the very leafy footballer belt.
      Its narrow roads would usually echo to the growl of Ferraris and Lamborghinis rather than the rasp of riders’ breath.
      I could see the attraction for a footballer to live in the area with the lovely views, large mansions and finely-coiffured gardens, even if the best team/s are elsewhere at present.
      Perhaps it’s fitting that an Englishman won then, a cat who won’t Kop out even when there’s danger all about, and produced a British version of a classic –

    • Somehow Yates never looks like he is going to win right up until the moment it looks inevitable he will! Even on that stage he was consistently hanging round the back of a group of twelve riders and several times risked being definitively tailed off had Almeida’s descending been just that bit worse than it was.

      It’s also interesting to know (1) whether he could have followed Carapaz’ attack and (2) what the difference to the result would have been if he had done so. But again his position didn’t allow it even if he had had the legs – when Carapaz attacked on the front, Yates was already 20 metres or so behind on the road at the back of the string, which he would have had to make up just to be on level terms.

      Hypotheticlaly – if he had been 2nd overall going into the stage (i.e. Blockhaus hadn’t happened) would he have taken up the position that Carapaz assumed, i.e. first in line behind Bora? I kind of doubt it.

  3. Hindley needs to be in the mix to avoid shedding time. You can’t really gauge fatigue and recovery by watching them but he was looking good last night and seems to have his wits about him.

  4. Surprised to see Carthy’s chainring after his losses yesterday, or was he losing time deliberately in order to have freedom to get in subsequent breaks?

    And, if he tried, Yates could probably crack the final GC top ten earning more UCI points than another stage win. Maybe BEX aren’t that desperate yet.

    • I think I heard Yates suggesting that he’s not confident that he won’t have another heat-induced meltdown in one of the remaining stages, which would completely undo any efforts he’d make to inch his way up into the top 10. To do that he’d have to take about 10 minutes on a bunch of pretty good riders, and then not have any disaster stages, and all of that effort to just get a few more points that he could get by being cagey and nabbing another stage (which he seems more than capable of doing).

      I think the choice between 20th in GC with three stage wins is more impressive, and more doable, than 10th in GC with two stages. And of course if he continues to position himself to be in the hunt for stage wins, there’s a decent chance he’ll also continue to move up the GC rankings even without that being a primary goal.

      • That was my thought too – he’s clearly one of the top 5 climbers in the race when he’s not having a bad day, so he could find himself in the top 10 by accidentally being consistent! But surely more to gain and more motivational for him to not worry about that and chase stage victories instead?

  5. Nightmare scenario – Ineos train ride ’til 3 km from finish, Yates attacks, Carapaz follows, nobody has the energy left to follow, Giro over. Better scenario – Ineos train de-rails (aka stage 9 Tdf 2013) and it’s each man for himself as GC guys try to get back lost time. Probably, big break and GC guys take it easy until last km with a short sprint. As Nizzolo has gone home expect Israel PT to be active and what’s happened to big hope Valter?

  6. Why was Ineos not in the first group with Carapaz and Bora?

    a. Missed the split and were too far back then
    b. We’re not able to follow
    c. Something else

    Regarding a., GCN commentators said that right before Bora started to do the damage, Ineos was at the front. Regarding b., Ineos did not look like they had no power in their legs so far. Inrng hints at the wider roads of today that Ineos prefer.

    Does somebody have a good explanation/more information?

  7. Didn’t get watch it all, but I was surprised to see carapaz left on his own in that final selection. From a tactical perspective I would guess carapaz was saying I feel good, team save your matches for tomorrow and the rest of the giro when I will need you to drive the train and defend the lead. For a more exciting race, maybe they are blown and the race could go anywhere

    • …and I suspect Carapaz chose yesterday to have a go partly because there was a perceived wisdom that today would be his day, and he wanted to surprise the bunch.

  8. Yesterday was the best GT stage in a while. For me ride of the day was Vincenzo Nibali, he has a chance of bowing out on a high. The race has come down to; can Richard Carapaz / Jai Hindley put enough distance into Joao Almeida before the final TT, a scenario that has played a few times recently. Richard Carapaz’s move was bold but he didnt quite seem to have the strength to really finish it off and get a decisive lead. Jai Hindley surprised me, he seems to have developed since losing out to TGH. Joao Almeida scores top marks for tenacity, descending skills not so much.

    With Simon Yates, when the pressure is off, he wins stages. Not sure the only issue here has been his knee, but the knee injury was a result of his habit of hanging around the back of the peloton. Winning GTs involves all sorts of skills, not convinced he has the complete palette.

    As to today, given the exertions of yesterday I wonder if it will be a bit of a damp squib. The Ineos train will be fueled up and ready to go, the track suits it well. Perfect for Joao Almeida too. It is going to be difficult to drop people on the long final stretch. Could well be a break with the peloton rolling in 5 minutes behind.

    • +1 for most of your observations here. The new information on Yates is that it is humidity more than heat that is his kryptonite. Yesterday was warm but not too humid and he was able to get access to plenty of fluid to douse himself with.

      • I seem to remember he did well in the opening TT a couple of years back in Scilly and that featured a very tricky downhill section and crosswinds?

    • Though of course yates is in a very select group to win a GT. And very few people not called Froome or from Slovenia have won one in the past decade. He may not have the full palette but he will die a Grand Tour winner – not bad

  9. Thoroughly enjoyed what was a great stage. It looks like a battle between Hindley and Carapaz for the win. You can’t rule out Almeida though taking the punches and constantly coming back like Rocky Balboa. Nibali is coming back like that last Giro he won but unfortunately this time he barely has a team. For Yates now he surely has to go for as many stages as possible and see if he can pick up the mountain jersey on the way.
    In hindsight what was MvdP doing at the start of the stage, what was he hoping to achieve on that course? He’s so reckless with his resources I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t finish the race.

  10. Interesting comments by Carapaz who thought no one would be able to follow his attack, and Ineos team director Matteo Tosatto saying that other teams are stronger then they thought. Also that Sunday’s stage is, in his words, the start of the Giro. I posted some while ago that I thought Ineos team looked weak in supporting Carapaz – they might regret not taking Dani Martinez.

    • I thought Dani Martinez was going to the Tour as leader (co leader?) so not available for super domestique duties at the Giro? Pavel Sivakov “should” have been able to stay with Bora but didnt for whatever reason. Cant see any of the rest of the team being suited for hard classics style racing, more road captain / mountain train riders.

    • Ah, hadn’t seen those comments. To be fair, he possibly burnt some matches a bit too early and could have possibly gapped the rest on the final climb given the intensity of the initial attack.

      I wondered whether Ineos were saving Sivakov and Porte for today (which seems much more like Ineos territory), but leaving Carapaz so isolated for much of yesterday’s stage can’t have been planned.

      • The border between Val d’Aosta & Haute Savoie indisputably runs through the main summit of Mt Blanc, the “disputed” area runs down to the sub summit of Mt Blanc de Courmayeur and then east above the Brenva glacier. Basically the bit of the “summit” you can see from Courmayeur. I cant see anyone caring one way or the other anymore.

        Monte Rosa is a bit undefined. I had always assumed it referred to the highest summit (Dufourspitze, wholly in Switzerland) and the ridge etc which has the highest hut in alps, the Margherita hut – which is completely in Italy, not necessarily the nicest place to stay due to the number of people suffering from altitude sickness. However it does appear to officially extend round to the Liskamm which forms part of the border between Val d’Aoste & the Valais.

        So, as usual, Inrng is correct!

        • Always assumed Capanna Margherita, named after Margherita of Savoy, the queen of Italy who participated in person (!) at the opening of the old hut on Signalkuppe (and yes, she was indeed the “pizza” queen) must be a great place to host a wedding. (Which they offer, by the way. Unfortunately I am already married. 😀 ) It’s also a rather absurd sight, a modern black structure built on the alpine peak / ridge at 4500 m a.s.l. , literaly the highest structure in near vicinity including the mountain itself.

          I suppose including Lyskamm makes little sense, you can include the Dioscuri then etc… but nevertheless: part of the Monte Rosa is definitely in Aostan territory – including the great bivouac at Balmenhorn. Also as Inrng hinted, the normal ascent route from the mountain’s southern side leads on the Aostan flank via the Lys glacier or perhaps on the border ridge between Aosta and Piemont. We “climbed” it from central European side, but still managed to sleep on Aostan territory at the above mentioned bivouac.

  11. Simon Yates gets/got little pleasure from the stage win. He’s still hurting (possibly embarrassed after his team worked so hard in training to go all in for the win?) by falling off the GC train.
    It must be hard to motivate himself especially as nobody else in Bike Exchange looks capable of winning a stage.
    Kudos to him for still giving it a go.
    Was Porte sandbagging and saving himself for today as a superdom? Sivakov is a disappointment and I’m not sure why Dunbar was dropped from the team prior to the start.

  12. Any one know the combined total number of days spent in the pink jersey by the lead group? Jai, Nibali, Carapaz and Yates? And the individual breakdown.

    • Hindley – 1 day, 2020

      Nibali – 3 days in 2010; 13 days in 2013; 2 days in 2016. Also nominally 2 days in 2011 when he was second on GC behind Contador, but would not have worn the jersey. I’m sure a statistician somewhere is pondering whether that counts in the overall statistics – in my view it doesn’t, because the day doesn’t come with all the benefits and burdens of being in the jersey.

      Carapaz – 8 days, 2019 (plus 1 day and counting in 2022)

      Yates – 13 days, 2018

  13. agreed about stage 14 – one for the ages. how hard was wilco going that no one could mount a chase to stay anywhere near the top group?? when does wilco do that again?
    looking forward to the stage 16 preview and the stage – another monster of a stage with that saturday beast stage in the wings. fingers crossed for better weather than last year.

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