Giro d’Italia Stage 17 Preview

Another day in the Alps and there’s just three seconds between Richard Carapaz and Jai Hindley.

Czech mate, Stalemate: well everyone else is using Hirt=Hurt headlines so let’s go with something different. This was a big day that settled nothing, a Czech won but the GC is tighter than ever.

The stage had a cyclocross moment with a standing start because the race had paused outside the premises of a sponsor for the start. Mathieu van der Poel was of course fast out of the traps and had Mark Cavendish for company in a six rider break. But this was a day for diesels, not turbos.

A big move got clear but as ever, these moves can be packed with stars but if there are more than a dozen riders they begin to flounder because freeloaders can hitch a lift. DSM duly split the group with a move on the valley section to the Mortirolo and this caught out many. Their rider Chris Hamilton likes his Utes and he was riding like one with team mate Arensman loaded in back but they had strong riders like Lennard Kämna, Hugh Carthy, Alejandro Valverde and Jan Hirt along for the ride too.

Behind Astana got to work on the Mortirolo. Were they planning a long range attack from Nibali, really? Sort of, it did thin the group and when Nibali surged over the top of the climb it forced others to move. Alas Domenico Pozzovivo crashed, complaining his hydraulic brakes had stopped working, a problem you really don’t want to have down the Mortirolo. Sure enough Nibali’s attack didn’t turn the race upside down but it would help him climb on GC, he’s now up to fifth, with Pozzovivo at sixth.

Hirt attacked the final climb right from the start like he wanted the Strava segment. He dropped Carthy and set off in search of Arensman and Kämna. At first Kämna looked good for the stage win, only for Arensman to catch him. Then the tall Dutchman seemed likely to win the day. But Hirt keep on going and caught him. To say he attacked would be to use too strong a word, he made a small acceleration. Only there was a gap, it grew, and Arensman could only see the win riding away and then watch as his rival sat up to celebrate. What a difference a year makes, Intermarché had a fluke stage win with Taco van der Hoorn in 2021, now they’ve won big with Girmay and Hirt, trumping rival Belgian outfits like Alpecin-Fenix, Quick-Step and Lotto-Soudal who’ve all had their triumphs but this team’s now had more.

Behind Bahrain had a collective uphill crash on the final climb but soon remedied with this with hard pulls that blew the group to pieces. Suddenly it was Landa, Hindley and Carapaz. The trio didn’t really attack each other, if one of them pulled hard it was probably more to keep Almeida at bay.

The socially distant Almeida was again hanging within ten seconds of the trio on the climb but alone on the descent and the valley road to Aprica he lost a little more time but it’s a remarkable way of racing, uphill or downhill he can hold others in range even if he can’t hold their wheel. It must cost him more power, but he knows what he is doing.

Hindley and Carapaz sprinted for third place a photofinish was almost needed to award Hindley the last time bonus, the four seconds brings him to within three seconds of the maglia rosa. But it’s as much a stalemate as the pair are inseparable on the route, it’s only the artifice of time bonuses that’s altering the time gaps since the six second difference from the Budapest TT.

The Route: it’s straight up the Passo Tonale, a big transport artery and an ideal place for the breakaway to go clear, riders will be warming up before the start. There’s a descent and then a long stretch down the Adige valley that leads to the climb to Giovo, 6km at 7% and then an awkward traverse across to the Valsugana.

The “Passo del Vetriolo” is a tough, awkward climb – although the name’s an invention by the Giro, seemingly no such place exists on the ground – and the descent is toboggan-style to the valley.

Now comes the Menador climb to Monte Rovere, also known as the Kaiserjägerweg. It’s a military road which normally means it was engineered so that horses could pull cannons up but this one’s not so simple, it began as a mule path and remains a tough climb on a narrow road. The 15% section on the chart above is not the only steep part, it’s a very hard climb

The Finish: after a wild climb up, a more gentle descent and then a 4% rise to the line for the final kilometre.

The Contenders: the breakaway has an even better chance of staying away than yesterday. Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco) is the obvious pick again but as he showed yesterday, he can get in the break but still miss the winning move. Still who is suitable but didn’t redline yesterday? So many obvious names must be tired from yesterday. Guillaume Martin who fell to 16th place yesterday and even apologised to this Cofidis team mates, logic suggests he might be on the move today. Astana have Joe Dombowski and David de la Cruz if they’re not deployed to shepherd Nibali. Ivan Sosa (Movistar) might be fresher but is the form there?

Among the GC candidates Jai Hindley (Bora-hansgrohe) is showing a steely sprint which is also a sign of overall form and Richard Carapaz (Ineos) is so close as well.

Simon Yates
Bauke Mollema
Sosa, L Hamilton, Hindley, Carapaz, Taaramäe

Weather: time to break out the rain bags, cloudy, cool and it won’t be much warmer than 17°C.

TV: the stage starts at 12.40 and finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST. Tune in for the Vetriolo climb at 3.30pm.

War, what it good for? Edwin Starr was right when he sang “absolutely nothing” and piping up on a cycling blog to say “well actually” doesn’t feel right. One of the tragic benefits of war is today’s course uses an old military road, today’s Menador is the Kaiserjägerweg. It was once a mule path but was turned into a road to make fortifications prior to the first World War and then used as a supply line for the front between Austria-Hungary and Italy in the war. Today the fundamental point is that this is what peace is good for, when a bike race can cavort on the roads then times are good, at least locally.

It’s been about this time of year that the annual “Chicken Kyiv” race takes place in Ukraine, and yes that’s the name for the race and ride that both take place under UCI rules to the west of the capital amid the poultry farms and where the start and finish in the town of Буча (Bucha) in the Kyiv oblast or district, a place that’s become synonymous with the war crimes of the Russian army. Wherever you are, it’s probably not that far away.


40 thoughts on “Giro d’Italia Stage 17 Preview”

  1. It is getting harder to pick as each day’s passes. Carapaz and Hindley seem to be very closely matched in terms of capabilities. Riding styles are a bit different though so we will see if that translates into any differences in muscle fatigue.
    (there “are” only three seconds)

    • Completely agree.

      I was wrong to question INRNG’s chainring separation of Landa/Almeida/Hindley/Carapaz the other day – looking at the TT it will be hard for Almeida to close anything over a minute, and Landa needs to gain around two minutes in the coming stages to win. Both mean Carapaz and Hindley look the most likely to fight this out.

      But a serious chance this race could be decided on bonus seconds. Interesting to see if Bora contain the break today, if he can nab two wins that would give him a chance in the final TT.

      It’s fascinating – I’m still also intrigued to work out if someone is saving a big attack for the final days… I have a sneaky suspicion that Hindley might be, I get the feeling he’s racing smart.

      There was also a good comment yesterday from someone else about the skill of descending and how the gap over the climb between the top two on yesterdays stage was exactly the same at the finish despite wet roads and kms of descending. I hadn’t thought about this, very true. Thanks @Frederick

      • Nibali is definitely’The Upsetter’ in this race now.
        Another descent opportunity today perhaps.
        If it doesn’t gain him time, it puts others under stress and pressure.

    • What is there between Richard Carapaz and Jai Hindley? There’s just three seconds.
      How many seconds are there between Richard Carapaz and Jai Hindley. There are jus three seconds.

      But before we start debating grammar and correct use, I’ll point two typos:
      Astana got to work on the Mortirolo. *Were they* (instead of “where the”) planning a long range attack?
      Hindley and Carapaz sprinted for third place *and* a photofinish was almost needed.

      Depatable: should we say “(the (bonus of) four seconds bring Hindley to within three seconds of the maglia rosa” or “the four seconds (he earned by finishinf in third place9 bring him to with three seconds of the maglia rosa”?

      Back to cycling: yesterday’s win was a nice *revanche* for Jan Hirt who in 2019 had lost a sprint finish between two riders when Giulio Ciccone took the second Giro win of his career.

        • Mellow Velo, I hate to say this or more to the point I hate that I have to say this, but it is painful for me to realize that someone could actually be so that he read that part of my comment sthe way you apparenttly did.
          I didn’t judge anyone and you should’ve understood that I didn’t. If anything, I was defending the Inner Ring’s use of singular. And I believe I could do that without judging 150 wattts – and certainly without anyone rushing in and hitting my head with a Bible.
          And although the Inner Ring has on several occasions mentioned that he welcomes corrections of errors, typos, slips, missing words and such, I certainly would never steep so low as to pick up typing errors made in a comment 🙂
          PS That p for a b is quite funny (for reasons too long and irrelevant to go into) and I have no idea how it got there!

  2. The podium seems set, unless an accident, ill timed mechanical or illness intervenes then the current top 3 will still be the top 3 come Sunday evening. In theory Mikel Landa could put in a storming ride, take 2 minutes on the field but that seems unlikely to say the least. Vincenzo Nibali needs major misfortune ahead to climb onto the podium (no snow banks this year).

    Can Richard Carapaz / Jai Hindley manage to ride away from Joao Almeida? Will Joao Almeida run out of steam?

    I got the feeling that Ineos didnt fully commit to the climb yesterday both Jonathon Castroviejo and Richie Porte seemed to check in before knocking off their efforts but maybe that’s over analysing. Bit confused what Bora was doing, surely Lennard Kämna had to drop back to help pull on the final few kms, then he seemed to help Joao Almeida sprint to the line.

    Suspect today will be a similar scenario, random break takes 5 plus minutes, GC teams not bothered, maybe the break gets caught maybe not (maybe advantage for Ineos in letting the bonus seconds go elsewhere), Joao Almeida grimly hangs on but loses 15 seconds or so to the two ahead. Bora or Ineos ideally should try to get a rider “up the road” to help pull on the last 6 kms after the climb, easy to talk about but real racing is not a computer game.

    Strange how quickly the perception of the race changes, yesterday discussions of the how the final week would play out etc now counting down the kms to Verona, only two mountain stages left etc. The final TT begins to loom large, it is pretty short so maybe not quite so decisive as in 2017. Maybe Richard Carapaz has an advantage over Jai Hindley as Ineos have the better TT kit and the better TT coaches. Better (not necessarily for us) that one rider grabs a decisive advantage over the next few stages.

    • Maybe there will be some kind of Bora-Ineos pact to get ride of Almeida today once and for all in this race before turning their attentions to battling it out for victory? Nibali can disrupt but sadly I don’t see him affecting the GC battle – a farewell Giro stage win would be nice but unlikely now. He won’t be allowed in a break and he won’t ride away on a climb so a descent is his only (slim) chance.

      • I suppose they count on Almeida cracking or at least ceding more time, especially on the slopes of Passo Fedaia. Than there’s the opportunity of an attack on Kolovrat, although it would be perhaps too risky on the day before Fedaia?

    • I suspect the only stage which will change something (except the ITT) would be saturday’s stage. Last mountain stage, high altitude and very long climbs (maybe the only one real traditionnal Giro mountain stage of this year) will change things, I think.
      And for Intermarché, their season starts to be pretty impressive for one of the smallest teams in WT. They still have Kristoff for the Tour, if there is a long rainy day… And a tenth place for an invisible Meintjes ?

  3. Just a quick note on the Belgian team-competition: IWG are indeed ahead but only just, APC also got two stage-wins and MVDP even wore the pink jersey for a couple of days but advantage IWG because they have two guys in the top-ten.

    • “Nice” consequence of riding two giant climb at “sprinter” (not springing) pace. Swift leading the herd over Crocedomini and Felline through most Mortirolo. Yeah, yeah, they’re far from being pure sprinters and can also climb more than a little. Yet, what a view…

      • I suppose that’s why the TV director is so reluctant to show the peloton 😛
        Jokes apart, as a side note now that it’s the same production company as the TDF we can notice one thing or two which RAI was doing better (which doesn’t mean at all that they were better as a whole).

      • Oh yeah, clearly an easier approach to the final climb than in 1994. But having said that, some of the power figures published by the riders last night suggested that it had been a properly hard day. And, however you get there, once you’re on the final climb, you can only go so hard for so long. In this case, the overall pace on Cristina was high enough that attacks were very unlikely to succeed.

        • Agreed on the conclusion, indeed. When you all are climbing at 6.2-6.3 w/kg for nearly 40 minutes it’s not easy to imaginate that anyone can ride any faster. The three were pushing each other to their career limits or so.

          Even more impressive, but also rather explanatory: on such a difficult climb the overall average speed – over 18 km/h – was high enough to make slipstream count – just a little, of course, but when we’re speaking of extreme performances, everything matters.

          In that sense, Hirt’s performance was the most shocking: in the break all day long, and after the hard fight needed both to form it and to select the “fuga della fuga”; still, he pushed nearly the same values as the top GC men, a few seconds difference.

          That said, of course it was a hard day (as it usually is when they tackle such climbs), just look at cumulative figures, but still they climbed Mortirolo at a VAM of some 1500 m/h which is rather underwhelming for the pros.

  4. we’ve seen often that loads of big mountain days can actually be quite dull. The favourites are a combo of nervous, tired and running short of resources. I love my cycling but last year all the GCs had zero tension (Bernal / Pog / Rog all dominant winners) and the GC action so far has been a snoozefest.

    My view: more days like last Saturday – more mid-mountain days and days where there are hills 10-20km from the finish. those days create the action. I hope I’m wrong and the rest of this week is action-packed.

    • The route isn’t everything, of course – until now the 2022 Giro also had a problem of competitors and their attitude, some culprits surely sitting in the team cars. Yet, yeah, this course had serious limitations and we’ve been seeing their effects. It’s not about high mountains as such, plenty of examples to prove that (exciting high mountain stages, or whole TDFs lacking high mountains and becoming absolute snooze fests). It’s more about how you draw the stage and where you put it in the overall race design. If Torino was expected to be fireworks, how can the (in itself, decently-designed) Aostan stage work the day after, given that it requires huge attacking impulse to deliver? Why Mortirolo if harder climbs wait closer to finish and with much of a valley road in-between to regroup? Too hard a final climb (as such, too common a pattern in this edition) won’t allow much before if the climbs aren’t tight-close. It’s not 20/20 hindsight, given that similar commentaries were being published months ago, since the route was presented.
      I had got some hopes for today, but I’m afraid that the other factors will prevail over an otherwise good stage, as it happened once or twice during the 1st week.

      • I would’ve put a nice 30km or so TT before the mountains. Then, in the plan at least, Almeida would be a couple of minutes to the good (maybe more on Landa and the theoretically still present Lopez and Bardet) and the attacks would have to come. There should always be at least one really epic Giro mountain stage which I suppose this year is Saturday stage in the Dolomites. It could just do with being a little longer.

        • Yeah.
          The GT with good breaks fighting for the stages and just a couple of amazing stages, if anything, where GC is shaped (often later on) is usually the TDF, the Giro should have by default a decent number of entertaining GC stages…! And at least two epic ones ^___^

  5. Has anyone got a spare brain they could lend Landa? Yesterday he rode into his teammate for no apparent reason, thus ridding himself of a possible helper for the sharp end of the race.

    I remember watching the Tour on French TV when he was still at Sky, and he rode away from the group containing Froome. It looked like a winning attack, but the commentator remarked to his partner that Sky shouldn’t start celebrating because Landa ‘has no race craft’. He was right, it was not only un sanctioned by the ‘radio’ but mistimed and unsuccessful. I expect Mr Ring knows more than me ( well, I am sure) but I was told that it was one of the rare occasions when Portal was visibly angry.

  6. I would like to pick Yates but he needs a team mate. Hamilton at least needs to go hard up that first hill with him.
    I don’t quite understand UAE. They have a rider that seems capable of winning who despite having almost no help still with a small chance. Formolo who might have been able to do a little work has been blowing himself up on breakaways almost from the start of the race and seems to have no power left. Almedia would really benefit from even a little help even if it didn’t last long. Close a gap a bit or help with a descent. Any bit of energy saved would help.

    • The commentary team have been speculating at what point Davide Formolo can be persuaded to ride for the team as opposed to himself. Joao Almeida might need to move teams to be able to be a true “leader”. Tadej Pogacer is clearly the top rider at UAE, anyone else is never going to get the same levels of support.

    • Under no circumstances Formolo could be there to help Almeida at the pointy end of this kind of finales, until stages are ridden like this. The only hope is to set him up beforehand, hence being in the breaks might have a double function, but the breaks themselves have been so selective that people get worn out just keeping themselves alive out there. Poels is very strong and experienced and nearly made it, yet it’s not a huge hand he could lend to his captains.

  7. Bora – Are they really just each riding how they feel, like this is a 2.2 and they are there for appearance money?!
    Jai Hindley only just lost a Giro to Geoghan Hart, so there’s no doubt he knows every second counts. Sure he picked up 4 seconds yesterday because the way things worked out with the leading break, but it’s difficult to explain why his group of GC leaders came through that group containing his team mates, seemingly with no plan to offer any staging posts to a Hindley attack.

    • I too was attentive to this and wondered what he’d do – and what the etiquette was. He seemed to go for it but it was early and was more a lead out to let the GC riders contest it

  8. There’s been a few mentions here and elsewhere of the tactic to ‘send a team mate up the road so that they can help the GC contender later on’, but to my memory I’ve never seen this tactic actually work. Does it ever? I’m not an avid bike race watcher but I do tend to watch GT highlights – where you’d think this tactic would be most effective, but I can’t think of a single race-changing example. It seems that by the time the GC racers are passing the breakaway riders, the latter are too tired and have too little power to be of any use whatsoever. Am I missing something? Or is this just another cycling ‘tradition’?

    • To name just those where final winner was decided thanks to these tactics, Vuelta 2012, Vuelta 2015, Giro 2016 are the most famous recent examples, I’d say. Much more is about strategy, that is, the fact of trying to avoid stalemate situations in which the jersey wearer must close on every attack because the attacker can join forces with a teammate up the road – the race isn’t shaped by what “actually happens” but by what teams are doing to prevent dangerous sceneries (Giro 2015). Then you can use those men for defence, for example etc.

      • Interesting point! Perhaps more effective that I thought. One other observation – perhaps flawed – is that it’s a tactic that Sky/Ineos very rarely seem to use. Are they missing a trick? Or is it incompatible with their normal set of tactics (the attack-suppressing ‘train’)?

        • They have strong enough riders not to need this, they can get enough riders over the climbs who can also pull in the valleys, think Kwiatkowski, van Baarle, Sivakov, Castroviejo. But being able to climb and roll like this is a rare skill, these riders are millionaires and so not every team can have this.

    • It does work, the question is getting the timing right. Ideally a team sends a heavier rouleur ahead on a mountain stage where they can go ahead and eventually link up with the team leader and can pull on the valley roads for them. Doing it to pace on a climb isn’t as productive. Think of the 2019 Giro and the stage over the Montoso climb, Landa and M-A Lopez had send riders ahead and once over the climb they had riders waiting to pull for them. Now it didn’t win the race but it helped take time.

      • Kamna was ahead and he is exactly one of those rare engines who can pull a rider, say Jai Hindley along the valley. I really thought this is what the plan was when it developed, but no.

    • It’s a practical strategy to take the load off the climbing domestiques on the valley floors, and often is employed but like many aspects of sport doesn’t always have a race defining role. Instead it provides some relief on the big climbing days – just another tactic to help the main GC riders get to the finish.

      Even more true is it is very hard to quantify the effect on the overall AND very hard to say it had an outright effect every time it was employed. But, it can be one of those tactics that has a cumulative effect on the race and the GC riders.

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