Giro d’Italia Stage 18 Preview

A sprint interlude, although if you can’t climb or time trial this is your last shot at a stage win so there should be a bigger battle for the breakaway and in turn this reduces the chance of a sprint.

Stage 17 Review: a maxi-breakaway with all the likely breakaway names for a mountain stage, plus Mathieu van der Poel. He was there and keen to stir things up, surely he had no chance of winning but you sensed he just preferred to be on the move rather than sat tight in a group. Koen Bouwman and Giulio Ciccone kept up their battle for the mountains competition. Guillaume Martin was there after a public apology to his team mates for not delivering what he’d promised them.

Van der Poel got away with Gijs Leemreize on the descent of the Passo Vetriolo and built up a lead of a minute on the valley roads to the final climb. As soon as they hit the final climb Van der Poel started to ride away and for a brief moment the possibility of him winning a mountain stage could be entertained. But he was forcing the pace, shoulders rocking and soon looked like steam was going to hiss out of his ears. Sure enough Leemreize caught him, passed him and rode away. However Santiago Buitrago surged out of the chase group, he’d been well over a minute down and caught Leemreize before the top, attacked him and cracked him. He was clear to win the stage, sitting up with his shredded kit after a crash at the end of the Giovo descent.

Among the GC contenders there was a battle of sorts, we got the trio of Carapaz-Hindley-Landa again and Landa tried several attacks but couldn’t get clear and the other two sat tight, they’re still marking each other. As much as we might hope they trade attacks and swap the maglia rosa every day it’s not happening and they’re probably going to leave it until the last climb on Saturday. Hindley said he was very tired but he still looked the smoothest up the climb.

The Route: 151km out of the mountains on valley roads, many of them familiar to the Giro and Italian cycling. The climb at Primolano is small compared to all the Alpine ascents of this week, and unusual too as it’s partially through a fortress. Then it’s across to Valdobbiadene, home of may prosecco wineries and the region produces half a billion bottles a year, much of it is exported to the USA and UK.

Then it’s over to the Ca’ del Poggio. Poggio is a term for a hill, a word that’s been exported thanks to the Milan-Sanremo race. Here it’s very different, a “wall” climb that’s featured in the Giro and Italian championships before but hardly ambush terrain. Then it’s to Treviso for one lap of a 10.7km circuit.

The Finish: it’s all flat but some smaller roads on the edge of town between the 4km-2km points. The finishing straight is over a kilometre long, a big boulevard alongside the city’s old walls.

The Contenders: normally you’d look at the course and say there’s a 99% chance of a sprint finish today, but today let’s say it’s 80% as this is the last chance for any non-sprinters and non-climbers to take a stage win and there could be more of a fight. In recent years the sprint interlude in the final week has eluded the sprinters: in 2020 the truncated Asti stage went to the breakaway with Josef Cerny, in 2019 the one to Santa Maria di Sala was won by Damiano Cima from the early breakaway. There’s likely to be more riders up for the breakaway and among them more rouleurs who can help it power away. The saying goes that the peloton decides but it’ll really come down to Groupama-FDJ and Quick-Step and how soon they take up the chase, and whether UAE and DSM and maybe Cofidis can join in for their sprinters, or whether any of these teams have sent a rider up the road and so can sit out the case.

Breakaway picks include Julius van der Berg (EF Education), Pascal Eenkhoorn (Jumbo-Visma) and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) and…. Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) who could contest the bunch sprint if he doesn’t go in the breakaway. You might think of Alessandro De Marchi (Israel) but he can climb ok so tomorrow suits more, above it goes through his home town.

Otherwise Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) is back to winning ways and has his big team. Mark Cavendish (Quick-Step) has stayed in the race to hunt for a second stage win. Fernando Gaviria (UAE) must feel it’s got to be his turn soon. With tired riders there’s still a chance of a surprise for Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain), likewise a second stage win for Alberto Dainese and this is almost on home roads, he’s from Padua about 50km away.

Arnaud Démare
Mark Cavendish, Fernando Gaviria
Bauhaus, Dainese, Nizzolo, Eenkhoorn, van der Berg, de Gendt, Eenkhorn

Weather: warming up again, 28°C and a slight headwind for the final two hours of most of the course.

TV: the stage starts at 1.40pm and the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST.

Going global: today the race goes to Treviso, the home of Pinarello. Giovanni Pinarello trained as an apprentice frame builder before a brief professional career and then started Cicli Pinarello in 1953. For the next 50 years the company grew but remained an artisan effort, hand built steel fames made in Treviso. Now things are very different, Pinarello is a luxury brand, its carbon frames are made by a third party in Taiwan and the Pinarello family sold the business to US private equity firm L Catterton which owns other brands like Birkenstock sandals and 2XU compression wear. Sales are booming, Pinarello’s revenue surged 25% in 2021.

39 thoughts on “Giro d’Italia Stage 18 Preview”

  1. Hindley did look as though he was feeling it more than Carapaz and his Bora team mates couldn’t match Ineos. They need to rejuvenate and gain a bit of time before the time trial but it is looking unlikely that they will do that.

    • If Jai Hindley was beaten in a final day Giro TT by what was effectively an Ineos lieutenant at the time (no disrespect to either party intended), I don’t fancy his chances against an Ineos team leader?
      The pair look well matched in the mountains so a final day reckoning is looking likely again.
      Take away Pogacar (and possibly Roglic though his third week can be suspect), have few/er TT kilometres, and you’re left with a knot of high end GC contenders I’d say that would be closely matched.

      • TGH may have been a lieutenant, but my impression is that he’s probably a better time triallist than Carapaz.
        We’re heading for an interesting showdown and I expect it to be close.

        • We don’t really need to speculate do we?

          The TT is 17km long with a small climb.
          Stage 2 was 9km long with cobbles and there was 6seconds between them.
          You’d expect Carapaz to just be ahead but if Hindey goes in with 15-20secs it could make it interesting?

          Looking at past races, they’ve very rarely ridden in the same TT:
          Giro 2019 they rode the Verona TT – Carapaz finished 6secs ahead again, possibly the best reference for this year?

          Giro2019 they San Marino TT (won by Roglic) there was big difference of about 3.30 but it seems unfair to take that as a marker seeing as Hindley was younger and may have been told to rest.

          Volta Catalunya 2020 in a 18km TT Carapaz finish 30secs ahead, but again we know Hindley wasn’t in great form last year…

          We can’t take into account tiredness etc but it’s actually not that dissimilar to Tao vs Jai whether or not Tao was a lieutenant etc… I would expect Carapaz to be about 20seconds ahead from everything above.

          But maybe just for fun I might put a bet on that he finishes 6secs ahead to make it a hatrick of Giro TT’s that their difference has been the same time.

  2. So will Ineos have a tribute coming back to the home of the winner of the last maglia nera?

    “Guillaume Martin was there after a public apology to his team mates for not delivering what he’d promised them.” What did he promise them? I thought Cofidis were there because they’re WT and to get GT km in for their own GT in July. But if he really did have ambitions … maybe that attitude is why they’re moving up in the relegation game while complacent bigger teams are falling down.

    • He wanted a top-5 finish overall, a big ask but he’s been top-10 in the Tour and Vuelta and is still improving and the course here as few TTs so you could see why he was after this. He’s due to ride the Tour de France, hopefully with fresher legs and he can just say “non” to the GC and try to get a stage win that Cofidis crave.

  3. Bahrain had a good day and a bad day – stage win, but Landa seems destined for 3rd spot on the podium. Bizzaro World gave us MvdP going for the win … chapeau for effort. Bora tried copying the train strategy but came up empty. If Bora are running on empty then Ineos team strength could well decide the GC as there’s nothing between Carapaz and Hindley now. Before the Giro started I thought Carapaz would win GC without winning a stage and it’s still on. Today, every man and his dog in the break with winless teams having a shot at the Last Chance saloon.

    • To the contrary, Landa probably demonstrated evrn earlier (the day before yesterday) tgat he is unable to succesfully attack Hindley and Carapaz (but he’ll surely try again). But yesterday he took quite a firm hold of final podium by distancing Almeida, so it was quite a day for his team I suppose.

      • I strongly feel Landa should have won the 2015 Giro.

        Since then I’ve always thought he was a climbing wizard and feel like I’ve waited years for him to dance away on a climb and put minutes into everyone? Commentators likewise in the past have enthused his climbing prowess and often there’s been a lot of questions as to whether Ineos or Astana held him back from winning Grand Tours…

        But in all honestly I can barely remember a single time when Landa has dropped the best climbers and ridden away on a climb to take minutes rather than seconds. Even in smaller races. The only one that springs to mind was in the lead up to 2016 Giro at the Tour of the Basque Country?

        I think my question is – having been a Landa fan, and now admittedly lapsed… is he actually as good of a climber as the myth says?

        It’s unfair to compare him to Pogacar – but I can’t see much evidence to say he was better than peak Froome or Contador or even Nibali? Was he even better than Bardet or Uran at their best? And this is outside of his tendency to crash/use poor tactics/have a bad day – I’m just questioning if his key attribute is as strong as I’d been led to believe.

  4. Re Hindley looking fresh on the climbs, I recall at the 2020 Giro thinking on the latter, decisive climbs why wasn’t Hindley attacking Rohan and Teo when he similarly looked so fresh and appeared to be following with ease. He said after that he was on limit and couldn’t attack.

  5. I got it wrong in that I thought Joao Almeida would manage to hang on to third all the way to Verona, the difference was probably that Richie Porte & Wout Poels especially were still pulling until near the end. Mikel Landa seemed to lack something in the final sprint but did look strong on the climbs. I suspect it is advantage Richard Carapaz, Ineos seem to be stronger in the end, he is probably the better TT rider with better kit. I am dubious about press statements about not feeling so strong but I did think that Jai Hindley looked a little less sprightly on the climb than on previous days but it really is difficult to tell. This is almost a gladiatorial contest that seems likely to go all the way to the arena in Verona.

    I cant see this ending up as a sprint today, sprinter’s teams are too tired and depleted to chase a break once it goes. Maybe if it is only a “television” break but almost certainly too many riders wanting a stage win for that to happen.

  6. I was confused why UAE sent Covi in the break instead of having him help Almeida on the climbs. Not that it would’ve made much difference I guess but Almeida was alone pretty early.

    • if anyone needs a teammate to drop back to help it’s Almeida, rather than having him distanced from the leading group by not very much, and then struggle on (amazingly well) alone – unless that’s how he prefers it, but I doubt it…

      • Agreed.
        Pogacar is almost so good that he could have a team of talking Mynah Birds to have a chat with on the team bus after stages and still win a GT, lol.
        UAE need to get some support for Almeida, a Kwiatkowski / Dennis all terrain helper for their Xmas shopping list?

  7. I think Almeida knew pretty well where he stood before the Giro started when he said top 5 was the aim. He’s currently 4th with a slim chance of overhauling Landa for a podium place. Pretty good for a 23-year-old I’d say. He just needs to find a bit extra in the high mountains, a course with a bit more time trial kms and a team that is a bit better at supporting him and GT win is there for the taking.

  8. I honestly don’t understand UAE. They send Almeida to the Giro with a small contingent of Portuguese riders who will work for him and a large contingent of Italians who not only won’t work for him but are clearly at the race for their own goals. Almeida is talented, but he can’t win a Grand Tour by himself. No rider can. You need domestiques, tactics and execution. Even one more mountain domestique might have meant that he wouldn’t be bleeding seconds the way he was today. UAE signed a talented rider but now have neglected to actually build a team around him that can win. If I were in his position I would be righteously pissed off.

    • He’s earning a very good living and in the white jersey* as he’s still just 23. UAE are one of the big teams in the sport these days but even last year Pogačar didn’t have full support in the big mountain stages of the Tour, they’ve remedied that by signing riders like Bennett but the team’s built in a different way. I think they’ll be satisfied with Almeida’s riding knowing he can improve over the years, the questions are more for the others who have been stage hunting but haven’t landed anything.

      * … but it looks like Almeida could be out of the race after a Covid test.

    • I hadn’t noticed this?

      He looks isolated – but which riders are out for themselves?
      Are you sure they are not just too weak to help?
      Or their team has realised Almeida is unlikely to win so they’re looking for a stage win?
      Both seem fair enough and not a real reason to criticise UAE?
      They always going to put their best riders with Pogacar for the TDF?

      TBH I think Almeida is the rider to come out of this GIRO with the most improved reputation – (unless Hindley can nab a win) – obviously people knew Almeida was good but as a TimeTrialist this course doesn’t favour him and yet he’s been extremely dogged and clever in how he’s stayed in contention… and he’s only 23? I would say he is probably the standout Grand Tour rider (aside from Pogacar obviously) currently developing and with better team support, a favourable route he is surely a seriously Tour De France contender in the next few years?

      I think you could make a strong argument that on the smoother climbs and long TTs of this years TDF route (not that he will be riding!) if hypothetically every rider were fit and on different teams, he might actually be the fifth/sixth strongest favourite behind Pogacar, Roglic, Bernal, Vingegaard and maybe Carapaz? Given Froome, Dumoulin and potentially Thomas are past their best, and riders like Yates, Landa, Pinot, Bardet either have a bad day or suffer in the TT’s?

      He will surely have to swap teams quickly to get real support – especially as he likely has a better chance in France than he does Italy/Spain… although how an earth he or anyone beats Pogacar is hard to answer.

      • Ah. Gutted he’s out after covid test.
        Feel like this years Giro has lost two riders who deserved a strong result that would surely help their coming years negotiations/prospects – Bardet & Almeida.

        Both also seem like nice people so that’s a real gutter.

        Almost have the feeling this years Giro will be won by the last man standing rather than a rip roaring performance in the coming days.

  9. MvdP did look like he could win the stage for a while – when he attacked Leemreize he looked quite fluid. It was on the steep parts he started to fall apart. What was fascinating, is that on previous climbs, he never looked like he was in trouble and often took the initiative. Seemed like he climbed way better than in the first 2 weeks, where he didn’t do that and got dropped on shorter climbs.
    This is not what you’d expect, as the appearance of ‘riding yourself into form’ is usually a matter of who has the least accumulated fatigue. It’s starting to look more and more like a pre-tour training camp, with options to win stages if and when the possibility arises… Great show non the less.

    • I’d agree, I think that was the plan from the start; due to his injury in the winter, he hasn’t got a solid base of fitness. Which meant his first few races were successful, but the level wasn’t there later on, like Paris-Roubaix, where he dropped away.

      Treat the Giro like a training camp, pick the stages which suit to try and win, and see where he is at the end of the race. He seems to still be strong, and possibly getting better.

  10. I do hope Hindley doesn’t come to see Kämna’s failed stage win attempt on stage 16 as the moment he failed to pull clear on GC. He’s tried everything he could do on his own and is still in there, so a tow for 30km up the valley to the final climb could really have made a difference, especially if he’d taken Nibali with him on the previous descent.

    There were earlier comments saying this wasn’t a Classic Giro. – If it still isn’t after all that went on in st16 and st17, maybe watching a bike race is not your thing. Fantastic talents coming through and great racing that’s really close.

    If today’s stage has an unclassified blip of a climb so close to the finish, you know it will be a brute and there will be some real agony for the sprinters.

    • I agree – fantastic Giro.
      Girmay win alone was enough for me.
      Intrigue a plenty now though – the only reason to complain about this Giro is that we’ve been treated to classics in the last decade… this one isn’t in the league of 2018, 2017, 2016 as yet but it’s great still!!

      (2012 & 15 were obviously great also, but for me, Nibali’s incredible last week in 16, Dumoulin/Q/Pinot’s constant fight of 17 and then obviously 2018 (which is the greatest Grand Tour I’ve probably seen) do pip them)

      I bet the TDF wishes they could have a decade like the Giro’s 00’s!!!

      • 2018 is the Froome’s ascent to immortality on the Finestre / Sestriere? Such a great race, since that I am a fan of Simon Yates (because he seemed so genuinely happy on all those podiums) and of course the decisive stage was unforgettable. Still can’t comprehend how Dumoulin, who seemed so strong then, the next big thing, let it pass in such spectacular fashion.

        For me even 2020 edition was somehow special, albeit probably a dip in peak strength of the racing field. Frankly I would much prefer a stellar showdown with Pogačar, Roglič, Bernal et al. in Italy rather than France with it’s often boring landscape and embarassingly dull sprint procession to Paris.

  11. If the sprinters go full gas to fight for the sprinter’s classification point at the famous Valdobbiaden’s circuit before a relatively steep climb, then there is a chance that the sprinters might get dropped behind as there are two more climbs after that, particularly the last one of near 12% vertical climb for over 1km at the Muro di Ca’ del Poggio about 50k before the down hill (or false downhill) to the sprint finish line. But that depends on the quality of fast climbers and the number of riders in the breakaway group to spoil for the sprinters. But teams Quickstep, UAE and FDJ will not allow that without a fight. It would have been great to see Domenico Pozzovivo in the break and regain his top 5 GC today.
    Either way, guarantee that it’s a great spectacle today with Carapaz & Hindley 3 seconds apart….

  12. Sprinters blew it – almost caught the break with 100k to go, but the break was clever to save some matches for the finale – awesome result.

    Hope Cav can find a ride for next year.

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