Giro d’Italia Stage 2 Preview

A time trial stage to reshape the overall classification. It’s also a small GC day, a form test and also because today supplies one third of the Giro’s total TT distance so anyone hoping to use their time trial bike as a tool to gain time on their rivals needs to get the most out of this stage.

Visegraduation: a 190km procession and then five of intense action. Two notes from along the way: first, the long ride was often lined with big crowds; second saw Nizzolo win the intermediate sprint ahead of Démare, Cavendish’s leadout Van Leberghe, Cavendish and Gaviria, all could contest the points jersey from here to Verona. A big extrapolation from one intermediate sprint? Yes but bolstered by the probability that these riders may not be at the Tour de France so they can race to the end of the Giro.

Onto the final climb and Ag2r’s Lawrence Naesen and Lennard Kämna made good attacks but it came down to a ragged sprint, many riders visibly tired, weaving and bobbing on their bikes. In the end Biniam Girmay launched first with Mathieu van der Poel having to come from further back but the Dutchman came past for the win. Van der Poel bolsters his reputation with the win and the maglia rose while Girmay confirms much of the hope in him, second place his grand tour debut with many big names trailing places him high in the sport’s pecking order and you can see why his team have given him a bumper long term contract.

One of those left behind was Caleb Ewan. The Australian crashed and it was reminiscent of Pontivy in the Tour de France last summer, in contention he overlapped his front wheel again, entirely his fault yet obviously not deliberate. It wouldn’t be surprising to learn he had tunnel vision because of the hypoxic effort. Otherwise all the GC contenders made it in safely, with only modest time losses, Guillaume Martin lost 16 seconds.

The Route: just 9.2km and on big boulevards between Buda and Pest and along the Danube, but a sting in the tail. After the time check it’s uphill on a cobbled climb with some 10% slopes before it eases to the finish, riders will need to save something so they can surge over the steepest parts. The pavé are polished, slippery for TT bikes with too much air in the tires.

The Contenders: there’s no Filippo Ganna, a loss for the Giro as he’s a rising star of Italian sports whose name has gone beyond cycling’s cognoscenti and the Italian audience will miss him. Eduardo Affini (Jumbo-Visma) is almost a body double and due a big win but there’s huge competition, starting with team mates Tom Dumoulin, Tobias Foss and Jos van Emden, with Dumoulin and Foss more suited to the final climb. Apparently Dumoulin’s joked with van der Poel “if you take the maglia rosa, I’ll take it off you“, or words to that effect but a stage win is one thing, taking the maglia rosa much tougher.

There aren’t many TT specialists in the field, let alone short distance experts. Israel have Matthias Brändle and Alex Dowsett and if neither’s won a time trial for years they might find the field is more open but they’ll have to get past Jumbo-Visma.

João Almedia (UAE) and Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco) can feature but a win is a big ask.

Matteo Sobrero (BikeExchange-Jayco) is the Italian TT champion – and a winemaker – who was a decent fifth in the recent Romandie prologue, plus he’s not heavy for the final climb. Still, a win here would be a big move.

Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) has a good chance. He’s yet to win a time trial but that’s often because he hasn’t had to, now with the maglia rosa he’s here to race and has been training on his TT bike of late in anticipation of today. The course with its corners and he can hit the final climb better than the rest.

Tom Dumoulin
MvdP, Sobrero, Affini, Almeida
Foss, Yates, van Emden

Weather: 23°C and an outside chance of rain which can obviously cost seconds in the corners although humid conditions make the air faster.

TV: it starts at two, the finish is for five, and how much you watch is up to you. (times are CEST).

18 thoughts on “Giro d’Italia Stage 2 Preview”

  1. Thanks again for all the work you do – interested to see how good Dumoulin is. Yates v Carapaz can give us an idea on form.

  2. Dumoulin has to put about 1.5” / km into van der Poel to take the maglia rosa.
    That’s another very sketchy bet in my book?
    Some interesting history on show yesterday.
    I don’t envy the television commentators with some of the place names though, very easy to make a right goulash of them 😃

  3. I am almost certain Ewan was seeing stars/had hypoxia. I have watched the crash time over and I am sure he was going down/in a falling motion just before he touched Girmay’s wheels. Also the touch was very, very light, enough to knock him down? I am not so sure. Would be interesting to hear Caleb’s thoughts!

    • Yet Ewan seems to be more prone to this than others. Situational awareness and control in tight quarters are critical for sprinters — sprinting isn’t just about white muscle. Go so deep you’re ready to black out and you’re not just a menace to yourself, you’re a hazard to others.

      • His own version is that he found himself in the wrong gear after bumping into Cort. Huge disappointment but at least he showed plenty of strength.

    • I don’t think the wheel touch “knocked him down,” I think he realized he needed to go to the left of Girmay and started leaning that way but had his wheel already overlapping on the right side. His own leftward momentum threw him down on his shoulder when his front wheel was suddenly jerked to the right because he and the bike were going the other way. And I don’t think he was blacking out, I think Girmay got a tiny gap on Ewan and Ewan surged forward more than expected to close that gap just as he started his leftward adjustment.

      None of that answers the question of why Ewan was drifting slightly to the right after Girmay and MVdP passed him. Even though I think the finish might have had a slight rightward curve, there was absolutely no room over there and he had several pedal strokes to gradually drift to the left after Girmay passed to both stay in Girmay’s slipstream but also set him up for a possible pass into open air. As I said elsewhere, I think his sprinting style of getting way out in front of the bars and

    • to finish the thought – getting out over his bars gives him less control. Usually at that point he just needs to keep his line, not maneuver.

      • I’m surprised Ewan doesn’t fall off more often.
        No matter what , being all over the front of your bike is just plain unstable. If anything at all goes wrong he’s in big trouble. If he bounces wrong, slips a gear, or contacts anyone near him, down he goes.

        • I always hated ewans position with his back wheel all over the place.

          Ewan does appear however over the last 2 years to have reworked his position substantially in some sprints i have seen him do. Going uphill will probably tend to increase how much over the front you are.

  4. I don’t know how much form we should read into this. If this were switched with today’s stage it would be the prologue, and we all know how much those set the race to come. A long prologue, maybe (though I see that the 96 Tour had a 9.4 km to start with, the winner Zulle finished almost an hour down in Paris while 2nd place Berzin was at 38′), but still a prologue.

    • If the order were swapped, the ITT would actually be Stage 1 because it is longer than the max prologue distance of 8.0km.

      Therefore the full time cut and DNF rules would apply just as they did when it was run as Stage 2.

  5. Thanks for embarking on yet another grand tour for us!
    What about Wilco Kelderman? He is one of the better TT riders of the GT specialists, and closer to the maglia rosa than most – although the distance may be a bit too short for him.

    • He looked good yesterday and these things are always a clue but a win? Harder to see from here, but could be in the top-10, agree that he might find this too short… and flat. Kämna could do well too.

  6. At a twisty 9.2km with a short cobbled climb at the end I’m not sure conventional TT ability will come into it that much. I think the main factors will be bike handling ability on your awkward handling TT bike, and how much you have practiced this, and explosiveness up the short climb at the end. If Van der Poel’s got the practice in I can see him winning again, or someone out of left field.

  7. A rider used to cyclocross bike changes could lose no time with a bike change and then gain a lot up the final climb on softer, grippier tyres.
    Q: Does service have to come from a car behind, or can a helper be ready at the roadside, maybe even with a bit of carpet laid down?

  8. 5 stars for Dumoulin is a bold pick when, I think (correct me if I’m wrong) his form is unknown. Still, I like it! If he puts some seconds in to everyone today, he’s GC odds will have to shorten and his diesel style could end up more consistent than Yates and Lopez. Not sure how he’d beat Carapaz, but would be great for the GC race if he were amongst it.

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