Giro d’Italia Stage 6 Preview

A trip up the coast and a likely sprint finish, a blogger’s rest day with a route so obvious there’s more to say about citrus fruits than the coastal course.

Si si, Nono: the route had one big climb and Alpecin-Fenix, UAE and Intermarché got to work with a pace that dropped many sprinters. Ewan (a mechanical), Cavendish, then Démare all popped. Démare though was dropped towards the top and so had less of a gap to close and he made it back on although his leadout man Jacopo Guarnieri blew a gasket here and couldn’t make it to Messina with him. Ramon Sinkeldam though was worth two riders and dropped off Démare in just the right place.

Among all the big name sprinters in the sport, Arnaud “Nono” Démare was the only one without a win this year and he’s now got it. He’s not necessarily the fastest sprinter, in track and field he’d be more a 400m runner than a 100m sprinter but in cycling it’s all so different given the requirement to run a marathon before sprinting. Each day. He’s now in the points jersey with a lead over Biniam Girmay.

The day also saw Vincenzo Nibali announce he’d be hanging up his wheels at the end of the season. He’s a name in Italy but not a star, his face doesn’t appear on breakfast cereal packets, perhaps because he’s had a tendency for self-deprecation rather than self-aggrandisation. But you can make a case that nobody in the peloton has a palmarès as broad as his with all three grand tours, two Monuments and more. La Gazzetta Dello Sport devotes three pages and an editorial to him today.

The Route: 192km up the coast along the SS18 road, the Tirrena Inferiore. The Giro has darted inland when in this area to add some spice but not today, it’s the the coastal road all day, even the early climb is on the highway.

There’s little more to add, the stage is branded “riviera dei cedri” by the race in a tribute to the cedro, the citron that’s not a lemon but a still a sour citrus fruit. The coast is big on alternative citrus fruit, often grown for perfumes, or bergamot which for English readers goes in your Earl Grey tea, and for Italians they grow lots of citrus myrtifolia or chinotto, the ingredient for Campari and the Chinotto (“kin-otto”) soft drink that sort of an Italian version of cola, there’s a hint of citrus in it but overwhelming it’s a bitter taste, a boiled artichoke reduction that’s carbonated. In short there’s more to say about fruit than the route today.

The Finish: a straight road into Scalea and flat too.

The Contenders: a dragstrip finish evokes Mark Cavendish (Quick-Step) again, the best in Baltonfüred but we’ve still not got a hierarchy to the sprints. Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) needs a win soon and has the pedigree to win. Fernando Gaviria (UAE) was blaming his bike after a high cadence sprint, as if he couldn’t get into top gear but there’s also a structural problem as his bike just requires more watts to ride at a high speed than others, a French website synthesising Tour Magazin’s bike tests recently described his bike as gouffre à watts, a “wattage sinkhole” which does evoke poetic licence but at 70km/h and 1,500W there’s a point, it’s harder to pick him. Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) is going to be more confident now.

Mark Cavendish, Caleb Ewan
Arnaud Démare
Gaviria, Bauhaus, MvdP, Girmay

Weather: sunny and with a slight tailwind, and only 20°C.

TV: the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST.

36 thoughts on “Giro d’Italia Stage 6 Preview”

  1. Is there a consensus?

    Did Gaviria had a problem with gearing & not the bike? ???
    Was it electric gearing issues? Was it Shimano’s 12 speed issues? Was it in fact the bike? -Does that bike absorb watts? -A combination?

  2. From the head-on videos of the sprint at the finish line it certainly looked like Gaviria had a gearing issue. He was sprinting right next to Demare and the difference in cadence was very obvious… I guess now we know why Uran chose the top gear on that Tour stage 😀

  3. The cédrat here in France also makes delicious perfumed marmalade, though with lots of waste between the outer zest and centre. The making is laborious but maybe an ideal activity for a ‘watching paint drying’ Giro stage.

    And if the UAE team’s bike really is a “gouffre à watts’ maybe we should be relieved as Pogacar might otherwise win with even more ease – or is the aerodynamic inefficiency compensated for by light weight.

    • The cédrat/citron makes good ice cream too.

      Pogačar’s bike is light enough, comparable to other brands. These magazine tests are useful but his V3RS bike was being compared to a lot of aero models so more an issue for sprinting than climbing although energy adds up, there are gains for the descents. The test worked out that one bike needed under 200W to ride at 45km/h, some need 230W. It’s a wind tunnel etc but a benchmark, and the relative comparisons are interesting to chew on… during a long flat stage.

      • Apologies this is getting a bit nerdy, but if those are the numbers the magazine reported there’s something wrong with their test.

        If 200w equated to 45km/h then I’d be in the Tour de France on my numbers – and I’m a very, very, very average club cyclist! 300w hour threshold is pretty normal for a club cyclist and that gives you approximately 25mph/40kpm average speed. The pros are ballpark one hour efforts of 45ow.

        At the speeds they hit in a dragstrip sprint I’ve no doubt there’s watts to be had in frame design but clothing, helmets, rim depth and particularly body position make more difference to drag co-efficient. Hence Ewan and Cavendish can win sprints while probably putting out less power than their lead out men, thanks to how low they get over the bars.

        • I expect their quoted wattage test numbers are bike only – so they exclude the drag of a rider hence 200W for 45kph. No test is perfect, but 30w between certain frame sets sounds about right to me

          • Aha, that makes more sense re: watts vs speed without the drag of a rider. Don’t tell Elon Musk or we might end up with a self-riding bike taking the 2023 Tour.

        • I don’t speak/read French but inferring from the pictures there was no rider weight added to the bike during the test, pedaling was simulated by manikin legs which must have added some weight but nothing like the 50-80 kg of a Giro rider.

          • Yes, it’s all an attempt to measure the bike and not the rider, it’s the relative score that’s interesting more than the absolute (and the French write-up puts all the bikes alongside for comparison rather linking to the Tour website but Tour Magazine has lots of reviews at

            It’s an influential magazine to the point that some makers have in the past thought about the test the magazine uses and thought how to do well here as part of their design process.

            As Lukyluk points out the tests are for “off the shelf” versions rather than the models in the Giro which can have aero bars, different wheels, tires etc.

        • Small undulation plays a big part in Wattage requirements. Plus I guess these guys are either ignoring rolling resistance entirely or assumes you are riding on board in a velodrome.

          That said, pure speculation on my side.

          • They’re measuring the bike’s resistance at 45kph, not power input at the pedals.

            To note, they’re using the stock version of the bike, so depending on the stage, the pros would differ a bit depending on their choice of wheels, tyres, handlebars or even groupsets.
            Some good frames are also sold with pretty bad wheels/tyres when bought off the shelf, so that could tweak the results a little.

        • Tour currently tests bikes in the wind tunnel using a pair of dummy legs without a torso. The purpose is to compare bikes, not predict power on the road.

  4. It would be interesting to hear from a sprinter about changing gears during a sprint. I wouldn’t have thought it would even be possible when they are pouring on the power. Getting it right seems to be a key part of success (perhaps Cavendish has a secret).

    • Can’t really do it with mechanical gearing, unless you back off for a split second. Electronic shifting allegedly accounts for this and it is possible to shift under load – I don’t have any experience of that but there seem to be an awful lot of gearing issues in sprints nowadays.

      • and how did Maertens and the old-time sprinters manage with Campag Record down tube shifters which always tended to change up under pressure at unwanted moments (with exactly the same problem when climbing)? One could screw them tight – which made changing almost impossible, or leave and hope for the best!

        • There was that rumour back in the 80s that in one of the Kelly/Vanderaerden sprints, Vanderaerden was shoving Kelly into the barriers, shoulder to shoulder and in retaliation Kelly reached over and flicked Vanderaerden’s down shifter into the inner ring, causing him to either crash or at least lose the sprint. Can’t remember the details.

      • It works perfect, even under more than 1000 watts, at least with Shimano Di2. That’s why those little buttons, aka sprint shifters, placed somewhere in the drops are so common on sprinters’ bikes these days.

        So they can start their sprint on the 12T to accelerate a little easier and then shift up to the 11T to reach terminal speed.

        • I started racing as a junior in the US. 5 speed freewheel and had to take the little cog off for Jr gear restrictions. So 4 speed, really. Back in the day w down tube friction levers. All ya could really do was punch that lever after the sprint got going and boom you’re in your highest gear. If that was too much you had to pick the right gear before the sprint.
          When STI came along, you didn’t even know which gear you used, cause they’re all right there in your hand.
          Mechanical always shifted just fine under all the load I could ever put on it.
          I’m not Gaviria but…..

    • Cavendish’s track background helps him here…He has a wider window of useful cadence than most road riders, which you need as a track bike has one gear. So for him, if the gear isn’t quite the right one, he can overcome any need to change gear by +\- cadence. Within reason, obviously.

  5. I wonder if the fact that Italian Railways are one of the big sponsors has any influence on the route. A good part of the stage today has a railway line along side, no doubt many appearances of one of the “pink” trains.

    The long flats “boring” stages also mean the race passes through many small towns & villages, I dont think this is as big a deal in Italy as in France but it must still play a part.

  6. Busy today, otherwise I would put RAI commentary bumbling on with interviews and do a mundane task until 20k to go.
    – unless there’s crosswinds..

  7. Huge mess – Gaviria’s comments about the bike, clearly the opposite goal of the bike sponsor.

    Bike being known as a watts sinkhole… yikes

    • “Bike being known as a watts sinkhole… yikes”.

      Not a fan of that brand, not at all, but if consumer market is concerned, I’d frankly have it over a faster brand which is prone to carbon fracture or which isn’t sold through independent bike shops.

      And, well, to quote the article…
      “Enfin le choix de simuler des vitesse de 45 kmh se justifie par le fait d’avoir plus de précision de mesure. Il faut savoir remettre les chiffres à leur place lorsque vous roulez à 30 kmh ou 35 kmh. Globalement la résistance aéro baisse de moitié entre 45 et 35kmh ( 0.47 exactement ) et est divisé par 3 ( 0.3 exactement) à 30 kmh”.
      It matters a lot for Gaviria’s >60 km/h sprint, less so for most amateur riders.

      Riding in a group also makes aero less relevant.

      Instead, I can’t understand fully why riding a bike at 45 km/h with no wind should cost less watts than riding the same bike, at the same speed, with a strong purely lateral crosswind.
      More generally speaking, I’m not really sure they worked out properly that vector theory (lateral wind isn’t actually tested empirically, only the result from the application of the above theory), but I lack serious expertise on the subject so any help would be welcome.

      • I can’t help you on that last bit Gabriele, I’m just a lowly accountant.

        Agreed on your other points, it is an interesting analysis and I like reading those reviews. And definitely there is a difference at Gaviria’s speed – not mine. But either way, the appearance of the situation isn’t what Colnago is aiming for with their team sponsorship.

      • The above should have been “cost more watts”… X-)
        In the graphs it looks like that with lateral wind less watts are sucked up by the bike, riding at the same speed. Uhmmm…

      • A few things:
        I didn’t see anything about purely lateral winds, only crosswinds up to about 20 degrees off the z-axis, where an aero rim can act as an airfoil. Maybe I didn’t read closely enough, but what I saw only showed wheel results. Purely lateral crosswinds won’t have the same effect as no wind, because the crosswind has a momentum term the still air doesn’t.

        Speaking of “precision de mesure”, I didn’t see any numbers there either, making it difficult to evaluate their data. Even if their measurement precision is high, they should mention the limitations of the data (“external validity”). Both are basic to any measurement.

        It would matter a lot in a 60 km/hr sprint if the sprinter were in clear air. Coming off a leadout or jockeying for position in turbulent airflow, out of the saddle flinging the bike around … maybe not so much.

        • They consider that front airflow due to movement plus totally lateral airflow due to wind can be reproduced in the air-tunnel by rotating the bike up to 20 degrees against a single airflow, considering that the result of the real-life situation would be equal to the “diagonal” sum of two orthogonal vectors. And, yes, they offer figures for the whole bike against such a situation, and those numbers are lower when purely lateral crosswind are supposedly “recreated” through the 20º vector approach, that is, according to these data it requires less power to ride at 45 km/h against still air than to ride at the same speed when a totally lateral wind is blowing, which to me is counterintuitive at least and not quite mirroring empirical experience, but, hey, that’s why we have science – supposing that they got their models right, of course.

  8. Today is prologue number 2 as the Giro begins tomorrow, otherwise Dumoulin can n’t climb anymore, and Nibali is old (but has been one of the greats).

  9. Whoa! We’ve got ourselves a real sprint battle!

    Great job Demare to confirm your speed and the team’s hard work!

    Can’t wait for the next sprint battle.

    • Sorry, one more post and then I’m done:

      ~ Looks like Cav went way too early – maybe should have hung back a bit and slotted behind demare?
      ~ Gaviria…. WHAT WAS HE DOING? Was he following his own riders, or boxed behind DSM?

      I’m so confused by Gaviria, he loves punching his bike.

      Demare great ride, read that perfectly.

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