Giro Stage 12 Preview

Want to win a stage? Are the sprint finishes and high Alps beyond reach. Well today is the day. All the peloton knows it and half the peloton wants to exploit it.

A Seagull on the Coast: a second stage win for Jonathan Milan, named Jonathan by his mother after she read Richard Bach’s “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” during pregnancy. 23 years later he wins another scary sprint in the beach town of Francavilla. Not that Milan did anything wrong, it’s just the impression that at any moment his stem could snap, a pedal axle will shear or some other catastrophic failure will happen under the sheer force. It’s a double triumph for Trek, both a win and product stress test.

The other news from the sprint was Tim Merlier’s relegation. He drifted right and closed the door on Juan Sebastian Molano before moving back to the middle. It wasn’t wild but it wasn’t correct.

The big story earlier was Cian Uijtdebroeks not starting meaning Visma-LAB are down to four riders. There’s a virus doing the rounds but his team were quick to rule out Covid. Feedback from other teams is just a respiratory illness. Stefano Oldani was also out, he’d been ill for a couple of days with similar symptoms. So Antonio Tiberi is in white and he told RAI’s Processo alla Tappa show he’s already had the virus so is hopeful of continuing to Rome. It makes you fear who might be next.

The Route: 193km and 2100m of vertical gain. Today’s stage has four marked climbs but more that are not. These are the “walls” of the Marche, steep roads climbing to hilltop towns but the race has avoided the most severe versions. However the defining feature of the road is their exhausting changes in gradient, they’re not just steep but variable and this irregularity makes them hard. The last one up Monte Giove is narrow too.

The Finish: the race twists around Fano but it’s largely flat, a dip under the railway line first and then a bridge over it before the flamme rouge.

The Contenders: the breakaway stage of the Giro. Some names stand out. Jhonathan Narvaez (Ineos) is in obvious form and has a fast sprint, he smoked Pogačar after all. Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal-Quickstep) is in great form too but this has been sufficient to get clear but not win, he will need to be more crafty today. Max Schachmann (Bora-hansgrohe) is versatile. Michael Valgren (EF) came close the other day but said he wasn’t feeling good. Alessandro De Marchi (Jayco) will be up for the stage but how to win?

Sprinters Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck) and Caleb Ewan (Jayco) can have a chance today if the tactics work out, they’d need to get in the breakaway and play cards carefully.

Tadej Pogačar (UAE) can’t be ruled out but we’d probably have to see a spectacular stage for him to come in with a small group to contest the win.

Narvaez, Vendrame, Alaphilippe
Schachmann, Groves, Bagioli, Sanchez, Valter, Pogačar

Weather: sunshine and 23°C

TV: KM0 is at 12.30pm CEST and the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST. This could have sport from start to finish.

Postcard from Osimo
Today’s stage is in the Marche region, it as plenty going for it with mountains, coast, food, wine and a pleasant climate. Now you can probably tell there is a “but” coming… and it’s the roads. Italy has a vast network of roads which is great for cycling as you can find plenty of routes with very little traffic.

Only this is about the superficial as while the roads are fantastic, plenty are cracked and potholed in a way that they just aren’t in, say, France or Spain. This varies by region and over the years Marche has tended to have a lot of bad ones, although it’s hardly exceptional.

Sometimes it can’t be helped. Italy’s geography is a big factor, clay soils and schist rocks mean hillsides are subsiding and roads slide with them. Most regions have a climate that has torrential rains ice and above all heat. The technique of using asphalt also means the road is even more likely to soften. But it’s also a question of resources, even bigger infrastructure like bridges are at risk here.

In recent years wider tires and rims have helped a lot, what would once tear tires and ruin rims on a a recon ride is now passable. Although it does mean the road cyclist is often scanning the road ahead like a mountain biker on the trail rather than gazing at the scenery. Anyway, rather than get into a blogger’s rant let’s give the last word to the local press in Italy…

The Giro can often see roads repaired ahead of the race, watch and you’ll see regular portions of fresh blacktop. I can’t remember if it was The Cycling Podcast or the Gironimo podcast but just the other day one cited an amusing newspaper article in a local newspaper from Calabria. The headline above is “No Giro in Calabria, relief for tire-fitters”, as in garage repair shops can rest assured of business thanks to rough roads ravaging vehicles. Here’s more of the amusing piece (my translation):

There is no fan of cycling that does not love the Giro d’Italia and there is no tire-fitter or mechanic that does not hate it, at least in Calabria. In fact for a long time the mythical stage race organised by [La Gazzetta Dello Sport] has not been synonymous with sport but with resurfacing…

…the roads in Calabria are always a mess, except when there’s a stage of the Giro. Thanks to the TV coverage of the race route, local councils seem to turn into their efficient Japanese counterparts. Every hole, like magic, is filled in an flash, including those that had been there for years; the asphalt suddenly resembles that of a Swiss canton. For those who make a living repairing tires this is trouble.

Mechanics and tire-fitters can, however, breathe a sigh of relief: no Giro d’Italia in Calabria in 2024. The collapse of business recorded as a result of the stage between Palmi and Scalea will not be repeated. It is not known if it was these two powerful lobbies, or that of the spare parts industry, that convinced [La Gazzetta] not bring the race south of Campania. But it is likely that in several garages, when the official route for 2024 was unveiled, they were uncorking champagne.
“Calabria, niente Giro d’Italia 2024: sollievo tra i gommisti” by Camillo Giuliani in I Calabresi, October 2023

45 thoughts on “Giro Stage 12 Preview”

  1. To me, the big minus of Italian roads for amateur cyclists (as well as for drivers) is the average width. Why does everything have to be so narrow in Italy?

    • Agreed re: high-traffic roads (although even in that case I value any reduction in soil consumption), but when secondary or mountain roads are concerned, personally I prefer by far a narrow road to have a bike ride. And, at the end of the day, in that case is much safer, too. They’ll drive one inch away from your handbar anyway, so I prefer a road which in itself forces car to keep a lower speed.

        • Note that in Italy bicycles should not ride on «road shoulder», because, unlike Spain, it’s not even considered as a proper part of road. On normal roads it might be there or not, depending on how generous they were with asphalt, but it actually… doesn’t exist as a concept. You’re either on the road or off the road. You might even have issues if you sufferered an accident with a car while riding there, even if you «were right» (depending on how evil is the insurance company of the driver).
          The above is obvioulsy just info, not criticism, I also love a decent «arcén» to ride long transfers on the flat.

          • This is interesting.

            In the UK it’s a complete mess (not that I find it a huge issue generally) – but sometimes there are great bike lanes, even if that’s rare, more often there are either no cycle lanes nor hard shoulder (on country lanes) so you cycle on the road and occasionally drivers get angry that you’re not cycling in a ditch or anywhere that’s not in their way!

            On larger roads there may be a hard shoulder but it’s often covered in glass or poorly maintained so uncycle-able if you ride at a decent pace – but the worst case scenario is where there is a tiny bike lane marked in an unmaintained hard shoulder where you’re forced to cycle on the road meaning that drivers then flip out because you’re not using the uncycle-able demarcated cycle lane!!

            In general though the road surfaces in the UK are dreadful and add huge amounts of unnecessary fatigue for long distance riders that our European counterparts don’t have to endure with their lovely smooth roads!

            One curious thing I find cycling around this island is first how noticeable it is that over the course of a day driving standards get worse, going from decent in the morning to terrible once the young guys wake up going into the evening! For me the ratio of minor incidents with drivers (as in one shouting, overtaking too close etc) is about 1/100km but the ratio of major incidents (stand up argument or crash) is actually relatively low if you’re cycling in the morning as I generally do.

            Another strange and completely unproven take, is the speed and aggressive of the driving styles varying noticeably from country to county here – with (in my experience) Norfolk having the fastest drivers (speeding seems to just be a way of life there!), Wales the fewest cars, Cumbria the nicest drivers and Essex the most hostile drivers. Would be interested to know if anyone shares these takes or violently disagrees!

          • @oldDAVE I agree with your experiences of UK roads and drivers, including how time of day alters the interactions with other road users. Here in Scotland many rural roads are terrible, though those in Perthshire are often excellent (it’s one of the nicest places to ride a bike… when the sun shines).

            I think riding solo vs in larger groups also makes a difference. I have three young kids so tend to do early solo rides (aim to be home before 10am on weekends). This means there are few other drivers on the roads, and if any do have to pass me it’s easy as it’s only me. But our group ride leaves at 9.30 on Saturdays, often with 50+ riders, and they regularly report aggressive drivers. Is this because there’s more traffic? Because it’s more frustrating for drivers to have to pass such a large group? Or maybe even because (dare I say it) larger groups of cyclists can themselves be less considerate to drivers? I think it’s a combination of the above.

            Regarding road surfaces: one benefit to having such low expectations is that sometimes I find a new stretch of smooth tarmac and it’s like an early birthday present. But obviously I’d prefer that were the norm rather than an unexpected surprise!

          • Enjoyed this WillC – amazing to hear reScotland and agree on finding smooth roads! I rarely cycle in large groups but would pretty much agree complete with your take when I do – it’s a bad compromise for both cyclists and drivers unfortunately and needs a bit of give and take from both, even if that’s ideal nor fair for either.

          • My experiences are very similar to both of yours oldDave & Will…

            I much prefer riding solo or in a small group of <5, as I find larger groups stressful to ride in, as even if drivers don't get angry, I always have the sense that large groups are unnecessarily inconveniencing others. There also seems to be a general decline in group riding skills and discipline in the cycling population in the UK, which means that larger groups are more prone to being spread across a large area of road as people don't know how to ride in a compact unit, but that's probably another topic altogether!

            Mornings are definitely much better for riding, before the collective stress and frustration levels have risen on the roads!

          • @oldDAVE

            You should try riding in the county of the Surrey tractors. Time of day is irrelevant, close passes very frequent, terrible/dangerous driving equally frequent, aggressive drivers abound.

            I’ve not seen many hard shoulders in England in the Spanish style and we have that special kind of cycle lane – a footpath with a bike painted on it that abruptly stops for no reason and usually at a spot where it’s most needed.

            One thing I do agree with you about wholeheartedly is the terrible state of our roads, which can make a 50-mile ride feel like 70.

      • Agree, there is nothing more depressing than riding a mountain road that resembles a highway (Tour of California / Utah style). It so pleasant to ride a narrow, tiny road up a mountain and psychologically you feel the kilometres pass by quicker then when you ride the same gradient on a big wide road.

        • Quite. Add some dark galleries to your two-lane climb, with loud lorries and buses, for a more intense feeling. Riding up the Simplon Pass is quite an experience in that regard. Stressful as hell, the kind of thing to do once in a lifetime. You don’t forget it.

          • I rode up a long, wide pass out of Paarl in South Africa a few years back that many huge artic lorries use to avoid the toll road. Having one of them passing you much less than a foot away honking on their horn (it took ages as the vehicles were so long) is a far from pleasant experience.

    • For me, the road surface in Italy – least, Tuscany and the Appenines – was fine. Though, I was coming (then) from Scotland, and the UK has somewhat terrible roads the last 10 to 20 years (see discussions here on the WC in Glasgow).

      The bad thing about cycling in Italy for me was the drivers. A small minority of drivers are mental. I had a vague feeling this was not out of malice towards cyclists (as is usually the case for bad driving around cyclists in UK), but just… general crazy driving.

      But I don’t know, I only spent 1 week cycling there.

  2. Hey just found your blog yesterday while trying to figure out the Giro d’Italia rules.
    Your work is just great, never thought I would get interested in cycling, thank you!

  3. I believe it was Daniel Freibe on Cycling Podcast, he is very well informed. In a world where we are spoilt for podcasts, and they were one of the originals, I they still deliver a very good, unique, product.

    • I agree – the recipe is just right and something I return too, the sugar rush of Labterne Rouge does get a bit formulaic once you scratch away the more animated delivery

      • +1 cycling pod is excellent now they’ve adjusted to the sad passing of Richard Moore.
        I’m a huge Daniel Friebe fan, think he’s excellent and a real oddball character who keeps you listening. Personal fave line up Friebe, Docker, Abrahams.

        Found it hard to get into Lanterne Rouge during the period he hooked up with ITV a few years back, this probably sounds bad but he just seems a bit creepy or did back then! I can’t remember whether it was a haircut or sunglasses that did it, and probs says more about me than him, as any awkwardness is understandable as he was very young and adjusting/learning how to present.

        GCN I personally think is just remarkable and despite being slightly put off by their happy-clappy-Saturday-morning-kids-show-schtick to start with, I’ve grown to love their positivity and admire their business acumen that built them toward the tragically now deceased GCN+.

        Have been chastised for listening the The Move on here previously but if I’m honest, I think we’re all adults and able to decide what we think of the big Texan where listening doesn’t necessarily mean you like him/agree with his actions/forgive him etc. Personally I generally find there’s some good takes from Bruyneel every so often and in life sometimes bad people can be quite entertaining…. hearing Lance sell toilets or whatever else he’s hawking has become a highlight each week for me – as a gifted charlatan it’s no surprise he’s good at it but it shocks me every time how persuasive he is at selling mattresses I have no need for.

        • Hopefully you hadn’t bought an unneeded mattress because of Lance.

          I’m no fan of Lance, especially about his bullying. I listened to a few of his stuff on YouTube by accident almost. He is entertaining, with a tell it as it is altitudes. His ego does take the better of him from time to time (for example when he criticised riders for too friendly to each other/no aggressiveness or competitive spirit this year).

          Other times he just has too much of the American life coach vibe (you know the type, if you do this your whole life would be turned around blah blah…) that really turns me off.

          • ha – no, I’m okay with being a listener but buying what he sells/promotes is a step too far…!!

            I’m also uncomfortable with the bullying and agree with most here/fans that it is what separates his misdeeds from many others and what undermines his ‘everyone was doing it’ argument as everyone was not crushing dissenters as he clearly was.

            At the same time, life is full of characters good and bad… so anything that doesn’t veer into unconscionable evil (even if there’s a large grey area before) I’m usually okay to either forgive, or try to see the good in people and if there is little good at least appreciate whatever interesting idiosyncrasies they might have that makes up the vast tapestry of humanity!

            Lance is probably pretty close to the later but I do have an issue with sweeping judgements against people who might still like him which unfairly ignore that they might have grown up admiring him as kid and find that admiration hard to shift, or worse there are likely many out there who survived cancer in ways they might credit (true or false) to his charity or even a visit from him at their lowest and so are willing to overlook his many faults to retain the memory.

            Even if… as with everything Lance related, he quickly undermines his good deeds by using them for his own gain and the charity specifically to bully away accusations at the time. Outside of cycling, I do actually think it’s an interesting question how often inspirational people who do grand acts of good happen to be deeply problematic in other ways, whether that began so or evolved to be. I’m not exactly sure which Lance is, but his ability to lie makes him the perfect salesman and it’s almost scary to hear how good he is at it.

          • The Move can be worth watching/listening to.

            Yes, Lance is still Lance. He is a little mellower, and a bit more self-aware now, but he clearly still has a huge ego. Yes, he was king of the dopers in the 90s, and bullied a whole sport, and damaged some people’s careers. However, he has also been punished accordingly for that, with the most severe punishment you can get: forever banished from any IOC and WADA regulated sports. And he’s having to humiliate himself pimping snake-oil pseudo-medical creams, mattresses, etc.

            Everyone also deserves rehabilitation though. He and Bruyneel and George know their stuff. They have many stories from back in the day. They have connections still, especially Johan. There’s good analysis and background. It’s worth a listen, if you can just smile rather than vomit whenever Lance’s ego peeks out (as it regularly does).

            What he did shouldn’t be forgotten, his story is a huge part of cycling. He also deserves to have some place in cycling still though.

          • Oh, and there is testimony from some that Lance did make a big difference to some cancer patients. He raised money, he spent time with people. etc.

          • Hi old Dave, very much agree with your prospective. For many Lance fans still out there, my stance is always agree to disagree.

            On the other hand, Many of Lance’s odd idiosyncrasies does provide unintended amusements. Lance thought there should be a level of animosity amongst riders (“I won’t go hug my rivals on the line”, his words), yet all the break away guys went straight to congratulate Loulou straight after the line. It made me crack imagining Lance’s response to that.

          • Re: Lance, the curious thing is that already back at the time any serious fan knew he was a total fake. Much more fake than whatever fans had learnt to watch in the 90s, even Riis. From minute one if his post-cancer comeback. I don’t listen to podcasts (not compatible with my daily life), but I suspect that Lance and Bruyneel don’t even much cycling knowledge to share, they know their fake cycling world which really didn’t work like the sport did before and was probably going to work after… not only that, but luckily cycling didn’t even work as in their bubble already during their times. Luckily their stink was pretty much TDF-limited, which already placed Lance in a much relative position in history even before his made-up wins were taken away.

  4. If this was a one-day race profile, then Pogacar would be a stand out favourite. As we’re in the middle of the Giro, other considerations come into play. Pogacar has talked about the ITT on Saturday so it seems like he’ll just follow wheels today, but … the temptation of getting some time on the other GC guys (Thomas might well have a problem with the steeper gradients) might be too great to resist. As Friday is a long flat stage then a dig near the finish might be more then a possibility.
    Otherwise, Pithie showed in the Spring he’s capable to win on these sort of parcours, but not in great form apparently. Narvaez has shown he’s in good shape and even the big guy Milan has improved going uphill, so it might be a mixed bunch for a sprint win.

  5. The giro may result in newly surfaced roads for parts of Italy but where i live a newly surfaced road outside of town is worse for riding than the old road. Years after the last new bitumen when the road is finally beginning to smooth out they lay again the cheese grater bitumen and blue stone mixture prolonging our torture, vibrating our contact points, generally making riding less enjoyable and slower. I dread the sight of road resurfacing.

    • That sounds like how roads are repaired in France, very few potholes or cracks compared to Italy but when they are repaired they are rough and then improve with age as the top chippings sink into the tar… but the following summer the tar liquefies and this can be like some cartoon stunt where you ride into sticky glue.

  6. I’ve been three times to Riccione which is a popular Giro location including tomorrow’s start, and ridden the Nove Colli out of Cesenatico. The scenery on that side of Italy is much better than the tarmac.

    We used to joke that you could see where the Giro had been, because those were the only roads in decent condition. I remember a descent from one of the hill towns, maybe Urbino or San Leo, where there was a drop-off right across a main road, maybe 5-10cm in height. This year the race is wisely staying closer to the coast, on roads that are quite fast even for amateurs.

  7. Would love Alaphilippe to win today there just always seems to be someone better than him in recent times… today feels like the kind of stage Bettiol or Healy would win in recent years so I see Narvaez having to go solo to win and avoid being marked out or a lesser known name pinch it. Surely UAE will let today go?

  8. Fun fact 2: the 3/6 Emilia Romagna riders who didn’t shine climbing up to Bocca di Selva… are now in today’s break. This blog must be a must read among Emilia Romagna cyclists

    • Alaphillipe with 40k to go and a 2min lead?
      You would have though he’s got a decent shout from there?
      Although I guess 20% up Monte Giove is no joke but you’d hope he’d hang on to whoever catches for a sprint?

        • Yes, six in TdF, and now one each in Giro and Vuelta.

          (Romain Bardet needs – and probably deserves – a win in Giro to join in the company of Pogacar and Alaphilippe, but I´m afraid it won´t happen unless the conditions are right…)

          PS I think I saw a list of riders (who were among the starters) who were potential new members in the all-three-GT club, but I´ve forgotten the other names (if there were any).

      • Of course, I’d never thought that any of those was a candidate for victory, I just considered peculiar the mere fact that the *other* three riders from Emilia Romagna made the break (other to the three who had already climbed well on Tuesday), but even more curiously Maestri was really a key factor in Alaph’s win, as the French acknowledged. Great move, great show. Very happy for “Alain”. It reminded me – in spirit rather than in detail – Sagan’s win on a similar Giro stage in 2020.

        • The same, the day to Tortoreto although that day Sagan really demolished the field while today it felt like Alaphilippe escaped and left the rest to argue among themselves, although of course he was hardly sat in a cafe today he had to ride hard. Also shades of Gilbert’s Roubaix win, the one-time “lactic acid” king now going very long.

  9. Re: large groups. They’re much safer for cyclists, really, and if they are within the figures established by law (where such a norm exist), people have the right to ride socially instead of splitting in small groups. Once the latter is granted, consider how harder would it be for a driver to pass the same number of cyclists in single or double line-up. It’s really better if the cyclists do occupy one full lane and the motor vehicle goes, when safe, fully on the other lane, this way for a shorter time (as suggested by Spanish laws, just be careful about what “the other lane” is if you’re from UK but driving around Calpe). Surpassing 20 cyclists (a reasonable number) means 20 mts. if they’re in double line, half of that or less if they fully occupy the lane. All the above subject to type of road and traffic, of course, not on a wide high-speed road with intense traffic in both direction, yes on many “provinciali”.

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