Giro Stage 14 Preview

The second time trial and two races today: Filippo Ganna’s bid to stay in the hot seat for the afternoon and the contest among the GC contenders for the podium and beyond.

Stage 13 Review: a third sprint win for Jonathan Milan. With 60km to go the peloton split during the stage and Milan and his team were on the wrong side and forced to chase with Milan himself taking turns but the gap was never big, the problem was just closing the final metres.

In the streets of Cento Fernando Gaviria went for a characteristic long sprint, then Milan jumped with 200m to go. Nobody got close. Stanisław Aniołkowski finished second precisely because he was on Milan’s wheel, there was no point leaving the slipstream of the Italian colossus and riders came in in a line rather than across the road. Both Merlier and Groves were out of the sprint after being caught in traffic, with Groves brushing the barriers and having to ease up. Thanks to this Milan now leads the points competition by over 100 points meaning the closest rider Kaden Groves would have to win two stages and an intermediate sprint without Milan scoring anything for the jersey to change; put another way the threat to Milan’s ciclamino jersey is gravity in the Alps.

The Route: a 31km time trial. It starts with a small climb out of town. There are few secrets to the course but the first half uses more rural roads, these twist and turn, rise and fall a bit, it can interrupt the pacing a bit: do you power over that drag or surrender with a gear shift to keep something for later? The second half is on wider roads before finishing on the shores of Lake Garda.

The Contenders: Filippo Ganna (Ineos) blitzed the flat part of the time trial to Perugia last week only to lose out on the climb to Tadej Pogačar. Today there’s no climb so it’s Ganna’s stage to lose, surely something will have to go wrong, illness or such like for him to be beaten.

The question for all the GC contenders is how hard to push it because tomorrow’s stage is a humdinger. Go big today or keep something back in reserve?


Weather: sunny and 21°C with a light easterly wind meaning a headwind for the first half of the course.

TV: the first rider is off at 1.40pm CEST, Ganna goes at 2.35pm and Pogačar at 4.43pm and he should finish by 5.15pm CEST.

Postcard from Desenzano del Garda
Lake Garda is known for its crystal waters, to gaze into it is to feel thirsty. It’s a swanky place where teak-decked motorboats chug between private villas with their own jetties, some even with their own harbours. If you’re watching the time trial on TV and see a helicopter shot of a large house with big swimming pools with about 3km to go there’s a good chance it belongs to Igor Makarov, the now Cypriot founder of the Katusha cycling team which had its HQ just down the road.

Born in Turkmenistan, loyal readers will remember past posts about Makarov’s rise. As a racing cyclist he’d travel to events and using whatever meagre resources he had he’d buy some jeans to take home and sell. One day jeans, another day natural gas. He started piping gas from Turkmenistan to Ukraine in barter deals that saw him repaid in cereal. It made him a billionaire and his business ITERA became a key player in the global energy market. In time he’d start the Katusha cycling team.

Russia around the turn of the century was a business wild-west. This was something an American investor called Bill Browder discovered, he’d backed the Russian energy company Gazprom but found it was selling off assets on the cheap. For example Browder says Gazprom sold 32% of a gas venture called Purgaz to Makarov’s ITERA for $1,200. No missing million or billion suffix here, we’re talking the kind of money you could spend to heat a home for a year. Only Purgaz had 380 billion cubic metres of gas, enough to power Europe for a year. You can see why Browder had concerns and Makarov got rich. Makarov though was hardly fleecing Gazprom, its own managers and others were in on the ruse.

Flush with cash Makarov bought a villa in Desenzano on the shores of the lake, other Russian billionaires did too because it’s one thing to make money in Russia, to keep it better put it abroad. The local press says he’s rarely seen in the villa; one article from a few years ago says his Boeing couldn’t land at Brescia airport because of fog so it was diverted to Milan.

Only these days no more Boeing, you might spot him on an orange-painted Airbus A320… because he’s had to travel with budget carrier Easyjet. Many of his assets have been frozen, his private jets grounded, yachts seized. The UK cited him among those “supporting or obtaining benefit from the Government of Russia and operating in sectors of strategic significance” but he’s since been taken off the UK sanctions list. He’s been lobbying hard, even renounced Russian citizenship, quite a turn for the man who bankrolled the “Russian cycling project” a decade ago.

There’s still a cycling connection as he’s on the UCI’s Management Committee, effectively the board of cycling’s governing body. But perhaps real interest is the way his career has told us so much about the changes in Russia over the years whether the economy, energy, business and politics but that’s all for someone else’s blog or a historian.

31 thoughts on “Giro Stage 14 Preview”

  1. A Tale of Two Big Men, Ganna and Milan. Milan’s move to Trek has paid off handsomely and it’s now Ganna’s time to get a stage win.

    We have today, what I believe is called the “Simon Yates Conundrum”. How hard for GC guys to go in the TT without blowing up the day after? Be interesting to watch.

    • Another tale of two men is the story of two sprinters that moved teams: Milan and Jakobsen. So remarkably different, almost a parable.

      • Also to robmd above. Applause to Lidl-Trek for fostering Milan’s growth, but let’s not forget that in this case it’s not like we positively know that the team switch was *the* decisive factor in what looks like a steady predictable growth (predictable as in Cassani going on record years ago about it). Of course, changing team wasn’t detrimental at all, either, which is actually a great starting point, yet he was 22 when he left Bahrain and had just been developed correctly through the three seasons he spent with them straight out the juvenile ranks, most of them dedicated to get a first contact with pro races, barely riding at top level events. The first serious season had him already landing victories (out of Croatia, I mean) and getting the ciclamino jersey at the Giro, although it was very apparent he was still a brute diamond. So, he’s grown into more of a brute and more of a diamond, greetings to Trek, as I said, but I wouldn’t say it wouldn’t happen elsewhere.
        Jakobsen is simply the n-th sprinter labelled as the new great generational sprinter only to fade soon, especially if leaving Lefevere’s court.

        • I know its an easy/lazy comparison to make but Milan is starting to remind me of Cipollini in how he hits the front straight down the middle and nobody can come round him.

          • I don’t think it’s a lazy comparison – you’re totally right.

            Big man sprinters, I thought Kittel for a while as he was the last but Cipollini is the better, interesting that height-wise Milan is actually quite significantly bigger than all the other obvious big men that come to mind who seem to range from 6ft-6ft2″ where Milan is 6ft4″ according to Wikipedia *(which is admittedly an absolute terrible source for true height stats of almost anyone).

          • I don’t think it’s a lazy comparison – you’re totally right.

            Big man sprinters, I thought Kittel for a while as he was the last but Cipollini is far better, interesting that height-wise Milan is actually quite significantly bigger than all the other obvious big men that come to mind who seem to range from 6ft-6ft2″ where Milan is 6ft4″ according to Wikipedia *(which is admittedly an absolute terrible source for true height stats of almost anyone).

        • Trek have got together the leadout men (which he didn’t really connect with at Bahrain) and polished up the “nodding donkey” style of sprinting. It was obvious last year the man was putting out a crazy amount of power and now as Richard S says once he hits the front, it’s like Cipollini.

          • Well after the crash he had already got back to a level superior to his previous one (and big credits to him and staff for that). Until he left Quickstep.

  2. Just to say, thanks INRNG for another great blog post. Both informative and thought provoking.
    The classic postcard illustrations are absolutely on point and always put a smile on my face (I’ve several boxfuls in the loft collected down the years – along with old 9-speed campag parts and other detritus from a lifetime cycling…)
    The blogs have become the highlight of my mornings.

  3. Awful weather predicted for Tuesday with heavy rain and just 5 degrees in Livigno. Surely snow on the Umbrail Pass. Wonder if the stage will go ahead.

    • 72h forecast have barely any meaning under current instability. Plus, the difference between a perfectly acceptable stage with, say, 5 degrees crossing the Umbrail and a more critical context of a couple of degrees ans snow is actually slim. Don’t give ideas to Hansen, but I guess he’s already grinding teeth, maybe he’s already studying a plan with umbrella girls keeping the riders dry, who knows, that’s easier than tackling bike-related safety issues, for sure.

      • Haha. Hansen doesn’t need any more ideas. He is already a one man travelling health and safety wonk in a class of his own.
        As others have said, thanks for the blog. Best out there by far.

      • Hansen seemed a pretty smart guy when he was a rider but he is totally out of his depth in his current role. The forecast looks pretty dire for Tuesday and I have looked at several models – none of them give much hope.

        • People might not like the decisions Hansen can take sometimes but that’s half the point. He’s taken over at the CPA union and trying to convince riders that he and the CPA are useful to them. So to make a name for himself and prove the CPA can get things done he’s behind some decisions riders may like but others don’t.

          There are different ways to work as a union, “French style” conflict vs “German style” negotiation as caricatures and to get noticed the French way is quicker… but Hansen is also in the room and this side isn’t so visible.

          We’ll see for the weather, it’s been very bad earlier this week but the Giro seems be

        • Really think we should chill on Hansen.

          The riders have had such poor representation historically that even if he’s made some mistakes in this blogs eyes we should give him a chance, he’s allowed to learn on the job and find a balance over time – to castigate him for a few decisions without being in the room/knowing the political landscape he facing seems incredibly harsh – we shouldn’t chop his head off because he’s one of the few to stick it above the parapet.

          • I’m also in Adam Hansen camp. I think the main point he is making is – that there is a vocal riders representative. The ones before him, although great sportsmen, were tbh just for show, no real say, just rubber stamping decisions others made.
            If he is making the right decisions, we can discuss it. Just the fact that there is someone with at least some semblance of power means that race organizers, uci and other stakeholders have that fact at the back of their minds when deciding if some dubious route decisions, for example, are made.

  4. PCS tells me that Anquetil sits at the top of the all time rankings for time trialists … and further reading tells me it didn’t happen by accident. It seems likely that he will remain on his perch for some time yet.

  5. I’m surprised Pogacar isn’t considered at least equal favourite with Ganna, not only because he won the first time trial but because GC riders are supposed to tend to perform better relative to TT specialists deeper into grand tours.

    • Yeah, it’s fun to have a Ganna plus no one chain ring section but I kinda think Pog might surprise here also not sure he’ll win but wouldn’t be surprised to see him within 15-30secs and the clear secondary winner should Ganna falter – although I can’t help but think Pog might win, no sure why as pretty much no evidence from previous flat TT’s vs Ganna suggests this.

      • I don’t think you can stop him – he’s a second up currently so assume Ganna’s muscle will tell in the later stages but it’s pretty impressive… even if I’m fully expecting V to be at the TDF and in formidable shape so you may be proven right – although can’t lie that I’m a bit chuffed that, with Dawnstar, it’s looking like a decent shout to say Pig had a chance at least!

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