Giro Stage 15 Preview

Enjoyed the Giro so far? Whatever we’ve thought of the race so far today is a big change with the distance, high mountains and also the arrival of bad weather… although Pogačar could just extend his lead.

Stage 14 Review: Filippo Ganna won. Predictable… but there was suspense. Magnus Sheffield started fast but began to fade, and then crashed. Tadej Pogačar was matching the Italian champion on the course for the first half but the second half suited the bulkier specialist and the race leader finished second.

In the “fight for pink” Pogačar extended his lead by a minute, with Geraint Thomas now his closest rival at 3m41s as the Welshman surpassed Dani Martinez. Thymen Arensman was third on the stage and the big gainer on GC, overtaking climbers to go from 10th to 6th overall. This hardly puts him in a winning position but he’s back as a second card to play for Ineos when it comes to the podium or even a long range move to scare UAE.

If the outcome was expected, the win was special to Ganna, his first Giro stage win since 2021; he was beaten by Evenepoel in the opener last year and then left the race. He broke down in tears on TV trying to explain what it meant to him and the gratitude to the crowd and his team was sincere.

The Route: 220km, the longest in the race and 5,400m of vertical gain. On paper today is the biggest stage of the race although the way the climbs are spaced apart makes it a marathon, a test of endurance.

Up the valley up the start before the climb to Lodrino, “only” a third category climb today but a mountain pass all the same and the Cocca di Lodrino has some steeper sections midway to help the breakaway go clear.

The Colle San Zeno is a tiny road whose road isn’t the steady slope the profile suggests, it’s irregular and hard going. The descent is a bit wider and more regular and leads to the valley floor and then there’s 60km up the valley.

The Mortirolo is tackled via the “easy” side from Monno but it’s still a very tough climb and this means the harder side has to be descended. The climb is often with double-digit gradients and twists and turns up. The descent is steep and irregular but this far out from the finish hopefully nobody feels compelled to risk things.

The comes more valley roads and then the Foscagno climb. This is a very regular climb on a wide road, the odd one out among the climbs today.

The Finish: The 2026 Winter Olympics are officially “Milano-Cortina” but Livigno is in on the games too and the freestyle ski and snowboard events will happen here, more precisely on the Mottolino ski piste. Once at the Passo di Eira theren’s a turning onto the ski run. Is it a road? There’s tarmac but it looks like a truck fell over spilled asphalt spilled down the slope, the steep pitch brings to mind the Planche des Belles Filles but at over 2,000m and on the flanks of the mountains there’s a touch of last year’s Tour finish on the altiport at Courchevel.

The Contenders: Tadej Pogačar (UAE) is the obvious safe pick today, a stage win today leaves him going into the rest day in a very comfortable position. However his team won’t have it easy to control things all day and the breakaway has a great chance of making it to contest the win.

Climbers with a shot at the win include Michael Storer (Tudor) who can ride for himself but he’s 11th overall so Bahrain and others might chase if he starts to pull away, even more so for the likes of Romain Bardet, just eighth at seven minutes.

Valentin Paret-Peintre (Decathlon-Ag2r La Mondiale) is half an hour down on GC but could be saved for helping leader Ben O’Connor. J-P Lopez (Lidl-Trek) has been ill but is feeling better now. Giulio Pellizzari (VF), Jefferson Cepeda (EF) are climbers with an outside chance while Edoardo Zambanini (Bahrain) is the local pick hailing from the start but his team are fully committed to Tiberi’s cause so he may not be able to play his card.

Pogačar, Storer
VPP, Cepeda, Rubio, Lopez

Weather: sunshine at the start but rain forecast for later. 17°C in the valleys, colder higher up.

TV: KM0 is at 10.40am CEST and the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST. This could be a slow burn day but tune in from the start and think of having it on in the background.

Postcard from Livigno
Livigno is often used for altitude training camps by a range of athletes from footballers to swimmers but for cyclists it’s the summer only given the wintry weather from November to May. Tadej Pogačar came here to prepare for the Tour de l’Avenir while an amateur and he’s been back with the UAE team since.

Sitting at 1,816m above sea level Livigno is roughly at the useful starting point needed; there are higher hotels to stay nearby and a range of roads above 2,000m including some flat ones for time trial training.

Altitude training is still an inexact science. The original thinking was that altitude creates hypoxia from the “lack of oxygen” or more accurately the reduced partial pressure and so the body responds by producing more red blood cells. This allows an athlete to transport more oxygen and so their aerobic abilities increase. This is still the case, but these gains can take three weeks and once the athlete leaves altitude the stimulus stops and the precious red blood cell count drops off. These gains vary too, some respond more than others.

However the altitude training is now seen to have much wider benefits. The ability to handle “lactate” or hydrogen ions can be improved by altitude training. There are efficiency gains too in the muscle cell’s ability to handle the reduced amount of oxygen available, the body learns to do more with less. Also riding at altitude trains riders for racing at altitude as well, the ability to deliver efforts at altitude improves. This matters as a the key moments in grand tours, particularly the Giro and Tour de France, are often at altitude.

This helps explain why altitude training camps play an important role even if riders can use “altitude tents” at home (although they are banned in Italy). Tents can help boost red blood cells but the wider benefits from altitude and can last longer than the blood values which explains why doing a camp weeks long a grand tour can pay off in the final week of the race. Camps also mean riders are under direct supervision and the ascetic environment means there are few distractions. So while Pogačar races to Livigno today he could well be back in June as part of his bid for the Tour de France.

59 thoughts on “Giro Stage 15 Preview”

  1. Pogacar ummed and ahhed about going for the win, but barring something unexpected, the break look favourites. Hope Bardet can get into a break again to maybe stir up the GC guys otherwise hoping Pozzovivo can get back some time after the TT.

  2. I love the Mortirolo, excited for today!! Great to see Storer a pick also, his vanishing of the last few years has been a real mystery to me.

    • He had a couple of wins with FDJ but they saw him as a potential leader for them but that was probably asking too much and then he became more of a helper, at times very useful for Pinot. Now he’s hired to win again but he’s an irregular rider. Watch his descending technique for the way he shifts on the saddle, a bit like a Moto GP rider moving to the side.

    • I respect your opinion, but I confess I don’t really understand it. Do you grade riders and teams on a likeability scale?

      • I mean…

        It’s probably a case of never judge everyone by the brand they work for?

        It’s fairly understandable why anyone dislikes:
        a) Ineos – Pollution & some of their business practises that quickly strip back workforces of acquired companies.
        b) Sky previously – extended dominance, and the Murdoch’s also aren’t the most popular.

        I rarely subscribe to either side of love or hate with most companies or business practises and generally feel most arguments are more complex than their topline suggests but I certainly don’t think sportsmen or women should be judged for being caught in the crossfire – even if that’s life and they should know to expect it, plus in generally it’s not the biggest deal either especially as a good character often shines through, as with Ganna, Bernal and quite a few at Ineos?

        Feel like I can’t be down on anyone disliking Ineos nor those who like really?
        Each to their own. 150 Watts was just a throw away comment, I doubt he has a spreadsheet with every riders likeability scale.

          • I enjoy them.

            I kinda think the most throwaway comment is usually as valuable as the most in depth – as INRNG’s point about the management taking it seriously notes.

          • I often quote bike snob nyc blog:
            “If cycling were an orange, roadies would take that orange, put it on a juicer, squeeze all the pulpy, delicious goodness out of it, and then eat the rind.”
            As I was searching for the exact quote from him, I found a poem by Maya Angelou – When I Think About Myself, and I like to think he was referencing the line :”The tales they tell, sound just like lying, They grow the fruit, But eat the rind, …”

  3. Lopez for the win. But who is going to see their GC, sorry podium, hopes dashed or boosted today? Dashed – Martinez possibly. Boosted Tiberi maybe. But will they cross in the standings? Thomas may suffer a bit too (but not fall apart by any means) and Rubio could thrive but not enough to get near the podium. I’ll probably be totally wrong.

  4. PS I really enjoy the postcards. Mr Ring could write books on this stuff and they’d sell well to cycling fans, I’m sure.

    • +1

      although I wonder if we’ve missed the boat on that front? I obvs love this blog it does feel a tiny bit quieter here than it used to (not just because it’s not the TDF). I’ve wondered whether it’s maybe not attracting new readers as much as a few years ago (probably down to changing tech, dulling of British cycling boom and people like me posting too often…) maybe we’re all just growing old with it together… no bad thing! It’s a lovely community. The only real thing that feels as if it’s a touch lacking are more female commenters but I guess that would come with more women’s racing content – and INRNG can’t do everything! Maybe statistically men post of forums more often anyway as we need to feel heard more…!

      I have to admit though – it’s hard to even comprehend the level of dedication, knowledge as well as calm even-handedness the INRNG hosting this blog gives us all for free for such an incredibly long period of time, it feels impossible to find a way of saying thank you sufficiently? I can think of few times I’ve encountered that level of sustained generosity and remain deeply thankful.

      Should probably buy a jersey sometime!

      • I’m female (in case that’s not obvious from my username) & I only watch men’s cycling so I’m quite happy with Inrng’s content focus. I don’t comment on here that much due to ignorance, as I only started watching cycling a few years ago (first TdF 2017, got Eurosport in 2020).

        • Welcome!

          Some of us are regular readers of 10+ years, but rarely comments. As is often noted, below the line is often complimentary to above the line.

      • I, like I suspect many others, enjoy the content but rarely post comments. I try to only post if I feel I have something to contribute to the discussion. I miss Larry T’s input, agreed with some of his opinions, not others!
        The snide comments which were directed at Larry I could have done without.
        As always, much appreciate Inrng’s work and am grateful for it.

      • Just wanted to say: new user here. Despite following cycling for about 15 years now, only found this marvelous blog in the last few weeks. In a way I really enjoy that the community is “small” which makes the content 100% good, comments included; contrary to so many other places my brain does not have to filter through trash to find good content here. On the contrary. At the same time I want to second the “I’d buy a jersey” because in a way it’s almost surreal we’re getting access to this quality content for free. I’d absolutely love to support via merch.

      • I don’t bother counting / chasing readers, otherwise you’d get “Was Lance Armstrong spotted on a new SRAM groupset?”, “Insane sprint from Milan” clickbait 😉 but having changed the host here early in the spring it comes with some tracking and there are more readers for this Giro than the last two (it doesn’t go back further).

        The irony for the jersey is would take time to sort out and set up so it’s always a project to do but without much time.

        • This was a really enjoyable thread to read during an incredible feat from Pog – new faces, positive analytics and a ride for the ages, what more can you ask for in 2024.

  5. Crikey even the valley floors look like upward drags, it’s not clear where the climbs actually begin, it looks exciting on paper but might lead to some conservative tactics. Sounds like Pog weather for the decisive bit.

    • They’re uphill but gentle, one measure of the gradient is the water in the river and for a long time today’s not whitewater. One difficulty can come from the wind as in the summer they often have a defined headwind that picks up in the day… but not today, it’s calmer. No rain so far either.

      • It’s a thing with cycling that the television shots do not always convey the steepness of the gradients … I assume that it is to do with the telephoto lenses. Unless it is a helicopter shot from side on you often have to be guided by their cadence to decide if they are going uphill.

  6. Pogi has really taken the fun out of the gc for this Giro. Hard to get excited about the race for the podium when they’re seven minutes back. Ironically the sprint stages have been a lot more interesting.

    • Yes, but magnificently done. I agree it may mean the rest of the Giro is dull as a contest but I cannot help but love Pogacar’s chutzpah. He could have won by 1’30” and managed the race but this is better surely.

    • The television coverage could do a lot to improve things. Lots of battles going on down the field Thomas v Martinez, Tiberi v Arensman, etc. But we see a lone Pogacar riding the last 5 kms and miss all the action.

  7. Pogacar put on a scintillating final 15K performance today. Wonderful to watch the sheer athletic brilliance and timing of his ride. His dominance is both breathtaking and and exciting and certainly appreciated by the roadside crowds.

    • I especially enjoy Pogi’s exuberance — even on the hardest stages he always seems to have a moment for a smile or a wink. It reminds me of “arctic” dogs’ excitement (eg Siberian Huskys) when they’re out for a run.

      • Emphatically +1 to Pete, BC and Tom H…

        As the Giro goes on I understand the ‘Pog ruins the race’ argument less and less…

        If he weren’t there today what would we have enjoyed instead? Quintana winning an average breakaway, Ineos riding tempo till the last KM and a race a for line?

        Why is that better than Pog giving a worldie demonstration of sheer brilliance for the last 10km and showing everyone what he’s truly capable of? I was enraptured and well aware we were watching greatness.

        Take Pog out if this Giro (despite really loving a lot of the other riders) what are you actually left with? A race for victory amongst probably third tier riders who aren’t strong enough to ride anything other than conservatively and give us the same flat tension that people moaned about with Hindley/Carapaz… then at the finish at best we all say ‘that was great but they wouldn’t beat P&V’…

        I actually enjoyed the Hindley/Carapaz race more than many others and would enjoy the Giro whatever scenario – but the ‘Pog’s ruining a potentially great Giro’ is a bogus argument because as far as I can see he’s the one making most of the excitement despite his lead the other option is likely us sitting around bemoaning conservative racing and waiting for a few brief moments of excitement after which most will lament we’re all too brief?

        Today we still got Quintana’s resurgence, plus saw what the race minus Pog would be and got the added bonus of seeing Pog burst the clouds? What’s to complain about?

        • He can chase anyone down at will. That sort of neutralises the race.

          On the other hand, I do feel like Thomas and Martinez would ride together to the finish as if they are still teammates every MTF on from here.

          • Yeah – that’s my point exactly.

            I think we saw the imaginary Giro-minus Pog yesterday anyway – so firstly we should be happy as we’re effectively getting two for the price of one for anyone willing to look… and seeing that I’m not convinced the fabled alternative was as desirable as people are making out? (as you say).

  8. It’s been claimed that perhaps the only weakness in Pogi’s abilities has been long climbs in the high mountains, where Vingegaard is allegedly superior.
    Doesn’t Pogi’s performance today disprove that?
    If Pogi dethrones Vingegaard in TdF, the latter’s fans — which I’m not — might claim Pogi’s win should have an “asterisk due to Vingegaard’s severe crash. But seems the same could said about 2023 TdF, due to Pogi’s broken wrist and loss of quality training time.

    • Hard to say. W/kg aren’t everything, but Vingegaard put up some incredible numbers that Pog hasn’t touched (not sure about today). Anyway the weather (cold) was definitely in his favor today.

    • Only an anti-fan would bother to think about what fans “might claim” 🙂

      Anyway, in my humble opinion, if anyone should want or feel a need to add an asterisk to Pogacar´s possible or likely TdF win, it´s his fans…

    • No – Pogi fatigues more than Jonas cumulatively , that’s why Jumbo hard pace all the mountain stages – Pogi cracks eventually often well into the race. He hasn’t had that level of challenge on a team or direct rival basis

      • I think this may be true and you’re reading makes sense based on the available evidence – but at the same time it should also be factored in that a) Pog is two years younger than Vin so may well build endurance which sees the above not remaining true. b) Pog has been more careless with his energy previously and Visma may have beaten more his exuberant mentality than his overall ability, it’s hard to say atm. c) he was coming back from injury last year and the previous year his team did cite a feeding issue on the Granon stage, so there may be mitigating factors for both when we look back in the coming years, again hard to say right now.

        The juries out still whether any of these will change or would change your assertion which is possible true from what we’ve seen to this point, but they might and only time will tell. It’s very hard to categorically nail down either Pog or V’s overall weakness and strengths over one another currently.

    • And… did Vingo ever ride a stage even close to this in his pro career? I doubt he ever spent 6 hrs. racing during any stage race, let alone with such an altitude gain.

    • I don’t think it’s that simple. 2022 and 2023 TDF showed me that Vingegaard is the superior climber when JV set an infernal pace on a hot day with 4500m plus elevation gain. Vingegaard is simply the best in the world in such conditions. Add to this the fact that Vingegaard’s whole schedule is geared towards the TDF and Pogi’s isn’t helps too in terms of endurance over three weeks.

  9. I’m a long time reader of this blog because I appreciate the depth of our host’s knowledge and analysis, and of course the turn of phrase.
    Pogacar is just fantastic to watch and experience. I like Vingegard too by the way. I’d be totally off in a Coppi/Bartali coffee table discussion.
    I want an inrng clone to blog about women’s cycling, but since I cannot have that I make sure to read the postcards thoroughly.

  10. Remember when an attack in the mountains meant Landa pulling about 20 yards up the road, not even out of sight round a corner?! Pogacar is playing a different game.
    It is incredible to watch and all told I think preferable to a close race between riders who don’t/can’t attack. I’m thinking of that Tour where Uran was second to Froome as a kind of nadir that we have climbed out of!

    • My only Pog dominance complaint is I’d really like it if he looked more tired while crushing everybody. Sure, he says it was hard sometimes or sticks his tongue out like he’s tired, but it all is tongue and cheek. I look more tired after a flight of stairs than he does dropping the rest of the field.

      • As a cycling fan there is obviously always that nagging doubt. Pogacar is indulging in the type of behaviour associated with 90s icons who we know weren’t fuelled by high levels of enthusiasm. But he could also just be a freak.

        • + 100 Richard S
          “La cyclisme a duex vitesse” has well and truly returned – as someone who has watched cycling for 50 years any Incredible performance is just that a performance that lacks credibility.
          And pogacar is like Gewiss ballan on steroids (apologies for the pun).

        • An alternative interpretation is that the 2nd place GC rider is turning 38, and Pogacar wasn’t able to gain more than 3 minutes on him on the Queen stage.
          There wasn’t really anything we haven’t seen before from Pogacar, Stage 8 2021 TdF had a similar performance relative to other GC guys I think.
          And I only saw the highlights, but it seemed like Quintana was at least as good on the final ramps.
          PS Martinez and Thomas looked well matched there.

          • Enjoyed this. Perfect counter point.

            I’d really like some general stats comparing yesterday with Pog’s previous rides and those by Vingegaard in recent years – because firstly I think we are going to get a fit Jonas racing at the TDF so the rematch will happen and I’m here for the hype train to start rolling again… secondarily, I’m close to being on the bandwagon that Pog has genuinely improved this year…

            Would be interested if any armchair DS’ might give us a look at their back of fag packet calculations on this front.

      • I compared my ride to Pogacar’s yesterday. He did one-third more distance in a few more minutes; I was quite pleased to be so close. Except of course he climbed 2000m while my ride was circular, and he looked like he’d just been for a spin to the shops while I was a sweaty mess.

        The guy is a freak, hopefully a clean one. I wonder what his final winning margin will be. I don’t think I’d bet against 10 minutes, considering there are four tough stages left. He already didn’t need to attack yesterday and can set his effort in the final week to whatever serves as best preparation for the Tour, but it looks like he will gain more time without even trying.

  11. Epic ride by Pogacar and he had the decency to look spent on that very nasty final climb to the finish.
    Eye catching also, I thought, was Steinhauser.

  12. Busy days for me. Did anyone check how much did Quintana lose against the GC men barring Pogi since the latter attacked?

    • Pog attacked the main group when they were pretty much 3mins behind Quintana, maybe just a touch below. Within 2/3km he was around 30-45secs behind Quintana but it was at that point the timings went a little haywire and it was difficult to know if he’d really gained around 2mins in 2/3km or whether the clocks had a moment?

      Soon after came a descent so it was difficult to know how quickly Pog had truly closed the gap as the catch flatlined for a moment. After going back uphill, he made the catch within about 1km and going into the steep section Pog had around 30secs on Quintana which remained the gap to the finish. So either Pog slowed on the steep section knowing he’d won, or Quintana speed up, or Pog tired on that bit – hard to know which?

      Meanwhile behind it seemed as though the favourites got Quintana down to max 230-45 gap but again that was during the time where the clocks seemed a little off – but what’s clear is all the faves finished pretty much exactly where they were behind Quintana as when Pog attacked – 3mins.

      At most they gain 10secs during the entire final section. So either Quintana climbed the last 10km extremely well or the faves went surprisingly slow after Pog attacked?

      Difficult to know which, I heard Geraint mention they went slow but it was hard to get a true sense. If Pog lets a break go in the Mountain Stages during the coming week though, a Quintana stage win would surely be a safe bet unless the altitude here made more of a difference than I’m factoring in.

      • I believe that Thomas was telling the truth when he said the gc group was not going as fast as they could. It definitely looked cagey until the last km. I was surprised that nobody really went for it, as some riders were clearly on their limit.

      • Thanks a lot.
        Willing or unwilling, the other favs not really getting time on an old champ which was in the break in a +200 km long stage puts into perspective also Pogi’s time gain on them. Of course, huge credit to Nairo, but that’s a measure of current values, anyway.

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