Giro Stage 19 Preview

A stage for the breakaway.

Stage 18 Review: a win for Tim Merlier. Jonathan Milan was out of position and was closing in but Merlier got the positioning and timing better and won.

The Route: 157km and a dash north into the Carnic Alps. Three features in the first 100km, the small climb to Forgaria; the intermediate sprint in Peonis should be near the monument to Ottavio Bottecchia; and Tolmezzo, the claimed birthplace of Jonathan Milan and Tiramisu.

The Passo Duron is 4.4km at close to 10%, so short but selective. There’s a descent to Cercivento and then the Sella Valcalda, underrated as a third category climb as it’s 5km at over 7% but perhaps it’s because it’s the easy route from west to east… the other way is the Zoncolan.

The Finish: a long steady climb up the pass, a big road and the profile shows the steeper parts, this is the profile of the Passo Sappada but the race goes beyond the pass and rides into town… the veers off to take a narrow cycle path and then some backroads behind the town, there’s a rise to the flamme rouge then it’s flat to the line.

The Contenders: open to many but Jhonathan Narvaez (Ineos) is the archetypal rider, he can handle the short climbs and finishes well. Alessandro De Marchi (Jayco) is the local contender and will have had today in the diary for a long time, team mate Luke Plapp had other plans for the Giro but could be worth watching.

Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal-Quickstep), Andrea Bagioli (Lidl-Trek), Ewen Costiou (Arkéa-B&B Hotels) all fit the bill. Longer shot picks can include Jan Tratnik (Visma-LAB), Magnus Sheffield (Ineos) and Decathlon-Ag2r La Mondiale pair Andrea Vendrame and Aurélien Paret-Peintre. Of course there’s Tadej Pogačar (UAE) too especially if teams conspire to ride each other down again.

Narvaez, Alaphilippe, Bagioli
Pogačar, Costiou, Vendrame, Plapp

Weather: sunny but a cool 18°C on the plains, rain likely later.

TV: KM0 is at 1.10pm CEST and the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST. The start should be lively or tune in for the Passo Duron at 3.30pm.

Postcard from Sappada
A lot is made of the Giro-Tour double. Pantani did it in 1998 in unusual circumstances, the Tour had 96 finishers, seven whole teams quit after raids, rousts and rebellions. Pantani beat Jan Ullrich on the Col du Galibier but he was also helped by fate, or at least French customs agents.

In 1987 Stephen Roche did the double, were there particular circumstances or did he just triumph outright? Roche started the Giro well with the maglia rosa for much of the first two weeks before team mate Roberto Visentini won the Stage 13 time trial in San Marino to take over the race lead.

Two days later Roche went on the attack on the stage to Sappada. He said he was covering a move during a descent but he was sharing the work. Once a gap was established his team told him to stop but he kept going while his Carrera-Vagabond team led the chase. Roche took the race lead by five seconds and kept it, expanding his lead to over three minutes and kept it. He proved the strongest in the race, even without a full team behind him.

The 1987 Tour de France had many of the ingredients that make a great grand tour. The yellow jersey changed shoulders nine times and the top four finishers overall each held the yellow jersey at one point, it with a close contest. Along the way Jean-François Bernard took yellow on Mont Ventoux but lost it the following day after being ambushed in the Vercors and this put Roche in yellow. However Pedro Delgado was the superior climber in the Alps and looked to be riding away with the race, taking the yellow jersey at Alpe d’Huez off Roche.

Delgado seemed to have cracked Roche again on the summit finish to La Plagne only for the Irishman to recover and almost catch Delgado on the line, with some memorable video. Roche collapsed and was given oxygen by paramedics but as he lay on the ground he winked to a journalist who clocked this was part oxygen debt, part theatre.

The final mountain stage Roche attacked several times by Delgado but he was tenacious and even counter-attacked to take time and close in on the yellow jersey. With the time trial stage in Dijon to come Roche seemed to be everyone’s pick and while Bernard won the stage, Roche delivered and won his only Tour de France.

Embed from Getty Images

So while Pantani certainly had a rival in Jan Ullrich, he didn’t face the same kind of dense rivalry Roche faced in his golden season. We can only hope this July is as good as 1987.

44 thoughts on “Giro Stage 19 Preview”

  1. External circumstances also played a role in 1987 in reducing competition as LeMond had been shot. A similar opportunity presents itself this year for Pogacar after Vingegaard had his Tour dreams dashed by his serious crash.

    • Yes, we’ll see for Vingegaard as it sounds like he’s going to the Tour but everything has to go well, if he catches a cold or has a crash in training then he won’t have enough time.

      It’s partly why I wanted a “postcard” about the double, to suggest each time is different and if Pogačar is attempting it could depend on things. It’s not something we’ll know for sure but two months before the Giro it sounded like UAE’s plan was Pogačar to storm the Giro and then do the Tour as a free agent, by all means win but helping other team mates, going for stages: anything in July as a bonus. That seems to have changed during April, now it is firmly an attempt to win both.

      • Yes, the intrigue about how things will shake out at the TdF is a big part of why I’m interested in, and enjoying, this Giro. I suspect it’s impossible to really find a good GT double attempt/accomplishment from the past that significantly maps onto this 2024 version, except to note that it’s historically been very difficult, rare, and required some breaks.

  2. These things happen when things go on record by someone, but I don’t recall Delgado being able to attack Roche in the last Alpine stage at all. Teammate Eddy Schepers appeared for the first time in that whole TdF, and he set a tempo over the Joux-Plane that only 5 guys could follow, and Delgado was unable to accelerate. Then Roche attacked on the downhill to Morzine.

  3. One point you missed above is that the hardest part so many times is slipping or jumping away from rivals, especially in a close battle, which Roche had easier at the Giro because he was considered a teammate. They then chased him but he was already gone. Plus, the confusion had the team losing precious time, a few teammates were on Roche’s side and didn’t help and, of course, the situation itself blowed Visentini’s nerves.

    As for the competition in 1987, barring Delgado (whom despite his victories I’d rate below Ullrich), the rest was really mediocre as top GC contenders. The two French albeit strong weren’t serious GT contenders, with sparse or none high result besides this same one, the Colombian were mythical but not consistent enough, Fignon still suffered from his long seasons of injury, just coming back slowly that year.

    • +1 Love or hate him, Roche is a charming character. A few years after this he was doing commentary on Eurosport with ol’ David Duffield. We ran into him at a gas station during LeTour and asked him why he didn’t contribute more to the broadcasts?
      He laughed and said that when he wanted to speak, he was supposed to pinch ol’ Duffers on the wrist to get him to shut up for a second…but he pinched…and pinched… but Duffers just kept rambling on! He quit not long after as I recall 🙁

      • It was a close contest… only, the average competition level wasn’t high, despite a decent number of acceptable top 10 men, Delgado being the only real rival. So I surely wouldn’t call it a “dense” rivalry.

        However, back to 1998, if you crosscheck the GC top 10 through the different stages, you’ll notice that the teams which massively went away as a protest really hadn’t anyone in a significant position to fight for the GC. Maybe just Escartín who anyway was already 6 minutes behind.
        Besides, all the action had already happened: no relevant stage was left to race, barring the ITT where teams didn’t matter, obviously. Of course, Festina – Festina only – was taken away soon and was supposedly *one* strong team, but, ahem, hey, man…
        What looked like potential strong players like Leblanc or Jalabert got undone by the “normal” racing in the couple of legendary mountain stages which decided that TDF. It’s not like there was a lack of riders of sort which might have reshaped what would have happened in those mountain stages, simply because the teams which would later go away… were still there!
        Of course we might raise our eyebrows regarding apparently “minor” riders filling up the final top 10… then you may observe that they were from *that* Cofidis, Rabobank or USPS and suddenly you become aware that the competion was indeed DENSER than it might look at first sight.

        So, I frankly believe that your interpretation above is quite off the mark 😉

        • It looks like some of the riders were undone by the customs agents as much as the mountains, as pharmaceutical products literally dumped overboard on the ferry from Ireland to France. Pantani would have had a harder time with full strength Festina and ONCE teams but the winners write history.

          • I’m not convinced at all. ONCE were there, Jalabert had already cracked alone. Were they more prudent than Rabobank, Cofidis or USPS, which weren’t undone by any customs agent despite their practices? I quite much doubt it.
            Festina to me is just PDM through different means. Nobody even dreams about suggesting that the 1991 TDF competition wasn’t dense because a third part or so of the GC top-10 disappeared through a single night “rest”.

  4. Nice little reminder of the 87 tour. That was the race that really ignited the cycling flame in me. In the UK, channel 4 were showing a daily recap and as a 17 year old in 6th form studying for my A levels I had the time to watch every single moment of the coverage. I was transfixed by this amazing sport, devoured the weekly Winning magazine supplement and so on. Nigh on 40 years later that flame still burns just as brightly.

    • That C4 coverage was big for me too. I used to watch it religiously with my Dad. Can’t quite remember what year they started their highlights programme (was it 1985 or 86)? Phil Liggett and the sadly departed Paul Sherwen were a big part of my introduction to the sport (I also remember city centre crit races were televised but not sure if that was C4 too).

    • Winning magazine and their “Fabulous World of Cycling” annuals 🙂
      I had a huge collection of both, all sold-off via Ebay when it was time to pack up and move to Italy for good.

  5. I’d be more surprised today if Alaphilipe wasn’t in the break. He’s probably my pick though I wouldn’t be surprised if Pogacar wins through the deranged tactics of others. Its not a long stage so if the break takes a while to form and then someone who misses it tries to chase it down they won’t get a very big gap.
    I’ve never warmed to Roche. He always seemed like a bit of a snake to me who got away with it because nobody particularly liked Visentini. I’m fairly dubious of his annus mirabilis too. And though Pantani was up against a reduced field in the Tour in 98 (and arguably the Giro due to Zulle’s over indulgence) Ullrich was there and thats who he would have had to beat either way.

    • As a total aside, relating only to images I have in my head of Millar at the 87 Giro and Pantani at the 98 Giro, I thinks its a massive shame they got rid of the green mountains jersey!

      • Blame that f__king bank sponsor! I too was aghast when they did that, but as they say, “money talks” and RCS has been having a tough time finding sponsors since the most recent glory days when FIAT, Coca-Cola, etc. were there…IMHO kinda/sorta tagging their spending onto what they were doing at TdF.
        I still remember Liggett ranting one time about how the Giro used different color leader’s jerseys “Just to confuse us.” That British love/hate thing for all things Italian I guess?

          • Ever watch (or read) “Where Angels Fear to Tread”? I think E.M. Forster was a Brit, no? And I know a few Brits here in Sicily who regularly demonstrate their love/hate for Italy in various ways.
            I don’t remember Sherwen adding anything to Liggett’s comment on the Famous Cycling Video VHS tape I used to watch back-in-the-day….I think it was the same one where he called the Passo Pordoi something that sounded French (like “pour-dwa”) as well. IMHO Liggett was a Franco-phile – far from an Italo-phile.

    • Yes, great name.

      Carrera make jeans and they’re still going, you can buy them for an inflation busting €25 in Italian supermarkets. Vagabond though, do any readers know what that was as it’s not obvious?

      • Vagabond are shoes I think.
        Were Carrera bikes (of that era, not the tat you can buy in Halfords) owned by the clothing company and named for the team, or unrelated?

        • Wikipedia.
          Inoxpan were the name of the original team founded in 1979. Carrera Jeans took over the title sponsorship in 1984. In 1989 Carrera team manager Boifava together with Bracchi, Boifava, Taccehella’s family and Valentino Campagnolo founded Carrera Podium cycles. The team rode Carrera bikes from 1992,No mention of who or what were Vagabond. Possibly Richard S is correct.

        • It says “Vagabond Sportwear” on the jersey.

          (Vagabond is a shoe brand, that is true, and the Swedish company was around back then, with manufacturing in Italy, but I don´t think they were the sponsor.)

          • It would be interesting if Vagabond shoes were a sponsor as the big guy up front (Guido Bontempi?) is wearing Diadora in the photo and Roche Vittoria.

  6. RB – albeit a few years younger – that’s pretty much me too; 1987, Channel 4 and Winning magazine.
    Unfortunately, someone binned my large collection of Winning but I do still have the (not Winning) preview and review magazines of that year.
    And yes, that commentary on La Plagne!

    • ‘That looks like Roche! It’s Stephen Roche!’. Indeed same sort of age as you guys, watching transfixed by an alien and exotic thing like nothing going on in the rural Norfolk around me… The resonance and memory of things from teenage years.

  7. The last 20 k yesterday had me on the edge of the couch, MSR style. Extremely hectic with the wide roads, turns and pinch points. Chapeau in Italian to the stage designers.

    1987 was before my time but I remember 1998 vividly. I’d been a Bianchista for a few years already, and then came 1999 and everything after.

    • Have you seen his birth certificate, is it authentic? No, don’t worry, it’s just there is a contest between Tolmezzo and Treviso as the home of tiramisu. The Tower of Tolmezzo has a good ring to it, il Torre di Tolmezzo… but he grew up and lives in Buja where his parents run a laundy, his dad was briefly a pro with the Amore e Vita team.

      • Seems every region in Italy claims tiramisu is theirs! There are certainly plenty of variations – I like the more cake-like ones better than the pudding type but they’re all pretty good IMHO.

  8. I think it wasn’t just that Roche didn’t have a full team behind him, but he actually had nearly all his team working /against/ him. I’ve forgotten the details, will have to re-read his auto-biography, but I vaguelly recall there was a lot of tension behind the scenes with the team – the management on down to nearly all the riders wanted Visentiniu to win.

    • Oh, and Roche didn’t just do the GT double that year, he got a triple: he won the WCs too. With help from Kelly, who allowed wheels to go and Roche to go up the road near the end, while holding back the others.

      • Perhaps this year Pogacar will surpass this feat by winning Giro, Tour, WCs, and Olympics? Now that might be something never done again

    • Well, it was not “his” (Roche’s) team, and one of the team leaders, if not *the* team leader, was in the pink jersey.
      Crucially, the DSs eventually (too late) decided and communicated to everybody involved that the team would support the current pink jersey’s bid, hence their working “against Roche”, who at the end of the day had fostered the attack which actually cracked the maglia rosa.
      But some of the gregari, although apparently obedient, didn’t really throw their heart on the road, as they really preferred Roche. Schepers directly refused to follow orders, others did it mildly. Others just were too tired… or pretended to be so.
      The riders were indeed split in two fields (Visentini’s rich man attitude gathered little sympathy among his colleagues). Want an hint about who was on which side? Crosscheck the startlists of the Giro and the TDF.
      There’s some VIP today who’s still great friends with Roche and was a gregario back them. He loves anecdotes, but this stage isn’t told very often, if anything at all. Maybe today will be the day?
      At the end of the day, on that stage Roche was an awful team player and proved to be a mate I woulnd’t want by my side in any battle, but… as so many riders, I struggle to appreciate Visentini’s arrogance, and, unfair may it be, I tend to think that cycling is also an individual sport, so if one athlete feels that his path is trying his luck alone, even against what the team orders, well, so be it.
      What’s sure is that it would be really sad if Roche nowadays still played the victim, given that the team greatly supported him at the following TDF, instead of, say, retaliating someway. Note that there was no misunderstanding: Roche acknowledges that Boifava, the DS, went up the road and told him to stop, but he replied that he was just “taking turns in the break, not going myself full gas” and that “given that last year I helped Visentini despite my knee issues, it’s just fair that now he puts himself at my service”. Only, this is the sort of things which must be decided at team level… supposedly!

  9. Anyone looking for more coverage of the Roche-Visentini drama would do well to tune into today’s episode of The Cycling Podcast, where Daniel Friebe interviews the woman who served the team dinner that night. Fascinating to hear about the dynamics in that room.

    PS: I miss Richard Moore. RIP.

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