Giro Stage 8 Preview

A real mountain stage and a good day for the breakaway, unless Tadej Pogačar wants to eat their lunch.

Peru-gia: Tadej Pogačar crossed the line with a victory celebration, knowing he won the stage. He beat Filippo Ganna by 17 seconds and even if the Italian had gone faster Pogačar would have still won the day because the likes of Geraint Thomas, Dani Martínez and Ben O’Connor were two minutes adrift.

Pogačar built his victory against his GC rivals on the flat, taking time on them all at the two early time checks, then speeding uphill into Perugia to eject Ganna out of the hotseat. The result stands for the day but the gains per kilometre – more than 1s/km against Thomas on the flat part of the course suggest the second time trial by Lake Garda means there’s more time for the taking.

Spare a thought for Ganna, resplendent in his Italian tricolore and once an invincible but now with Pogačar reduced to finishing second. Close, but sport is a winner-takes-all domain. Being the best time trial specialist used to be a very valuable niche, much less so now although of course we can revisit this as the sun sets on Paris late in July.

Back to the moment and to look at the GC now is to see the same tea leaves we saw on the eve of Torino: Pogačar leads, Martínez and Thomas are next, then Ben O’Connor because he blew himself up on the road to Oropa. Luke Plapp had a solid day after his breakaway and is up to fifth, Alexey Lutsenko is sixth but you wonder for the high mountains. Cian Uijtdebroeks loses ground but arguably had his best time trial ever so seventh is solid and Antonio Tiberi makes a leap up to eighth. These are all relative comforts in a day when Pogačar started the day with seconds on his rivals and finished it with minutes. Already.

The Route: A hard day, a real mountain stage with 3,750m of vertical gain. It starts with an unmarked but very real climb out of Spoleto to help the breakaway go clear.

The Finish: Prato di Tivo’s been a regular in Tirreno-Adriatico and featured just the other day in RCS’s freshly revived race, the Giro d’Abruzzo where Alexey Lutsenko won, muscling his way past several UAE climbers. It’s a long climb on a wide road, a ski station summit finish but with a wild feel as it’s remote. The middle-section is the steepest but just, the overall feel is of a very regular climb.

The Contenders: Tirreno-Adriatico came here in 2021 and the winner that day? Tadej Pogačar (UAE) took the stage after a solo move but he was “only” six seconds ahead of Simon Yates, a win and not a rout. He can obviously win again today but this depends on whether the UAE team want to ride all day to keep the breakaway in check. They can try… but really don’t have to.

So this opens up space for the breakaway. The climb suits riders who can muscle their way up and either dance away or sprint from group. Aurélien Paret-Peintre (Decathlon-Ag2r La Mondiale) has the sprint, Michael Storer (Tudor) the jump. Others like Alexander Kamp (also Tudor), Simone Velasco (Astana), Jefferson Cepeda (EF), J-P Lopez (Lidl-Trek) come to mind but it’s an open stage.

Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal-Quickstep) lost in Rapolano but impressed for the way he was making move after move to get away so some form is there. Team mate Jan Hirt is almost the opposite, no turbo but he can grind the pedals over to a result. Mauri Vansevenant sits at the Lagrangian point between the two, even if he rocks on the bike.

Pogačar, APP, Storer, Zana
Kamp, Hirt, Alaphilippe, Velasco, Lopez, Vansevenant, Pellizari

Weather: sunshine but a cool 18°C inland for much of the stage.

TV: KM0 is at 12.45pm CEST and the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST. Tune in for the final climb at 4.30pm.

Postcard from Prati di Tivo
It’s too much to call Prati di Tivo a ski resort, “prati” is Italian meadows and green pastures abound while a handful of hotels, each spaced hundreds of metres from each other, offer accommodation amid the Gran Sasso mountains. For what? It’s a small ski resort, apparently once popular with Belgians but customers are dwindling today.

There are only a handful of pistes to ski, it’s more a destination for locals at the weekend if the conditions are right. And if there is snow the lifts don’t just have to cope with the ice, howling winds and high energy costs but court cases with the operators involved in a legal saga.

This is an issue all over Europe for small ski resorts at mid-level altitudes. Snow is increasingly intermittent and the operators, often local or regional government, are having to think about the future. Plough money into them or deploy it elsewhere? This is where cycling comes in because rather than see Prati di Tivo as a “ski resort”, many places want to rebrand as summer locations where, to borrow from Lee Perry, if the city is too hot people can cool out on the hilltop.

Today’s Giro stage helps put the place on the map but while cycling can help revive and promote these places, their decline means fewer funds to bid for races. As ski resorts pour funds into promoting the summer season the likely outcome is a “rich get richer” scenario where the big high altitude resorts can have a busy winter and summer program with bike races of all kinds, ski competitions and much more. Prati di Tivo might just revert to grassland.

37 thoughts on “Giro Stage 8 Preview”

  1. Exciting stage.

    Thought the TT was excellent.
    Have always liked TT’s but they feel like they’ve gotten far better recently.

    Friebe saying similar on cycling podcast, which I thought was excellent last night also.

    One thing I was thinking yesterday about Pog’s fave status. As it stands currently his dominance isn’t ruining the race for me at least, but it struck me that in the last 35 years of the Tour you could making a pretty strong argument that the favourite status of the eventual winner was extremely strong at least ten-fifteen of those years, so what we’re seeing from Pog even if he might be a few more percentage points a stronger favourite is not that unusual. Just a thought, not standing by this and happy to be knocked down.

    As far as I stand the 80s is the greatest Grand Tour decade and maybe the 50s before that despite it being before my time.

    • What were your and the podcast’s reasoning for thinking TTs have got better recently? Not arguing, just curious. The idea hadn’t really occurred to me.
      RE Pog, I think there has always been at least one outstanding GC rider in every generation, more or less. I think its just that the supporting cast is rather weaker in this Giro.

      • Yes, it is a lot weaker. He’a pulverising them. But he doesn’t need to. He’s using energy now wastefully that would probably be better conserved for the Tour and stronger rivals there (even if their preparation has been compromised (possibly too much in Vinny’s case) by crashes/injuries. A victory by 2 minutes amounts to the same as one by 8 minutes after all.

          • I do agree it’s weaker – but still there were times in the Indurain era, Armstrong era, Contador’s second win specifically and even Froome’s wins (I’m worried to even say these same an incur the wrath!) that in the cold light of day and not looking at riders past exploits or potential, that you were hard pressed to say there was another rider with even 50% of the likelihood of those dominant riders winning in some of their best years. Pog does feel like a different league, and the second tier here is weaker but it’s not as dramatically different to some TDF years as it seems? I wonder if MVDP’s classics dominance has also lowered the tolerance levels for this kind of merciless crushings in 2024?

        • Let’s see what he does now that he has a 2 minute cushion and a TT to come. Still plenty of time to save energy for the Tour if he wants.

      • Pretty basic – there’s been two classic TT’s in Tours recently (Pog’s in 20 TDF, Rog in 23 Giro, both on late hilly courses) and it’s rare you can say that. There’s also been a generation of TT riders seemingly come along who made last years world’s very entertaining (Remco, Ganna, Tarling) and I’m looking forward to seeing them lock horns again with the addition of a better WVA and Pog even. Beyond that there’s a few other TT’s that felt exciting at the, Tao/Hindley springs to mind. And then last years Vin demolition, it wasn’t a classic in a similar way but very memorable.

        • I would say that in Indurain’s era (Rominger, various Russians), and in the beginning of Armstrong’s (Ullrich/Pantani/Zulle), there were people who at least on paper could beat them. Though I suppose there will be people in the Tour who can and maybe will beat Pogacar. Or at least already have done. The middle part of Froome’s Tour reign, after Quintana faded and before Dumoulin emerged, when he was just having to hold off a few climbers who didn’t seem to know which end of a TT bike to sit on was a total cruise.

  2. You have to go back to 2014 to find a giro that was won by more than 2 minutes.
    Pogacar already has more, and will probably take even more today.

    Giro is over barring accidents

  3. It seemed to me that Pogačar gained a lot of time on GC rivals in the twisty turns and small roundabouts of the town halfway through the flat section (I forget the name). Recon advantage maybe.
    O’Connor really impressed me with his ride, especially as he lost 25 secs to a mechanical (dropped chain up front I think)
    Hopefully Ganna can get his revenge on stage 14.

  4. I haven’t followed Ooterbrooks as much as some people, all I knew was that he is a relatively hot GC prospect with a bit of the Remco about his ego. So I am quite surprised that for him to do a time almost identical to Roman Bardet’s in a largely flat TT is considered a success.

    • Yes I noticed this.

      I think first you have to keep in mind he’s 21 and yesterday’s TT was pretty difficult for anyone to manage the effort with the climb, plus coming off the back of a gravel stage and tough first week. We also don’t know if he might have a bug etc like Bardet was in the first few days.

      But saying that we’re in the era of the super talents so being an extra strong younger rider doesn’t guarantee ascension to the highest tier so probably worth a deeper dive:

      The reason people are excited about him are strong performances (top10s) in Cataluyna, Romandie and Suisse last year at barely 20 followed by 8th at the Vuelta all pretty exceptional, especially when you take into account the Vuelta’s field and that he beat Remco. Along with Ayuso he has the best results for a 19/20 year old GC rider since Pogacar.

      But you’re right to point out his TT’s have been modest in all of those results – last year you could say it was youth but maybe it’s now looking like a weakness – Romandie 33rd, Suisse 22nd, Vuelta 35th. He did come 10th though on the Vuelta prologue.

      It feels incredibly harsh to say a 21 year old riding Grand Tours amongst the best might be an average TT rider to me though? As he’s competing in a way that was unheard of a decade ago and should be given time to develop (Jonas V being the case in point having developed later than Pog) especially given he’s been nothing short of exceptional since turning pro and only seems to have a had maybe one ride below his high standards (this years Catalunya, where I assumed he was ill?).

      He’s still a real prospect to join the elite in coming years, but seeing whether the next generation of Ayuso, Cian, Remco, Rodriguez and a few others can genuinely reach the Pog/Vin tower is the big question as far as I can see.

    • Or maybe he came into the race undercooked (his pre-Giro form pointed to that but he may just not have any form!) so that he’d be in good shape come the mountains. I’m pretty sure Ineos’ victory strategy was to hope that Pog was ill, had an accident or a very costly mechanical.

  5. Interesting comments about the low-level ski resorts. Wonder what demographic they’re after? Why? Because despite efforts like these, Italy is becoming an ever-more dangerous place to ride your bike. For some reason RAI is preaching to the choir about respect for cyclists while recounting grim statistics compared to places like Spain on the Processo alla Tappa with Stefano Garzelli maybe the prime motivator. Perhaps because he moved to Spain? Every time one of these people comes on to recount the carnage I wonder how many meetings they have (or tried to have) had with our bike-hating infrastructure minister…the right-wing, mental-midget obsessed with building a useless, expensive bridge to Sicily? If they can’t convince this a-hole to realize the value of the Italian bike and cycling vacation industry and get behind efforts on road safety, all the yakking on Giro TV shows is just hot-air.
    W Il Giro!

  6. You read my mind with Zana and Storer but if Zana manages to get into the break then Ineos and Bora might get a bit involved in the chasing.
    Another test for Plapp.

    • I wondered the same thing. Seems the team all used that Sturmey-Arch….er….uh…Classified branded two-speed hub gizmo? Perhaps G’s was stuck in the high ratio? I can’t believe claims this gizmo is as efficient as a pure chain-driven setup no matter what they say. OTOH, they had a bunch of their guys in the top-ten using this gizmo…but they all got beaten by a guy without one..will the maker of the gizmo blame that on the wind? Marginal gains- marginal losses.
      W Il Giro!

        • The bit on RAI TV touted this gizmo as an “aero advantage” I guess because of the supposed aero drag caused by a second chainring and a front derailleur? Couldn’t help but laugh and think of (as someone else noted) Roglic’s issue with single chainring last year.
          While I’m complaining – they really need to outlaw those things on the rider’s heads that look like giant suppositories. Some tighter regs about how far out from the rider’s head they can go maybe?

          • If my backtracking is correct I think it is the Classified Powershift hub and not Sturmey Archer. Advantages are supposed to be faster changes and changes under load.

          • 150 Watts – it was joke. Gizmos like this have been around for a long time. Nothing new here except for marketing – my guess is the long-term goal is to sell the company to SRAM since they still can’t seem to make a front derailleur that works – hence all their 1X stuff.

      • Yep, Classified hub uses planetary gears same as SA, it’s plausible that the internal drag of the hub could cost 17 seconds over 40km

      • I was staggered when the Eurosport reporter said Thomas had a single 66T chainring! I can appreciate the marginal aero gains but figured this must be very limiting on the climb (even if you stuck a 40T cog on the back etc).

        I wasn’t aware of the internal hub gear: that explains a lot, though Thomas still looked to be grinding and standing on the climb far more than others. I wonder what his lowest gearing was?

        • The classified hub gears down to 68.6% and the biggest cassette they offer is 11-34, assuming that’s what Ineos uses that gives 66/45 x 11-34 equivalent

          • Gotta wonder how/if the inefficiency in the design vs a simple chain/sprocket (that’s around 97%) counters the supposed extra aero drag of a chainring and front mech if you’re not a marketing-maven?
            This team has more money than God so it can’t be a payment from the makers that’s getting them to use it. But OTOH, they did get 4 out of the top 10 so it’ll look great for the Classified marketing-mavens if they simply overlook the fact that a guy without this gizmo beat them all. But it kind of turns INEOS’ “marginal gains” into “marginal losses” IMHO. Just more useless tech.

  7. @inrng quoting the original upsetter himself – Mr Lee Scratch Perry!!! 👏🏻
    I’ve grown used to this blog giving us an inside line on the peloton, the wider cultural depth and erudition and word play – but I didn’t see that one coming 🧢 ⬆️

    • 100% Come for the sport, stay for the additional nuggets of knowledge and references. Today we have astrophysics and reggae among the Italian geography, climate change and economics. We’re being spoilt
      How about some socks again to support Inrng?

    • Yes an unexpected treat and like you something I never expected. Off topic but I saw Lee Scratch Perry in Leeds some time in the late ’90s/early ’00s and it was a pretty memorable night for a whole host of reasons. The sound system was completely crazy, a very packed venue but 10ft spheres of space around the speakers so we moved in only to realise that the bass was so loud it was impossible to stay there, did something funny to your whole body… Perry was covered in little mirrors and was giving some good banter about being spied on by the FBI…

  8. Seemed to be déjà vu for Thomas, with over-gearing for a Giro TT with a final climb and being thoroughly beaten by a Slovenian. I assume him and Ineos know what they’re doing, but it seemed odd that he was heavily beaten by Aresman, who has only beaten him in a TT once before (Algarve this year where there’s a good case for Thomas “building his form”). Even in last year’s loss to Roglic, Thomas was still second on the stage, and he had looked sharp until now at the Giro (arguably the best of the rest of the GC contenders).

  9. The resort is about 1400 metres plus going up a few hundred i guess for the ski runs. About the same as most of the ski resorts here in Australia. Although i suspect its a lot cheaper as it has more competition.
    Is that photo of the ski lift of the Prati di Tivo. I looked on google maps to see if that is a walked road in the background but i could not find the location.

  10. A great show yesterday. Who said time trials are boring. If the course is long and complicated enough, difficult to pace, and if the TV coverage is good (and if you have the luxury of following the timing of all riders, as with PCS), it is cycling at its best.
    As for the Prati di Tivo postcard, it really feels like the place where one should want to spend all of one’s free time. God save that kind of remote, regional mountain spots.

    • “Who said time trials are borin?”
      I did and I do. The review show was more than enough for me vs dozing off through the whole thing, where only a fraction of the participants are doing anything more than trying to go as easy as possible while making the time-cut. How many riders did Ganna blow past on his run? ZZZZzzzzzzz.

  11. “ Vansevenant sits at the Lagrangian point between the two”. One of the best lines I’ve seen in sports writing in awhile. But which object has a stronger gravitational field – Alaphilippe or Hirt? Chapeau.

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