Loading...

Follow Podium Cafe - for Cycling fans on Feedspot

Continue with Google
Continue with Facebook
or

Valid

The week in women’s racing

Races

Lotto Thüringen Ladies Tour, that joyous old race of breakaways, beer and teddy bears.

Plus a mixed bag of one-dayers: two through the Breton lanes and gravel (Classique Morbihan and GP Plumelec) and a third in the USA (Winston-Salem Cycling Classic).

Coverage

Ah, how we’ve been spoiled so far this season! Here it was back to old school ticker plus twitter and Facebook updates for Thüringen, plus helpful regional tv stage summaries [scroll down]. Volkfeststimmung much in evidence. Thüringen is a fun, well-organised race with an entertaining parcours, its own traditions and great local support. TotW would love to be able to see more of it.

Pas grande chose for the Breton races. Even tweets seemed to be a bit of a struggle.

Winston-Salem had a live stream but, alas, TotW was asleep.

Riders
  1. Kathrin Hammes: Thüringen was shaped by a first stage breakaway containing all the strongest teams that finished with a seven minute lead over the peloton. When stage 1 leader Barbara Guarischi dropped back on the next day’s climbs, WNT’s Hammes took over the yellow jersey, securing the GC win with a fine TT performance which just held off Sunweb’s Pernille Mathiesen. Somewhat unexpectedly, rider of the week.
  2. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig [3]: Alas, we didn’t get to see her celebrations, but Uttrup got her first win of the season—first win for quite a while, in fact—at GP Plumelec, succeeding her erstwhile teammate Ashleigh Moolman. No longer the highest VDS point-scorer without a win. (Amy Pieters inherits that position.)
  3. Christine Majerus [2]: After solid, podium-skimming performances at Yorkshire and Elsy Jacobs, finally got a win on the Classique Morbihan gravel, a repeat of her victory there two years ago.
  4. Vita Heine: The unusual race situation at Thüringen forced riders who might have expected to compete for GC into stage-hunting instead. Cecchini, Klein and Bastianelli all won stages from breaks. Hi-Tec’s Heine, who’s having a great season so far, was perhaps a more typical breakaway winner. Her victory on the legendary Hankaberg—named in honour of former rider Hanka Kupfernagel, who comes from the area—was TotW’s favourite of the week.
  5. Ellen van Dijk [2]: Won her second consecutive Thüringen TT stage, and by a margin over second-placed Lisa Brennauer that last year would have been enough to win her the overall.
  6. Pernille Mathiesen: Couldn’t quite make her TT strength tell enough to overhaul Hammes on the Thüringen GC, but still finished second and claimed the U23 jersey.
Honourable mentions

Lourdes Oyarbide also survived from the first stage winning break to make it through to the final step of the Thüringen GC podium. Sarah Rijkes, as so often this season, worked endlessly on the front in defence of her teammate Hammes’s overall lead. Leigh Ganzar won the Winston-Salem Classic, attacking solo from a small group then holding off the chasing Chloe Dygert and Arlenis Sierra, which is no mean feat.

Team of the Week

Bigla dominated GP Plumelec, winning for the third year running, this time with Uttrup Ludwig. Both Virtu (Guarischi and Bastianelli) and Canyon-SRAM (Klein and Cecchini) won two stages each in Thüringen. But WNT-Motor get the prize—yet again—for their iron grip on the Thüringen GC. You wouldn’t want to mess with them, either.

Furrowed brow of the week

Sadly, Ellen van Dijk’s pleasure at winning another Thüringen TT was undercut by the theft of her road bike from a supposedly secure hotel room where race bikes were being stored. Police are investigating.

And another thing

Van Dijk’s repeat TT victory put in focus the lack of time trials on the Women’s World Tour. Giro apart, all the main opportunities come in second tier races: Thüringen, Elsy Jacobs, Healthy Ageing Tour, Gracia Orlová etc. Bira dropped its TT this year, and the newly-expanded Women’s Tour hasn’t seen fit to include one. This strikes TotW as a bit of an issue, which the UCI should probably address as they develop plans for the future of the WWT. As Saul points out, some riders may not have had a chance to race a TT before national championships begin.

Breaking news of the week

Comes to something when we need the president of the UCI to notify us of a race result in person…

FSA DS

Only one team, mpena6’s Raw Dogs, was clever enough to pick Kathrin Hammes. Glorious overall victory at Thüringen, however, goes to eetteri’s Hammer & Nails, with Mathiesen, Guarischi, Rivera, Lippert and Cecchini. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig’s Breton success keeps Bethinho’s Bethinhas top of the league.

Draft

Awaiting updates. Kurt, however, has Kathrin Hammes. And Christine Majerus. Vlady—yes, Vlady—has Pernille Mathiesen. No one has Lourdes Oyarbide.

WWT Predictor

On hiatus until the Women’s Tour (starts 10 June). Look out for that start list filling up…

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Now with added Rocketman fuel

So, I’ve made something of a rod for my own back here. I rolled out a “last stage preview, song lyrics, photos and awards” column for the 2017 Vuelta, and brought it back for the 2018 Tour. I do enjoy writing this columns (and even enjoy getting a shoeing from Civetta for my taste in music) but it works best when there’s no particular interest in the outcome of the stage.

Stage 21 won’t provide that luxury. So this year, we’ll spend a little longer on the preview of a stage that may have some significance, and a little less time on the photos and the silly song – but don’t worry, we’ll get to the stupid pretty soon.

The good news is, I’ve already covered the time trial in my preview for the race’s three chrono stages. A quick reminder of the course for Sunday’s final out-and-back loop:

It is in and around Verona and the hills to the north, should you be interested in the geography:

Also, since I mentioned hills, it is only fair to show you exactly what I’m talking about. The pretty steady ascent of the Torricelle is the last climb for a field that must be pretty sick of the sight of them.

When I commented on this stage three weeks ago, I said that it was “wide open”, and marginally favouring the climbers who can TT, rather than the pure TT engines. I’m sticking with that, with fatigue likely to be strong among the climbers, but motivation also massive for the riders at the pointy end of the race.

One thing I didn’t know about when I sat down to write the preview was the weather. The good news is, we’re expecting a warm, dry and mostly windless day. Unlikely to provide too much drama or give too much of advantage to early or late starters.

Another thing that I didn’t know about was the state of the race. I don’t think we’ll see more than about ninety seconds between the guys who are going for it on this stage. That means that I think, barring catastrophe, Richard Carapaz is safe. It also means I think that the podium is set, as I don't think Mikel Landa will be able to ride well enough to hold third ahead of Primoz Roglic, despite the latter tiring. I don’t think we’ll see any changes in the youth jersey, and the other jerseys are now finalised.

So, is this going to be anything more than a processional finish? Sure. Positions matter, especially third, and the top ten, and there may be some changes. The hill is big enough to cause trouble, especially for riders on TT rigs. There’s also the little matter of the stage winner. As I said when I last looked at this stage, I think this stage favours the generalist over the TT specialist.

However, Victor Campenaerts came within 11 seconds (and a botched bike change) of winning on stage 9. He’s been scooting around Italy without much exertion whilst Primoz Roglic, already over the top with form, has been exerting himself in and around the lead groups. I think we’ll see Campenearts win, with Roglic taking a few seconds off Landa and Nibali and a few more off Carapaz, but not enough to get higher than the bottom rung of the podium.

Getty Images Maybe don’t do this again, Victor

Now for the fun stuff

Which artist to choose? As we’re in Verona’s arena, I really should find something cultured, from a great Italian opera. That isn’t naff enough for my purposes, nor am I linguistically talented enough. Instead, let’s go with something truly cheesy, but also topical given a recent film release. Mostly, I’ve found this song because for me there’s a theme to this year’s Giro… attrition.

You could say that’s always the case with Grand Tours, and you’d be right. Still, the slow burn of the start of this race, the long stages, the awful weather, the injuries, the disappearing form… this has felt tough. I don’t want to take anything at all away from Carapaz who has ridden with aggression and elan. He’s certainly not just the last man standing. He is the last man standing, though. With that, over to Elton to sing us out, and some of my abiding memories of the race as captured by Getty.

WireImage

You could never know what it’s like

Your blood like winter freezes just like ice

And there’s a cold lonely light that shines from you

Two photos here, and the first memory of this Giro is the God-awful weather. We saw buckets of rain and then an horrendous frozen descent of the Motirolo on a stage where the Gavia was impassable and riders were pouring tea over themselves to stay warm. Yuck.

Getty Images Getty Images

You’ll wind up like the wreck you hide behind that mask you use

And did you think this fool could never win

Well look at me, I’m coming back again

I got a taste of love in a simple way

And if you need to know while I’m still standing you just fade away

When it comes to wrecks, the crash that brought down Tom Dumoulin has to be mentioned. There were those who though that without him Primoz Roglic would walk away with the race. Then he just faded away.

Getty Images Getty Images

Don’t you know I’m still standing better than I ever did

Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid

Cesare Benedetti is 31 and was riding in his seventh grand tour, this one in front of his home fans. He hadn’t won a race as a professional until he was the true survivor of a rough stage twelve into Pinerolo.

Getty Images

I’m still standing after all this time

Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind

Pascal Ackermann must have come into this race with Sam Bennett on his mind, as he replaced the Irishman who won three stages last year and was on the form of his life. Bora made the right call, and Ackermann repaid them with two stage wins and the points jersey. The team’s enthusiasm all race was infectious.

Getty Images

Once I never could hope to win

You starting down the road leaving me again

The threats you made were meant to cut me down

And if our love was just a circus you’d be a clown by now

You know I’m still standing better than I ever did

Who have we got starting down the road? The breakaway, and there were lots of them this year. Normally they get cut down, but this year we saw them stay away in droves. You could hardly fail to root for Damiano Cima, juuuust holding off the finishing pack. I love this picture because you realise how quickly the stage winner was swamped after the line.

Getty Images

Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid

I’m still standing after all this time

Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind

Pavel Sivakov was supposed to be escorting Egan Bernal to his first Giro win, but a misjudged descent in training altered that plan. Without Bernal on his mind, Sivakov rode for himself, and the Tour of the Alps winner demonstrated that he’s going to be a rider to reckon with in due course, grabbing a top ten and pushing Lopez in the white jersey competition. This is your periodic reminder that the former Baby Giro winner is still only 21, and doesn’t even look that old.

Getty Images

Don’t you know I’m still standing better than I ever did

Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid

I’m still standing after all this time

Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind

Vincenzo Nibali, who I called the grey man back on the first race day, has stayed nice and close and remains the man who’ll profit should something happen to Carapaz. He is still finding a way to be relevant and to squeeze every drop of potential from his career. Chris has called him the smartest bike rider he’s ever seen and I can’t argue. What a survivor he’s been.

Getty Images

I’m still standing yeah yeah yeah

I’m still standing yeah yeah yeah

I’m still standing yeah yeah yeah

I’m still standing yeah yeah yeah

After a tough three weeks, Ecuador have their first Grand Tour winner, Richard Carapaz has climbed to the elite of the sport and we have a last man standing. He’s put on a wonderful show. Congratulations to him, to Movistar, and to all the finishers. Thanks to all of you for your company along the way.

NurPhoto via Getty Images
Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

This is a funny old game. We’re coming up to the last hurrah in the mountains and for most the race is down to the fourth favourite for the race and the fifth or sixth favourite, with said fifth or sixth favourite holding all the cards. This stage is going to be such a spectacle for one major reason — Nibali has not gone all out yet this Giro despite giving an interview in which he said that anything but the pink jersey is a failure. He didn’t go all out on stage sixteen and he certainly didn’t do so before then, instead playing the opposite of four-dimensional chess with Roglic while Movistar disappeared up the road. Hence, he has to attack on the way to Croce d’Aune, probably well before the finish if he’s going to live up to his promise.

He’ll have an opportunity to do so on stage twenty.

Here’s a major feat of analysis: that’s a lot of climbing. Starting from the ninth kilometre, the fast-dwindling peloton will be either climbing or descending for practically the whole day which is fertile ground for attacks. Passo Manghen, the retconned Cima Coppi as it was designated the title after the Lago Serrù stage, is a seriously tough climb, sort of reminiscent of a Tour de France giant only with steeper sections, topping out at fifteen per cent. If this stage is going to go down as an insane, look-back-on-in-twenty-years classic, Nibali is going to attack on Passo Manghen. First though, let’s try not to get caught up in what might happen and look more dispassionately about how this stage could disappoint. One thing that kills mountain stages is a flat section of greater than negligible length before the final climb and there is a hint of that here. After the real descent of the Passo Rolle, there is fifteen kilometres at around minus two percent. A team-mate would be needed for an attacker to make it through that section, which complicates things. Then there’s the Passo Rolle itself:

It’s not that hard. I mean, it’s a twenty kilometre mountain, of course it’s hard, but air resistance will play as big a role as gravity in hindering who wants to get to the summit.

My point is, this is a stage where attacks from far out are possible, maybe viable, but there are greater benefits to staying in the peloton than it may look. So what is actually going to happen? Well, let’s look at what people want:

Nibali wants eighty seconds on Carapaz and for Roglic to make no impact.
Carapaz wants to keep Nibali within arm’s length: no more than forty seconds.
Roglic wants eighty seconds on Carapaz and for Nibali to make no impact.
Landa wants to win, obviously, but at this point I think he’ll settle for taking time on Roglic so he’ll look to crack the Fastvenian and take at least two minutes on him.
Lopez...now this is the interesting one. I’d imagine he wants anarchy. That’s the only way he’s making the podium.
Yates wants to jump on Lopez’ wheel when he starts attacking.

So based on these wishes, I think we can see who’ll do what. Nibali won’t go early. I think he might crank up the pace on one of the climbs to make some attempt to weaken Carapaz with a view to attacking on the penultimate summit, bombing the quick descent and charging to the finish but that’s a strategy that requires Carapaz to be on a bad day. There’s a reason this is the best strategy for the Sicilian — he requires Carapaz to be on a bad day to win in any circumstances and this is the one with the lowest risk. At this point I think Nibali and Carapaz are at around the same level of form so anything Nibali does is likely to fail if bad luck does not intervene.

Now we come to Roglic, who showed some signs of returning life at the end of stage nineteen. Do I think they’re a sign of things to come on stage twenty? No, in fact I think they’re a bluff. Did you see him crossing the line? He practically looked sick. I’ll look monumentally stupid if I’m wrong, but I see him losing more time.

Landa might have to forgo a podium place in helping Carapaz under certain circumstances — if Nibali does get away, Landa pacing Carapaz for ten kilometres seems like a winning strategy, but if it goes anything like the Mortirolo there’s a good chance he’ll at least occupy third before the time trial.

Lopez is the wildcard. I can see him jumping on Manghen but in terms of GC he’s irrelevant. In fact I don’t see this going any way different to the rest of the Giro, in which Lopez has had all the aggression but none of the legs. He’ll finish behind Carapaz.

As for the stage winner, I’m not going for a break pick, I hate guessing games. I’ll take Nibali. Carapaz knows he can afford to give him a short leash so I think he might ride conservatively and let Nibali off in the final few kilometres rather than risk going into the red. Nibali will do it by ten or twenty seconds and Carapaz will finish the stage with ninety seconds in hand on his nearest competitor.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Treviso to San Martino di Castrozza (151 km)

After the most exciting joy-for-cycling-fans-globally ending of the Giro on Stage 18, with Damiano Cima of the morning’s break holding off the charging peloton, and Ackermann overtaking Demare for the ciclamino jersey, the final three stages are bound to be a bit of a letdown.

Last year, the race exploded on Stage 19, with Froome going on his long range attack and Simon Yates cracking, completely upending the narrative of the race. If that’s going to happen this year, it’ll have to wait to tomorrow’s Stage 20. Instead, Stage 19’s battle will be subtler— more suited for microaggression than aggression— but could be just as important with the looming time trial. A swing of 20 to 30 seconds in either direction between Roglic and Carapaz could mean the difference between putting the pink jersey out of reach or making it all in for pink at the final TT.

THE ROUTE

The Giro begins it’s final mountain sojourn with two days in the Dolomites. The first of the Dolomitian duo has a bumpy 137 kilometers prior to a 13.6 kilometer at 5.6% gradient final climb to San Martino di Castrozza (which I believe translates to Saint Martin, the Castrato. I like the German name better, anyway- Sankt Martin am Sismunthbach).

It’s a good day for the break (but aren’t they all) with lots of ups and downs, though only 2 categorized climbs before the finale.

Profile:

The category 3 Passo di San Boldo climb would have been a good launching point for attacks, but unfortunately it comes 85 kilometers prior to the finish with a long flattish valley section before the next climb. The climb will hit a maximum kilometer at over 13% gradient. Fans of sexy hairpins will get their money’s worth, however, as the snaking turns even make it difficult to climb in Google street view.

Stupid, sexy hairpins

For the last bit of sexy hairpins, you’ll have to engage your imagination, however, as the climb takes the riders in and out of a bunch of tunnels.

Sexy hairpins lead to a little of the ol’ in-out, in-out.

Spelunking will be a theme of the day, as the riders will go through beaucoup tunnels on the way to the final climb. Those looking to make a long range attack may try on the category 3 climb, but the Lamon is likely to be a lemon, as it’s gradients of 4 to 6% probably won’t provide much of a springboard.

For the GC, it should be all about that final climb, which looks like this:

Map of final climb:

It’s long at over 13 kilometers, but not steep. It’s doubtful that any of the top 4 contenders will be able to put time into each other, but someone further down on GC may be given some leeway.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Dolomites get their name from the French mineralogist Deodat Gratet de Dolomieu, who was the first to describe the carbonate rock that makes them up. In Italy, the Dolomites are also known as Monti Pallidi, or Pale Mountains, based upon the golden and pink hues of their rocks as the sun rises and sets. One of the legends of the Dolomites involves how the Pale Mountains got their color. Honestly, the legend is a bit of a mess and probably could have used a good editor but can be summarized like this: A Dolomitian prince wants to go to the moon, finds some old men with a spaceship who he gets to take him there, falls in love with a moon princess, goes blind from the white flowers on the moon, returns to earth with his moon wife, who brings the moon’s white flowers with her and plants them around the Dolomites, moon wife gets homesick for the moon’s white mountains and scared of the earth’s dark mountains and returns to the moon, the prince is left behind, is lonely and becomes a hermit in the woods but meets a cave gnome, cave gnome promises to get the moon wife back for the prince if the prince gives the gnome’s people a country, the cave gnome is given a country (actually New Jersey) and gets his gnome compatriots to climb up the mountains and rip off threads from the moon to cover the Dolomites, moon wife sees the white mountains and reunites with the prince. So, I guess the moral of the story is that moon wives are hard to keep happy.

WHAT’S GONNA HAPPEN?

The big question is whether Carapaz’s hopes are going to explode like dynamite in the Dolomites. His performances this year and last year suggest they won’t. Last year, he survived Froome’s long range attack, coming in second on that stage and leaping up 4 spots on GC. Carapaz would also finish with the small front group of favorites on the following mountainous day last year. This year, he’s picked his spots to move into pink, though a stage win on Stage 4 and then 11 days later on Stage 14 may suggest that he’s been holding onto form for a while and is due for a drop off (hey, you gotta try to manufacture drama where you can). Anyway, this is a stage that shouldn’t worry him— as it’s unlikely that either Nibali or Roglic will be able to do damage on the relatively gentle gradients of the finale nor is their a good opportunity for a long range attack. Rather, it’s all pointing to a final showdown on Stage 20, as more likely than not, the front GC riders cross the line together in a small group.

You can almost guarantee that Simon Yates and Miguel Angel Lopez will try something— and they’ll probably be granted a little leeway as they are far enough down on GC, but not enough leeway to be let in the morning break. And more likely than not, that morning break will be fiercely contested, as this stage may provide the last opportunity for a victory from a break. You can expect a common cast of characters to make it in the break— De Gendt, several Androni, Brambilla, et al. As for a winner, damned if I know, but let’s go with Tunnel Kangert to stay true to the theme of this stage.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

So we’ve exited the mountains for a short time and a few of the sprinters have survived. This is the last chance for a lot of riders to take a stage and as for all late flattish stages, the age-old question of break or sprint must be asked.

I’ll attempt to answer it after having a quick look at the parcours.

Clearly we’re losing altitude as we move towards the Venetian coast with only one categorised climb to break things up. The final ninety kilometres are slightly downhill to provide a perfect environment for a motivated chasing team, especially when the forecast headwind is considered.

The finish is as safe-looking as one could expect it to be

Just two right-angled turns in the last five kilometres on a normal provincial road two lanes wide. If a crash is going to happen, it’s going to happen but unless the director’s car knocks over a domestique, I won’t be blaming the race organisers. Anyway, we’ve reached the point in the Giro where most riders know their place and all nerves have faded so the peril of crashes is certainly fading.

So I must ask the question — break or sprint? I think sprint and I have evidence to back myself up. The Giro has one of these late flat stages around stage 17 or 18 reasonably often and a pattern can be drawn. A stage such as this has not been won by a breakaway since Stefano Pirazzi stood on the podium in the Bardiani party that was 2014. Since then, Sacha Modolo sprinted to victory in Lugano in 2015, Roger Kluge outfoxed the sprint trains with a final-kilometre attack in Cassano d’Adda the following year, 2017 saw its final flat stage in the second week but when the flats returned to the final week last year, Elia Viviani came out on top. A stage of the Giro is valuable enough that any sprint train left even partially intact is going to chase in hopes of gaining victory, even if they already have a stage under their belt.

On foot of my belief in this, I’m going to have to say that this stage is between Démare and Ackermann, the only ‘real’ sprinters left in the race. Both of them struggled over the Mortirolo but made it over with time to spare and they had a comparatively easier day on Wednesday so both should be gunning for this one and in all likelihood will be sprinting it out. I favour Ackermann. He was far from the back on the Mortirolo so it’s fair to say that this Giro has not put him on his knees and at this point his grazes will have mostly healed over. Not to mention that he has been the best sprinter in the race. Démare will have improved as the race goes on but I don’t see him taking this one — I doubt he would have won the stage he did if Ackermann had been on his bike.

Ackermann it is then. If the break does end up victorious, look out for Chris Juul-Jensen, Manuele Boaro and Conor Dunne.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Commezzadura (Val di Sole) to Anterselva/Antholz (181 km)

After the dust has settled and the riders have been defrosted from their battle on the Mortirolo, the Giro gives us only the second summit finish of the race. You’d be forgiven if you thought the Giro crossed the border into Austria, as the race finishes in the largely German-speaking South Tyrol region of Northern Italy. Behold this Italian anthem.

THE COURSE

Both the starting town of Commezzadura and the finishing town of Rasun-Anterselva are making their debut appearances in the Giro. As far as I can tell, the climbs have never been used in the Giro, the Giro del Trentino, or any other professional cycling race. It’s a good day for the break (as has been almost every stage of this Giro— the only top 10 GC contender to take a road stage victory has been Carapaz).

Here’s the profile:

And here’s the profiles of the last 2 climbs before the finishing climb:

The summit of the Terento comes with about 45 kilometers to go and would provide an audacious springboard for any daring rider.

And here’s the profile of the finishing climb:

It looks decently steep, with 4 kilometers above an 8% average gradient. However, it’s a long, straight and steady climb. There are no hairpin turns or switchbacks— riders will be able to see each other from a long distance away. Looking at it on a map, it reminds me a lot of the Alto Colorado climb (without the high altitude) from the Vuelta a San Juan— a climb that can be done in the big ring. Just look at this image from Googlemaps, ostensibly on the steepest part of the climb:

If I didn’t have the corresponding profile, I’d be hard-pressed to call it a climb at all. What I think is going on is just a matter of perspective, with the mountain in the distance creating a true false flat or gravity hill scenario. It’ll be interesting to see how the riders will take to it tomorrow.

WHAT’S GONNA HAPPEN

Conor once said that predicting cycling races is hard. And he’s absolutely right for the most part. However, theorizing what will happen toward the end of a grand tour is often the easiest situation to suss out. After all, we’ve now had 16 prior days of racing— we know who’s riding strong, we know who’s fading, and we know who’s going to be involved in the breaks. Not much is going to change on the 17th day. Ben O’Connor is not going to suddenly look like the rider he did at last year’s Giro. Ivan Sosa is not going to start climbing with the best as his earlier season performances would have suggested. Richard Carapaz is not going to instantly regress to the vds failure that he looked like prior to the Giro. Generally, we should know who the protagonists are and who have been relegated to extras. Usually, and I’m very guilty of this, it’s just ego that leads us not to believe our eyes but to double down on our pre-race conceptions of who the riders are (damn it, Primoz, I picked you in the pre-season and my Giro preview to win, so I’m going to believe that you can be resurrected).

That being said, the riders are who we see that they are... only until they aren’t. Last year, Chris Froome was going to continue with a long line of Sky failures at the Giro, until he pulled a Froomey on the Finestre. In 2016, Nibali was over the hill and in decline, until he became the strongest in the race on Stage 19. What I’m trying to say is that

until they aren’t. The smart money on this stage would be on Carapaz consolidating his lead on a finale that would seem to suit him based upon his two previous stage wins. However, I feel that we are headed for a surprise. It doesn’t feel like this Giro is done throwing curve balls at us. It really doesn’t feel like Movistar is going to be able to continue acting as a cohesive unit- the Carapaz-Landa alliance seems destined for a Jon Snow-Daenerys Targaryen ending. Nor does the other-riders’-not-named-Roglic truce with the Shark seem destined to end any other way than the frog’s fate in the scorpion and the frog fable. It may not be this stage, but I still think there’s a twist in this Giro story.

My prediction is that Roglic takes back time as the allies-against-former-ski-jumpers start fighting each other, but as I said above, that’s probably just my ego getting in the way. The smart money’s still on Carapaz.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Seventeen days ago, I did not expect that today I would be typing the following statement: Richard Carapaz leads the Giro and so far he has been invulnerable. He’s not been the most aggressive but he has been the most explosive and he’s the only one who has consistently looked able to gap the field with an attack.

Only gaining that ability today is Nibali, who time after time has made moves and not forced a gap on his fellow contenders (with the exception of going downhill). That all changed on the Mortirolo where he made his move and for a while it looked like it might be decisive. It, however, was not and I’m going to use this opportunity to state how impressed I was with the way Carapaz and Landa rode the Mortirolo. There was a temptation, especially in Landa, to jump on Nibali’s wheel immediately, to panic but they rode the climb as well as it could have possibly been ridden under the circumstances. On most climbs, your best bet is to ride tempo but this becomes more and more important the steeper the climb is. A good experiment in this played out before your eyes on the Mortirolo as Nibali made a good start but was inexorably pulled back by Pedrero and Landa.

Speaking of Landa, it looks like he’s fallen into line behind Carapaz as well he should. He did plenty of work in helping the pink jersey make his way back to Nibali and with the Mortirolo gone it is time for Movistar to limit the chaos. Given all the incredibly competent climbing domestiques such as Pedrero and Carretero that they seemingly cloned while my back was turned they need to resurrect the concept of control, as they started to do today on the way to Ponte di Legno.

Movistar may be in control of their own destiny but Primoz Roglic cannot claim the same. I said ever since Romandie that he was coming into this race too hot and his performance is on the verge of proving that. He was lightning in the Bologna time-trial, very strong in San Marino and more than competent in the early mountains but cracks began to show on the way to Como. I was prepared to give him a pass for that given the variables involved with riding his team mate’s bike. With replacement bikes, it seems there is a Law of Inverse Usefulness, in that whenever a rider gets one such bike, it will be proportionally more ill-fitting and poorly geared the more it is needed. Hence Roglic’s struggle on Tolhoek’s bike, I thought. However, he had no such excuse on the Mortirolo. It is clear that while he still has some climbing form and won’t utterly capitulate, he doesn’t have what it takes to steal the race back. I think we can call this a victory for peaking at the right time.

So I think we can call this Giro down to two contenders, barring some monumental shift. We have Carapaz and we have Nibali.

With Nibali, it’s always a conundrum. He has a baffling talent for simply winning that seems to transcend everything else. He was clearly underpowered in 2016 but what do you know, Kruijswijk is in a snowdrift and he is gone, pink jersey on the way to a Sicilian wardrobe. He manufactured cobble talents out of nowhere and two weeks later he was standing on the podium in Paris. So here we stand. He has one real mountain stage to gap Carapaz despite not being the best climber. Experience and a talent for winning are hard things to quantify but I do think they explain why the Sicilian is who most commentators will mention as their favourite when it comes to standing in pink in Verona. So far, it looks like a descent ambush or waiting for Carapaz' form to fall off a cliff may be his only options, which is why it’s strange that Nibali called it a truce for the descent. I understand that it was perilous but that shouldn’t be a negative for Nibali — perilous is where he has thrived and he showed on even the short descent to Como on Saturday that he had the measure of Carapaz going downhill so it stumps me. He’s going to have to either rise meteorically in form or pull off one hell of an ambush.

An ambush would not have happened today even with the Gavia and I’m not sorry it was excluded. The most it would have done is soften the legs and all that would have achieved is dampen the fight on the Mortirolo which is counterintuitive to what this stage was designed for — such a fight. Stages designed to tire people out are the sort of stages for the Gavia, stages where you want people off the front rather than out the back (and both should be in evidence in all grand tours) are not.

Carapaz brought himself much closer to the overall win, now standing in pole position.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

The week in women’s racing

Races

Off into the misty hills and potholed lanes of the Basque country for the venerable—by women’s racing standards—stage race Emakumeen Bira (WWT 12). Plus its unnaturally sunny warm-up Durango-Durango, and the Swiss one-dayer GP Cham-Hagendorn.

Coverage

TotW says zoroniak! to the Bira organisers for the effort, despite the limitations of 4G streaming with dropouts at key moments due to weather and terrain. That said, signal loss isn’t unknown at Itzulia either, and TotW suspects a relay plane would’ve had a job on the fog-bound stage 3. The ‘exciting last stage’ might have been even more exciting if we’d seen more of the chase group, however. Knowledgeable bilingual commentary was a plus. Video catchup. Highlights.

Brief Durango-Durango highlights, too.

Riders
  1. Elisa Longo Borghini: Began Bira coyly claiming she’d try to defend the mountain jersey she’d accidentally won on the first stage. Her sprint for second behind teammate Tayler Wiles on stage 3 revealed bigger aims. Attacking solo over the last climb on the final stage, she fulfilled her ambitions, taking the win and—just—the GC. A first race win in two years, she raised her arms rather early—‘I just wanted to celebrate,’ she said—but her teammates did the rest. Rider of the Week. And about time, too.
  2. Tayler Wiles: Wiles’ sprint for the line on the final stage of Bira denied Spratt bonuses and ensured her teammate ELB won the GC. A great team follow-up to her attacking solo stage win the previous day.
  3. Amanda Spratt: Won last year’s Bira in a pincer move as Anna van der Breggen and Annemiek van Vleuten cancelled each other out. This year defending a narrow early lead proved trickier, and she was pipped for the GC by two seconds. Still, a stage win and second overall is not bad going.
  4. Soraya Paladin [3]: Has now ridden more days than anyone else TotW can find in the peloton, and with amazing consistency, finishing third here on GC. Now for the Giro.
  5. Jolien D’hoore: With Boels’ climbers focussing on California, their main aim at Bira was a sprint win for D’hoore. She claimed it with such ease TotW can only wonder how the early-season Wild-Wiebes duopoly would have looked if D’hoore had been fit. Seventh at the hilly Durango was an amusing extra, for us and for her.
  6. Lucy Kennedy: After early season success at home in Australia, took a well-deserved first European race win with a solo attack at Durango-Durango.
Alternative Team of the Week

FdJ’s Evita Music (won the Bira U23 jersey and also got the coldest rider on the podium award); Canyon-SRAM’s young New Zealander Ella Harris (who won the U23 at Burgos & was second here); Annemiek van Vleuten (by no means above putting in a substantial shift for her team mates); Anna Plichta (typified Trek’s adventurous spirit at Bira by getting in three breaks in four stages); Cristina Martinez (got home team Bizkaia Durango up into the Bira GC top ten); Julie Leth (beat some decent riders to win the Swiss Chard [© The Figurehead] race).

Team of the Week

It’s the great injustice of this season’s TotW columns that so far Mitchelton-Scott haven’t been awarded Team of the Week. The ubiquitous, well-drilled peloton-controlling team par excellence, they’ve been visible on the front in practically every race they’ve entered, setting things up for Annemiek van Vleuten (and occasionally inadvertently for other teams too). Perhaps that run of second places for Van Vleuten disguised their effectiveness, with all the credit inevitably going to Annemiek when she did get the win.

This was going to be their week. It all started off so well with Lucy Kennedy winning Durango-Durango in a one-two move with teammate Amanda Spratt. But at Bira the decision to put everything into Spratt retaining the title didn’t quite pay off. Instead, the race became a classic clash between attack and defence. Mitchelton defended Spratt’s narrow lead rather conservatively (typified by the decision to recall Kennedy from the break on the final stage).

Conversely, Trek-Segafredo attacked repeatedly, constantly forcing their rivals onto the back foot. Four of Trek’s six riders spent time off the front, making for super exciting racing. There was nothing cavalier about it either. Anna Plichta mopped up bonus seconds en route. Tayler Wiles’s sprint for the line on the final stage made sure Spratt couldn’t win the GC. It’s not quite come together for Trek until now. Here they started to look like the team we thought they might be. Team of the week.

Getty Images Tayler Wiles riding off into a misty cloak of invisibility, Bira stage 3. Txapela of the Week

Ok, so it’s not like we get a txapela every week but TotW is getting to be bit of a connoisseur of podium headgear and in any case, Elisa Longo Borghini wears it well.

Lanterne Rouge of the Week

Anna Plichta’s multiple efforts off the front for Trek took their toll and left her dead last overall. TotW would never dare compare a rider on a climb to a bovine animal but guesses it’s ok if a rider does it herself. :-)

Local News

Best Basque rider is, of course, a big deal at Bira. Ane Santesteban and Eider Merino battled it out, finishing level on time in the GC top 10 with Santesteban just nicking it on count back.

Spectators of the Week

As ever, a decent turnout of Basque fans despite some miserable weather and awkward locations. Spotted among them in the lanes on stage 1, 1991 Bira winner Joane Somarriba. From further afield, a more recent champion was also watching.

Virtuous Rider of the Week

Over in the Giro threads there’s been some dismay at riders’ apparent disregard for the supposed ‘greenest Giro ever’. The men’s peloton evidently needs an Audrey Cordon-Ragot, not slow to remind riders of their environmental responsibilities and not just on social media either. Though, as Audrey points out, maybe the commissaires should just apply the rules too.

FSA DS

Another week, another leader. This time Bethinho tops the league, propelled by the combined forces of Spratt, Paladin, Wiles and Koppenburg.

Draft

Vlady has finally been toppled by Yeehoo, though with this week’s results still pending things may change. Look out for ELB’s draft owner Jens making a move.

WWT Predictor

Still making a fine effort in all competitions, Vlady narrowly prevented Mr Verbiage from making it three races out of three at Bira. Frans still leads overall, however.

Next race: Couple of weeks off for Thüringen and other excellent if non-WWT racing. We reconvene for the Women’s Tour (WWT 13), starting 10 June.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

After a week of sprint stages and a rainy time trial, we finally got a perfect day in the mountains for stage 13 of the Giro, at Lago Serru. From the stage headquarters, which was 15 kilometers down the final climb, we were taken up by shuttle to the shuttle to the finish. I got up there with plenty of time to scope out some good vantage points. The view at the finish line was pretty nice, but I walked down a few hundred meters and found a spot where I could see the road snaking down below.

I ran into this guy on my way down:

I got my first glimpse of stage winner Ilnur Zakarin when he was more than a kilometer from the finish, then saw him again at the 900-meter mark, 500, 400, 350, and when he passed me on the road at about the 250-meter mark.

Mikel Nieve followed about 30 seconds later.

Next came Landa, passing the 400-meter mark as Carapaz and Mollema passed the 500 mark below.

Roglic and Nibali rounded the final hairpin and rode to the finish together.

The walls of snow on the sides of the road made for dramatic images, and provided great vantage points for those willing to do a bit of scrambling.

Two days later, on a warm afternoon on the shores of Lake Como, it was a day for the breakaway, as Dario Cataldo outsprinted Mattia Cattaneo for the stage win.

Close behind were Yates, Carthy, Carapaz, and Nibali.

Next, Lopez charged for the line in a group with Majka, Pozzovivo, Landa, and Formolo.

On the podium, Cataldo wore a beatific smile, and Carapaz enjoyed his second maglia rosa ceremony.

Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Lovere to Ponte di Legno (194 km)

Sometimes less is more, and even though the queen stage has been decrowned with the Gavia being removed, while we might have lost an epic mountain climb, the new stage is more likely to lead to epic racing.

THE COURSE

Obviously, the big news for this stage is the removal of the Cima Coppi, the Passo Gavia, due to a zombie polar bear outbreak on its slopes. The profile of the stage would have looked like this:

The re-routed stage profile looks like this:

The Gavia has been replaced by two climbs — the Cevo and Aprica. The Cevo is a 10.6 kilometer climb at an average gradient of 5.9% and looks like this:

The Cevo is not the steepest climb, but has some sustained sections above 7% on a narrow and winding road and should act as a good leg softener and an opportunity for stronger teams to shed the weaker helpers of their rivals.

Cevo, on the way up.

Meanwhile, the descent from the Cevo should have Zakarin doing what Yates suggested his rivals should be doing at the beginning of the Giro. It’s steep, narrow and contains several hairpin turns.

Cevo, on the way down.

The Aprica, rated a category 3 by the Giro, has a difficult starting kilometer at 9.7% but then becomes more of a false flat climb, averaging 3.7% over 13.2 kilometers. After the descent from Aprica, the riders will have only 13.5 kilometers before the start of the Passo della Foppa (or in non-hipster parlance, the Mortirolo). That run-in won’t be flat, but instead will be a gradual descent with a 6 or 7% two kilometer speed bump along the way. And that’s when we’ll get to the main act of the stage, 40 kilometers before the finish— the Mortirolo.

Will in his and Conor’s mountain’s preview ranks the Mortirolo as the most difficult climb in the race and it’s generally regarded as one of the most difficult climbs in cycling. This is what the riders will be dealing with in profile and map terms:

Following the discesa ripida off of the Mortirolo, there will be about 15 kilometers between the leading rider or riders and the finish. Nothing too steep, but uphill the entire way.

Profile of the last 7.25 kms

In 2017, the Mortirolo was used, but ascending the easier side from Edolo and was only the first of three climbs on that day. (Nibali won that stage, gaining over 2 minutes over eventual winner Doom). In 2015, the Mortirolo was used in a manner very similar to this stage— coming as the final real climb and then a descent and slight climb into Aprica. Mikel Landa won that stage, taking about 40 seconds from Contador. The GC separation on that day was significant— with only Kruijswijk finishing with Contador. Aru, the next GC contender, was almost 3 minutes back. In 2010, with a similar finish, Michele Scarponi arrived together at the finish with Nibali and Basso, with the next best rider, Vino, over 3 minutes behind. What this shows is that this is gonna be a decisive stage, even with, or maybe because of, the loss of the Gavia.

Tim de Waele/Getty Images Contador, in the 2015 Giro, riding past the Pantani monument, which commemorates that time that Pantani ditched his bike and rode an isosceles triangle up the Mortirolo. WHAT’S GONNA HAPPEN?

As stated above, I think that the loss of the Gavia makes this stage much more interesting. I agree with Conor’s opinion about this stage pre-zombie polar bear outbreak:

Conor: I think I expressed my pretty clear enthusiasm for the previous mountain stages but I don’t like this one. When it comes to attacking, passes like the Gavia never get the attention especially when there are greater challenges to come. Basically, no one will attack on the Gavia because they’re (rightfully) too scared of the Mortirolo. And nobody will attack on the Mortirolo because it’s impossible to attack on the Mortirolo. To accelerate on that gradient is a very bad idea if you’re not planning to bonk like, five minutes later. The stage will be good and we’ll see guy after guy drop off the back but if you want attacking racing, look elsewhere. By this point we’ll have a good idea of the GC battle and I can picture the top guys whittling the peloton apart until only they remain with a run into Ponte di Legno to come. The guy who will win will be a team mate of a podium contender. I don’t think the race will be won outright here.

Without the Gavia, there are now several factors that lead me to think that this is going to be the decisive stage of this Giro. First, the Gavia-Mortirolo combo would have led to more conservative racing prior to the Mortirolo. As Conor says above, no rider not named Froome would have risked attacking on as high and difficult a climb as the Gavia knowing that the Mortirolo is still to come. Second, the inclusion of the Gavia likely would have led to more conservative racing on the Mortirolo itself— it would have been even harder to attack on the Mortirolo with a massive leg-softener like the Gavia immediately preceding it. Now, presumably, the riders will get to the Mortirolo with relatively fresher legs. The loss of the Gavia also means that the stage has been shortened from 226 kilometers to (a still considerable) 194 kilometers. Hopefully, those (relatively) fresher legs lead to more aggressive riding.

Moreover, though, while there are still three mountain stages to come prior to the final TT in Verona, this stage provides the best opportunity for the purer climbers to gain time on the better TTers. Stage 17 is bumpy, but only has a final 4 kilometers of steep climbing where a rider can make a big difference. Stage 19 is essentially a mono-climb summit finish, but on relatively gentle slopes, averaging 5.7% over 13.1 kilometers. Stage 20 could be a barn burner, but does any rider really want to bank all of their GC hopes on the last stage before the TT? No, Stage 16 is the Giro GC contenders’ date with destiny— if any rider has a hope of wearing pink after Verona, this stage is their greatest opportunity and challenge.

As a reminder, this is the top 10 on GC coming into this stage:

  1. Richard Carapaz
  2. Primoz Roglic (0:47)
  3. Vincenzo Nibali (1:47)
  4. Rafal Majka (2:35)
  5. Mikel Landa (3:15)
  6. Bauke Mollema (3:38)
  7. Jan Polanc (4:12)
  8. Simon Yates (5:24)
  9. Pavel Sivakov (5:48)
  10. Miguel Angel Lopez (5:55)

It’s an ideal setup for a historic showdown on the Mortirolo. Both Superman and Yates need to attack to have any hope of putting themselves back in contention. Needing minutes, not seconds, they can’t afford to play the attritional game on the Mortirolo. Before the emergence of Carapaz, you would have put both as two of the top 3 climbers in the race. And both have two of the stronger teams in the race— look for both to try to get allies in the morning break to provide assistance on the Mortirolo.

Nibali may find Lopez and Yates to be situational allies. The Shark still needs to find two minutes on Roglic to have a chance in the final TT. He probably needs to find less time against Carapaz, as presumably Nibali will have the upper hand against the time trialling champ of Equador. Look for Nibs to join forces with whomever is willing and to put on a masterclass descending from the Mortirolo.

Movistar has the best hand to play in this stage— with Carapaz in pink and Landa two and a half minutes behind Roglic and one and a half minutes behind Nibali. With Astana and Mitchelton, Movistar also has one of the strongest teams— Amador or Carretero could be sent up the road to assist the leaders in the latter part of the stage. So far, their strategy has been letting Carapaz attack while Landa follows the wheels of the leaders, due to Carapaz being allowed more leeway. Now with the pink on Carapaz’s shoulders, perhaps they now switch that strategy up— unleashing the Landa while allowing Shell (h/t Fausto) to ride an attritional battle against Nibali and Roglic.

Tim de Waele/Getty Images Carapaz, asking himself whether he should or go.

The biggest question of this stage is WWTFSJD (What will the former ski jumper do)? So far, Roglic has (perhaps strategically) given up time to attacking rivals in the mountains while hounding Nibali for an invitation to his house to look at this trophy case. While Roglic still has that final time trial to bank on— it’s not that long at only 16 kilometers and Roglic’s performance in the final TT at last year’s Tour should give him pause. In that TT, he gave up over a minute to Doom, Froome, and Thomas, suggesting that he may find it more difficult to TT at the end of a long race. Perhaps Roglic came into this race too hot and has not been able to sustain his peak or perhaps Roglic has been riding strategically and is ready to launch himself up the slope of the Mortirolo. This stage will answer that question.

While there’s always a chance that we get a winner from a break on this stage, the real story will be the GC battle. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d put my money on Movistar— with Landa taking the stage and Carapaz consolidating his lead over Roglic.

Read Full Article

Read for later

Articles marked as Favorite are saved for later viewing.
close
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Separate tags by commas
To access this feature, please upgrade your account.
Start your free month
Free Preview