Wednesday, May 22, 2013

STAGE 18 Preview, 2013 Giro d'Italia

 Wednesday May 22 6pm EDT

Giovanni Visconti amazed us all again winning his second stage of this year’s Giro d’Italia in Vicenza on Wednesday. He put on a show defending a slim lead of little more than 20 seconds that he built going over the short climb that topped out with 16 kilometers to go to the finish. His win is the third consecutive for his Movistar team. It is also Visconti’s second win of the year, the first coming just three days earlier on the Col du Galibier.

The peloton was blessed with good weather again for stage 17

[You can read my full race recap in the “Pages” menu to the right.]

The news came on Wednesday morning that a cold front is moving over northern Italy, bringing more snow, rain, and cold temperatures to the region. Giro d’Italia race organizers, Michele Acquarone and RCS Sport are scrambling to plan alternate routes for the upcoming two stages in the Dolomites after Thursday’s climbing time trial stage to Polsa.

Location of stage 18

Stages 19 and 20 were supposed to be the dual Queen stages; resplendent, powerhouse high-mountain stages, with eight big categorized climbs between them, including the 2618-meter high Passo Gavia, the 2758-meter high Stelvio Pass (the cima coppi of the race), and the 2059-meter Val Martello finish on Friday, and the Passos Costalunga (1745 m), San Pellegrino (1918 m), Giau (2236 m), Tre Croci (1805 m), and the Tre Cime di Lavaredo finish on Saturday at 2304 meters. 

Everything above 1500 meters is expected to get snow, so unfortunately it is unlikely that we will see many of those high peaks. They are monitoring the weather and updates are expected.

The stage 18 uphill time trial profile

Thursday brings the 20.6-kilometer climbing time trial from Mori to Polsa. The route overall rises with an average gradient of about 5.4%, so it’s no Alpe d’Huez. You can see from the profile that it starts with a relatively flat kilometer and a half, then climbs for about 7kms on a 6.6% average grade. The course then eases up for almost 5k before rising again to the top for another 7k stretch at the same average gradient as the first section of the climb. Those last kilometers provide the steepest gradients of the route, up to about 10%, with some of the steeper sections close to the top. This means that the riders will have to gauge their efforts very carefully, and leave enough gas in the tank for the big finish.
The final 3 kilometers to the finish

Based on the profile, I think several riders can excel on this stage. The time gaps among the top contenders may not be very big due to the gradients, but a poorly gauged effort could result in a significant time loss to the unprepared. Some of the strong time trialers could perform as well as the powerful climbers on a course like this. I’m thinking of guys like Stef Clement, Wilco Kelderman, Manuele Boaro, and Svein Tuft (although Tuft hasn’t really looked like he’s on his best form).

It still favors guys like Nibali, Evans, Kangert, Scarponi, half of Team Sky, etc. but we may see a surprise name or two in the mix at the top. I'll just throw one more name out there: Juan Manuel Garate of Team Blanco. If he's feeling good and not saving his energy for helping Gesink in the Dolomites, I could see him tearing up this course.

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