Preview: Giro d’Italia 2016 Stages 10-15

The Italians have a home rider in the pink jersey going in to the second week, after Gianluca Brambilla's superb solo victory on Stage 8. Photo via gazzettaworld.com
The Italians have a home rider in the pink jersey going in to the second week, after Gianluca Brambilla’s superb solo victory on Stage 8. Photo via gazzettaworld.com

 

Stage 10

After a tough weekend with two key stages that dramatically shook up the G.C. standings, the riders will be very thankful of the previous day’s rest. But there will be no easing their way into the second week, as Stage 10 is another tough and likely decisive day in the ‘fight for pink’.

It’s another +200km plus day, and the second summit finish of this year’s race. The riders will be on the ascent from 21km, and from then on there isn’t a flat stretch of tarmac, with the road either going up or down for the remaining 198km. With two category three climbs in the first 75km, the Passo della Collina (12.7km, 5.3%, max. 8%) and then the Pietracolora (8.7km, 6.1%, max. 11%), we can expect to see Tim Wellens and Damiano Cunego in the morning break looking for KOM points.

They will then descend for 25km before ascending again to the start of a 45km stretch of undulating road, en route to the main challenge of the day that is the Pian del Falco category 1 climb (16.3km, 5.2%, max. 13%).

This is a climb that starts and ends hard. The first 5km average 6.6% then there is a 7km stretch where the gradient allows some respite and drops down to a 1.8% average. And then there’s the sting in the tail, where in the final 4km the gradient ramps up to an average 8.9%, with a 13% max. For G.C. contenders who’ve had a poor (expected or not) time trial, this will be the place where they look to make amends and claw back some time. The likes of Chaves, Uran, Zakarin, Majka, and Pozzovivo should be the ones launching attacks. Meanwhile, Movistar, Astana, and Sky will all likely try and drive the pace, draining their domestiques, before Valverde, Nibali and Landa take over towards the summit and look for key positions for the descent. It’s a steep and fairly narrow downhill, which winds its way down into Fanano and to the start of the 7.4km climb to the finish in Sestola.

The climb itself isn’t difficult (7.4km, 5%, Max 8%) but it comes after a very long and tough day in the saddle, so fatigue will play a part here. Given its constant nature, any escapees will likely be caught, and this should end in a reduced bunch ‘sprint’ for the line. If Wellens is in the morning break then he could well kick on and aim for the win, and also extend his lead in the KOM. Other break away contenders might be Visconti, Formolo or Taaramae. However, the G.C. contenders will want to start picking up time bonuses, so a break will likely get reeled in, and riders like Zakarin, Chaves, Valverde, and Nibali could be the ones winning a reduced sprint to the line.

 

Stage 11

The first 207km of this 227km course are pancake flat, but that won’t mean a day off for the G.C. contenders. It’s another long day for the peloton, and, rather than being one for the sprinters, the race organisers have dropped in a very tricky final 20kms which could see either a G.C.-focused attack from those needing to pull back time or, more likely, a late attack from an opportunist rider or two looking for the stage win.

The one categorised climb comes at 204.8kms as the riders reach the town of Maser. The category 4 climb up Forcella Mostaccin (2.9km, 7.8%, max. 16%) is a veritable wall, with a Mur de Huy appearance to its profile. The first 2kms average at 8.1% and will split the peloton, but it’s the final 900m where the damage will be done, with an average 10.2% and maximum of 16%. Given the similarity to the Mur de Huy, Valverde will be one to watch here, but Ulissi and McCarthy could also have a go.

After the summit, there are less than 20kms to go, and the descent down from the Forcella Mostaccin is narrow and technical, so those with skills in that area are likely to keep any gap they have. Following this, the road is very undulating and features some sharp left-rights turns and roundabouts, making it difficult to reel in any escapees. With 5km to go, the road ramps up for a kilometre, with a max of 7% that leads on to a section of pavé, before a fast descent under the flamme rouge and a 900m flat sprint to the line.

The nature of the final climb will mean this isn’t a sprinters day (they will have to wait until tomorrow). It looks like either a breakaway or reduced bunch will contest the finish. Names to look out for would be Adam Hansen, Stefano Pirazzi, Valerio Conti or Enrico Battaglin.

 

Stage 12

This is the only chance for the sprinters this week, so any breakaway will be kept on a very tight leash. The fact that Kittel has now abandoned the race means the stage win is wide open, although his compatriot André Greipel will be the favourite for today.

It’s a short stage, coming in at 182km, and it’s totally flat and follows wide roads around Venice, and through Mestre and Treviso before heading towards the finish circuit on the coastal town of Bibione. As this is along the coast, which way the wind is blowing could be important, and crosswinds may well play a factor during the race.

The two lap circuit in Bibione isn’t a easy one; in total there are six roundabouts and 23 corners across the final 18kms of the race, so teammates and positioning will be key, and might potentially be the difference between a top 10 and top 20 finish.

Lotto look to have got their tactics spot on, and that’s why Greipel is the favourite. The criterium-type street circuit could favour Caleb Ewan who looked good on stage 7, although he started his sprint way too early. With Viviani not making the time limit on stage 8, Italy’s sprint hopes rest with Modolo and Nizzolo. Both have looked good, but the Germans have eclipsed them every time – they will be desperate to take a win in their home Grand Tour. FDJ didn’t get their sprint train tactics right on stage 7 and the frantic pace of the circuits could be too much for Démare. If he is in the right position after the final bend with 300m to go, then Caleb Ewan is likely to get his second Grand Tour stage win.

 

Stage 13

Expect some of the sprinters to have already packed their bags and to be on the next flight home before this stage starts. We enter the first of three high mountains stages that will go a long way to deciding who takes control of the Maglia Rosa. One rider who won’t be contesting them is Tom Dumoulin DNF Stage 11, having said at the end of stage 9 that he plans to lose time during the second week with the goal of taking stage wins in the final week. The next few days will also show us if Jungels and Kruijswijk can keep the pace.

The one positive that the riders have for today is that it’s a short stage, at only 170km. Unfortunately they are climbing for all those kilometres practically from the gun, and the route takes in four categorised climbs. The first 45km are over a false flat, with a little bump in the road at 16kms. They actually arrive at the finish town of Cividale del Friuli at 28.8km of racing and then start the first of two circuits around the mountainous outskirts of the town, along narrow roads that feature steep gradients and technical descents.

The first circuit features the category 1 Montemaggiore (8.3km, 9.3%, max. 16%), which eases the riders into things with a first 2.5kms averaging 6.6%. However, for the remaining 5.8km the average ramps up to 10.5%, peaking at 15% just before the summit. The descent down towards the start of the climb to Crai is interrupted by a short and likely unwelcome ramp of 3km (7.6%, max 16%). They will then descend for another 5km before reaching the foot of  the category 2 climb of Crai (8.8km, 6.4%, max. 16%), which greets the riders with an average of 9.7km for the first 4km, before easing out for the final 5kms at an average of 3.6km. There is then a tricky descent, down to Passo San Martino at 67km.

The riders then get to catch their breath over a 30km predominantly flat stretch, as they cross back over the finish line to begin the final circuit up more steep, windy mountain roads. The penultimate climb of the day is the category 1 Porzus (8.8km, 8.2%, max. 16%). The gradient rarely drops below 8%, with the 16% section coming 1km from the summit.

The following descent then leads the riders straight onto the final test of the day, the category 2 Valle (6.2km, 7.8%, max. 13%), which is a mini version of the climb they will have just completed — shorter but just as steep. There is then another technical descent before the final 5km, which offers a flat ‘sprint’ to the finish in Cividale del Friuli (a place the riders will be sick of seeing by this point!).

As this is the first of three big days in the mountains, the G.C. men will need to conserve their energy. We could thus see a break allowed to go away to contest for the win. In this case Merhawi Kudus or the ‘Young Americans’; Ian Boswell and Joe Dombroski could be the men for this. Depending on their G.C. placing, Sergey Firsanov and Ryder Hesjedal could be allowed to get away.

 

Stage 14

We now enter the real high mountains of the Giro, The Dolomites. There are 6 categorised climbs on the menu today and the G.C. men will need to be on form or they’ll lose time by the handful. The first 100km are all up hill, so expect less capable riders to disappear early on.

At 85km the first categorised climb begins, and we could see teams like Astana, Sky, and Movistar drive a fierce pace with a view to create gaps early on. The Passo Pordoi climb (9.3km, 6.9%, max. 9%) isn’t the hardest, but you have to take into account the previous 80km of climbing!

 

This is then followed by a short descent and then the category 2 Passo Sella (5.5km, 8.0%, max. 12%), a short but consistently steep climb. The category 3 Passo Gardena climb (5.8km, 4.4%, max. 9%) almost serves to break up the descent to the foot of the next climb, which takes the riders  over the finish line for the first time in Corvara, and they then begin an 83.2km circuit before returning.

The category 2 Passo Campolongo (6.0km, 5.8%, max. 13%) is not the toughest of today’s climbs, but the first kilometre ramps up to an unpleasant 13%. There is then a descent leading onto 26km of undulating roads that will offer a little breather for the riders as they approach the toughest test of the day.

The category 1 Passo Giau (9.85km, 9.4%, max. 14%) is a brute, with multiple tight switchbacks all the way up, and this is where the race will likely be ignited. The opening slopes are the hardest, peaking at 14%, but the remaining 9km rarely dip below 9%. Supporting teammates will be worth their weight in gold here for the G.C. contenders, as they can mark any attacks from rivals or work en mass to drive the pace and thin out the remaining peloton. If riders lose contact on this climb it will be very difficult to get back on.

After surviving that and the following descent, the remaining riders (and there won’t be many by this stage) reach the final climb of the day, the category 2 Passo Valparola (11.5km, 5.8%, max. 14%). Although it contains a 14% ramp at its summit, the regular gradients are easier compared to what has come before.

 

With the mountains conquered for today, there is still 19.4km to go, mostly downhill. But with 5km before the finish, the last men standing will come on to the Muro del Gatto. Its only 360m,  but they will hit a wall, with gradients between 13% to 19%. Could this be the scene of a final dig or attempted attack for the stage win? After this the road climbs steadily uphill to the finish.

This is a G.C. day. With the uphill time trial tomorrow, those not so good at that discipline will need to make a move. Zakarin, Pozzovivo and Majka will need to do well today and we should also start to see who out of Valverde and Amador and Nibali and Fuglsang are the stronger G.C. riders within Movistar and Astana respectively.

 

Stage 15

This type of time trial is rather unique to the Giro, compared with the other two Grand Tours, with its type featuring in seven of the last ten editions. It isn’t about how well you can race against the clock, rather how well you can excel in the high mountains. It won’t be raced on time trial bikes that’s for sure, and will be one for the pure climbers and GC men. A crucial stage in terms of the GC race.

The climb of the Alpe di Siusi (10.8km, 8% max 11%) starts with a slow rising section for the first 2km, averaging at only 1.8%. From then on though it ramps up significantly, averaging 8.3% over the next 9kms, with the max gradient of 11% coming around 7.5kms. The combination of a twisting circuit, freshly paved roads and huge hair pin bends and should make this a great spectacle.

The times gaps between the riders will also be huge and the favourites from the GC contenders would be Uran, Chaves, and Landa DNF Stage 10. The rest will likely be minutes behind.

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