Caruut

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If you are a lava of mountain-top finishes, then this is the stage for you. As the first real test, the race is likely to erupt here. If the big guns are on fire, then the break’s hopes will melt away. Anyone whose form isn’t red hot will be likely to explode on the climb, leaving nothing but ashes left of their GC ambitions…

Now I’ve gotten that out of my system, let’s get on with the preview.



The history
In 2011, Alberto Contador dropped Jose Rujano to claim a stage win, and put the maglia rosa on his back, never letting go of it until Milan. Jose Rujano heroically soloed to victory, while Konstantin Sivtsov claimed the maglia rosa, before the late Michele Scarponi’s overall victory. Cycling is complicated. This Alberto Contador video will, I promise, but the last piece of volcano-related tomfoolery.


Last year’s Etna stage was… a bit of a damp squib, albeit a dramatic one at the last. Slovenia’s Jan Polanc took a stunning solo win. His 4-man break carried about a 4 minute lead at the bottom of the climb, and he made light work of his fellow travellers to take victory 19 seconds ahead of a surging Ilnur Zakarin (in typical fashion, he had been on the tarmac at the foot of the climb). Behind him the GC action fizzled and spluttered, failing to ignite in the face of a fierce headwind. Bob Jungels grabbed the #pink.

The route
The stage starts in Cataldo, where I presume the #astana man’s ancestors come from – he is not in the race and was born in Abruzzo, so the connection is tenuous at best. It meanders through lumpy terrain, enough for a strong break to form, but not big mountains for a climber to pull out a silly gap before the final climb. If any of the big teams are motivated, they should be able to bring it back before then, and still have plenty of riders left for the final.



The final climb is a brute though, effectively starting 40km out at Ponte Barca 63m from sea level, climbing up to Belpasso at 553m before a short break and then 20 solid kilometres of hurt at about 6-7%. Two sections of major interest are the ramp at 10km out and especially the ramp with 5km to go which is about 700m at 14% - brutal. It then levels off, to the extent that we could even see a very, very slow sprint finish. With no trees due to that pesky volcano, the climb is very exposed and so wind is likely to play a factor. If there’s a headwind expect cagey racing, and if it’s behind the riders, expect chaos.



The favourites
With the flat finish at the end, it’s effectively a sprint between whoever comes to the top of the climb together, so I’m making Pinot #groupama my big favourite. Dumoulin #sunweb seems to fare pretty well on stages like this which basically involve one big effort, so don’t count him out. Aru #uae will be looking to make an impression, while Yates #mitchelton looked sharp the other day. A 2nd tier GC hope like Pozzovivo #bahrain, Woods #efdrapac, Bennett #lottonl, or Chaves #mitchelton might be able to sneak away if the true favourites start looking at each other.

Froome #sky and Lopez #astana will want to make up for lost time, while others will be looking to give Froome in particular a test after showing weakness earlier. Unless Rohan Dennis #bmc finds climbing legs out of nowhere, the #pink is likely to change hands – but who will wear it come the end of the stage?

For the break, Polanc #uae, Atapuma #uae, Pantano #trek and Hirt #astana might fancy their chances.

(sorry it's a little late in the day!)
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  • « Last Edit: May 10, 2018, 11:18 by Caruut »

    Mellow Velo

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     Even though they are climbing it from the opposite direction, it looks as if once again they have lost the headwind lottery.
    If the majority of Italian weather forecasts are to be believed. :(
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  • "Science is a tool for cheaters". An anonymous French PE teacher.

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    yep, unfortunately...



    this part of the mountain is not as exposed to wind as the past ascents though, with trees covering the road for most parts
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  • "If this is cycling, I am a banana"

    t-72

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    4 kilometers an hour = no wind to speak of. Direction and strenght at ground level may vary due to local effects not accounted for in the weather model.
    By the way, if you really believe in that model, attacking early to get tailwind advantage on the long straight section should be the way to do it. The headwinds in the finale are predicted to be weaker :)
    #astana Lopez to take back 2 minutes on this!  :shh
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    By the way, if you really believe in that model, attacking early to get tailwind advantage on the long straight section should be the way to do it.

    that's with ~8-10k to go though. I would be surprised if we see any real gc contender attacking that early.

    This could be a good stage for a breakaway again by the way. There's no real favourite in sight to chase for, and BMC will be happy to give the bonus seconds away to a non-gc-threatening group.
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  • t-72

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    ... I would be surprised if we see any real gc contender attacking that early.....

    My point exactly, why I think #astana Lopez is actually the man who can get away with it. Not a real GC contender so the others may be happy to watch each other and let him go. It would be nice for the race because then we could get #astana Lopez back on the list of GC contenders,  after this stage :)

    Also, not entirely joking, as the terrain definetly suits him (and maybe also #mitchelton Estaban Chaves, #fdj Thibaut Pinot as well). I submit this stage as evidence:


    <--- Comprende? He's got the skills, he is in a position where he may not be high on the list of opponents to watch, so he may be allowed to go.

    The only thing not certain is if he is in shape at all after various bike and balance failures in the past week. Yesterday's crash was off into softer vegetation and loose gravel (it looked like), but it was high speed - so he might have suffered quite a bit of trauma not immediately noticeable.  The adrenalin rush would keep him going to the finish line yesterday anyway, but it will not get him up the Etna.
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  • t-72

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    Now... everybody get in

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  • t-72

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    I think this stage deserves a wrap-up post. First of all, the race organization had obviously been getting in touch with locals and finding a way up Etna that provided for a much more interesting race than I have seen earlier. I traced it up on google earth afterwards and it is a backroad of the backroad for much of the distance up from Ragalna. Most of this area hasn't been wiped by lava flows as recently as the area where last year's stage climbed the cone, so trees have been allowed to establish some colonies aka forests, protecting the percorso from the wind, which wouldn't be much of a trouble today anyway. It resembled the lower parts of Mont Ventoux except it is less steep and more changing in gradient.
    The 2 climbs used this year and last year are about 6 kilometers from each other and there is one more in the middle between the two, I think that is where the 2011 stage went up. They all end at more or less the same spot, a tourist trap where (if I recall correctly) ordinary bus transports stop and tourists are loaded onto buses more suited for the roads further up.

    This had me thinking: why do the race stop here?


    The next section is quite steep and climbs the lower half of a ski area in hairpin turns. One option would be to have the finish line at 2500 meters above sea level, where there is a midway station for the ski lifts (they seem to be back in operation).


    There is one point further up where a finish line could be located, the end point for the special tourist buses at about 2800 and something meters above sea level. There isn't a lot of permanent facilities here, but if they can have a race to Mont Ventoux it is no problem to roll up a mobile finish line to here.

    And speaking of Mont Ventoux, this would be bigger. Plus, it involves gravel :)

    OK, back on track:

    By far, this route was the better one as the constantly changing gradient really opened up the race a lot more than the carefully engineered road for tourist buses that they went up last year. Racers were dropped and came back, gaps opened and closed... not just at the front but all the way back to number 30 or so at any time. Too much happened for the cameras to catch all and italian TV producers have their own way about making it extra confusing  :S

    Here's the stage results list:


    The pace was very much up from the start of today's stage (First hour, 2 previous days: 35 km/h average. Today 45 km/h.) All teams except maybe team Sky and Astana were under strict "no breakaway unless we're in it" orders. So there wasn't a breakaway, until, ironically, an almost 30 man strong group, including #mitchelton Esteban Chaves, were allowed to sneak away. Several of the other strong teams managed to sneak a man or two into this group, but after the initial gap were allowed to expand, #rosa team BMC #bmc started chasing, later to be joined by #astana Astana, charging hard and ripping the main gruppo to pieces on the last kilometers before the start of the climb proper.

    From Ragalna and up there was an endless story of attacks, counterattacks, gaps opening, being closed down, riders fading, coming back etc. The break started looking and acting like a conventional breakaway and not a small peloton after dropping all but 7 riders. Behind, the peloton was closing the gap slowly and in an irregular fashion. No #sky mountain train pulling it all back, just attacks, counterattacks, attacks, and more counterattacks.

    With 5 km to go, #mitchelton Chaves caught #bardiani Ciccone and just passed right by him, going all in. He would have won the stage with a margin if not for teammate #mitchelton Simon Yates, quite close to the finish he looked at his group of usual suspects and concluded: "they all look tired. I feel strong" and then he attacked, closing the gap to Chaves and both finishing ST.

    I am not sure when was the last time we saw teammates crossing the finish line on a major mountain stage 1-2 like that. Did #sky Froome and Wiggins do something similar, circa 2012? 

    Right now there is little doubt Simon Yates is the strongest in the field, but it remains to be seen if he lasts 3 weeks like that. Chaves has been very close to winning the giro before and may turn out the strongest in the end, but WHOA, what a team effort by #mitchelton today!
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    I am not sure when was the last time we saw teammates crossing the finish line on a major mountain stage 1-2 like that. Did #sky Froome and Wiggins do something similar, circa 2012? 

    Porte and Thomas in Paris Nice 2015 (if that counts as "major")

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  • Carlo Algatrensig

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    I am not sure when was the last time we saw teammates crossing the finish line on a major mountain stage 1-2 like that. Did #sky Froome and Wiggins do something similar, circa 2012? 


    The one that comes to mind for me was Frank and Andy Schleck in the 2009 Tour although that wasn't a summit finish and might have been a gift from Contador that they finished 1 and 2 that day. Ignore this they didn't finish 1 and 2 that day

    I have seen that some on twitter have though jumped for a comparison with a finish on the Tour from 2008.
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  • M Gee

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    It certainly was a more interesting stage than past Etna stages. Previously a lot was promised on Etna, and nothing came to pass. Today shook things up a bit.

    The questions for me, now, are:

        Can Chavez stay at the top? Can #mitchelton support him?
        Can Yates stay at the top? Can #mitchelton support him?
        I think Froome and #sky were biding their time today, not looking to fire a round. Is Froome as off-peak as he appears? (I think not)
        One can't forget Pinot and Aru, either. although I would not bet for either to be on the top step in Rome.

    However, with Sunday following Saturday, I think we will have a very good idea about the final outcome after Sunday.
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  • Eeyore sez . . .

    t-72

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    P-N is one of my favorite races, but not a grand tour, so in my opinion, not a major stage - but thanks for tip!
    Let me refine my question as "...on a major mountain top finish stage in a grand tour".

    EDIT: this thread exploded a bit with many fast replies, my post is a reply to Search's post up above.
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  • M Gee

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    If you are a lava of mountain-top finishes, then this is the stage for you. As the first real test, the race is likely to erupt here. If the big guns are on fire, then the break’s hopes will melt away. Anyone whose form isn’t red hot will be likely to explode on the climb, leaving nothing but ashes left of their GC ambitions…

    Now I’ve gotten that out of my system, let’s get on with the preview.



    The history
    In 2011, Alberto Contador dropped Jose Rujano to claim a stage win, and put the maglia rosa on his back, never letting go of it until Milan. Jose Rujano heroically soloed to victory, while Konstantin Sivtsov claimed the maglia rosa, before the late Michele Scarponi’s overall victory. Cycling is complicated. This Alberto Contador video will, I promise, but the last piece of volcano-related tomfoolery.


     . . .


    I think that must be one of the most entertaining previews we've had. Everything from :fp puns to rather bald tongue-in-cheek history rewrites. Good on ya, dude.
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  • Mellow Velo

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     Mitchelton-Scott head and shoulders the strongest team in the race to begin with: 3 big engines and 5 top notch climbers.
    Now, the have an organised two pronged attack, that will have to be countered by Dumoulin an co.
    Early days I know, but potentially things already looking a lot trickier, come the all important third week.
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    P-N is one of my favorite races, but not a grand tour, so in my opinion, not a major stage - but thanks for tip!
    Let me refine my question as "...on a major mountain top finish stage in a grand tour".

    would need to have a look... here's one that comes to mind, 2008 Tour



    there may be one or two more with Piepoli involved
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  • Carlo Algatrensig

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    Mitchelton-Scott head and shoulders the strongest team in the race to begin with: 3 big engines and 5 top notch climbers.
    Now, the have an organised two pronged attack, that will have to be countered by Dumoulin an co.
    Early days I know, but potentially things already looking a lot trickier, come the all important third week.

    In terms of the strength of the team I've just looked at todays results in full and who went under the radar to finish 17th less than a minute behind his 2 team mates today? Mikel Nieve. An experienced and strong rider like him who could ride himself into better form given how little racing he has had this year could be very valuable to Yates and Chaves.
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  • M Gee

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    IDK about Nieve, but I've just watched my recorded coverage - and Chaves looks very strong. This did not look like an early burst just to carry the jersey for a few days.

    And Yates has been carrying the shield of promise for some years - with little fruition.  Yates attacked. Pinot tried to follow - and could not.

    Maybe. Just maybe.

    Interesting. Very interesting.

    Ok then. Yates and Chaves showed their effort on their faces at the line. But there was a huge gap over the chasers.

    Pinot takes the "sprint" out of the group of favorites. Dumoulin finishes in front of Froome, with both at the back of the gruppo favs.

    By Sunday we will know a lot more, but ATM, I think Dumoulin is in good form to take his 2nd Giro. Yates and Chaves look to be dark horse challengers - but real challengers all the same. Pinot is a real danger man.

    Looks to be a good Giro.  :cool
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  • t-72

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    would need to have a look... here's one that comes to mind, 2008 Tour



    there may be one or two more with Piepoli involved

    Found this on my twitter TL this morning, as if someone outside the forum read my request:
    https://twitter.com/raffilpt/status/994670134471151618

    EDIT: yes, I saw there was problem but had to get off the ipad to solve it, by then it was too late :)
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  • « Last Edit: May 11, 2018, 07:06 by t-72 »

    search

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    #dimension Igor Anton --> #ag2r Ag2R la Mondiale

    :D

    Quote
    "As we still have to take the ferry tonight to travel to the mainland, we decided to park our bus behind the departure and go the 8km by bike. We thereby were hoping to avoid the surely-to-come traffic jam and arrive quicker at the hotel. At the top we just put a jacket on and went down. Dimension Data had similar plans; At least one of their riders. Igor Anton followed us blindly, but his bus was nowhere to be found ... caring as we are, we took him in our bus, where he could take a shower and change clothes.

    For tomorrow we are now 9 instead of 8 riders at the start. All gesticulating and waving didn't help when his sports director came past the bus: he just disregarded us and kept going..."

    http://www.nico-denz.de/giro-d-italia/
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  • Caruut

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    I think that must be one of the most entertaining previews we've had. Everything from :fp puns to rather bald tongue-in-cheek history rewrites. Good on ya, dude.

    Aw thanks MG I appreciate it, I did have quite a bit of fun with the puns haha
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  • Capt_Cavman

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    Magmanimous praise indeed!
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  • Capt_Cavman

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    HTRWW

    https://video.eurosport.co.uk/cycling/giro-d-italia/2018/giro-d-italia-how-the-race-was-won-yates-conquers-etna_vid1088442/video.shtml


    I must admit I missed the key moments and am relying on highlights such as the above, but it seemed to me that while Chavez slipped away in a move I still haven't seen, Yates actually dangled off the front, dared the rest to follow and then kicked away with only Pinot appearing to be able to respond before dropping back. I'd be surprised to see Yates hold this form over the three weeks though, it may be a question of grabbing as much time while he can.
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  • Caruut

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    Nice post-stage wrap T

    Definitely agree about the route - much better than the other one. Didn't realise quite how much less exposed and more rampy it would be, but it really made for a great race. Having a really steep ramp at 5k - the one Chaves made his move on - is nice cos it gives people a reason to go early.

    Interesting about the extra section you mention. Any idea what the gradient would be? Or maybe - and I'm only half joking here - it goes a little too close to the lava?

    As far as the race goes, Froome looks down but not yet out, everyone threw something at him today but nobody could actually strike a killer blow. Dumoulin seemed to be marking him, when Froome lost a wheel on a step section Dumo made it over to the other group quickly. #mitchelton look in a great position now, and that gesture by Yates might even come in very handy come week 3 - surely easier to pull rank when you've half gifted your mate a stage win.

    Roll on the next 2 weeks!
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  • M Gee

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    . . .

    As far as the race goes, Froome looks down but not yet out, everyone threw something at him today but nobody could actually strike a killer blow. Dumoulin seemed to be marking him, when Froome lost a wheel on a step section Dumo made it over to the other group quickly. #mitchelton look in a great position now, and that gesture by Yates might even come in very handy come week 3 - surely easier to pull rank when you've half gifted your mate a stage win.

    Roll on the next 2 weeks!

    Yup, I agree. It did look like Dumo was primarily marking Froome. And, for the most part, that has been his style - since he isn't a climber - he tends to follow on the mountains, eh?
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