Stage 21: Monza - Milan, 29.9km (ITT)
There is great chaos under heaven, and the situation is excellent. -Mao Zedong
Wow, as strange as this Giro has been in terms of stage drama, the overall drama has reached historic levels as the Giro glides toward a stunning conclusion in Milan. All three podium places, as well as the white jersey, are up for grabs and no less than seven riders have a say in those two classifications. The overall standings are very likely to be the closest in Giro history, and the winning margin might be historic as well. What a race the organizers drew up for their 100th edition!
The big picture:
The weird first few km:
Hm, what the hell is going on there? Let’s take a look...
Oh, Monza has both an oval and a F1 route that is the shapeless circuit shown in the logo (and a million other places but this will do). So they start on the oval, head out on the F1 loop, return to the oval through whatever it is that runs down the center, and back on the track. Then they turn left, and I think maybe they go into a tunnel to cross underneath the road they just came in on, and out to the streets of Monza, per this video. It’s not tricky or even significant, I’m just curious how this is supposed to work. Am sure it will.
And the tricky last few km in Milan:
Profile, if anyone cares:
Obviously the real story is the combination of tricky turns at the start and finish, and the flat-to-slightly-downhill nature of the course, including long straight sections. The race doesn’t favor the pure power guys as much as the demanding stage 10 did, insofar as everyone will benefit from the easy profile, but the handling skills required to maximize the effort in the many turns will matter a lot too. And when the Giro hangs by a handful of seconds, “matter” is an understatement.
AmyBC’s Last Glass of Wine
Ar Pe Pe Rosso di Valtellina 2013
Ar.Pe.Pe (short for Arturo Pelizzatti Perego) is a historic and well-regarded estate in the Valtellina, a mountainous region of northwestern Italy that borders Switzerland, “where the Nebbiolo grape attains the finesse and precision of Pinot Noir,” according to Ar.Pe.Pe.’s importer. “
Ar.Pe.Pe specializes in two terroirs within the Valtellina: Sassella and Grumello. Grumello, with more slate and limestone in the soil, gives wines with more finesse and minerality, while Sassella, with red rocks and clay, makes a more powerful wine.
The exception, the Rosso di Valtellina, is a light-bodied, high-toned, and savory Nebbiolo that drinks well young.
Did You Know!
That the Monza track is a world-famous race course, the third major course for auto racing ever built? Apparently millions of people know all about this place, even if I don’t. The many motorized splendors of Monza include the F1 course which hosts the Italian Grand Prix every year; the high-speed track oval which hosts whatever insanely boring car races one does on such a surface; and various motorcycle imitations of the same. I’m told the great heroes include some of the hardest working pieces of steel ever built, and the “athlete” who operates them with a mix of cunning, nerve, and self-driving GPS-based technology.
The course was built in the 1920s on an estate that had previously been arranged for the Archduke of the Austrian Empire, which we’ve mentioned so many times in this Giro that I’m beginning to believe it really did once exist, even though it makes no sense for a country to have had an empire when they can’t even rein in Liechtenstein.
What’s It About?
A pink parade to Milan? Nope. Cute little sidebars about auto racing? Hell no. Austrian imperial designs? Shut yo mouf.
No, this is about winning the 100th edition of the Giro d’Italia, and at this point we have absolutely no idea how the final podium/top five will order themselves. Here are the GC time gaps you need to know heading into the stage:
- Nibali, at 0.39
- Pinot, at 0.43
- Dumoulin, at 0.53
- Zakarin, at 1.15
- Pozzovivo, at 1.30
I’m being generous including Pozzovivo in a group where he has zero chance of moving up past the three guys immediately in front of him, and isn’t close enough to sniff the top two. Zakarin too has little chance of overcoming Dumoulin and Pinot, but could pick off a plummeting Colombian or Italian if the opportunity presents itself. Dumoulin looms largest with only 10 seconds to gain on Pinot (no sweat) and 14 on Nibali (could do it blindfolded), then closer to a minute on Quintana (hold my beer). Pinot is also a threat to move all the way up the list though not before capitulating to Dumoulin. Quintana with a 39-second lead on Nibali is a fair fight/coin flip. Remember, here’s what happened in stage 10:
Nibali, at 2.07
Zakarin, at 2.19
Pinot, at 2.42
Quintana, at 2.53
That race was 10km longer and very different in character, plus people were coming off a rest day, not a week of grueling climbing. So if stage 10 was a proper “race of truth,” stage 21 will be more like the “race of what’s left of the truth.” That’s anyone’s guess, and like they say, it’s why you bother to play the games.
As I hinted above, history is on the offing here. The closest total podium finish happened in 1974, when Eddy Merckx beat Gianbattista Baronchelli by a mere 12 seconds overall and Felice Gimondi by 33 ticks. The closest margin of victory over the second-placed rider was in 1948 when Fiorenzo Magni beat Ezio Cecci by just 11 seconds (and held off Fausto Coppi in 1955 by 13 seconds). More recently, we saw Canada’s Ryder Hesjedal do exactly what Dumoulin has in mind, when he overturned a 31-second deficit in a race-ending ITT to win by 16 seconds. That’s only the fourth-closest margin of victory, and Thomas De Gendt (!) took the last podium spot by 1.39.
The top three have been within a minute of each other on four occasions, including most recently 2005, when Paolo Savoldelli won by 28” over Giuseppe Simoni and 45 over Jose Rujano. But never in the race’s history have the top five been within a minute. Whether that happens or not, it will almost certainly be close enough to a minute from 1 to 5 to bring us a grouping we’ve never seen before at the Giro. Whether the 11-second margin of victory will fall seems less likely, but assuming people are on their usual form, the battle for the next few spots after Dumoulin could be close to a stalemate.
Of all the past Giri mentioned here, only 2012 saw a final day’s time trial upend the results. In 2009 we came close to that as Denis Menchov (cue the asterisks) crashed next to the Roman Colosseum, but finished with plenty of time to hold his lead over ... two guys who were later disqualified and now he’s said to have won by several minutes. I’m not sure how many other Giri included final day time trials, but this and 2012 will go down as the only truly decisive ones for now.
Pick to Win
Hm... Bob Jungels. I don’t know that this course is hard enough for Dumoulin to have it all to himself, and Jungels seems to be going OK here. Plus Dumoulin will have splits in his ear telling him that he will win the Giro if he just doesn’t overcook a turn in Milan, which means he might give back a couple seconds if he has plenty to play with. So yeah, Jungels for the stage win. And Dumoulin for the maglia rosa.