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Giro Stage 14 Preview: Lose Control

CERESOLE REALE, ITALY - MAY 24: Ceresole Reale (2247m)/ Landscape / Mountains / Snow / Peloton / during the 102nd Giro d’Italia 2019, Stage 13 a 196km stage from Pinerolo to Ceresole Reale (Lago Serrù) 2247m / on May 24, 2019 in Pinerolo, Italy. (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images

I did not have time to write an article after stage twelve of the Giro. If I had, it would have been entitled Control is Dead in this Giro d’Italia. Because, well, it is. Jumbo-Visma brought plenty of climbing talent to the race but after Laurens De Plus called in sick, for anything more strenuous than putting a cap on an early breakaway Roglic may as well be backed up by a few clones of Jakub Mareczko. Now, don’t get me wrong — Kuss and Tolhoek are good climbers but they have no answer to Astana or Movistar, nor Nibali’s smaller backup in Pozzovivo. What this means, essentially, is that anyone can break up this Giro whenever they feel like it. And boy, do they feel like it.

Stage fourteen is ideal terrain for doing so, in fact I can’t think of any stage that would be more suited to anarchy so it’s fortuitous for the race that it comes right at this point, where the race is delicately poised to the extent that we don’t really know who can win it. Nibali and Roglic have identified the main favourites as each other, as we clearly saw on stage thirteen where they practically started riding back down the mountain together to avoid giving the other an advantage but all the while Landa and Carapaz were pounding their way up the mountain to a state that I’m going to call “in it.” Zakarin was pulling himself up to third in GC, the only guy within a minute of Roglic and in doing so he was beating Mikel Nieve from a breakaway on a summit finish. That just doesn’t happen. Plus we have Lopez who owing to bad legs and circumstance is pretty much out but I think he might be the last person realise that. Aggression will be his buzzword.

You’re looking at one hundred kilometres of continuous climbing and descending on mountains that are all around the nine per cent mark, Building up to it is a tough category two climb that will ensure a strong break. This race will explode whenever someone decides it should and anyone who wants it to go otherwise is kidding themselves. This is not the Tour. I project a situation where we have a GC contender up the road at the Vergogne summit, with a group of no more than nine behind. Polanc ought to lose the jersey. Someone else ought to lose their Giro hopes. The Colle San Carlo should be the perfect battleground for the GC as Nibali tries to move clear of Roglic who will ride conservatively, and correctly so. Moves are going to go here — control is dead, remember, and not everybody can be followed.

These stages never seem like they will go to a breakaway but sometimes a strong climber can hold off the GC contenders who will be content to play their own game — think Barguil to Foix, for example. Breakaway contenders (if we are to assume that the likes of Mollema and Zakarin aren’t going to repeat today’s performance) should include Ben O’Connor, one of the Michelton riders (perhaps Chaves if today’s capitulation wasn’t total) and Ivan Sosa. I myself have never liked talking about breakaway winners as the idea of any one rider winning from that scenario before the break has even been formed is so unlikely as to amount to wild guessing.

From the GC battle I think the favourites are clear and both of them ride for the same team. That outfit is of course Movistar and they have the huge advantage of numbers. It is possible that there will be GC stalemate after the descent of the San Carlo. Enter teamwork. Landa has been the beneficiary of this before but this time I think that beneficiary will be Carapaz, currently the possible best climber in the race. I can see him jumping a few kilometres from the finish and winning by a margin of about twenty seconds, but equally I can see him making inroads far earlier.

In the race for the jersey Roglic will take pink and will continue to be passive-aggressive with Nibali who knows he doesn’t have to make up the time in one fell swoop and understands he has a whole week to do it in as his form improves and Roglic’s possibly fades.