Here we go with our next block of stage previews. But wait! First, I shall give you a reason to read on, or maybe just take a victory lap, by going back over how my last week’s worth of stage write ups worked out.
The GC contenders will be side-eyeing each other all day, for sure, but the stage isn’t all that likely to do much more than weed out the pretenders.
Result? The 17 most likely GC winners came in on the same time. OK, maybe 17 of the top 18, if you want to be nice to Dumoulin.
Sprinters, for sure, though it will be interesting to see how many of them make the finale. Ewan and Girmay seem like good bets and Cavendish not so much...
Result? Oh! So close... Ewan joined Cav in the gruppetto, while Girmay lost to Demare and a few others.
Sprinters, of course. The sprint teams will view this as a precious opportunity for glory, not to be passed up at any cost.
Result? As predicted, and now tomorrow I shall tell you that the sun will rise in the east.
A breakaway. Every time the Giro heads south, you can look at the map and point to the breakaway stage.
Result? Almost as predictable as the stage 6 sprint. I’m actually mad I didn’t just go with my guy and call it for Thomas De … wait, hang on a sec.
This is a very classics-like course, so the simplest answer here would be to round up all the classics riders and name the fastest sprinter. I don’t think a breakaway stays up the road on a day with massive crowds around.
Hm, I nailed the characteristics of the stage and even named van der Poel and Girmay as combatants, but they got usurped by Lotto.
This stage will be one of the days that defines the overall outcome of the Giro. Not the only one, but it will matter.
Result? Basically right. I thought there might be more separation at the finish line with the top guys, but I’ll take it.
Not bad? In no stage was I wildly off from calling the basic nature of a stage. Because when it comes to making basic predictions, I will put my 25 years of basic race knowledge on the line with any less sophisticated commentator in the business.
OK, turning to this week’s events, beginning on Tuesday, we saw the intensity of the race slowly begin to rise, though cautiously, as the Giro moves itself closer to the northern mountains, and pays some bills along the way with some distinctly urban stage stopovers. Having sized each other up in the Mezzogiorno, I don’t expect the top guys to draw blood until next weekend. Instead, the KOM and Points battles will rage across the landscape, and the stage hunting will get very involved and intense. Fair weather is in the forecast, so expect Italy to shine as the race passes through some of its most famous places.
Stage 10: Pescara - Jesi, 196km
What Is It? A race that already happened. Obviously I am not going back over this. The programming note is that I got super busy over the weekend, and then went clamming Monday and let’s just say that is a very tiring thing to do. So let’s just move on.
Stage 11: Santarcangelo di Romagna - Reggio Emilia, 203km
What Is It? The sprintiest sprinter stage you ever sprinted.
Detailed Description: A ride up the Via Emilia, a/k/a the Aemelian Way, which ran from Ariminum (Rimini) to Placentia (Piacenza) dating back to 187 B.C. They’ve improved the surface over time, so it’ll be a nice relaxing roll past several notable places, like Cesena, Bologna and into Reggio Emilia, where they will talk a lot about Parmeggiana cheese. What they won’t talk about is hills, or threatening breakaways, or anything related to the general classification (assuming everyone gets home safely).
Just before reaching Cesena, the Giro crosses the Rubicon, albeit heading away from Rome. So there’s that.
Pretty speechless. I like to talk a lot about how there’s barely a flat meter anywhere in Italy, but the Po Valley is the exception.
Did You Know? We aren’t doing this right now. It was fun doing a lot of cultural stuff in the south, but even I am not pedantic enough to try to get you interested in a post about some of the most famous places in the world. So instead, let’s go with:
Who Are the Famous Riders From Here? Sigh... you will hear plenty about former Ceseantico resident and Emilian cycling star, the late Marco Pantani. If you aren’t sure about his story, I can recommend a dozen books about his death.
Looking at Bologna, not a ton of riders have come from there, the best known being Simone Velasco, who Astana left off their Giro roster, and Luca Mazzanti, who retired 8 years ago.
Profiteers: Sprinters, and probably the guys who didn’t go all out to make the finale today. It would be fun for Girmay to get the points lead (assuming his eye is OK), but it’s much more likely that Démare just extends his lead, even if he is just top three.
Stage 12: Parma - Genova, 204km
What Is It? The longest stage of the Giro d’Italia, albeit by just one km over stage 10. And a transitional affair connecting two of the country’s most iconic, ancient cities.
Detailed Description: Up and over the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines over to Genoa. But not without a little horseplay along the coast, heading inland for a couple extra cat-3 climbs.
The first two cat-3 climbs won’t be of much consequence to anyone besides whoever is after KOM points, but the last one will probably dissuade the sprinters’ teams from going all out after another stage win. Behold, the Valico di Trensasco:
Nothing crazy, but the sprinters in the bunch won’t be given much rope.
Who Are the Famous Riders From Here? I can’t find any names from Genoa, where undoubtedly the pressure to become a painter, or composer, or world explorer is too immense to allow for riders to pursue their two-wheeled dreams.
However, Parma is the home of Vittorio Adorni, winner of the 1965 Giro d’Italia, along with 11 stages and two runner-up finishes. Il Commendatore is also remembered as the 1968 World Champion, as well as the 1969 campione d’Italia. He is 84 now but seems to be something of a long-time ambassador to the sport, so hopefully he will be at the start. Adorni is also known as a beloved teammate of Eddy Merckx on the Faema team, where he is credited with having taught Merckx a number of tricks of the trade of being a grand tour leader, such as eating and resting effectively. I think (not sure) that he was also involved in my favorite Merckx anecdote, where he and Merckx had an iron grip on the top two GC spots, and they arrive at the team hotel. Merckx proceeds to open a map of the next day’s stage, points to a spot and says “here we will attack,” prompting Adorni to ask, “attack? Attack who?”
Profiteers: Another day for the breakaway artists. As of this writing, Mathieu van der Poel is a bit gassed, and Biniam Girmay is hoping his eye is OK so he can continue. That scratches a couple of the obvious classics-type riders and reduces the interest of two teams. So I think the most motivated folks will be the stage specialists. The Pro-Conti Italian teams will be all in for this one.
Stage 13: Sanremo - Cuneo, 150km
What Is It? A pivot away from the Classicissima, the Primavera, Milano-Sanremo... and up over the Ligurian Apennines into Piedmont, although via mellow enough roads to call this one a mere amuse bouche, long before the main course.
Detailed Description: There aren’t a lot of roads into or out of Sanremo, and heading east means following along the Italian Riviera on some of what they use in the MSR classic — but no Poggio or Cipressa. At Imperia they turn inland, wind their way through the northernmost remnants of the Apennine chain, and onto the Piedmont proper.
I’m not totally sure why the Giro hasn’t posted any details about the Colle di Nava, but you can find them at climbbybike.com. Apparently it’s a 9km ascent with a few switchbacks, and which averages 6.8%. I guess nobody thinks it’s all that difficult, so once again, don’t believe the race profile.
Who Are the Famous Riders From Here? Sanremo does not appear to have many famous cycling names associated with it, but never fear, Cuneo — the Pau of the Giro d’Italia — steps up. Its two most accomplished riders of the moment are Niccolò Bonifazio and Elisa Balsamo. The latter, just 24, is already a majorly accomplished winner, and the reigning women’s road world champion. The former is a veteran sprinter, currently with Direct Energies, who came up at age 20 and picked off a few small wins, though he’s only been to the Giro once.
Profiteers: Tough call. The final 2km sees a gain of maybe just under 3%, so this won’t be a traditional sprint, even if a large peloton makes it to Cuneo intact. It could get kind of intriguing! Just not GC-intriguing. I will guess that a break stays away.
Stage 14: Santena - Torino, 147km
What Is It? Another city center race, only with lots of kicks, as the Giro tries to recapture the curiously lost glory of Milano-Torino. It’s almost as if the Giro side of the RCS house is still pissed at the Milano-Torino staff for skipping the Superga and shoving this super fun stage in their faces.
Detailed Description: The Hagler-Hearns of Giro stages: kinda short, but super, super punchy.
Why did Milano-Torino remove the Superga from the race in 2020? M-T frequently had gone over the climb before dropping down onto the Po River promenade, the Corso Casale, for the final sprint just shy of the Velodrome Fausto Coppi, as this stage will. More recent M-T editions finished at the top of the Superga. But now it’s skipped and the race is just a flat, boring sprinters’ affair. If Mark Cavendish wins a classic, are we sure it’s a good classic? No, we are not.
That’s 4km of hard work, and a bonus power climb km to top it off. There is an even more dramatic feature, occasionally appearing in M-T, the Colle della Maddalena:
They do two full circuits of Superga-Maddalena before concluding in Torino.
Who Are the Famous Riders From Here? This is as close as we get to a stage being able to claim Fausto Coppi as its own. Coppi was from Castellania, just a short ride east of the route, and there is a monument to him marked on the course at the 76km point. Coppi, you may recall, was well known for having completed the Giro d’Italia ten times. He also completed the Tour de France three times!
Profiteers: Climbers with a finishing kick. The circuits will surely see a gruppetto out the back, and the race contested by either a breakaway up the road, or a climbers-only peloton, where you could even see GC guys sprinting for time bonuses. A likelier scenario is that the glory is left to the non-contenders, given what’s around the corner.
Stage 15: Rivarolo Canavese - Cogne, 177km
What Is It? Out of the cities and into the mountains, for real.
Detailed Description: The initial Alps stage of the Giro d’Italia, a three-mountain affair with two cat-1s and a finish atop a final cat-2.
The Giro has passed along pretty detailed graphics for the first two climbs of the day. Here is Pila Les Fleurs:
And the Verrogne Climb:
Nothing crazy, but those are real alpine ascents at least. Kind of a curious choice to finish in Cogne atop a climb that goes on for 23km but never gets all that steep after an initial 11% ramp. But the organizers are undoubtedly counting on the race to break up before this point, on the two rather beastly climbs which precede the finale, so that this is just a false-flat power-drag to the line that sees less regrouping and more just continued suffering.
Who Are the Famous Riders From Here? Surprisingly few that I can track down, although I am sure my sources are just not working for me. Anyway, we can just go with the Eagle of the Canavese, two-time Giro winner Franco Balmamion.
You may very well know about Balmamion from Herbie Sykes’ excellent book on the last back-to-back Giro winner who took the 1962 and ‘63 episodes without ever winning a stage. His ‘63 win saw him hold off Adorni by under 3 minutes. He finished third in the 1967 Tour... and not much else. Weird, but no European national stereotype holds up quite like Italian guys not being at their best outside of Italy.
Profiteers: The GC riders will engage here. If not for the following rest day, you might see the top guys keep this one on the DL, since it’s not that likely to cause major separations, based on the profiles involved (compared to, say, the Mortirolo next Tuesday). But the riders make the race, and the context could feature more aggressive riding than we expect. Should be a fun one regardless.