Giro d’Italia 2018 Stage 14 Preview; San Vito al Tagliamento -> Monte Zoncolan

Today’s Recap

Sprint day, despite Coledan’s best efforts in the closing kilometre.

Viviani showed everyone that one bad day doesn’t mean a bad race, as he romped home for the win.

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Bennett came home second, with Van Poppel in third.

Everyone’s attention has changed focus quickly though as one of the most iconic finishes in cycling awaits tomorrow, let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

The day that everyone has been waiting for both in the peloton and the watching public. Will the stage live up to expectations? With the finishing climb that we have, I think it will be hard for the finale not to be dramatic anyway!

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As for the rest of the stage, we’ll have to wait and see though as I’m not too sure we’ll see any GC movement before the Zoncolan, but I hope I’m wrong.

The day starts out easy with a long section of almost flat roads for 40km which will no doubt bear witness to a big fight to get in the break, everyone wants to be up ahead on the famous finish. It is possible that the break won’t have gone before the first categorised climb of the day, the Monte di Ragogna. A mini-Zoncolan, it will whet the appetite for what is to come with its 10.3% average gradient over 2.75km. Avaglio is similar with a long section above 13% but it has the easier average.

However, both of these climbs too far out for any action and even the Cat-2 Passo Duron (9.7% for 4.4km) might see a lot of eye-balling.

stage-14-passo-duron

If a team decides to put the pressure on though then we could see some domestiques out the back early on.

The likelihood is that we won’t see any serious pressure applied until the penultimate climb of the day.

stage-14-sella-valcalda

Unfortunately for anyone hoping to make an early attack here, Sella Valcalda is the easiest climb of the day and it be hard to distance any GC favourites. The only chance for a surprise move to go is on the steeper slopes between 4 and 5.5km on the graphic above where the gradient averages roughly 9%.

Once over the top a fast descent follows before a short dip into the valley and on to one of cycling’s most mythical climbs – Monte Zoncolan.

stage-14-zoncolan

Words don’t do it justice and I’m not going to bother to try to ramble on about it. Just look at those gradients. Team-mates will be of very little use here and it will me mano o mano between the GC contenders.

Zoncolan Time Gaps

What can we expect from the GC favourites here? How much time will they take/lose compared to each other?

The last time Zoncolan was used was back in 2014 but it was the penultimate stage of the race and with Quintana in a commanding GC lead the race was all but over. Therefore we didn’t see too many time gaps, with Quintana/Uran gaining 15 seconds on Rolland/Pozzovivo/Majka/Aru.

However, back in 2011 it was featured as the summit finish on stage 13 and we saw much bigger gaps between the favourites. Eventual stage winner Igor Anton took 2’24 out of 10th place finisher Joaquim Rodriguez.

I think we’ll see something similar to that tomorrow.

Just to show how hard the climb is, the break that day (Tankink, Rabottini and Brambilla) had a 4’30 gap with 10km to go: they finished 5’54, 6’43 and 11’24 respectively. If we do see a break stick all the way tomorrow, it will need to be made up of strong climbers and they will need 3 minutes at the bottom to have a chance. Speaking of which…

Break or GC win?

The daily conundrum for a stage at the Giro but this year has been weird as we have yet to see the break hold out for the whole day. Recent history is on the side of the breakaway when in 2014 Rogers held on from the morning move. However, slightly less recent history, i.e. every other time we’ve raced up Zoncolan, the winner has been a GC contender. Interestingly, in 2003 (Simon) and 2010 (Basso) the rider who crossed the line first on the famous slope went on to take the win overall and on the other two occasions the eventual Maglia Rosa came home 4th (Di Luca in 2007) and 2nd (Contador in 2011).

In an almost spooky coincidence, the votes on my Twitter poll are nearly a carbon copy of what the previous stats would suggest.

I’m still really on the fence, it just depends as to whom makes the move and who wants to chase behind. Given how strong Yates has looked, do the other teams help chase all day potentially gifting him 10 bonus seconds, or do they instead just sit in and let Mitchelton use up their resources? That strategy would certainly be helpful with a tricky stage to come on Sunday.

Hmmm, in the spirit of trying to defy the odds, I’ll go with the breakaway and a few riders who probably aren’t at the top of everyone’s list.

TheBreakawayLottery

Ben Hermans.

The Belgian made a big money move over the winter to join Israel Cycling Academy from BMC but it has not been an ideal year for him so far with no real results to his name. Before the race he was a potential outside contender for a top 10 spot on GC but he set his sights on losing time to chase stages. So far he has been on the attack on Etna, where he finished second best of the morning break (behind Chaves), coming home in 11th on the day. He was also part of the doomed early move on stage 10 that was rather ironically pulled back because of Chaves’ implosion. He seems to be hand-picking his stages and given his post on Instagram the other day, I think he’s looking forward to go on the attack tomorrow.

Jan Hirt.

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I raved about Astana’s super strong team before this race but they’ve been a little disappointing so far, especially Lopez who seems a bit off the pace at the moment. We could of course see it all be turned around tomorrow, but I think they will be focussing on chasing stage wins from the break and seeing what happens behind. Hirt has done a lot of work for his team-mates so far but once his job is over, he’s tried to conserve as much energy as possible. On the occasions that we’ve seen him pull on the front he has started to shred the peloton, so he must be in reasonably good shape. A climber who likes the steep slopes, none come steeper than the Zoncolan.

Wout Poels.

A bit of a wild card here but Sky tried to sneak Poels into one of the breaks the other day and I think they might take the same approach tomorrow. Poels, and Sky for that matter, haven’t been as strong as in previous Grand Tours but they could be saving it for one last push in the second half of the race. Poels climbed well here in 2014, riding strongly in support of Uran. He is reasonably close on GC to potentially worry Mitchelton, so they might not let the move get too far ahead, but if he starts the climb with 2 minutes, there is every chance he holds on.

Joe Dombrowski.

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We’re nearly into week three and we’re in a Grand Tour so there’s one man I’ll be backing on numerous occasions over the next few days. Dombrowski seems to be one of the riders who gets better and better as the race goes on, give him a 6 week GT and he might just win it. The American is an incredibly talented rider who naturally has a big engine, he’s just never been able to fully utilise it. So far in this race he has been quiet on the attacking front, working his way into form for the mountains. Instead, you will have been able to find him pulling on the front with fellow, well-known rouleur Hugh Carthy. An appearance at Duo Normand later in the season is on the cards for them I reckon! Could this be the race Dombrowski finally delivers on his talent?

GC Battle

It really is hard to say what will happen with the GC guys, they’ve not had to face a climb this tough yet. Going on what we have seen though, it looks as if Yates, Dumoulin, Pinot and Pozzovivo are the strongest.

Yates – Should enjoy the gradients of the climb but has he peaked too early? A big test for him but if he’s still on great form, he will want to take as much time out of everyone as possible.

Dumoulin – Slowly but surely riding his way into form and this will concern everyone else involved. The steep gradients tomorrow aren’t ideal for the Sunweb rider, but given it is consistently steep, he should be able to get into a rhythm and grind his way up.

Pinot – Has looked lively but has been outsprinted to the line on a few occasions. Was strong in the Alps, and now we’re onto a proper mountain he will want to show his resolve.

Pozzovivo – Another who has looked lively but he seems to lack the punch to distance everyone. When he has put a sustained attack in it has distanced a lot of people, see the finish to Gran Sassolo. Can he do the same tomorrow?

Everyone else hasn’t really shown an awful lot but we could see a few surprises, this is the Giro after all. Lots have suggested they’re trying to peak for this weekend and the whole of next week. Who’s timed it right?

Prediction

The remnants of the breakaway to hold on, just, and I’ll go with Ben Hermans to take the win.

Screen Shot 2018-05-18 at 18.51.37

Sooo, it’s probably going to be a GC day now!

Betting

Worth throwing a few darts then looking in-play during the stage.

0.5pt WIN on the breakers;

Hirt 50/1, Dombrowski 66/1, Poels and Hermans at 80/1.

B365 prices.

Thanks as always for reading, who do you think will win tomorrow? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

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