Giro d'Italia Stage 20 Preview

Giro d’Italia Stage 19 Preview

Course:

Yesterday proved to be a more tame affair than anticipated for the general classification contenders, instead they were pleased to allow the day’s breakaway to acquire a lengthy lead and decide the stage’s outcome from within their ranks. Having kept their powder dry yesterday, today’s first of two stages in the Alps should see life at the front of the general classification animated once again in 2016’s Giro d’Italia. Stage 19 comprises a 162km trip from Pinerolo to Risoul, spending the majority of time creeping upwards for around 80km, ultimately concluding with the 12.8km ascent to Risoul.

Giro d'Italia Stage 19 Preview

Giro d'Italia Stage 19 Preview

Giro d'Italia Stage 19 PreviewGiro d'Italia Stage 19 Preview

 

Contenders:

Steven Kruijswijk appears to have cemented himself as the strongest climber in this race after all attempts so far from his rivals have failed to crack him. Though he may not be directly pursuing this stage as a target for victory, the impetus of other general classification focused teams is likely to reel in the breakaway late on and may inadvertently set the Dutchman up for victory. The climb to Risoul is relatively consistent throughout its ascent and should subsequently play to the strengths of the Dutchman; marking him out as the most likely GC rider to win here.

Esteban Chaves is still relatively unconfirmed in regards to surviving the concluding week of a grand tour, but is certainly one of the best climbers here on paper at least. It looks like it will take a perfectly timed and potent attack to finally drop Kruijswijk, so his chances of a stage win are more realistic if he sits back within the lead general classification group and aim to beat the rest in an uphill dash.

Ilnur Zakarin looks to be gaining strength as the race enters its final decisive moments and could well be in search of an opportunity to gain time on his rivals and step up to the podium. The Russian’s chances of succeeding here increase the longer we have to wait for action from the overall contenders, Zakarin likely to come unstuck if the tempo increases too early on the final climb. Should the action remain limited until the final few kilometres however, Zakarin will be one of the favourites to take time and possibly a stage win.

Darwin Atapuma will be aware that a good performance on Stage 19 will place him firmly in the mix to win the mountains classification jersey at this year’s Giro d’Italia. His performance upon the queen stage deserved the win, but he was robbed by Esteban Chaves and his fellow escapees in the final kilometres. With a showing such as that already in the bag, there is no doubt that Atapuma could go the whole way today and win.

Sky are still searching hard for another victory and are likely to turn to the likes of Nicloas Roche and David Lopez. Both have demonstrated encouraging signs in the last few days, be it sticking with the GC frontrunners or turning in solid breakaway efforts, thus marking them out as clear contenders. It may also be worth keeping an eye upon Philip Deignan, the Irishman has been anonymous up to now and subsequently makes him a very difficult rider to assess, but his ability to climb should be enough to keep him in the mind of Sky.

Giovanni Visconti saved his efforts yesterday and is thus likely to have an eye upon a good performance here in an attempt to make gains in the mountains classification; much like Atapuma. If he is totally focused upon accumulating points, then it is likely he will be out of contention for the stage win as a result of doing his utmost to be first over the Colle Dell’Agnello. Should events develop in a manner which see him part of a lead group deciding the win, then Visconti’s sprinting ability could be enough to better most rivals.

For further breakaway contenders; Tanel KangertIan Boswell, Joe DombrowskiBlel Kadri, Giulio CicconeRubén Plaza and Amets Txurruka could all play a part.

Outcome:

1st Steven Kruijswijk 2nd Esteban Chaves 3rd Ilnur Zakarin

Breakaway: 1st Darwin Atapuma 2nd Giovanni Visconti 3rd Philip Deignan

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Giro d'Italia Stage 20 Preview

GIRO D’ITALIA 2016 – STAGE 15 PREVIEW

Course:

Yesterday’s monstrous Queen Stage of 2016’s Giro d’Italia confirmed that Esteban Chaves, Steven Kruijswijk and Vincenzo Nibali look to be the strongest climbers from the general classification contenders as we approach the third week. Stage 15 throws another potential banana skin beneath the wheels of the favourites today with a 10.8km uphill time trial from Castelrotto to Alpe di Siusi. The almost constant ascent from start to finish is poised to truly begin opening the gaps up on the general classification, potentially extinguishing the ambitions of some riders upon its slopes.

giro-ditalia-stage-15-preview

Contenders:

Esteban Chaves made yesterday’s victory look much easier than it actually was, gauging his efforts neatly within the chasing group to close down Darwin Atapuma and eventually sprinting to victory with a late surge to the line. Given his performance, it is easy to see him as the favourite for Stage 15’s time trial, especially as the contest is more about climbing talent than it is technical time trialling prowess. Assuming that Chaves recovers well overnight, the Colombian has a fantastic chance of making it back to back wins at a grand tour with an impressive climbing performance against the clock.

Vincenzo Nibali may have struggled to follow the day’s decisive move, but given the huge demands and efforts required, it is possible to suggest he has identified today as a way of recouping time having limited his losses yesterday. The biggest issue however is that he did not look like a man in control of his suffering on Stage 14 and instead genuinely looked unable to summon the required strength to follow the likes of Chaves and Kruijswijk when it mattered most. Nibali attacked earlier than expected too, potentially hinting at anxieties regarding his condition by using offence as the best defence. Regardless, this course suits him well and he cannot be discounted purely due to a single off day in a three week grand tour.

Steven Kruijswijk is currently turning in the level of performance which has long be anticipated from the talented Dutch climber and is certain to be one of the fastest home on Stage 15. The trouble for Kruijswijk is that this short time trial is likely to make it difficult for him to truly lay down the power and challenge his rivals. Being a larger and more powerful climber should allow him to gain time on the opening section and later false flat sections though, which could potentially equal enough to give him the win.

Rafal Majka has a good history for performing on days like these and has been one of the stronger climbers at this year’s Giro d’Italia beneath the top tier of Chaves, Kruijswijk and Nibali. The Polish rider is well skilled in measuring his efforts, ranging from time trials to breakaways, so is worth keeping an eye upon here.

Ilnur Zakarin‘s showing thus far has been rather mixed, showcasing a threatening sharpness in the first week, before then diminishing somewhat after several crashes during the earlier rain-soaked time trial. Unlike Nibali, Zakarin did appear to be pacing himself in the wake of the attacks today, so potentially stands to be one of the fresher GC contenders on Stage 15. The Russian is a time trial specialist who has grown to become a convincing climber, so today’s task should play to his strengths perfectly. His time here is likely to provide us with a strong indication of his chances of finishing the third week with a chance of a podium place too.

Alejandro Valverde was one of the first to be dropped after Nibali, Chaves and Kruijswijk all exchanged attacks and sent him sliding out the back door. The Spanish rider has done little to convince people of his form at this Giro thus far, but given his time trialling capabilities, he should turn in a respectable time; even if it does not threaten for the win.

Sebastian Henao, Domenico Pozzovivo, Primoz Roglic, Michele Scarponi and Stefano Pirazzi are all names likely to fill the day’s top ten placings.

Outcome:

1st Esteban Chaves 2nd Vincenzo Nibali 3rd Steven Kruijswijk

Giro d'Italia Stage 20 Preview

Giro d’Italia 2016 – Stage 6 Preview

Course:

Yesterday’s pick for glory, Giacomo Nizzolo, was unlucky to be caught up by a late crash after having been manoeuvred into a perfect position late on and will now have to wait before trying to compensate for his misfortune as Stage 6 sees the roads now rise upwards. This 157km route from Ponte to Roccaraso features a couple of Category 2 ascents, the second of which forms the first serious uphill finish of this year’s Giro d’Italia. It will be a tricky stage to control as riders join the breakaway and stake an early claim to this year’s mountains jersey, while some of the lithe puncheurs will fancy taking the win here; possibly stealing some seconds along the way too.

Giro d'Italia Stage 6 Preview

Contenders:

Alejandro Valverde is a specialist on this type of terrain and finish, arriving here in great condition as he mounts a serious charge for overall victory. The Spaniard’s team should come into their own on the ascent to the line, allowing Valverde to anticipate the perfect moment to attack after having seen the leading group whittled down to a select few.

Ilnur Zakarin will be worth watching upon the climb to the line if the breakaway has already been caught, the Katusha rider can be very fast on finishes such as these, but could be limited by his threatening position on the general classification.

Esteban Chaves broke through last year with wins on similar stages during the Vuelta a España and is certainly capable of repeating his endeavours once again in Italy. The smiley Orica-GreenEDGE rider is somewhat of an unknown quantity at the race due to modest riding in 2016, though will certainly hold no fear when it comes to attacking.

Diego Ulissi and Tom Dumoulin have both demonstrated the great level at which they are riding at already during the Giro and remain in with a chance of taking a stage victory here.

The breakaway or a late move also has a convincing chance of going all the way should the main bunch fail to piece together a coherent chase. Gianluca BrambillaJakob FuglsangTim Wellens and Stefano Pirazzi could all capitalise on any freedom handed to them by the bunch.

Outcome:

1st Esteban Chaves 2nd Ilnur Zakarin 3rd Alejandro Valverde

Giro-d'Italia-Stage-16-Spokenforks-Preview-2015

Giro d’Italia – Stage 16 Preview

Rest day number two came after another significant shake up of the general classification; the individual time trial and Stage 15’s mountains seeing Alberto Contador and Mikel Landa strut their stuff while others suffered badly. Though the likes of Fabio Aru and Rigoberto Uran lost time in the race against the clock, Richie Porte suffered the biggest hit of all, eventually succumbing to his injuries from Stage 14 and abandoning the Giro d’Italia during the rest day. The peloton now see their gaze filled by the looming presence of the big mountains in the final week’s racing and nothing looks certain when it comes to the general classification come the finale in Milano.

Course:

Considered the Queen Stage by many, the 177km ride from Pinzolo to Aprica includes five categorised climbs, all of which are expected to impact upon the general classification as we enter the Giro d’Italia’s final week. A gruelling mixture of steep inclines and arduous ascents, Stage 16’s survivors will end the day with a grand total of 4,500m of climbing under their belts at the finish in Aprica. The peloton are forced upwards as soon as they have departed from Pinzolo, opening their accounts for the day with the Category 2 climb of Campo Carlo Magno; 13km in length at an average of 6.7%. From here they drop down through Dimaro and begin the day’s second ascent around the 28km marker; these brutal starts becoming a recurring feature of the Giro in recent editions. At 15.3km in length, the climb of Passo del Tonale is the longest ascent of the day for the riders, grinding them down with an average of 6.1% which touches 10% on occasion.

The subsequent descent takes them down towards Edolo where they shall immediately begin climbing once again, this time a Category 3 challenge which drags them up to the day’s eventual finishing town of Aprica. The climb itself is surprisingly long at 14km when compared to its appearance on the race card and could be somewhat underestimated as it does briefly include ramps of 15% beyond the average of 3.5%. Yet another rapid descent is then required as they dive down towards a relatively flat section near Tirano and begin to see the day’s biggest challenge loom large ahead of them. The Mortirolo pass will deliver a sledgehammer blow to the massed ranks of the peloton, cracking many and leaving us with the clearest indication so far of who has the legs to finish top ten in Milano. Approaching via the Mazzo di Valtellina will ensure this climb becomes a war of attrition from the first pedal stoke, its opening kilometres siting at 13% early on.

The Category 1 Passo del Mortirolo’s average gradient of 10.9% is a leg numbing 11.9km in total and possesses a potent sting in the form of 18% ramps before they have even completed 5km’s worth of climbing. From there it is an average of 12.2% until the final 4km which begin decreasing somewhat to 9.2%, the sort of gradient which is never usually welcomed, but here it must seem like a plateau for some. It is on these slopes that the outcome of the stage will be decided, along with the ambitions of those aiming to finishing top ten on the general classification or even challenge for a podium.

As fatigue sets in, the riders shall need to stay alert during a technical descent which leads them back to Edolo once again and onwards to the same climb back to Aprica ridden earlier in the day; this time the 14km ascent shall decide the winner of the Herculean Stage 16.

Giro-d'Italia-Stage-16-Spokenforks-Preview-2015

Giro-d'Italia-Stage-16-Spokenforks-Preview-2015

Contenders:

The road to Aprica is constructed to force the strongest climbing talents to the top of the pile, Passo del Mortirolo’s steep slopes set to lure Alberto Contador into action. Despite appearing a class above his rivals here, the Spaniard has stated he intends to measure his efforts closely, aiming to line up on the Utrecht start line in good condition for this year’s Le Tour de France. Now this might mean he does not necessarily leap at every stage winning opportunity which comes his way in the final week, but it is hard to imagine he would be happy to accept the final maglia rosa in Milano having secured overall victory without a single stage win. So far nobody has been capable of dropping Alberto Contador when it matters most, giving the impression that his presence in an elite group deciding the win seems certain. Possessing such a dominant lead on the general classification already, he can look to simply cover the expected attacks from Fabio Aru and Mikel Landa, allowing them to tire themselves before he dashes clear of them  at the end of this wearing day.

Fabio Aru‘s best chance of taking the win into Aprica is to ensure a small group arrives to the final kilometres first, one which he can sprint from where he should be guaranteed of being the fastest man. It would come as little surprise to see this group being as small as three riders; Alberto Contador, Mikel Landa and Aru himself. In this situation, Landa would have no reason to follow a late sprint from his teammate, leaving Contador to make the running entirely on his own. Of course, this is only possible if the Italian can survive the midsection of this stage in good condition, the Passo del Mortirolo could become a nightmare for him as the incredibly sharp gradients see Aru struggling for position in the pack. Should this happen to the Italian, his chances of then avoiding time losses are unlikely, conceding ground atop Mortirolo will be extremely difficult to make up on a day where you are either descending or climbing throughout.

For Astana, the best option of forcing Contador to the sword is Mikel Landa, a fearless rider when placed upon the ruthless gradients of Mortirolo which should shatter the bunch. His performances so far have been an unexpectedly strong showing for Astana and they now have the option of a second form of attack against Contador. Clearly the strongest team here, Tanel Kangert and Dario Cataldo are two such riders which can be called upon to increase the pressure upon the maglia rosa during the ascent of Passo del Mortirolo, upping the tempo in hope of isolating the Spanish race leader. Landa marginally distanced Contador on Stage 15 to take the win, but many would suggest that the previous day’s individual time trial efforts for Contador were much greater than that of Landa’s; though it still appeared that Contador could not chase, rather than did not chase. The finish itself is not overly suited to Landa and it is difficult to imagine a situation which he would win from; coming to the line with Contador and Aru would surely mean allowing his leader to attack, while a successful breakaway would leave him him out of contention entirely. Regardless, he has made a strong case thus far of being the best climber here, but it remains uncertain if Mikel Landa’s consistency can be maintained.

The breakaway has a good chance of staying away on this terrain once the pass of Mortirolo has been completed, especially given the amount of mountains classification points available during the day in the battle for the blue jersey. Considering this fact, Beñat Intxausti seems certain to be part of any such breakaway which makes it up the road, in an attempt to either defend his lead or further extend it. This year’s Giro d’Italia has witnessed some of his best ever climbing form and there is nothing to stop him from almost wrapping up the blue jersey victory on the road to Aprica if he picks the right move. He finishes well, but the need to collect points could blunt this factor somewhat during the day, but a finishing group including him will need to be aware of this in form rider stealing the stage win.

Intauxsti’s most prolific rival in the competition has been the Colombian rider Carlos Betancur, a man who seemingly knows how to get into the best breakaway day after day. His survival on the day’s steepest climbs should be assured and his sprint finish is better than expected for a man so synonymous with mountain prowess. With the easier gradients to the finish line, Betancur could attack with a potent sprint and finally secure his Giro stage win which he has been pursing since the roads started heading skywards.

A man well worth watching on this type of terrain is LottoNL-Jumbo’s Steven Kruijswijk, seeking a stage win after several noteworthy performances so far in the breaks and behind the big names of Stage 15. Though his ambitions here were originally to secure a respectable general classification position, he is now so far back on Alberto Contador that a move by him would surely be allowed to go unanswered. The Dutchman has no issues with approaching these stages solo and is a notoriously difficult man to bring back once he gets the bit between his teeth. Given the blend of skill and his current general classification placing, Steven Kruijswijk is a threat to anyone with their eyes on winning Stage 16.

The composition of any breakaway which makes it all the way to the line in Aprica is fancied to contain the familiar mix of breakaway hopefuls which we have become familiar with during 2015’s Giro d’Italia; Stefano Pirazzi, Ryder Hesjedal, Sebastien Reichenbach and Giovanni Visconti could all feature if the mood so takes them. With a general classification which looks certain to experience another serious shake up in this last week, close attention will be on Andrey Amador, Leopold Konig, Damiano Caruso and Alexandre Geniez to cement their current positions on the general classification during this brutal stage.

Outcome:

Once again the stage outcome looks set to be decided by the fight emanating from Alberto Contador, Fabio Aru and Mikel Landa; their recurring ‘two against one’ battle in these mountains proving the deciding factor for the break. Astana look likely to burn their matches early on the ascent of Passo del Mortirolo in an attempt to isolate Alberto Contador for the rest of the day’s remaining climbs. This should set up Astana’s Mikel Landa and Fabio Aru to work Contador over in an attempt crack him and gain time, or at least cook him ahead of his Tour de France battle with Vincenzo Nibali. Fireworks are expected from these big names, but a breakaway could find themselves given the green light by Tinkoff-Saxo and Astana to fight it out amongst themselves for the win. In this situation those motivated by mountains classification points are sure to be represented in the move, so Carlos Betancur and Beñat Intxausti should be involved. However, it is Steven Kruijswijk who appears to be the most enticing mix of talent, form and motivation for Stage 16. The Dutchman goes well on these sorts of climbs and has proven to be competent in the break, as well as being one of the first home after the likes of Alberto Contador and Mikel Landa; this could be his best chance of a stage win at 2015’s Giro d’Italia.

1st Steven Kruijswijk 2nd Carlos Betancur 3rd Alberto Contador

Giro-d'Italia-Stage-15-Spokenforks-Preview-2015

Giro d’Italia – Stage 15 Preview

Once the dust had settled on Stage 14’s crucial time trial at the Giro d’Italia, Alberto Contador yet again found himself in pink, regaining his leader’s jersey in the space of a frantic twenty-four hours of racing. The stage win itself was taken by an impressive Vasil Kiryienka, highlighted yesterday by Spokenforks as the most likely outsider to cause an upset amongst the favourites. His victory brought some cheer to a deflated Team Sky camp, one reeling from the loss of 4′ 20″ of Richie Porte to his teammate; a result now leaving him almost nine minutes down on race leader Alberto Contador. Supposed co-leader Leopold König is now set to seize control of the team, climbing to tenth on the general classification and only a couple of minutes off a podium finish as they approach mountain ranges which could send fissures through the leaderboard.

Course:

The day’s final ascent of Stage 15 once saw an indomitable performance from Marco Pantani during the 1999 Giro d’Italia and there is little to suggest another masterclass could not be witnessed upon the demanding slopes. Mountains which scrape the sky shall open the door to the pure climbers, svelte limbed men who rise even upwards as if under the force of a hidden spinnaker. Their start point of Marostica takes a 165km path across a wearing range of terrain, before finishing atop the Madonna di Campiglio for the first time since Marco Pantani’s win and subsequent disqualification from the ’99 Giro. Opening with a Category 1 climb, La Fricca’s 11.3km worth of climbing should be tackled at a sensible pace over a steady gradient of 5.1%, only striking its maximum of 10% briefly. A following descent will take them down to the unrecognised climb of Vigolo Basegla, across to the 100km marker around Sarche, where 30km later they shall begin climbing the second ascent of the day.

‘Brutal’ is possibly the closest you could come to summing this climb up in one word, though some riders would suggest ‘evil’ is a better fit for the monster. The Passo Daone will make your eyes water simply reading its profile, the average gradient alone is 9.2% for this Category 1 ascent and packs several ramps which hit an agonising 14%; 8.4km which shall seem like eternity for many. A sharp descent takes them back down rapidly, where after a brief period of easier terrain the peloton begin to build towards the day’s big crescendo.

The final 15.5km are entirely uphill at an average gradient of 5.9%, throughout the ascent it will swing in excess of 6% – 7%, but the real damage can be dealt towards the summit. A maximum of 12% is reached with just under 2km remaining of the climb, after which it eases momentarily before setting the final kilometre between 6.8% – 7.6%. Whoever is first to exit the final hairpin bend with 500m to go will surely secure their name in history alongside that of Marco Pantani, as a true champion of this unrelenting day in the saddle which finishes atop Madonna di Campiglio.

Giro-d'Italia-Stage-15-Spokenforks-Preview-2015

Giro-d'Italia-Stage-15-Spokenforks-Preview-2015

Giro-d'Italia-Stage-15-Spokenforks-Preview-2015

 

Contenders:

The general classification riders are likely to have dug deep in the previous day’s time trial, in an attempt to either extend leads, close gaps or steady an ailing Giro d’Italia campaign. Considering this, there are a selection of thoroughbred mountain goats who might fancy their chances of taking a very impressive stage win atop Madonna di Campiglio, having saved their efforts purposely for this. On analysis, the stage itself is quite bizarre, placing the killer Passo Daone ahead of the easier finishing climb could see it become a damp squib, but such ruthless gradients are certain to see someone make a move before the final ascent. The outcome seems to pivot most upon the mood and condition of race leader Alberto Contador and whether or not he sees this as a stage worth investing the effort into winning. His lead already seems insurmountable given the remaining rivals and terrain, so he could spend the next week just following wheels, but the Spaniard will not hesitate to take further glory and time on the road to Milano. If he chooses to pursue the win here, Contador will be one of the best on Passo Daone’s steep slopes, but might find the easier approach to the line too soft to launch a blistering attack upon. Regardless, he appears to be the best climber in the race right now and if he really wants to win, few can stand in his way.

Astana have a variety of options to play on Stage 15, something they are unlikely to be particularly happy about, given Fabio Aru already being 2′ 28″ down on the maglia rosa. As an overall victory seems only possible through misfortune for Contador, Astana might now switch their focus to maintaining their presence on the general classification and collect a stage win or two along the way. Aru could take it upon himself to start dishing out the hurt to Contador, but there is no evidence right now to suggest the Italian could drop the current race leader on such a middling conclusion. If a select group does form however, Aru has already demonstrated during this year’s Giro that he is the fastest man in the final kilometre, so could snatch a win from his GC rivals in this fashion.

Teammate Mikel Landa is next best placed overall for the Kazakhstan team, a talented climber who could double up with Aru and provide Albert Contador with a troublesome headache. Chasing Landa would only drag Aru with him, a man who would out sprint Contador to the line for a victory, but with Landa five minutes down on the maglia rosa, Contador can afford to concede time to prevent Aru winning. Finally for Astana, Tanal Kangert has demonstrated impressive form so far in the race and is unlucky to have not already secured a stage victory for himself. Possessing no threat to the overall lead, Contador and Tinkoff-Saxo would not be bothered if seeing him make his way into the day’s deciding breakaway group. From this position the Estonian rider would be a hard man to beat judging by his current form at the Giro d’Italia. 

Leopold König has the capability to begin saving this race in the mountains for the scuppered Team Sky, surely setting his eyes on a stage win with some serious intent. He unexpectedly finds himself wielding a certain level of power amongst his team and could utilise them effectively to match the likes of Contador and Aru before making his move. König has experienced great days on similar terrain in both the Vuelta a España and Tour de France and could find an attack go unanswered by the better placed riders due to his current location on the general classification.

Carlos Betancur has been in hot pursuit of a stage win for some time now and Stage 15 offers him yet another chance to stretch his legs with intent. Not only does the desire to take a win in the harsh mountains catch his eye, but he is equally well placed on the mountains classification to make a day in the breakaway worthwhile. Even if he does not find a victory forthcoming on Stage 15, he stands a good chance of collecting the maglia azzurra by the end of the day.

The man most likely to rival the Colombian in his campaign for the mountains jersey is Beñat Intxausti of Movistar, currently the incumbent owner of the maglia azzurra. His general classification goal began ailing surprisingly quickly, but his determination to take the blue jersey has demonstrated that he is gradually coming into solid form. Like many here, a breakaway is his best chance to take a stage win on the day, but he might simply be happy to defend the jersey and save his efforts for another day.

BMC can look upon Darwin Atapuma as a good chance for making it into the breakaway or unleashing a late surge on the final climb en route to the finishing line. The Colombian rider suits this type of terrain rather nicely and with his recent drop down the general classification, a stage win would steady the boat and make his appearance here worthwhile for BMC

Bardiani-CSF could aim to place Stefano Pirazzi in the day’s breakaway and hope his aggressive style of riding finally produces a reward for both team and rider. Like several favourites for Stage 15, Pirazzi has been improving steadily and has not been embarrassed by the strength of the big name riders so far, if he can combine this form with the right breakaway move, he could be a very tough man to beat atop Madonna di Campiglio.

Other riders capable of placing themselves within the breakaway are Sebastien Reichenbach of IAM Cycling, the talented Ilnur Zakarin of Katusha, Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec’s Franco Pellizotti and Giro d’Italia winner Ryder Hesjedal.

Outcome:

Stage 15 is a difficult stage for the riders and one which is equally difficult to predict for the pundit; Alberto Contador certain to have a say in how the day plays out. If he does feel on form, this could be the day he hammers home his advantage and leaves himself with no further task than to follow wheels in the final week; not that many dangerous riders remain in his pursuit of the maglia rosa. Mikel Landa and Leopold König could both launch attacks here which do not require chasing by Tinkoff-Saxo, but they will have their work cut out to better a well oiled breakaway of talented riders. With so many mountains classification points up for grabs during the day, the presence of Carlos Betancur and Beñat Intxausti could almost be guaranteed in the move which will hit the climb first. The latter is clearly displaying serious intent to maintain a hold upon the maglia azzurra and would perhaps concede the stage win if it meant another day in blue. Betancur on the other hand is motivated predominately by the urge to take a win at this year’s Giro d’Italia at the very least and his increasing form certainly adds momentum to his claims. It is not unreasonable to suggest that, should the Colombian find himself in imperious form on Stage 15, he could finish the day with a victory and the blue jersey in his hands.

From a Breakaway: 1st Carlos Betancur 2nd Beñat Intxausti 3rd Darwin Atapuma

From General Classification: 1st Alberto Contador 2nd Fabio Aru 3rd Leopold König

Giro-d'Italia-Stage-14-Spokenforks-Preview-2015Giro-d'Italia-Stage-14-Spokenforks-Preview-2015

Giro d’Italia – Stage 14 Preview

The maglia rosa unexpectedly changed hands ahead of the decisive Stage 14 time trial, after a crash 200m shy of the neutralised 3km marker, left Alberto Contador and Richie Porte scrambling for teammates’ bikes as Fabio Aru safely navigated his way to the line; finishing the day in pink with a nineteen second advantage over the Spaniard. This 59.4km individual race against the clock signals the first real exchange of hostilities between the general classification hopefuls and it is likely that we will see the maglia rosa change hands once again by the end; not necessarily to different hands though.

Course:

Though the brutal mountains of this year’s Giro d’Italia are yet to be stepped upon, this time trial has attracted more attention than any other stage present in the 2015 parcour. With so few pure climbers equally skilled against the clock as they are going uphill, the almost 60km ride from Treviso to Valdobbiadene is likely to see a significant reshuffling of the top ten general classification ahead of the first real big mountain stages.

The day will require a broad spectrum of talents in order to prevent huge losses of time, let alone securing an impressive victory during this foreboding day in the saddle. Pushing big gears, technical skill and the legs to climb are a triumvirate which the eventual winner will need to execute confidently to set a tough time to beat. Opening with a relatively flat passage from Treviso, 30km will take them up to the base of the rather draining Category 4 climb which will see plenty of riders bottom out not long after the midway point. The climb itself is 4.9km in length, averaging a steady 3.8%, but the steepest gradients shall be dealt early on as it hits 9% for a short period of time. Towards the finish it eases drastically to a minimal incline of only one or two percent, though against the clock, some will find this exaggerated.

After this they descend into a tricky period of rolling terrain which snakes through narrow roads at a sustained speed, riders must stay alert to ensure they do not overcook any corners as a consequence of becoming complacent during the long ride here. After the third time-check of the day at Col San Martino, the road begins rising steadily to Guia, then a lumpy ride through Santo Stefano, San Pietro Barbozza and onto the finish in Valdobbiadene all in the final 6km. The finish itself is predominantly downhill, before then a couple of bends will need negotiating as they turn onto the 400m finishing straight which will be tackled at a constant gradient of 5.5%.

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Contenders:

This time trial either comes as a glorious chance to gain time on rivals or a dreaded day in the saddle with the sole intention of having to avoid haemorrhaging great amounts of time. Team Sky’s Richie Porte sits comfortably within the first of these two camps, but did not expect this day to come as a chance to recoup his losses, more likely that it was once earmarked as the day he intended on taking the maglia rosa. Now he sits in a position where a stage win would seem a worthwhile return on a his current  ranking, however there is still a chance he could find himself on the podium come Milano and will surely give it everything in this time trial to retrieve (unfairly) lost time. Speculation remains that his current power output is not at the same level as of that which delivered him great time trial performances before last year’s nightmare season. With the balance struck between a flat opening 30km and the following run to the line being a blend of climbing and generally rolling terrain, he should not come unstuck even if his power is not quite what it used to be on the long flat sections. The greatest concern for the Team Sky captain is his knee after the crash on Stage 13, an insight gathered when informing his mechanic that he would be skipping the infamous Sky post-ride spin be cause his “knee is f**ked.”

An almost 60km time trial which includes uphill sections seems to suit Rigoberto Uran extremely well on paper, though his form on similar terrain as of late has not quite mirrored his previous dominant performances. So far at this Giro, Uran has not been operating at the level expected of him, but that is not to say we have seen him implode and shelled out the back by his rivals. The chance of a podium is still firmly within his grasp while he sits 2′ 02″ down and has a strong chance of pulling back significant gains if he plays this stage well. An argument could be made that he has been keeping his powder dry during the days which saw Alberto Contador, Fabio Aru and Richie Porte unexpectedly attack one another, the whole time keeping is attention focused upon this time trial. Last year he won the Stage 12 42.2km race against the clock by a significant margin of 1′ 17″, a similar performance on the road to Valdobbiadene over the added mileage could deal serious damage to his rivals and bring him right back into overall contention.

Though having lost his first ever grand tour leader’s jersey in the most unfortunate of ways, Alberto Contador has a solid chance of returning it to his possession within 24 hours of having relinquished it. Not long ago he would have been the favourite for this stage, but in recent years his intensity has withered somewhat in this discipline compared to his contemporaries. Another tumble in the previous day is likely to have agitated his recently dislocated shoulder once again, with this in mind, the requirement to maintain an aerodynamic tuck for almost 60km could prove a difficult ask with performance consequences. Other than the media’s constant reminding of his crash, his day to day racing has demonstrated little to indicate he has genuinely been suffering from the dislocation. Contador will be incredibly motivated to take back the pink jersey after losing it through no fault of his own and for that reason alone he cannot be disregarded from winning this stage.

Fabio Aru certainly did not expect to find himself defending the maglia rosa in this discipline which has so often left him in hot pursuit of his more naturally gifted rivals. During last year’s time trial which Rigoberto Uran won with apparent ease, Fabio Aru managed to concede almost three minutes (2′ 55″) to the Colombian on that day. This time trial is close to being 20km further and though the young Italian has invested plenty of time into wind tunnel testing for his posture, it seems unlikely that this will be enough to stem the flow of time. For Fabio Aru the pink jersey will surely return to the shoulders of Alberto Contador and in terms of deficit, we could be talking minutes.

One of the most unexpected names placed within the top ten of the general classification is that of Andrey Amador, the Costa Rican rider being a solid time trialist adds to the intrigue as to where he shall sit after the three weeks. Obviously he is climbing well, so the possibility of him charting high here is not unrealistic given his prowess against the clock. The lumpy conclusion to the stage will favour him more than the opening 30km and he shall remain an interesting man to watch during the day.

A real dark horse for the day is Sky man Vasil Kiryienka, the Belarusian is extremely strong when competing in a time trial and has gained notoriety for pushing incredibly big gears up tough gradients. His performances at several Individual Time Trial World Championships have cemented him as one of the most gifted riders after the likes of Bradley Wiggins and Tony Martin. There is no reason to think he cannot secure a podium place here, or perhaps even more.

Ion Izagirre is certainly no slouch in a time trial and shall look upon this as the start of his attempts to begin clawing back time in conjunction with the oncoming big mountains. The terrain suits his abilities and he should be able to pace it well enough to make the final 20km count the most, this would come as a strong statement that Movistar’s general classification hopes are not solely placed on Andrey Amador and Giovanni Visconti right now.

Last year’s time trial at the Giro on Stage 12 saw an impressive performance from Diego Ulissi, managing to secure second behind an unstoppable Rigoberto Uran. It is unclear what sort of condition his time trial form is currently in since serving his suspension, but his stage win during the first week certainly suggested he is ticking over nicely right now. He remains worth watching if only to compare his performance against that of last year’s second place in the time trial.

Others who are capable of rounding out the top ten in Valdobbiadene include the likes of the emerging Ilnur Zakarin, Astana’s reliable lieutenant Dario Cataldo, the combative Stefano Pirazzi and Damiano Cunego.

Outcome:

Rather than a shock win stealing the show, the biggest surprise would come if Fabio Aru managed to retain his ownership of the maglia rosa for another day. Their are plenty of men who are capable of winning this based on form, but few come here in the best of condition after a hectic opening week which has seen crashes and time gaps cause upsets already. Alberto Contador should certainly take back his pink jersey, though weather or not he does this by winning Stage 14 is a tough question. His abilities have dwindled in this sort of competition since 2009 and two heavy crashes so far at the Giro d’Italia must affect his position on the bike during its 59.4km length. Life is always uncomfortable in this sort of affair, injuries (however subtle) can only add to this fact for the Spaniard.

Richie Porte‘s presence here is rapidly turning into a nightmare during his debut role as leader of Team Sky at the Giro d’Italia and it now appears that this would be his best chance of pulling back serious time, as well as possibly winning the stage. However, he clearly was not happy with the state of his knee after hitting the deck yet again on the previous day and any level of swelling will have a detrimental effect on a rider who is already believed to have lost power in this discipline recently.

Rigoberto Uran is the only man entering this test untouched by the chaos of the race so far and is well fancied to finally unleash what he is perceived to have been holding back upon. Though this season so far does not suggest he has entered this year’s edition in the same shape as 2014, Uran has the perfect blend of speed and climbing ability which could secure this stage for him. Though the win would certainly come as a welcome tonic for himself and the team, he will be more interested in getting his bid to take back time underway here. At the very least we should see a good deal of movement up the classification by the Colombian rider.

1st Rigoberto Uran 2nd Alberto Contador 3rd Richie Porte

Outsider:Vasil Kiryienka

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Giro d’Italia – Stage 13 Preview

BMC finally converted their efforts into a stage win as Philippe Gilbert caught Tanel Kangert at the death, before then motoring up to the line and finishing several bike lengths ahead of maglia rosa Alberto Contador. Stage 13 is the most clear cut chance for the sprinters to make their presence here worthwhile, especially having learnt a harsh lesson on Stage 10 when beginning the chase to the breakaway far too late. Without the slightest kink of tarmac during the day, the likes of Lotto-Soudal, Trek Factory Racing and Lampre-Merida will do their upmost to control the race as best as possible and guarantee them a sprint finish on this occasion.

Course:

The course for Stage 13 offers little to discuss, starting in Montecchio Maggiore it rolls steadily towards the coast yet again during this year’s Giro d’Italia, finishing some 147km later in Jesolo. A short and simple affair which will allow the major general classification rivals to turn their legs over with little stress, with the big mountains appearing in the coming days for them. Some anxieties will remain present as ever however, the sprinters and their squads will have to stay alert to the varied threats of road furniture which can scupper a rider’s chances in an instant. Positioning will be key in the finale as the leaders trace their way around two roundabouts in the last kilometre, before then making their final turn and exiting on to the 500m long finishing straight which shall crown the winner in Jesolo. 

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Contenders:

Attention will once again turn to the riders who are synonymous with these fierce gallops to the line, but the fastest on paper might not win here after several days which proved more testing than expected. Freshness will play a key part, those who have limited their exertions since Stage 10 will view the day has an opportunity to restore the natural order of things at the Giro. André Greipel has already proven during this tour that he is the fastest in a flat out drag race to the line, but Stage 13 is not quite the type of finale which he will have fancied in order to double his tally so far. The technical finish does not suit his attributes at all, even though his lead out at this Giro has been far better than expected given the limited personnel available to him. Perhaps most importantly of all for the German’s chances of winning in Jesolo is the likelihood of a strong downpour as they approach the finale, a slippery surface could deter Greipel from committing wholeheartedly at the risk of injury and an awareness that at least two further sprint stages remain. If conditions are favourable however and the Lotto-Soudal lead out nullifies the technical finish somewhat, André Greipel remains the man to beat in a straight up sprint.

Lampre-Merida know that Sacha Modolo has a penchant for tricky finishes and will do their upmost to place him in contention for the win on Stage 13. It is widely agreed that the Italian wields the most potent lead out in this race and has already clearly benefited from a team which almost guarantees him a good position when having to follow the likes of Greipel at full gas. Factoring in the likelihood of the weather and the final two kilometres of racing being technical, Modolo could dominate from a slightly slower sprint and win thanks to a solid lead out from his Lampre-Merida teammates.

An eternal nearly man at this race, Trek Factory Racing’s Giacomo Nizzolo could finally throw the form book out the window and secure his debut Giro d’Italia win at last. He appears to be one of the freshest sprinters in this race, despite his repeated efforts during the intermediate sprints, a fact which could see him brought right to the fore once again. Like Modolo, Nizzolo also performs better on these tricky finishes, but would have preferred an even more technical conclusion to this stage like his compatriot. Trek Factory Racing offer reasonable support to Nizzolo and are reliable when it comes to dropping him off in a good position with 750m remaing; though he has no issues with following wheels if need be. Ultimately, Giacomo Nizzolo is a real contender for this stage, a day which could be historic for the Italian finally breaking his duck at the Giro d’Italia.

Quite possibly the next fastest man after André Greipel is Team Sky’s Elia Viviani, but he has not demonstrated this well beyond his win on the opening sprinters’ stage. Though fast, he desperately lacks anything in the shape of a lead out, while also not really suiting this finale in the slightest. It is both technical and likely to be wet, with this in mind, Viviani’s chances of doubling up in Josolo are markedly reduced. Given his innate turn of speed, he will remain a danger, though a lot will need to go right for him, or wrong for the others in order to win.

Nicola Ruffoni has been working away very hard for his team in the sprints and is sure to be part of the top riders to decide the podium at the end of the day. The Italian youngster is incredibly fast, but does not have much in the way of teammates to protect his interests when it matters most. Bardiani-CSF rely on his ability to pick the best wheel ahead of him on his quest for a stage win and he certainly stands a chance on a finish which reshuffles the order of contenders considerably.

Though possessing a reasonable lead out at this race, Luka Mezgec simply has not performed to a standard now expected from the Slovenian sprinter. The Giant-Alpecin riders assigned to him in the sprints are not as well oiled under his leadership compared to that of John Degenkolb or Marcel Kittel, but they should still be helping their man chart higher in the sprints. Much like Viviani, Mezgec has plenty of pace to have a serious tilt at taking the win, but with little support and little having gone right so far, his chances remain less likely than those above.

Outcome:

With the lesson learnt from Stage 10, an agreement will surely be made between several teams during Stage 13 to ensure that any breakaway is given a very tight leash indeed. Lotto-Soudal, Trek Factory Racing, Lampre-Merida, Giant-Alpecin and even Bardiani-CSF will want to reel in those up the road and bring it back for a hectic finale in Jesolo. A reasonably technical finish which could be worsened by poor weather conditions makes it likely that André Greipel and Elia Viviani will not be able to decide the win with a simple enough drag race all the way to the line. Instead, those who possess a knack for these tricky run ins to the finish will come to the fore and use a short and sharp acceleration to secure the win. In this situation it could be a tale of two Italians with Giacomo Nizzolo and Sacha Modolo both having a great chance to take their first ever Giro d’Italia stage wins here. Nizzolo has been in these positions before but still remains winless at his home tour and it looks to be Modolo who will prolong this nightmare once again. Lampre-Merida are stronger in the leadout and also appear fresher after several testing days as of late, assuming they ratchet up the speed in the final kilometre before letting Modolo attack the line, the winner in Jesolo could be clad in the neon tones of Lampre-Merida.

1st Sacha Modolo 2nd Giacomo Nizzolo 3rd Nicola Ruffoni