• Rúben Silva

Giro d'Italia Stage 19 Preview

A crazier finish would've never been predicted. Damiano Cima, winner of stage 18 and sole survivor of a breakaway that resisted until the very final meters of a 222 kilometer long stage. Cima, Mirco Maestri of Bardiani and Nico Denz set out early in the day, even with a favourable profile it wasn't expected that they'd hold the peloton, as Bora and Israel chased willingly. But the truth is when it came to the decisive moments of the stage the gap was coming down very slowly and soon emergency set in the peloton to chase. FDJ abstained from working all day long but then lead Dèmare out in the final kilometer, the sprint in the break was launched, Cima was the strongest, whilst Ackermann set himself from behind, and with the other two riders absorbed Ackermann was mere centimeters away from catching a rider that spent almost 5 hours in front. Ackermann with this second place netted the Ciclamino jersey from Dèmare who finished 8th.

Positive: Nippo have it's season worth, it's only their third win of the season but what a win, in the single most important race of their calendar. Bora and Ackermann are to be confratulated, the chances of him loosing the jersey now are only if he abandons pretty much, Intermediate sprints will very likely not be abtained by any of them, these might have been the sprinters' final points.

Negative: FDJ. Honestly, I was left scratching my head after the stage. FDJ didn't work all day long which was the plan, they had a breakaway that was set to succeed, which is what they needed. And it looked like they'd make it (and they did, but only Cima). They pulled in the final kilometer, of course leading Dèmare out was just as important, but they should've waited more. With the leadout almost non-exhistant from other teams, they'd have no trouble getting themselves in front seeing they hadn't done any work at all during the stage. Thei work clawed back Denz and Maestri and allowed Ackermann to gain enough points to take back the jersey. I don't often have bad things to say about team tactics but today they just messed up completely, Dèmare barely has any chance to even score points, taking back the jersey only if Ackermann abandons or is penalized.

Stage 19 somehow resembles last year's stage to Prato Nevoso as it antecipates the possibly most important day of the race and has an easier aproach to the final climb (which is long but more shallow gradients, and constant).

The Passo di San Boldo is the main climb that precedes the final one, there are others but they won't have much of an impact on the stage, it will be another stage very suited to a breakaway and in the GC fight it will favour the power climbers, as the gradients don't get very steep and it will be a climb raced at a very steady pace, where the lightweight riders won't have any opportunity, besides that short 10% ramp to make real differences.

The Weather

No wind, no rain, and not really cold. The dreadful Giro that it's been until some days ago, it's only fair to have the good weather officially return.

The Favourites

This stage can be compared directly to Prato Nevoso last year. Of course the approach to San Martino di Castrozza isn't flat, but there aren't serious climbs into it, and it's a flat/rolling stage through the Alps until they get to the summit finish, which is a long and steady climb, suited to the power climbers more than the pure climbers.

And with the dreadful stage 20 in the loom, it would come as logic that the teams will try to keep themselves from spending a whole lot of matches, means no chasing will really be expected besides Movistar. Schachmann in Prato Nevoso, Landa in Piancavallo, those two stages had a very similar structure to tomorrow's stage, a semi-flat stage with a long steady summit finish the begin the final block in the mountains. Both were undoubtfully a breakaway win, and tomorrow I expect the same scenario.

So yes I believe in a breakaway win, the 9th (and final one) of the race. Candidates? There's no winning formula, but there are some riders that I believe have an upper hand. So Ciccone has the KOM classification guarranteed and will surely want to move on stage 20, so he will remain calm tomorrow. Masnada is another pretty big contender but he's been in the break several times already and is another rider who'd like to attack in stage 20, and well tons of riders who can be up there.

Astana, Bilbao, Izagirre and Hirt can all take the stage win I believe it. Mitchelton, Nieve and Hamilton look prestine and both looked super strong in Antholz, supporting Yates to the finish line. These teams are fighting for overall, but the stage doesn't favour long distance attacks and honestly both teams could use bigger success than they've had so far. I think these are the main riders to take into account, all look good at this point of the race. Bahrain has Caruso and Pozzovivo, although it's looked as though they're purely focused on the GC so we might not see any action from them in front.

EF, riders like Carthy and Dombrowski could benefit maybe, they're possiby on the line of what is acceptable to have in the breakaway, alongside Madouas, but I think these will prefer keeping their legs fresher for the queen stage. Kangert on the other hand doesn't have that much to loose, but he tried yesterday and it didn't quite work out as he planned. Brambilla of Trek, Eddie Dunbar and Ivan Sosa of INEOS, Hubert Dupont of AG2R, and Ben O'Connor of Dimension Data.

In the favourites lot, Roglic and Nibali should like this climb better than the one to Antholz, as they can benefit more from their steady climbing. But the climb will be fast, teammates will be important to have, Carapaz baring a bonk should be safe for the day as Pedrero has excelled lately in the mountains and Landa is there to support him too. Nibali has Pozzovivo and Caruso that will likely stay in support of him so there's a chance we see some attacks but strong teammates capable of making a good chase. But of course, some riders will be hesitant of racing agressively eyeing the brutal stage the day afterwards, the race has 21 days so I doubt they'll fancy risking further fatigue in what's been such a hard race so far.

Prediction Time

Hirt, L.Hamilton

Bilbao, Nieve, Dunbar Carapaz

Landa, Nibali, MA.Lopez, Carthy, Brambilla, I.Izagirre, Caruso, Masnada

You must be thinking, why does someone who says he knows about cycling tip on such a rider? Ok so this is Jan Hirt, it's not the first time I'm betting on him to take the win, I already went for him in the stage Masnada won, and he's been riding superbly it hasn't escaped my eye. The Mortirolo ride for instance, he smashed the climb, finished second but impressed. Yesterday he tore the GC group to pieces and later finished with Sivakov, and in several stages I've seen him as the rider that stood the best with Lopez. I have this thing where I get a feeling from some riders, that with good form and a lot of agressive racing, a win WILL come sooner or later, Masnada and Ciccone were two riders I had in mind and they've gotten theirs, the others are Hirt, Cattaneo, Caruso and Ventoso (although that one won't have any chances now), and of those I think Hirt is the right call for tomorrow, the final breakaway win of the Giro!

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