GIRO’18: Rest Day Ruminations In Rovereto!

Giro d’Italia Rest Day: As the Giro riders take it easy before the crucial 34.2 kilometer stage 16 time trial between Trento and Rovereto, Sam Larner looks back at the previous two weeks and forward to the exceptionally hard final days to Rome. Will the test against the clock be decisive or will it be the mountains that clinch the 2018 Italian Grand Tour?

Simon Yates will have to keep an eye on Tom Dumoulin

What a Giro this is turning into, if everything goes to plan, this final week might be one of the best in Grand Tour, not just Giro, history. The top four are all covered by less than three minutes and the top ten are within a smidge over six minutes. The final six stages feature two flat stages, a fairly lengthy flat time trial, and three exceptionally hard mountain stages. This preview of the final week is going to look at what has happened so far.

More climbs next week

GC After Time Trial
Arguably the biggest stage of the entire Giro will take place on Tuesday. If Tom Dumoulin doesn’t get into the pink jersey by at least one minute, it’s probably all over for his shot at the pink jersey. We might not know exactly what will happen on Tuesday, but we do have data in the shape of the first stage in Jerusalem. So, let’s take those time gaps and extrapolate them to see what the time gaps might look like after that stage.

Possible GC After Stage 16:
1. Simon Yates
2. Tom Dumoulin +1:01
3. Domenico Pozzovivo +2:53
4. Thibaut Pinot +3:23
5. Pello Bilbao +5:52
6. Chris Froome +7:03
7. Miguel Angel Lopez +7:45
8. Richard Carapaz +8:02
9. Patrick Konrad +8:13
10. George Bennett +8:27

This doesn’t look good for Dumoulin, the Dutch rider is still going to be behind Yates by more than a minute and with the Brit climbing like he is, that gap is going to keep growing. It’s worth nothing though, the opening time trial took place on a short, rolling course, Tuesday’s effort will take place on a flat, much longer course. If Dumoulin is having a good day and Yates is suffering, then that two minute lead might evaporate very quickly. Dumoulin and Yates have gone head to head in five time trials, it’s no surprise that Yates has lost each one, but what is surprising is that Yates has never been blown away.

The World TT champion will win, but by how much?

The Unknown
Both Bilbao and Pozzovivo have achieved high overall placings despite being virtually ignored by the cycling press. Pozzovivo is an unusual rider, he’s not very good against the clock at all and he’s also not a better climber than the other GC contenders who are better against the clock. To give some context to how bad he is on a time trial bike, in 10km in the Tirreno-Adriatico Pozzovivo lost more than a minute to Rohan Dennis, he could well be on the wrong end of a four minute stuffing by Dumoulin on Tuesday. If he can pull something miraculous out of the bag, the tiny Italian is well on the way to a podium place. With a very strong following wind, Pozzovivo even has a chance of the overall victory, but I wouldn’t put money on it.

Domenico Pozzovivo could be the surprise

Pello Bilbao has never finished higher than 23rd in a Grand Tour, his next best finish is 60th. His 2018 Giro has been an exercise in controlling time loss. He was the second best GC contender on the opening stage and that put him in sixth place overall, he then jumped up to 5th and since then he’s gone 7th, 8th, 9th. It’s tempting to think he will disappear out of the top ten, but if he can reproduce his first stage performance he will make big strides back into the top ten. As long as Bilbao doesn’t have to ride himself into the ground in support of Miguel Angel Lopez, the Basque rider might even end up in a surprise top five.

The Astana pair of Lopez and Bilbao

Froome: Over and Out?
Chris Froome is absolutely not out of this Giro, but he’s certainly making it hard for himself. The Brit has only really had one good day, on Monte Zoncolan, which launched him into the top five. The rest of his race has been a massive disappointment, he was poor in the opening time trial and has pretty much handed back time on every mountainous stage. If Froome needs any extra motivation, he can remember this, Vincenzo Nibali was 4:43 down before his remarkable 2016 comeback to ride into the pink jersey, Froome is 4:52 down. Froome needs something really impressive to not only close the gap on Yates, but also bring back time on Dumoulin, who might be even harder to dislodge.

Chris Froome has his bodyguard at the Giro

Willier Triestina – Sella Italia
You might not be paying that much attention to the team ranking, but Willier Triestina are having a terrible time of it. They’re 8:33.42 down on Team Sky, they’re 4:03.34 down on Bardiani-CSF, the next worse team. I went back to 2013 and looked at all team classification standings after stage 15 of the Giro and not a single team have come even close to how bad Willier Triestina have been.

Good bye Jakub Mareczko

The rot really set in on stage 9 when Jakub Mareczko abandoned, the sprinter had three top ten results at that point. Since then, only Liam Bertazzo and Alex Turrin have finished inside the top 20 on a stage – 19th and 20th on stage 13. A stage win would turn everything around, but it’s hard to know where that would come from in a team lacking real top end talent.

Meintjens has no chance now

Louis Meintjes
The South African was reportedly brought back to Dimension Data on the mega bucks, he’s really not earning them. Meintjes was doing his usual approach to riding a Grand Tour, not doing well at time trials, then hanging on long enough on the climbs as the fringe GC contenders fade away. It’s an effective, but not pretty, way of getting a top ten in a Grand Tour. Well, that’s the plan, he’s never cracked the top 20 overall this year and is now 45th, more than an hour and a quarter back. Team mate Ben O’Connor, 22, is 12th and seems to be steadily improving.

Many riders needed a push on the Zoncolan

Brutal Giro?
There are only 161 riders left in the Giro at this point, that is the lowest number of riders still in the race after 15 stages since 2010 (156). It’s odd that a race that has been viewed as relatively benign has had such a brutal impact on the peloton. If we look at another metric, number of riders within ten minutes of the pink jersey, we have to go all the way back to 2012 to find a race that had more than the 19 riders this year – 25 in 2012. Lastly, Giuseppi Fonzi is the last ranked rider on GC – 3:59.52 down – since 2012 no rider has been that far down after 15 stages, the next closest is Aleksejs Saramotins, 3:53.59 in 2015.

22nd at 25:14 – What happened to Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates)?

So what does this all mean? It seems like this has been a brutal race for the entire peloton and that probably hasn’t been helped by the GC contenders being so close together. Expect to see more and more riders hanging up their wheels in this brutally hard final week.

Light at the end of the tunnel for Simon Yates

Stage 16 – Trento-Rovereto (Cronometro Individuale) 34.2km – total elevation 200m

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