Giro’15: The PEZ Preview
Saturday is the big day in Italy for cycling fans, the Giro d’Italia launches its self down the start ramp in Sanremo for the first Grand Tour of the 2015 season. Ed Hood takes a close look at the most important stages and riders and talks to Giro virgin Calvin Watson. Giro time baby!
The Pink Race, some say it’s better than a ‘certain race’ in France – we say ‘vive la difference’ and love them both. But there is something about the Giro, all that pink, the scenery, the tifosi, the best cappuccino and there’s no doubt that the Italian organisational vibe is just a little less janitorial than that on the other side of the Alps.
We do this Giro preview in numbers – one, seven and four; one young man riding his first Giro, the seven key stages and the four men who can win.
To commence our look at the 2015 Giro we thought you might like to hear what a young man lining up for his first Giro has to say about the event that will dominate the next month of his life. We spoke to Trek’s Calvin Watson back at the start of 2014 on the eve of his joining the World Tour Circus so we thought it would be a good idea to speak to him on the eve of riding one of the greatest shows on earth.
How long have you known you’d be riding the Giro, Calvin?
“I’ve been on the long list since the beginning of the season; we got our race programmes back in late December so barring issues or problems I knew I’d be in Sanremo for the start and I feel that I’ve been performing well enough to justify my spot.”
How’s your programme been?
“Quite heavy! When it was mapped out I was a little bit nervous but I’ve been racing and recovering well with not too much training because I’ve been racing so much. I had a few easy days after Liege because I want to go in to the Giro fresh and motivated.”
Have you had a good look at the percorso?
“Funnily enough, when you rang I was sitting with my dad looking at where we could get accommodation for him – he’s over from Australia to follow the race – it’s the first time I’ve really studied it. I suppose I should have done it earlier. . .”
That last week is sore, have you been watching your weight in preparation for all those jousts with gravity?
“Madonna di Campiglio, Tonale, Mortirilo, Aprica, Sestriere all those climbs you read about… As a pro you have to watch your weight all the time; we’re all pretty serious about that – watching what you eat but having enough carbs to let you train and race properly. Coming in to a race like this you just have to make sure you don’t do anything silly.”
It’s not just the race is it, there’s all the presentations and fuss before it?
“Yeah, I just got a call from my DS about the presentation on Friday; I think that’s when it’ll sink in properly, when I’m standing up there with the rest of the guys getting presented to the tifosi – at 22 years-of-age. I mean, it’s only five years since I was sitting on the sofa watching the Grand Tours on TV and dreaming that one day I might be doing it. I’ll head down to Sanremo on Wednesday to get together with the guys for some TTT training, I only live 30 K from Sanremo so I’ve been down to see the TTT course – it’s tight and technical.”
No ‘easing in’ with a TTT to start. . .
“Yeah, it’s a rude start to proceedings – it’s a tight, technical course and a lot could go wrong. TTT’s are a bit of a nightmare; I don’t think you’ll find many riders who actually enjoy them – and you always have to remember that you’re only as strong as your weakest man. That first week is going to be stressful on narrow roads with everyone wanting to be at the front.
Who’s Trek’s ‘man’?
“We’ve no real GC guy but Giacomo Nizzolo has the potential to win in at least four of the stages – he was top three in five Giro stages last year including second on the last stage behind Mezgec – so he’ll be protected. Whilst Schleck and Mollema aren’t here for the GC and mountains we have Fabio Felline who’s in really good form – he won a stage in the Pais Vasco – and there are several stages which suit his characteristics.”
What’s your role?
“I’m there as a domestique to protect Giacomo’s and Fabio’s interests; I hope that maybe I’ll be able to get into a few breakaways – but it’s hard to discuss tactics beforehand about 21 days of racing.”
And it’ll be a good Giro for Calvin Watson, if. . .
“I’ll be over the moon if we perform well as a team and do our best for Giacomo and Fabio – and like I said I’d like to be in the breaks. I’ll be happy after three weeks if we’ve all given it our best shot.”
# We’ll be speaking to Calvin again on the two rest days and wish him well for the biggest 21 days of his life thus far. #
We’ve selected what we think will be the seven days where; ‘you can’t win it but you can certainly lose it!’
Stage 01 TTT Sanremo:
‘But it’s only 17.6 K’ I hear you say – tell that to Dan Martin, who’s Giro ended on the hard tarmac of Ireland in last year’s opening TTT. With everyone on the edge of the ‘red’ and gaps between wheels very small even the slightest lapse in concentration can be fatal. And it’s day one of 21; not a good day for the head to have a ‘giornato no.’
Stage 08 Fiuggi – Campitello Matese:
The Apennines form the spine of Italy and this excursion over 186 K to the top of the Campitello Matese will see the GC men pulling the tarpaulins off their heavy weaponry. A tough stage with very little flat – this one will give us clues about who’ll be in pink come Milano.
Stage 14 TT Treviso – Valdobbiadene:
This is a ‘proper’ time trial over almost 60 kilometres; a very difficult one to gauge with a flat first half and lumpy second half. The climbers will be trying not to think about this one.
Stage 15 Marostica – Madonna di Campiglio:
It’s not just the savagery of a day with three major climbs in the Dolomites and a mountain top finish – it’s the fact that it comes the day after a very tough time trial. You’ll know when you waken up in the morning and there’s only so long you can bluff for. . .
Stage 16 Pinzolo – Aprica:
Talk about ‘insult to injury’ – today there are five savage climbs to contend with including the mighty Mortirolo and a horrible final grind to the top of the Aprica, which is climbed twice on this day where it’ll become clear who’ll win the 2015 Giro.
Stage 19 Gravellona Toce – Cervinia:
Four cols and a mountain top finish; and, it’s over 236 K, wearing on for full Classic distance – but 16 days in. It could certainly be lost on this day and spare a thought for the soigneurs who’ll be working overtime on tired, tired legs.
Stage 20 Saint-Vincent – Sestriere:
Some might say it’s too much, expecting men who’ve endured 19 stages to race two major cols with the last five miles of the first col – the Finistre – on dirt road? But ‘higher, longer, tougher’ is the motto of Grand Tour organisers, these days – on the basis that your race has to be tougher than anyone else’s.
But Martin and I will be up there on the dirt roads screaming with the rest, no doubt. It could all change today but we have a feeling that it’ll be down to who’s least wasted. . .
We make it just four (4) men who can win this bike race; Aru, Contador, Porte and Uran.
Fabio Aru (Italy & Astana): With two wins in the Valle d’Aosta stage race and a runner-up spot (to Joe Dombrowski) in the Baby Giro as an amateur it was easy to see he was potentially the ‘real thing.’ Last year he confirmed that; a stage win and third on GC in the Giro then two stage wins and fifth on GC in the Vuelta. Here’s the ‘but’ – illness this year has prevented him from riding his final tune up race in Trentino and his squadra have been through a major political battle just to survive as a World Tour team. He’ll come good as the race goes on and will have his day in the mountains – but the big chrono will murder him; FOURTH place for the skinny Sardinian.
Richie Porte (Australia & Sky): The Algarve, Paris-Nice, Catalonia and Trentino – he’s won them all, this year; he has to win the Giro, right? Wrong. His form has been stellar and he’s following the Sky, Wiggins/Froome template of lots of racing rather than training as build up – and if you’re riding the races then why not ride them to win?
And whilst the long chrono is right up his street that savage last week needs reserves and it’s our contention that his will be gone by then. In Uran and Contador we have two men keeping cards very close to their chests and timing everything to be right for the next three weeks. And on the subject of Wiggins/Froome – what if König sees his chance? We place the Australian THIRD on the podium.
Rigoberto Uran (Columbia & Etixx – Quick-Step): From a tough school back in Columbia he goes about his business quietly and efficiently, he’s been second on GC in this race for the last two years and rides a mean chrono – remember last year’s Giro time test?
What’s the problem, then? Fabulous though Etixx – Quick-Step is, they’re no Grand Tour GC team and he’ll be isolated in the mountains without a Konig or a Kreuziger to ride shotgun. But we think his strength of character will carry him to SECOND spot on the podium.
Alberto Contador (Spain & Tinkoff-Saxo): He’s one of only a small coterie of men to have won all three Grand Tours along with Anquetil, Gimondi, Merckx, Hinault and Nibali. And one of a very few men to win two Grand Tours in one season – the Giro & Vuelta in 2008 – along with Pantani, Indurain, Roche, Hinault, Battaglin, Merckx, Anquetil and Coppi. The names above include many of the best riders ever to through a leg over a racing bicycle. Don’t pay attention to his being beaten in the stage races he’s ridden thus far this season. His season is all about what happens starting this Saturday in Sanremo – we place him FIRST on that Milano podium.
The Giro/Tour double? Let’s get this one done and dusted first, please.
Check-out Ed’s ‘Giro First Look’ here and you can watch the stages live on Steephill.tv. As always the best coverage and photos will be on PEZ with race reports, our guys road-side and the EuroTrash Monday and Thursday catch-up with reports, rider quotes, video and results.
It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he’s covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,100 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself – many years and kilograms ago – and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site www.veloveritas.co.uk where more of his musings on our sport can be found.