2012 Giro d’Italia Preview by Stevie Dexter
Stevie is definitely the most knowledgeable pro tour writer I know and he’s here with a fantastic overall preview of what’s to come in the Giro d’Italia. Things kick off tomorrow morning at 9:40AM EST and be sure to check out the stage previews and live blogging coverage for the entire tour over at The Roar….it’s going to epic. - Darryl
2012 Giro d’Italia Preview
The 2012 Giro d’Italia mark’s the beginning of the Grand Tour period but with key riders missing from certain team line-ups and a route as challenging as ever it will be a difficult 3 weeks for all concerned.
The opening days will be spent around Henring and then Horsens, Denmark for the opening day’s Individual Time Trial which is almost dead pan flat for just 8.7km and then two days of flat racing which are certain to end in bunch sprints. The Stage 1 ITT looks a fairly technical route so we are unlikely to see General Classification rider’s putting 100% here for fear of succumbing to crashes and the first maglia rosa will be worn by the bravest of the riders. The following two days’ stage profiles have very little in the way of altitude and the teams who are aiming for the red points classification jersey (now affectionately known as Maglia Rosso Passione) will be protecting their sprinters and we will get to see just how devastating the likes of Mark Cavendish and Matt Goss are going to be in the sprints. With the likes of Alessandro Pettachi and Andre Griepel not starting the event, Cav and Gossy must be looking forward to the flat finishes even more and with an early day off following the first two sprints due to travelling from Denmark to Italy, the sprinters know they can push themselves to the limit in an attempt to take a strangle hold on the points classification.
The Giro d’Italia’s first stage in Italy is the 32.2km Team Time Trial around Verona and will sort the men from the boys. Team’s that have an eye on the General Classification will be pulling out all the stops here as the distance has the possibility of opening up some notable time gaps without being out of the range of teams who do not possess true time trailing ability. The following day the race leaves the home of Italian supercars, Modena in an almost arrow straight blast to the coast at Fano. A few lumps, including a 4th categorised climb may see a smaller, more select group reach the finish in a sprint but with 10km of flat before the line, anyone left behind should have enough road to get back to the main bunch.
The days that follow see the riders taking in the first of the climbing stages with Stage 6 topping out at 772m on the Passo Della Cappella with a maximum gradient of 16% and Stage 7 finishing at 1392m with a 10% climb up Rocca Di Cambio to the stage finish. The fast men wont enjoy the hills but the profile of Stage 6 should not be too much for their teams to help them over but expect a well organised breakaway to succeed here and although the finish of Stage 7 only has a maximum of a 10% climb, this could see some time gaps open up or extended. Stages 9, 11 & 13 allow the sprinter’s to take the headlines in La Gazzetta dello Sport once again, bookending 2 other medium mountain stages which never see the riders more than 653m above sea level.
Before the riders get another rest day on the Monday they will find themselves battling over the 1st category Col de Joux (1640m, max 12%) and then up to the stage finish in Cervinia which sits at 2001m with a maximum incline of 12%. The climb flattens out considerably in the final 2km so any battling GC contenders will need to make their move on the steeper slopes to maximise any advantage in Cervinia. Stage 15 tackles another 1st category climb in Valcava, which only tops out at 1340m but ramps up to a spine bending maximum of 17% , followed by a 2 more 2nd category climbs on the way to the finish.
Stage 16 sees a slowly rising profile, officially classified as a ‘medium mountain’ stage but following the rest day it shouldn’t cause too many problems and should allow everyone to concentrate on the ordeals that are to follow during Stages 17, 19 & 20. Huge maximum percentages and the repetition of climb after brutal 1st category climb typify the final few days run towards Milan, the worst coming on Stage 20 as the riders scale the 1st category Mortitolo to 1718m with a maximum of 22%, only to descend the other side and then be faced by the finish at the top of the Passo Dello Stelvio. This could turn out to be the most exciting stage of the race as riders not only try to take as much time on their rivals as possible but attempt to negate the time losses the may incur during the time trial the following day.
A final Individual Time Trial of 30.1km through Milan finishing in the Piazza Duomo should be merely academic but that’s easy to say without having experienced the previous 3 weeks of hard racing that the GC contenders will have running through their head on the start ramp. I enjoy the drama of a final day TT as it really can have an effect on the final classifications which the Tour’s ‘procession’ into Paris rarely does, other than being a famous showcase for the sprinters. The route through Milan is fairly technical so anything other than the typical dry, sunny weather could have an impact on the race on the final day.
Who to watch?
The GreenEDGE team named to take on the 2012 Giro d’Italia will be targeting stage wins rather than the overall General Classification with Matt Goss a real contender or the red points classification if the team can get him through the highest mountain passes. A solid Tour of Turkey has seen Goss find some good form to ensure he hits the ground running with Brett Lancaster, Tomas Vaitkus and Jens Keukeleire making up the power house of his lead-out train. With Daryl Impey, Christian Meier, Fumiyuki Beppu and Svein Tuft making up the rest of the team it’s hard to find any particular stages that the GreenEDGE boys won’t be featuring in.
Other riders who will be testing Goss at the line in the sprints include Vacansoleil-DMC’s Romain Feillu who has worn the Tour de France’s yellow jersey for a day in 2008 but has never won a Grand Tour stage, Garmin Baracuda’s Tyler Farrar who has become very adept at finishing 2nd behind Mark Cavendish over the last couple of years and may find frustration on the line when it comes to a straight out sprint with the other fast men, and the World Champion himself Mark Cavendish. With Tour de France green and Olympic gold on the hit list for later in the year, you could forgive Mark Cavendish for using this race to merely put his competition in to the pain cave but he is unlikely to make it to Milan, instead choosing to bail out before expelling too much energy. The lack of Andre Griepel and Alessandro Pettachi in the bunch gallops may water down the competition but the main contenders will need to keep their eyes peeled for some of the outsiders trying to spoil the red jersey party.
With regard to General Classification contenders, it’s difficult to choose where to start. Alessandro Ballan will front the BMC team which features a roster of riders who are all capable of making things difficult for other teams however he may struggle in the very high mountains. Rigoburto Uran will be looking for support from the Team Sky riders not tasked with shepherding Mark Cavendish which may leave him short of fire power when most needed. Cavendish has finished the Giro before though and knows the demands he will be facing, similarly he may choose to climb off early leaving his chaperones to continue with Uran. It should be a good test for Team Sky at dividing their resources ahead of the Tour in July. Canadian Ryder Hesjedal is “going for it” as described by his Garmin Baracuda team-mate Christian Vande Velde and it was decided as early as November 2011 that he would be leading the charge for the maglia rosa. A rider who always commends respect, Hesjedal can time trial as well and should not be overlooked by rivals and fans for stage wins and an honest crack at the GC. My personal tip for the top step in Milan goes to Liquigas-Cannondale’s Ivan Basso who has the legs for the highest of mountains and is not afraid to put it on the line during the time trials. With the Contador and Andy Schleck shaped holes in the start list, Basso’s confidence will be boosted but he will still need to keep tabs on a certain Joaquim Rodríguez, who can be devastating in the mountains. Following the knee injury of Jakob Fuglsang, Frank Schleck will lead the Radioshack-Nissan squad who have vastly under performed in the early season races and don’t really look like changing that run of bad luck in Italy.