A Giro d'Italia for time triallists? No. It's a balanced route and time bonuses are back
Course designer Mauro Vegni analyses the 2013 Giro
A lot of people have said the route of the 2013 Giro d'Italia has been designed to favour a time triallist. As ever, it all depends on how you look at the route. In the last few years, the Giro routes have better suited the climbers. In 2013 the route is more finely balanced, meaning that the time triallists who can handle the big mountains climbs also have a chance of success.
I designed the route with my team and this is what I think.
Of the 21 stages, only a part of them will actually impact on the battle for overall victory in terms of seconds gained or lost. It's fair to presume that the seven stages for sprinters will not change the overall classification and neither will the five stages for finisseurs, unless there are some surprise attacks. There are then three time trials and the mountain stages. These are the stages that will dramatically change the overall standings.
When analyzing the 2013 Giro d'Italia route, it's important to consider the order of the stages to understand how the overall classification could change during the race. Not having a final time trial will create a different kind of race.
There will probably only be small time differences after the team time trial on Ischia and the first mountain finish to Serra San Bruno is not a tough climb, meaning that only one or two overall contenders will probably lose time.
However, things will change dramatically in the individual time trial from Gabicce Mare to Saltara. It's not a normal time trial. The first 20km includes lots of climbing, descending and corners and only the middle 25km suits the pure time triallist but that's where they can perhaps earn 2-3 seconds per kilometre on the climbers. There's also a trap at the end of the stage that could catch out both the climbers and time triallists. The final four kilometres climb up to the finish, with a section at 13-14%. If someone misjudges his ride, he could lose a lot of time.
After the stage, the time triallists should be in control of the Giro but the final ten days are in favour of the climbers. There are five mountain stages for them to blow open the race. The finishes to Montasio and Bardonecchia are perfect for late attacks and a climber could gain 40-50 seconds. The Galibier will be tough too, if a team rides hard all day. Then the short stage (138km) to Val Martello starts with the Gavia, goes over the Stelvio and even the climb to the finish will hurt. The last mountain stage to Tre Cime di Lavaredo has a final 100km that will leave the riders breathless and should cause significant time gaps. There is also the Polsa mountain time trial. It doesn't favour the pure climbers and so will help the time triallists pull back a few seconds.
No final time trial means the 2013 Giro will be won and lost in the mountains. Often in the past, the climbers have fought for victory in the final time trial. This year, with no final time trial, the climbers will know exactly how much time they will have to pull back on the time trial specialists. They will have to attack and they will have lots of different types of climbs to attack on. If a time trial specialist manages to limit his losses, he'll deserve to win the maglia rosa. It won’t be easy for either kind of rider, hopefully producing an aggressive and spectacular race.
Time bonuses too…
The 2013 Giro d'Italia will also see the return of time bonuses to further inspire aggressive racing. In 2012 time bonuses were not awarded on the mountain stages in the hope of seeing more long-range attacks. However we saw that this did not really work.
We've decided that time bonuses of 20, 12 and 8 seconds will be awarded at stage finishes as in 2011. We think these extra seconds will help the climbers and create more aggressive stage finishes. It is still possible for a time trial expert to gain more than three minutes on a pure climber in a long time trial, while the climbers struggle to gain more than 30-40 seconds on a typical mountain finish.
The return of the time bonuses won't decide the race but will help balance it out. A rider could gain 60 seconds by winning three mountain stages but that won't be enough to win the Giro if he has lost three minutes in a time trial.
There will also be two intermediate time bonuses per stage with 5-3-2 seconds on offer to the first three riders, as well as points for the red jersey competition. There are ten seconds on offer per stage but we have calculated that it will be difficult for riders to gain more than 40-50 seconds on their rivals. The sprinters will win some of the intermediate time bonuses but others will be carefully placed along the stages to inspire surprise attacks by the overall contenders.
For the fans
We decided to reintroduce the time bonuses after listening to the fans. When we launched our questionnaire immediately after this year's Giro, 70% of the fans who answered said they wanted to see time bonuses play a part in deciding the overall winner of the Giro again.
They want to see aggressive racing and time bonuses inspire riders to go after precious seconds on every stage. We've listened to the fans yet again.
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From Strade Bianche to Lombardia, via the Giro d'Italia, Michele Acquarone and the RCS Sport team will navigate the season with us, bringing Cyclingnews readers behind the scenes, as they discuss the challenges that face race organisers and share their fresh and innovative approaches to cycling.