While his riders were training and racing their way through Europe this spring Mitchelton-Scott’s Matt White was on a one-man road trip around Italy. If it sounds glamorous you’re mistaken. Spending 10 hours in a car day after day and navigating through busy traffic should be no one’s idea of fun, but when you’re plotting the path to possible Giro d’Italia success it’s a vital requirement, because while videos and data files can tell you almost everything about a stage profile or a climb, being there on the ground and navigating the actual roads can fill in a number of blanks and unknowns.
So, after his recon of the first nine stages of the 2019 Giro d’Italia, Cyclingnews sat down with White to talk about the route, the pitfalls and where time could and should be won and lost.
Saturday, May 11, 2019
8km Bologna (ITT)
The riders start the Giro d’Italia with a short time trial that’s comprised of two parts. The first section is around six kilometres in length and is on flat roads but the final two kilometres are uphill and it’s on the same roads that are used at the Giro dell'Emilia. Because it’s so short it’s virtually flat-out, but I struggle to see anyone winning other than Roglic or Dumoulin. There’s too much flat for a climber to win and the climb is short enough for those two to match the best riders uphill. They’ll have an advantage going into the climb and then they’ll just need to manage their efforts. I also can’t see anyone changing from a time trial set up to a road bike for the climb because if you change you’ll never gain that time back and your switch is going to cost you around 20 seconds. As far as any rider starting and finishing on road bikes, that’s only going to happen if a team rocks up in Bologna and has forgotten their time trial machines.
Overall though, it’s not a super technical course. I don’t think it’s going to matter too much regarding the conditions, but in terms of the overall picture, the results will provide a good indication of who is coming into the race hot. From my initial impression of the first 10 days, there aren’t going to be too many opportunities for the GC guys to really go head-to-head with each other. All the GC guys at this point should be within 30 seconds of each other.
Sunday, May 12, 2019
205km Bologna - Fucecchio
On paper, a sprinter will win this stage but they probably won’t do enough to take the maglia rosa, because in all likelihood, they’ll finish more than 10 seconds down on the time trial winner from the previous stage. That said, this is not an easy day. It’s 205km and both climbs in the stage have technical descents. There’s also a fair bit of deception here, because although the race doesn’t look that hard on paper if some teams really decide to light things up on the two last climbs then I struggle to see the pure sprinters hanging on. A lot will depend on whether the leader of the race is a real GC rider, and if he wants to defend at such an early point in the race. If the stage really opens up then it’s going to take a super strong sprinter with an incredibly dedicated team around him to win. What I also found was that the descent of the final climb of the San Baronto is super fast, so if a group is still clear at the bottom of the descent it’s going to be quite hard for the chase to become organized. Also, if that final descent is wet then it’s going to be really dangerous. It’s rapid and it’s technical. As I said, a sprinter should win on paper but it could be incredibly tough.
Monday, May 13, 2019
220km Vinci - Orbetello
Sprint stage. It’s a much less complicated stage than the previous day and the only real complication could come from the wind as riders will face some exposed landscape through the Tuscan countryside. We’ve used big chunks of this stage at Tirreno-Adriatico but the roads should be decent. The wonders of the Giro ensure that the surfaces around here are improved in the weeks leading up to the race. I’ve done the recon here before and made notes about the road quality but then I’ve turned up the day before the race and they’ve resurfaced any patchy sections.
Tuesday, May 14, 2019
235km Orbetello - Frascati
This is the first little test for the GC boys since the opening time trial. It’s another long stage of 235km and that’s even further than the first version of the stage that was included in the initial road book because the organisers have changed the last 35km. When you came into Rome on the original course you almost hugged the outskirts of the city but now they’ve brought the race a little further out before the run-in. The finish line has moved one kilometre further up the road from when I first looked at it and it’s a little uphill finish. A bit like the opening time trial, we’ll see who has come into the race on hot form and who is still lacking that little bit of punch. The finale is undulating with a few ramps on the final climb but what you also have to remember is that this stage is 235km and that’s a solid day in the saddle. If Valverde was here then this would have been a perfect stage for him but it’s also a stage for anyone who has a bit of a kick in their legs after a long day. We could see the first change in the maglia rosa.
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
140km Frascati - Terracina
I’ve checked out the hilly section at the start. This could be a day for the break, but I’d still put my money on the sprinters. The danger here is the possibility of open and exposed roads after the first 38km, and although it’s actually a relatively short stage we could have really aggressive racing, especially if there’s wind blowing along the coast. At the end of the day, it’s the Giro, so you can expect a surprise around every corner. Especially with the tight circuit finish.
Thursday, May 16, 2019
238km Cassino - San Giovanni Rotondo
It’s another really long day in the saddle and either a day of the opportunists, with final the summit 20km from the finish, or a chance for the GC guys to test each other. If you’ve got a strong GC leader in pink and they want to keep the jersey then you’re going to have aggressive riding in the final but it’s a real chance for a decent climber to try their luck. A GC team might let the right move go clear or we’ll see the GC teams ride the early breakdown, set a tempo into the final climb and then it will kick off. I don’t think it’s a hugely important day for the maglia rosa, not in my eyes anyway, because no real GC team wants to sit on the front for 230km on stage 6 of the Giro.
Friday, May 17 2019
185km Vasto - l'Aquila
I checked this out after Tirreno, and again, it’s not a super hard stage but it’s similar to stage 6 in that there are a number of possible outcomes. If the jersey changed shoulders 24 hours ago and a non-GC rider now leads the race then his team might feel more comfortable in chasing down the break and keeping the lead. The final climb with 40km to go is solid, but if the speed is constant and steady, you should have around 70 riders still in contention at the top. The finale suits riders with a little bit of a punch on short climbs but I can envisage the GC riders marking each other rather than really going after time.
Saturday, May 18, 2019
239km Tortoreto Lido - Pesaro
It’s another long stage but this should end in another sprint. At this point, though, the legs will be starting to hurt, because although we’ve not hit the real mountains, there are only a couple of days that have dropped below 200km. These are big days in the office. On this stage the wind along the coast it shouldn’t be a problem but there could be a slight headwind off the coast.
Sunday, May 19, 2019
34.8km Riccione - San Marino (ITT)
This is actually a time trial with something in there for everyone. There’s flattish terrain and then around 14km of climbing towards the finish which comes in the form of multiple ramps. My initial thoughts were that riders would change bikes and move to a road bike for the second half but the more analysis we do the more I don’t think that will be the case. Some riders might disagree but there are some downhill sections in between the climbs so you’ll lose 20 seconds on the change before hitting 50kph again on the short downhill sections. You don’t want to be on a road bike for those sections. Overall this first part of the race is one of the easiest openings to the Giro in recent memory but I know what’s coming from the time trial all the way to the finish, with all those mountain stages. It’s a race of two halves and the second part of the race is just relentless.