The Inner Ring | Giro Stage 11 Preview

    A sprint by the sea.

    A Fond La Forme: it felt like no move was ever going to get away and UAE would just have to do a few turns on the front and voila, they’d reach the foot of the Bocca della Selva with only a small deficit on the riders away and could launch Pogačar.

    Only a bigger group fought harder to get away. Behind a decision was taken. Pogačar and others, both his team mates and rivals, stopped to urinate and that was it, the breakaway was going to be allowed to stay away. Name another sport where stopping for a leak is a tactical component.

    Up ahead Jan Tratnik attacked after the Intergiro sprint with 37km to go, using the descent to build up a lead. He’s not the ideal climber with a 20km summit finish coming up but all the more reason to use the roads before to construct an advantage. The final climb suited too, especially if he had the same climbing form on the slopes of Mount Fuji in in the Tokyo Olympics. Five riders chasing were Filipo Fiorelli, Marco Frigo, Andrea Bagioli, Romain Bardet and Valentin Paret-Peintre but Fiorelli vanished to leave four.

    UAE returned to the front to ride tempo but soon Bahrain took up the chase. This was an important moment because it shows they are out to defend Antonio Tiberi’s sixth place and his shot at the white jersey. The San Marino Sharpshooter is 12 seconds behind white jersey Cian Uijtdebroeks and he can hope to put him Uit de trui in this Saturday’s time trial. Beyond Bahrain and Tiberi’s plans it shows a whole extra team is ready to take on the race.

    Onto the Bocca della Selva and Frigo couldn’t sustain the pace. With 13km to go with Tratnik’s lead at one minute Bardet and Paret-Peintre exchanged words and seconds later “VPP” attacked with Bardet following. This distanced Bagioli but only just but probably had a psychological effect with the French tandem taking turns and slowly eating into Tratnik’s lead. With 3km to go VPP attacked Bardet to ride down Tratnik and go solo for the win, his first.

    The best stage so far? Certainly no quiet moments with attacks from the start but for a great day we would have had the “two races for the price of one” with some GC action. Not with Pogačar here though, just the subplot of Tiberi vs Uijtdebroeks.

    If Decathlon-Ag2r team boss Vincent Lavenu pinched himself while checking the weekly UCI rankings out yesterday morning to see his squad sitting second behind UAE, having even increased their lead on the rest, you wonder what he thought by the end of the day?

    The Route: a stage of two parts, there’s a hilly section inland which contributes to the 1850m of vertical gain before a long run along the Adriatic coast past endless beaches, campsites and seaside resort towns.

    The Finish: flat. After riding north-west along the coast and reaching Francavilla there’s a U-turn in town or rather two right hand bends that take the race onto a 3.5km long finishing straight.

    The Contenders: with a stage win and two second places Jonathan Milan (Lidl-Trek) is the deductive pick, these results helped by both his raw speed and a strong leadout which further boosts his chances today. Tim Merlier (Soudal-Quickstep) should be close but has been less consistent, a stage win but his best other result so far is fifth and he’s smarting from a crash in the time trial, even if he’s had time to recover these things can accumulate too during a stage race with lost sleep and inflammation.

    With the sprinters each having one stage so far, including the now-absent Olav Kooij who finally jumped the waterfall last Sunday in Naples but fell ill and is out. It could be Kaden Groves’ turn, especially if his Alpecin-Deceuninck team can concentrate their work in the final kilometres of the stage instead of the early part. Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain) is often close but has yet to win a grand tour stage.

    There are more chances but time is running out for Fabio Jakobsen (DSM) and Caleb Ewan (Jayco), star names but in the difficult position where repeat defeats create more doubt. However they have a chance and this supplies more teams to chase today.

    Merlier, Groves
    Bauhaus, Jakobsen

    Weather: sunshine and 23°C. Once by the coast there’ll be an onshore wind but cooling breeze rather than angry crosswind.

    TV: KM0 is at 12.15pm CEST and the finish is forecast for 5.10pm CEST. Tune in around 5.00pm to catch the sprint… but check in case they’re ahead of schedule.

    Postcard from Termoli
    The Giro goes past Termoli on the coast. Caleb Ewan won here in 2021. The race also visited in 1987 and the story of that year’s Giro was Stephen Roche’s win, beating his own team mate Roberto Visentini after a bitter internal team battle that makes Cane-Abel sound mild and Simoni-Cunego in 2004 look courteous.

    After the Giro Roche would win the Tour de France and then Worlds in the same year… something Tadej Pogačar wants to try too although arguably the Irishman had it a little easier the Worlds were held in August back then.

    That year the stage victory in Termoli went to Paolo Rosola, a solid sprinter who took 11 Giro stage wins during a road career between 1978 and 1990.

    But that wasn’t the end of his cycling career as he switched to mountain biking. Today plenty of riders retire from the World Tour and turn to the gravel scene but Rosola did this decades ago, even moving into mountain biking at time when the name itself wasn’t even settled. As you can see from the card above he joined the “ATB Bianchi Team”, ATB… as in All Terrain Bike. He might be the first top-level road cyclist to have made the switch… but informed readers might know better.

    Just like today’s gravel scene, in 1990 mountain biking was booming. You probably know the sport started out with a few riders adapting cruiser bikes, sometimes with motorbike parts, to race downhill in California at the end of the 1970s. By the end of the 1980s this had become big business. To open a road cycling magazine from 1989 or 1990 is to see plenty of road cycling in the reports but it’s all juxtaposed by adverts for mountain bikes and off-road equipment, not dissimilar from today where a road magazine has a lot of gravel bikes. These companies presumably started to need proven athletes to compete on their behalf and Rosola was ready-made.

    He rode for Bianchi and even competed in the Downhill Worlds in 1991 where his sprint might have been handy. Once he stopped pinning a number he stayed in the sport, lately as a manager on the Gazprom team. Despite plenty of wins on the road and beyond, he’s arguably the underachiever in his household as he’s married to Paola Pezzo, the mountain biker who won gold in the Olympics and Worlds many times.

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