Stage 19 of this years Giro d’Italia from Venaria Reale to Bardonecchia was one of the most enthralling days of racing in the history of Grand Tours. It was the day the Maglia Rosa, looking so strong up until the days second climb, ended up losing 40 minutes to the stage winner and plummeted down to 17th place in the GC. The stage winner attacked with 80 km to go and rode over the Finestre, winning the Cima Coppi prize, Sestriere before scaling Bardonecchia. He did this all while riding alone and, most incredibly, turned a 3 minute 22 second deficit to the race leader into a race advantage of 40 seconds.
It was magnificent, vintage, Coppi-esque. We have only seen the likes in black and white, we were privileged to have witnessed such a ride. Said hardly anyone. Comparisons were made with the past, but not to the Golden Age of the 40’s and 50’s, the parallels were only drawn back to 2006.
So, since Chris Froome all but clinched his maiden Giro victory on Jafferau there has been plenty of discussion about whether his performance was credible or not. There has been claim and counterclaim about where he gained time and the tactics and work rate of his pursuers. I looked at the stage again and noted down the time gaps, as well as considering the form and style of rider he was up against. Hopefully this will contribute to the friendly debate about where Stage 19 should stand in the history books.
I welcome and comments about anything I may have missed or perhaps miss-interpreted but please keep it civil.
The Build Up To Stage 19
The time differences between Froome and the other major players of the day (Dumoulin, Pinot and Pozzovivo) after major stages of the race:
Froome had already lost time to Dumoulin in six stages and to Pozzovivo in five. He looked strong in the second Time Trial and climbed well the during the previous stage. Pozzovivo was racing as consistently as ever and unsurprisingly lost time during the Stage 16 TT. Thibaut Pinot’s form on the other hand had been more erratic and had lost 1 minute 33 seconds on the climb to Prato Nevoso on Stage 18.
The terrain the riders covered after Chris Froome attacked with 80.3 km of the stage left:
*Distances are taken from the route book. The distances given on the live TV coverage differed by up to 1.3 km until they aligned with 10 km to go.
- 5.7 km of steep climbing up to the top of the Colle delle Finestre which was the 74.6 km to go point.
- 11.2 km of steep descending off the Finestre to Pourrieres (63.4 km to go).
- 5.9 km of gradual climbing at the foot of Sestriere to Pragelato (56.2 km to go).
- 10.6 km of the major, steeper portion of Sestriere (46.9 km to go).
- 6.5 km of steep descending off Sestriere to Sauze di Cesana (40.4 km to go).
- 17.3 km more gradual descending to Oulx (23.1 km to go).
- 14.2 km of gradual climbing to Bardonecchia town (8.9 km to go).
- 1.7 km steep descent to the foot of the final climb (7.2 km to go).
- 7.2 km steep climbing to the finish.
How would the top four riders riders in the GC (ignoring Yates of course) be expected to perform in the circumstances they found themselves on such terrain on the third last day of the race.
His normal style of climbing on his own and at his own pace would have been in his favour. He does it regularly in mountain stages, once he uses up his domestiques, but never for such a long distance. He is a superb time-trialist and descender so the whole of the stages terrain would have suited him. In the past three years he has 4 Grand Tour wins, 1 second and 1 DNF so excels at going deep into the third week. There were certainly questions about his form in this Giro though.
Great diesel climber, fearless descender and World Time Trial Champion, the route was made for him. He looked strong through the whole race but has always had problems in the last week of GT’s. In the past three years he has 3 DNF’s (one down to a broken wrist), 1 6th at the Vuelta where he had one terrible day on the penultimate stage. He was the defending champion but in last years race he lost 3 minutes 19 seconds to Nairo Quintana in the final week (perhaps managing the gap to the Colombian) before overhauling him in the final day Time Trial.
Great climber, blows hot and cold at time trialing and has had major problems with descending in the past. In the past 3 years he has one 3rd place in Grand Tours, 2 DNF’s and was 4th in last years Giro.
Terrible at long time trials but is a superbly consistent climber who doesn’t have many bad days on his favourite terrain. He has though spend most of his days in the middle of the GC group and wouldn’t often have had to lead a long chase. In the last 3 years? 6 Grand Tours. 2 DNF’s, 33rd, 20th, 11th and 6th.
What Happened On The Stage And The Time Gaps
(Distance are Froome’s distance to the finish)
Climb to the Finestre
- 81.1 km. Froome is on the radio and Kenny Ellisonde drives hard setting up the attack.
- 80.7 km. The peloton splits up.
- 80.4 km. Pozzovivo is dropped.
- 80.3 km. Froome attacks.
- 79.3 km. 14″ Dumoulin. 43″Pozzovivo. Reichenbach is dropped from the Dumoulin group.
- Dumoulin and Pinot share the riding in their group and Pozzovivo leads his.
- 73.5 km. 37″ Dumoulin. 2’15” Pozzovivo. Pinot needs to change his bike but his group loses no time.
- 73.3 km. 38″ Dumoulin. 2’12” Pozzovivo. Froome reaches the summit.
Steep descent to Pourrieres
- Dumoulin leads his group.
- 71.7 km. 50″ Dumoulin. 2’14” Pozzovivo.
- 68.9 km. 1’00” Dumoulin. 2’33” Pozzovivo. Dumoulin group sits up for Reichenbach.
- 65.0 km. 1’20” Dumoulin. 2’30” Pozzovivo. Reichenbach gets back on (20 second lost).
- 62.1 km. 1’30” Dumoulin. 2’38” Pozzovivo. Froome in Pourrieres.
Gradual rise to Pragelato
- 56.1 km. 1’51” Dumoulin. 2’51” Pozzovivo. Froome reaches Pragelato.
Steep part of Sestriere
- Dumoulin and Reichenbach share the riding in their group while Pozzovivo now has the help of Bennett and O’Connor
- 46.0 km. 2’41” Dumoulin. 4’00” Pozzovivo. Froome at the top of Sestriere.
Steep descent off the mountain
- 37.5 km. Reichenbach is dropped.
- 36.8 km. 2’42” Dumoulin. 5’18” Pozzovivo. Froome reaches Sauze di Cesana.
Gradual descent to Oulx
- 35.1 km. 2’43” Dumoulin. 5’20” Pozzovivo. O’Connor falls.
- 30.9 km. 2’55” Dumoulin. 5’34” Pozzovivo. Reichenbach gets back on.
- 22.4 km. 2’59” Dumoulin. 6’17” Pozzovivo. Froome reaches Oulx.
Gradual climb to Bardoncchia town
- 21.8 km. 3’01 Dumoulin. 6’19” Pozzovivo. Bennett and Pozzovivo start arguing and soon Pozzovivo is hanging off the back of the group.
- 15.8 km. 3’08” Dumoulin. 6’39″Pozzovivo. Pozzovivo is back working.
- 13.4 km. 3’15” Dumoulin. 7’07” Pozzovivo. Only Dumoulin and Reichenbach have been taking turns.
- 9.8 km. 3’32” Dumoulin. 7’30” Pozzovivo. Pozzovivo struggling again.
- 8.9 km. 3’30” Dumoulin. 7’38” Pozzovivo. Froome reaches Bardonecchia.
- 7.2 km. 3’21” Dumoulin. 7’59” Pozzovivo. Froome reaches the foot of the final climb.
The final climb
- Reichenbach drove up the climb for a couple of kilometres before Pinot set off and Dumoulin dropped off.
- 0.0 km. 3’07” Pinot. 3’23” Dumoulin. 8’29” Pozzovivo.
Where did Froome gain time on Dumoulin?
- Steep climbing +1’30”.
- Steep descending +44″.
- Gradual climbing +52″.
- Gradual descending +17″.
It is harder to see exactly where Pozzovivo lost time as he was so far back but about half of the 8 plus minutes was lost between the top of Sestriere and the foot of the final climb and a quarter as he climbed up the Finestre.
So that are the facts, now it’s over to you.