The Explainer – Giro questions to ponder
By Charles Pelkey
While doing Live Updates during the Giro d’Italia this past week, I am pleased to see that our new update tool offers readers the chance to chime in with questions during our coverage. We do get to read all of them and I often try to include some of them during our coverage. Unfortunately, I can’t answer all of them personally. But there are some pretty interesting questions posed and I thought I’d use this week’s column to answer some of the more common questions I’ve received over the last few days.
Looking at today’s stage profile (stage 11), is that first little climb ranked? If so, what is it? If not, why not? Who decides whether a climb gets rated and how do they rate them?
Anthony in Wyoming
It’s the promoter, of course, who attaches the rankings to a climb. The formula is somewhat subjective, based on factors such as length, grade and point in the stage at which a climb is tackled. A Category 2 climb at the beginning of a stage might be ranked a Cat. 1 were it at the finish, for example. Other times, the designation seems to depend on the whims of the promoter. There was a period of years in which the north side of the Col de la Madeleine was variously designated an hors catégorie and a Cat.1, despite the fact that it was generally in the same spot in those stages.
There is an old story that climbs were rated by the automobile gear in which early route planners had to drive a climb. That’s probably not the case, but the formula seems to work as a measure. I’ve seen cars burn out transmissions on hors catégorie climbs at the Tour de France, so I guess there’s no “zero” gear for someone to use on those.
A climb generally has to rise at least 70 meters in altitude in order to be given a designation, but even that rule is not cast in stone. There are days when a very slight rise may be given a Cat. 4 designation and others in which a whole series of climbs — some that might even rate Cat. 3 in many stages — are completely passed over by the rating system. A lot of it has to do with the KOM contest in mind. Promoters are loath to put too many rated climbs in a stage and they may simply place those at critical points in the day rather than rank every single rise in the road.
The Giro does tend to shy away from the use of hors catégorie designations, although there are extra points awarded for the rider who crests the Cima Coppi, the highest point in the three-week race.
Generally, points are awarded as follows:
Category 1: 15, 13, 11, 9, 8, 7, 6 5
Category 2: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5
Category 3: 4, 3, 2, 1
Category 4: 3, 2, 1
Are the organizers of the Giro awarding time bonuses for stage wins this year?
Yes, they are. In addition to the usual six-, four- and two-second time bonuses awarded at intermediate sprints, the top three finishers in a stage earn time bonuses of 20, 12 and eight seconds. The exceptions are time trials — both team and individual — in which no time bonuses are offered.
The Giro has generally relied on time bonuses, while the Tour has experimented with the idea of not awarding them.
I haven’t seen Milram do much in this race, or really since Erik Zabel retired. What does the sponsor of Milram do anyway?
Milram is a German milk products manufacturer, a division of Nordmilch, AG. The company produces cheese and other products, noting that Milram is “the best thing that can happen to milk.”
Like the company, the team is based in Germany. The cycling team, though, was organized by a group of German and Italian investors. The Milram Cycling team was formed in 2006, assuming the ProTour license of the old Domina Vacanze team. It has largely been composed of German and Italian riders, including the above mentioned Zabel and Italian super-sprinter Alessandro Petacchi, who left after his Salbutamol suspension.
I’ve got the audio turned up as I listen to the radio on my computer, and every time you update it makes an annoyingly loud clicking noise. Thanks for the coverage, though.
John in St. Louis
There’s a little speaker icon at the bottom of our Live Update window. You can turn off the sound there. Some folks like it, since it advises them of an update, and it sounds like they’re typing, which could satisfy a boss in the vicinity … assuming they are checking in on the race from work.
As I write this, probably in his hotel.
Actually, the reason I included this last one is because it is by far the most frequent question we get during Live Updates. Generally we try to focus on riders who are either in the break, have crashed or, if they’re a major player, trailing the peloton by significant margin.
In other words, it’s safe to assume that if you don’t hear about Armstrong, Leipheimer, Di Luca, Sastre, Menchov or other top riders, they’re probably doing okay and riding with the peloton.
Meanwhile, if you get the chance, check in with our daily coverage of each stage, which begins with our Live Update and will then include daily features, stage reports, results and photos. We all love grand tour season and we think it shows.
Have a good week.
Email Charles Pelkey