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Giro d'Italia

Giro d’Italia stage 15 preview: Tired legs could pay the price as race returns to high mountains

Stage 15 to Cogne is not the most difficult mountain stage of the race, but it will be a tough test after the dramatic Turin stage.

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Many of the Giro d’Italia’s GC contenders will still be reeling from the high drama that was delivered Saturday in Turin, but they will have to put it behind them soon because the race is returning to the high mountains.

Stage 14 delivered a day of all-out action, thanks to Bora-Hansgrohe lighting it up early and continuing to push the pace right until the final climb. It left a demolished overall standings in its wake and put just a handful of riders within reaching distance of the pink jersey, which is currently being worn by Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers).

Sunday’s stage 15 is likely to be a bit more of a slow burn for the peloton, but that won’t make it any easier for the pack, particularly with the tired legs that many will have after Saturday’s brutal contest.

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“The difficulty of today’s stage makes it even tougher tomorrow. Many people have said that it’s not super hard tomorrow but it’s possible that it will be harder than today because today was raced full gas. The important thing is to recover in every way now,” Ineos Grenadiers sport director Matteo Tosatto told VeloNews.

“The final climb is not so tough, but before it there are two long climbs, steep climbs, around seven percent, so it’s not an easy stage.”

Carapaz goes into the final stage of week two with a small seven-second gap over Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe). João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) retained his third place overall after stage 14 but lost some time and is now 30 seconds back.

Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious) is the last rider in the GC fight to stay within a minute of the pink jersey and sits 59 seconds back. With the gaps in the GC much more spread out, the ride to Cogne could see a much more aggressive ride than seen in previous mountain stages.

The race will miss Romain Bardet (Team DSM), who abandoned during stage 13 after he fell ill, as his attacking riding would have spiced things up.

While the GC battle is likely to ramp up again, it could still be a day for the breakaway. As ever, it depends on how the GC teams decide to race it and how many riders get up the road. A big group will be too difficult to handle and would likely be allowed to go all the way, but a small one would quickly wilt under the interests of the teams behind.

The stage 15 race route

Starting out in Rivarolo Canavese in the Piedmont valley, the course will weave its way north into Aosta Valley, which sits nestled between the borders of Switzerland and France, and the finish line in Cogne.

Heat has played a big factor in the racing so far at the Giro d’Italia and the temperatures will remain pretty high at the start of the stage with the mercury hitting just shy of 85 degrees (29 centigrade).

However, that will drop as the altitude increases, though it will still be a balmy 70 (21 centigrade) at the finish line in Cogne, which sits at over 1,600 meters above sea level.

The opening half of the stage is relatively easy with fairly flat roads for the first 60 kilometers. Things begin to get lumpier as the peloton reaches Saint-Vincent, but it is the second half of the stage where the real dangers lie.

Ahead of the riders in the final 87 kilometers of the stage are three categorized climbs, including the first category Pila-Les Fleurs and Verogne, and then the second category ascent to the finish in Cogne.

Pila-Les Fleurs is a 12.3-kilometer climb that averages just shy of seven percent. Its toughest part comes about halfway up with a section of 15 percent to test the legs. It is a twisting climb with lots of hairpins but it straightens up and levels out as the top of the ascent approaches.

Next up is the Verogne, which is over a kilometer longer at 13.8km and fractionally steeper with its average gradient of seven percent. Unlike the Pila-Les Fleurs, the hardest section is early on with a stretch of 14 percent two kilometers into the climb.

The final ascent is the easiest with an average gradient of 4.3 percent, but it is also the longest at 22.4k. There are tricky parts with sections up to 11 percent, but it is likely to be a comparatively fast ride to the top.

As it was Saturday, a team with a mind for it could well put some GC riders into big difficulties.

“People don’t realise that stage profiles are one thing, but it’s how hard the boys race that hurts. So you can make a stage as hard as possible, but if they don’t race it, or what you perceive as easy as possible, and race it hard. The boys control how hard they go, and they’re the ones who have to recover and prepare for tomorrow,” BikeExchange-Jayco sport director Matt White told VeloNews.

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