Giro d'Italia

US pro roundtable: What is the decisive stage of the Giro d’Italia?

Joe Dombrowski and Larry Warbasse break down how the final week should decide the Giro d'Italia.

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The Giro d’Italia is in full-swing, and for the next three weeks, we will be covering every angle of the Italian race here on velonews.com. As an added bonus, there are eight American riders racing the Giro d’Italia, and they have lent us their expert perspective to help shed light on the event and all of its glorious trappings.

We have questions about the Giro, and our pro riders have the answers. So, every day throughout the Giro we will roll out a new Pro Roundtable, with expert perspective from two pro riders and one VeloNews editor. Today, the questions focus on what stage will prove decisive in the GC, and what is the biggest challenge to having the Giro contested in October. 

What is going to be the decisive stage this year?

Joe Dombrowski: Looking at this year’s Giro, I would say that stage 20 to Sestriere looks really hard. It’s the last road stage on the Giro, and there are like 5,000 meters of climbing. So if someone gives a “Hail Mary”, well that can be really decisive. But again, I would say that the hardest days are the days when it is not clear who is going to pull. On a sprint day, you know the sprint teams will control the race, and [if you’re] on a GC team you know the GC teams will take over. But those days when everyone gets a sniff that they could win if they get in the right break. Oh, those are hard days!

Larry Warbasse: It will be one of those stages in the final week. A lot of guys can get through the first half of the Giro no problem, then the fatigue starts to set in. When you start hitting those stages with 5,000m of vertical climbing, it doesn’t matter how easy you go. There is no hiding in those stages. Even if you get into the gruppetto, and you’re not recovering well, that is still a gigantic effort. In the Giro, you really have to measure your efforts and be careful about when you choose to burn matches. You have to hope to have good legs in the third week, and if you do, something big can happen.

Andrew Hood: We’re seeing some of the key mountain stages possibly being rerouted due to expected foul weather, and that’s a shame. It’s likely stage 20 will be rerouted over the Colle delle Finestre instead of hitting the high-altitude climbs on the French side of the Alps. Of course, as we saw in 2018, Finestre is certainly hard enough to do some damage. The threat of bad weather is going to have a major impact on this Giro. The top GC favorites need to get rid of João Almeida sooner than later, because if he keeps hanging around in pink, and one or two big stages get a major overhaul with the elimination of big climbs, he could keep pink all the way to Milano. Two remaining time trials favor him more than anyone else, so the final stage in Milano could decide everything.

How having the Giro in October instead of May changed the preparation?

Joe Dombrowski: I would say the fact that there was not a standard template about how to prepare. We didn’t really know how hard to train and when. How much should we train? What should we do? Normally before a grand tour, we have certain races that serve as a reference, but this year that didn’t exist. You come into it with a handful of race days that may or may not suit you and just have to hope that you are ready.

Larry Warbasse: This year, in October, it’s going to make a difference, because some guys could be tired, others could be fresher. It really depends on so many factors. I haven’t raced much, but I trained a ton. I trained more than I’ve ever had in my life. I think I’ve managed it well with the recovery, and took a rest when I really started to get fatigued. I think we’ve been seeing that in some of the earlier races. Some guys did a ton of training in the lockdown, and maybe too much. When you don’t have a specific target, guys kept pushing themselves. When you’re training, you really need to work in some recovery blocks as well. I think that’s why we’ve some of the riders struggling in the end of some of these races because they’ve been going full-gas for months without stopping.

Andrew Hood: The runway to the Tour de France was actually better compared to the Giro d’Italia, at least for riders who like to race to hone their final preparation. While the approach to the Tour had a fairly traditional buildup in terms of having at least a few good races with some bigger climbs before things kicked off in Nice, the Giro only had Tirreno-Adriatico. That race, of course, isn’t nearly as demanding, at least in terms of climbing, compared to the Dauphiné and some of the other French races. I think the riders who have experience and depth will be able to handle the Giro’s final week and have the best chance to win.