Giro Notebook, Stage 16: Stetina vows comeback; Meier hanging tough; snow for Stelvio

In our daily Giro d'Italia roundup, Peter Stetina laments his cold-weather bonk on Sunday, Christian Meier enjoys his Orica ride through Italy and snow is in the forecast for the final days in the Dolomites

FALZES, Italy (VN) – Peter Stetina (Garmin-Barracuda) is kicking himself for not eating enough in Sunday’s wet slog and dropping out of contention for the Giro’s white jersey. Stetina got the bonk Sunday and slipped out of the top 20 overall, down to 38th and 20:07 back.

“It was a case of having bad legs on a bad day. It was the wrong day to feel bad. We’ve been doing a lot of work early. The weather got to me and I just didn’t eat right. I was dropped with guys who are not even considered climbers,” Stetina told VeloNews. “It’s a huge shame, because you build your whole spring around the Giro and it’s down the drain with one bad day.”

Stetina was hoping to build on his excellent Giro debut last year, when he rode to 21st overall. He was quietly hoping for a top 10 this year and a shot at the best young rider’s white jersey. All that crumbled late in Sunday’s stage when he lost contact with the lead group ahead of the final climb.

“Who knows, maybe there is an escape in my future now, because I am now 20 minutes down,” he said. “I felt better on the rest day. It wasn’t like my form is gone. If you don’t have the form, you get dropped when it hits the fan. Where I got dropped, something was obviously very wrong. It was just not normal. I’ve got something to prove. I have a personal vendetta I have to score with this Giro.”

Stetina, who along with Christian Vande Velde is one of Hesjedal’s top helpers on the climbs, vows to be there to help him in the coming string of decisive mountain stages looming in the Dolomites.

“It’s all about Ryder anyway,” he said. “I hope to repay him for my lack of judgment in the cold and the eating. I didn’t adapt well to the cold and I am smaller than some of these other guys. I didn’t eat right and it was a stupid amateur mistake. I am not going to make that one again. Lesson learned.”

Stetina also said the Italians have underestimated Hesjedal and said the team is hoping to keep the Canadian in contention over the coming days going into the final-day time trial in Milan.

“We are so happy right now. From the beginning, Ryder said he’s come here to ride the GC. And the world has finally taken stock of that. We’re relaxed at the dinner table every night. We’re joking and we’re enjoying sticking it to Italy,” Stetina said. “Ryder is such a laid-back guy; he is really focused on what he needs to do. He knows that when he has the goods not many people can follow that.”

Meier enjoying ride with Orica

Christian Meier is making the most of this second grand tour ride.

The Canadian rode the 2009 Vuelta a España, but pulled out early to attend the funeral of his brother. With five hard stages still to go, his goal is to make it to Milan.

“The goal is to get to Milan. I crashed in stage 8. I went down hard; it was not a very nice crash. I had to get a few stitches in my knee. It’s not so bad now. It’s not in a flex point, so it hasn’t hurt me so much,” Meier told VeloNews. “It’s strange to be in a race and have stitches put in and taken out.”

The Canadian has been part of Orica-GreenEdge’s train that helped catapult Matt Goss to victory in stage 3.

“My job is to control the breakaways. That’s mostly riding at the front, from a long ways out. It’s always a role that I’ve enjoyed. The longer miles are better for me,” he said. “If there is a day when I haven’t had to do so much, at the end I try to help with 10km to 5km to go, to keep the guys at the front and keep them out of the wind. Then we still have four or five guys who are lead-out guys.”

Meier joined Orica along with compatriot Svein Tuft after he raced the 2011 season with UnitedHealthcare. Meier, who rode three seasons in Europe with Garmin, said he’s glad to be back on a major team.

“The team is fantastic. It’s one of the best teams in the world and it’s fantastic to be a part of,” he said. “Our Giro so far has been fantastic. We’ve had some good success with Gossie, Vaitkus and Impey. Our goals were in the first half of the Giro, in the flat stages. We’ve been working hard and I think it’s starting to catch up with us,” he said. “We hope to rebound for the final week and finish off the Giro.”

Despite the difficulty, Meier says his experience so far through the Giro has been memorable. That might change in the coming days, as he and everyone else will be struggling to survive the grueling topography of the Dolomites.

“I really enjoy it. The Giro has been spectacular so far. I’ve really enjoyed it. The courses, the towns, the crowds, have been unbelievable,” he said. “We focused all of our efforts in the first two weeks. That was always our plan. We have no GC rider. We really pushed it in those weeks. We have a few big days ahead. Hopefully we can get through it and we have a few guys to give it a good crack in the final time trial.”

Snow in the forecast for Stelvio

Despite snowfall on the highest peaks as a storm continues to blow through northern Italy, the Passo dello Stelvio climb remains clear and snow-free – for now.

A winter storm continues to broil across the Alps and forecasters are calling for cold temperatures and snow at higher elevations. Bormio – located 1,000 meters lower than the Stelvio summit – is forecasted to have to highs of 45 F and a 60-percent chance of precipitation on Saturday. Of course, the Stelvio summit at 2,757 meters, will be much colder.

Right now, race organizers are waiting to see how the weather will play out. They are convinced that even if it snows, crews will be able to clear the roads to allow the peloton to climb to the summit. Another danger, however, would be avalanches sweeping down the steep cliffs onto the road.

If the summit were neutralized, it would have a major impact on the overall battle for the pink jersey. Riders like Ivan Basso and Michele Scarponi are counting on the final uphill summit to take back time.

Race Notes

The jerseys
Stage winner: Jon Izaguirre (Euskaltel-Euskadi) wins out of a breakaway
Pink leader: Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) maintains :30 lead to Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda)
Red points: Mark Cavendish (Sky) continues to hold the points jersey, 26 points ahead of Rodríguez
Blue mountains: Matteo Rabottini (Farnese-Selle Italia) defends the KOM jersey
White young: Sergio Henao (Sky) leads teammate Rigoberto Urán by 1:01

Weather: Chance of showers
The pack will dodge a bullet Wednesday as forecasters are calling for fairly pleasant weather. Temperatures in the valleys should be in the high 60s F, with mostly sunny skies and only a 25-percent chance of afternoon showers. It will be cooler on the higher summits, with a higher chance of afternoon showers.

Tomorrow’s stage: Giants of the Dolomites
The 95th Giro clicks into high gear with the first of three high-altitude climbing stages across the Dolomites. The 186km 17th stage starts in Falzes and ends in Cortina d’Ampezzo, the premier ski resort of northern Italy.

In between are four rugged climbs, starting with the Cat. 2 Passo Valparola (14.1km at 5.5 percent) at 71km. That’s followed by the Cat. 1 Passo Duran (12.2km at 8.7 percent) at 127km. The next climbs come in rapid succession, with the Cat. 2 Forcella Staulanza at 148km before the day’s most difficult ascent, up the Cat. 1 Passo Giau (9.9km at 9.3 percent).

There’s a sweeping, 18km descent toward Cortina, where the final two kilometers swing up a pair of switchback corners. The stage might not crown the eventual Giro winner, but it will certainly reveal who has the legs to truly battle through the closing stages with a shot at the podium.