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Il Giro d’Italia 2014 – Stage 19; Bassano del Grappa – Cima Grappa (ITT), 26.8 km. Nairo Quintana Excels

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Bassano del GrappaQuintana reminds us of the status quo; Aru promises much for the future and steps onto the podium; Uran is solid; Rolland is for real; Pozzovivo and Majka are good but not brilliant; Kelderman, Evans, Hesjedal and Evans all have ‘sore ones.’

And nice to see Pellizotti right there in the hot seat for a while.

To put today’s mountain time trial percorso into perspective, the highest main road in Britain is the Cairnwell Pass between Glen Shee and Braemar – where the Devil’s Elbow was – at 670 metres.

The famous ‘Pass of the Cattle’ at Applecross is 626 metres.

The summit of Ben Nevis is at 1344 metres.

Today, the race started at 123 metres above sea level and finished at 1,712 metres above sea level – that’s an elevation of 1,589 metres.

The climbing part of the race went on for some 12.5 miles with Quintana’s average speed – but with four/five miles of flat road in there which the ‘Bigs’ were covering at around 27 mph – an average 16.5 miles per hour.

Last finisher was Jeffry Johan Corredor (Colombia & Colombia) @ 18:00 minutes.

Enough said, I think?

Bassano del Grappa
Nairo Quintana is riding clear of his challengers. Photo©Gian Mattia D’Alberto

Bassano del Grappa
Quintana concentrates before the start. Photo©Gian Mattia D’Alberto

As a matter of interest on the parcours, our track guru, Kris tells us that former world hour record holder and multiple world pursuit champion, Hans Henrik Orsted (Denmark) used to train on the velodrome at Bassano (at the base of the climb) – and broke the world sea level (less than 600 metres altitude) hour record there in 1985 with 48.145 kilometres – then would ride back to his hotel at the top of the climb after track training.

And if you’ve ever wondered why more riders don’t go after the hour record – that’s why, the training you have to do is brutal.

And fridges contain much more mundane things than they used to for more recent hour record ‘attempters’ – and on that happy subject…

The doubters are already insinuating that Aru is kitted up and perhaps Quintana, too?

Too good, too soon’ are the words being used.

Bassano del Grappa
Fabio Aru. Photo©Gian Mattia D’Alberto

Personally I think the results are all believable; Quintana was second in le Tour, after all – and Uran was second here at the Giro, last season.

Aru hasn’t just ‘appeared’ – he was the best U23 rider in Italy and showed great promise last season; he was one of the ‘last men standing’ on the Tre Cime despite working for Nibali all day.

Perhaps it’s the fact he rides for Astana – ‘Vino; and we all know what those dodgy Easterners are like‘ – this means he’s ‘under suspicion?’ which for me borders on racism.

I would point out that as far as I’m aware, Eastern riders haven’t lost a single Grand Tour because of being declassed for being (+) whilst the ‘Land of the Free’ has a score of eight and us Brits are down a World Time Trial Championship for the same reason.

The example which makes me shake my head is Ondrej Sosenka, the current holder of the ‘Athlete’s’ hour record – a qualifying sentence always has to be inserted to the effect that Sosenka “subsequently failed a dope test;” but few bother to say that it was some five years after his hour record ride.

However, no one adds similar caveats to previous incumbents of ‘the hour’ Fausto Coppi, Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx or Francesco Moser.

And there’s plenty more we could say off the record about ‘other recent hour record holders’ but we couldn’t afford the legal bills.

But I digress and perhaps time will prove me wrong and these up and coming Grand Tour riders are cheating bastards, too – but I certainly hope not.

Bassano del Grappa
Quintana showed who is the strongest rider. Photo©Fabio Ferrari

Bassano del Grappa
Many riders changed bikes during the stage. PhotoMarco Alpozzi

A feature of the race was that most of the top men on the day changed bikes – starting on a time trial machine then changing to a road bike as the climb began to bite.

The thought process was that even allowing for the change, the TT bike was worth 20 seconds.

Something that’s impossible to factor in though, is the change of rhythm – an aspect which Ryder Hesjedal was sensitive to, the big Canadian started on a road bike with ‘clip-ons’ but ironically would have to change bikes anyway when he dropped a chain.

Bassano del Grappa
Nicola Ruffoni. Photo©Fabio Ferrari

Bassano del Grappa
Tosh Van Der Sande. Photo©Fabio Ferrari

Bassano del Grappa
Andrey Zeits. Photo©Fabio Ferrari

Bassano del Grappa
Rigoberto Uran. Photo©Gian Mattia D’Alberto

Another Kris story I was reminded of was that of Peter Winnen’s (Capri Sonne & The Netherlands) seventh placed ride on l’Alpe d’Huez in the 1982 Tour de France.

The Dutchman had won on l’Alpe in 1981 and had the head and legs to do so again in ’82 but at the foot of the climb his manager Walter Godefroot insisted that Winnen change to his super light time trial bike.

Winnen reluctantly did so but had lost his rhythm, couldn’t settle on the strange bike and ended up a distraught seventh on the stage.

A day later, with his head clear and an “I’ll show them” mentality he was first over the line in Morzine.

Bassano del Grappa
Peter Winnen.

Saturday sees the final obstacle of the 2014 Giro – the mighty – Viktor might say ‘ridiculous’ – Monte Zoncolan.

There are three possible approaches to the Zoncolan, the stage takes the hardest (naturally) from the Ovaro side.

From the town to the summit some 10.1 kilometres away the road rises 1200 metres; bear in mind that the mountain time trial’s elevation was 1589 metres but that was over double the distance and that will give you an idea of the gradient.

There are ramps of 16, 18, 20 and 22% – winner here in 2003 and 2007 Gilberto Simoni described it as ‘mortifying, a slow steady execution.’

Quintana has the race won – but if Aru rides like he did in the time trial then it could be third spot for Uran.

‘Ridiculous’ or not, it should be quite a spectacle.

Ciao, ciao.

Bassano del Grappa
Quintana needs to put it all on the line tomorrow to make sure of the win. Photo©Marco Alpozzi

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

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