The Giro is entering its crucial part as the riders are facing the fight against the clock on the slopes of Polsa. The stage could prove to be decesive - due to horrible weather conditions the final mountain stages, where the race was supposed to be decided, are about to be called off. So is the chance of gaining time on the rivals and even with the new course - the riders cannot gamble and make calculations. RCS is working on plan B - the decision will be announced today but looking at the state of affairs on the slopes of Passo Gavia, Passo dello Stelvio and even San Pellegrino, I cannot see the possibility of the race going up there.
The time trial is 20,6 km long, the average gradient is 5,2%. The stage consists of two parts - 10 kilometers climb (avg. 6.6%) and 7 km climb (also 6.6%), separated by 4 km of "false flat" - bumpy part that seems to be an opportunity to rest for a while and catch one's breath. In fact, this part won't help riders much - not everyone likes to change the rhythm, once he finds the suitable one.
It would also be interesting to see how Rigoberto Uran manages - Colombian rider was flying on the first part of the first individual time trial before fading and losing 1:48 to Dowsett. His countryman Carlos Alberto Betancur is the next one to watch out for - he's currently holding maglia bianca - his aim in the race.
Majka and Niemiec
The purpose of this blog is to write more about Polish riders so that's what I'm going to do. Three guys from Poland are participating in the race, two of them place in the top10, marking the best Grand Tour for Polish cycling since many many years. Przemysław Niemiec (Lampre-Merida) and Rafał Majka (Team Saxo-Tinkoff) are riding a fabulous race and are on their way to achieve the results of their careers and beat Zenon Jaskuła's record in the Italian Grand Tour (9th in 1991).
They both know how to ride such time trials. Niemiec has been racing in Italy for years and fought against the clock on the uphill. He even won a mountain time trial on the slopes of Port de Bales, back in 2006, during Route du Sud, where he eventually placed 4th. You can find some more good results from such stages in his palmares.
Niemiec is riding the race of his life so far - he climbs very well and is clearly stronger and more consistent than his team leader Michele Scarponi. He also rides better in extreme conditions - snow and 0 degrees are nothing special for him - this is the racing (or training I should say) reality in Poland till late March.
Przemek also rode one of the best time trials in his entire career. "I haven't had such a good time trial since 2004" - 33-year-old said after the stage. "I got a green light from the team, I didn't have to save energy. Giuseppe Saronni was following me in a car and I rode 100%". Niemiec started the race as a gregario - he was supposed to help Scarponi and now is one of the leaders - sitting in the 5th place and trying to get himself a stage win.
What is Przemek capable of? Who knows? Before the stage he said that he'll go full gas again - no calculations, just giving it everything he possibly can.
Although Majka is a climber and the time trials are not really what he prefers, young Pole stays optimistic. 23-year-old planned to lauch attacks on Friday and Saturday when the long and exhausting climbs were supposed to decimate the peleton and make everyone, even GC contenders, suffer and once more realize that cycling is one of the toughest sports on the planet. The plan may fail in the wake of recent problems with the snow and more and more probable route change. The time trial? Going uphill isn't the problem for rider from Zegartowice. He lacks in experience, that's for sure, although he won the uphill prologue in 2010 during Carpathian Couriers Race.
What is important and you may have no idea about - Majka is not fighting for the white jersey. He concentrates on the general classification and would like to win the stage. As I mentioned, the task may be harder than expected due to the route changes.
The time trial starts now, time to work.