Key Pre-Giro Thoughts from the Past Weekend
1) Simon Yates’s inconsistent performances added no clarity to the Giro d’Italia GC picture
- Simon Yates impressed by winning two out of the three stages at the Vuelta Asturias.
- But, the fact that he cracked in the heat and lost over 11-minutes Stage 2 and finished over 10-minutes behind race winner Iván Sosa in the GC, is cause for concern since we are less than eight days away from the first summit finish at the Giro d’Italia, where he is a major pre-race favorite.
- It goes without saying that this is not a great sign from Yates this close to a major GC objective, especially since his main issue in the past has been inconsistency and his ability to manage bad days, particularly at the Giro d’Italia (See: 2018 edition).
2) Fernando Gaviria is building form ahead of a Giro course that suits him
- Fernando Gaviria finished second to Sam Bennett at Eschborn Frankfurt one-day race, which shows is slowly returning to form after breaking his collarbone at Omloop.
- On paper this is good, but remember, Bennett, while formerly one of the best sprinters in the world, hasn’t been himself a sprinting force since 2020, which makes this result tough to judge.
- Most concerning is that while he had great success at the 2017 Giro d’Italia, he hasn’t won a sprint at a grand tour since the 2019 season.
What We Learned from the final stage at the Tour de Romandie
Stage 5 Time Trial:
Gino Mäder goes through the intermediate time check 17 seconds down on the current fastest time from Simon Geschke, but we can tell from his smooth pedal stroke and fairly small amount of upper body movement that he likely has something left in the tank for the second half.
And sure enough, he came over the finish line only 4.8-seconds behind Geschke, showing that he really smoked the climb.
After Aleksandr Vlasov changes over to a road bike for the climb from the time trial he started with for the few opening flat kilometers, we can immediately see that he is putting out serious power while staying seated and steady on the bike.
And at the top of the climb, we see that he has come in a stunning 31 seconds ahead of Geschke and is almost certain to win the stage and the overall.
As soon as Rohan Dennis wraps up the flat first 4 kilometers, his Jumbo team gives him a road bike from the top of the team car.
When we see him on the climb, he is sitting extremely far forward on his saddle, almost as if he were in an extremely aero TT position, and seems to be struggling to generate power on the steep slopes. Compare this position to Mäder and Vlasov who were sitting much further back on their saddles.
When Dennis gets to the finish, he appears far less powerful than Vlasov, Geschke and Mäder, and this is supported by his 2-minute deficit to Vlasov.
Juan Ayuso, the 19-year-old phenomenon on UAE, who was sitting in second place overall at the start of the stage, comes over the line 1’25 behind Vlasov and finishes in fourth place overall. While he and his fans might have expected him to win here, this result is very promising for a 19-year-old who was leading a stage race for the first time in his career.
Stage Top Three:
Aleksandr Vlasov +0
Simon Geschke +31
Gino Mäder +36
Overall Top Five:
Aleksandr Vlasov +0
Gino Mäder +50
Simon Geschke +55
Juan Ayuso +1’22
Ben O’Connor +1’47
1) Aleksandr Vlasov is a new rider since moving to Bora
- The 26-year-old Russian has been a promising GC rider for a few seasons now but has really blossomed since leaving Astana for Bora-Hansgrohe over the offseason.
- Since coming over to Bora, he has bagged the first two stage race wins of his pro career (Romandie in addition to Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana earlier this year).
- And most impressively, he looked absolutely confident in his eventual victory all week despite trailing Juan Ayuso and Rohan Dennis going into the final stage and instead of attempting a doomed attack on the final mountain road stage, he sat tight collecting time bonus seconds and conserving energy, knowing that the immense power he was able to produce from the saddle during the time trial would give him the best shot of sealing the victory.
- And in the end, he won a five-stage race (6 if counting the prologue) with an absolutely absurd gap of nearly a minute.
2) Dennis’ time trial meltdown mean Jumbo has gained an unconditional super-domestique
- I floated the idea over the weekend that if Rohan Dennis could seal the overall win on the final time trial, then he would potentially be the second-best stage racer currently on Jumbo.
- However, his TT collapse, along with looking slightly sluggish on the final kilometer on stage 4 and being beaten in the opening TT, shows that Dennis is just no longer the race winner he once was.
- But, this disappointing result will likely ultimately be the best thing for Jumbo, who can now slot Dennis into a super-domestique role at the Tour de France without facing any pressure to give him any sort of leadership position.
3) Gino Mäder continues to progress and impress
- The young Swiss rider impressed by riding to an unexpected 5th place overall at the 2021 Vuelta a España, and after his screaming ride on the stage 5 TT at Romandie to land in 2nd place overall, looks like he has progressed even further and proves he could be a serious Grand Tour GC podium contender in 2022 and beyond.
- This is also another big win for his Bahrain team (which also got 4th on the stage with Damiano Caruso) who have continued their fantastic run of results in 2022 after a turnaround 2021 season.
4) Simon Geschke is Cofidis’s savior
- The veteran German rider put in an absolutely monster ride to finish 2nd place in the final TT to finish behind Vlasov and jump a whopping 6 GC spots to land on the overall podium.
- This is a great ride for Geschke and portends a potential second-career Tour de France stage win later this Spring.
- But is an even bigger result for his Cofidis team who hasn’t won a Tour de France stage since 2008 and are in the midst of a WorldTour relegation battle and need all the UCI points they can get. Whatever they paid Geschke will already be worth it.
5) The calculus for the mid-TT bike change might be more difficult than many assume
- It ended up not mattering, but we can see from Jumbo’s TT to road bike change with Rohan Dennis’ that it can cost serious time and makes the calculus of whether to just start with a road bike more complicated than it is sometimes presented as.
- While most teams just see that other teams are changing and decide to do it, the actual numbers show us that a rider has to be riding significantly faster on their TT bike than their road bike on the flatter section and that the flat section needs to be long enough for these gains to cancel out the time lost in the change.
- Using Dennis’ change as an example, the change itself took around 12-seconds, and factoring in the speed lost from going from a high speed to a stop, waiting, and then starting back up again, it is likely around a 25-second total penalty.
- That means that to just break even over the four flat opening kilometers, Dennis would have had to gain 7-seconds per kms on the TT versus the road bike. This is certainly possible, but if there are any hiccups, that burden could increase up to 15-seconds per km, which means it isn’t the lock that many assume it to be.
6) Bora certainly had some hiccups, but in the end, executed a perfect WorldTour weekend
- Bora’s tactics looked sloppy at times, particularly on stage 4 at Romandie, but they walked away from the weekend 4/4 with WorldTour wins (Romandie stage 4, 5, overall & Eschborn-Frankfurt one-day).
- The sight of Vlasov furiously chasing after Sergio Higuita, and nearly crashing into him, on the finale of stage 4, was certainly a bit of avant garde team strategy, but by the weekend’s end, they had executed a perfect sweep and signal they are firing on all cylinders heading into the summer season.