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Sunday’s stage 9 of the Giro d’Italia was the race’s second summit finish, but it was the first time we saw the big GC contenders really stretch their legs. On the steep climb to Blockhaus, Nairo Quintana (Movistar), one of the big favourites for this year’s Giro, attacked several times to get away from his rivals and win the stage. It saw the Colombian move into the pink jersey of overall race leader.
In the following article, former pro and Dig Deep Coaching co-founder Stephen Gallagher analyses the power data of riders at this year’s Giro d’Italia to see what was involved in posting a good result in the race’s second uphill finish.
The stage got off to a fast start with nine riders making the break and forcing the pace to gain an advantage. As we have seen so many times in the past, the effort required to get into the break was substantial, with a maximal effort needed just to be part of the move. We can see this from the data of Omar Fraile (Dimension Data) who pushed out some of his peak powers for the day just to get into the break.
Fraile made an initial maximal effort of 1,099W (15.92 W/kg) to attack the bunch before ‘settling down’ into a two-minute effort at 475W (6.88 W/kg). In the first 20 minutes of the break Fraile and his companions averaged a staggering 57.1 km/h, with Fraile pushing out 397W (5.75 W/kg) during that time. With many riders in the peloton not content to let the break get too far, attacks where happening behind in an attempt to bridge to the leaders.
One of the riders keen to gain an advantage before the final climb was the ever-aggressive Pierre Rolland of Cannondale-Drapac who had his eyes firmly set on a stage victory. The big effort from Rolland and his two companions to bridge the gap to the leading nine was something he may have regretted when he hit the lower slopes of Blockhaus.
To cross to the lead group Rolland had to make an initial effort of 460W (6.87 W/kg) for the first minute, before riding at an average of 387W (5.78 W/kg) for 42 minutes until he reached the leaders. I expect this was a longer chase than Rolland had envisioned and this would certainly have taken the snap from his legs once he hit the steep slopes of the final climb.
Compare this effort to that of eventual stage winner and GC favourite Nairo Quintana (Movistar) who rode the first hour of the race at an average of 192W (3.31 W/kg) which included a hard, five-minute effort of 340W (5.86 W/kg) to maintain his position within the peloton. This relatively high power-to-weight ratio for someone who is protected and within the comfort of the peloton shows how hard the early part of the race was.
Leading into the climb
With an advantage of only two minutes with 68km still to go — 13.5km of which was up the final climb — the break had little chance of success. The gap had been brought down by the work of Movistar who were riding hard for their leader Nairo Quintana. Veteran Daniele Bennati did the lion’s share of the work in the lead-in to the climb, riding at 317W (4.34 W/kg) for 34 minutes. Bennati had a peak three-minute power of 402W (5.5 W/kg) on a small climb just 15km before the start of Blockhaus. This effort was enough to peg the break back to just 30 seconds as they hit the lower slopes of the final ascent to the finish.
The race was thrown into chaos with a crash just 17km from the finish, caused by a police motorbike. The crash ended the overall ambitions of pre-race favourites such as Geraint Thomas and Mikel Landa of Sky, and Adam Yates of Orica-Scott.
The pace in the bunch did not let off with the crash and the bunch rode full-gas into the early slopes of the climb. This can be seen in the data of Sébastien Reichenbach (FDJ) who was able to stay at the head of affairs in the early part of the climb as the Movistar team set a very high tempo. Reichenbach went on to finish in a fantastic ninth place on the stage. To do so he had to ride the first 14 minutes on the steep section of the climb at 404W (6.31 W/kg) just to hold onto the favourites group.
The Attacks start
The incredible pace being set on the steep section of the climb saw the leading group thinned to just 12 riders, with Movistar pair Winner Anacona and Andrey Amador doing the damage. Anacona rode for nearly 20 minutes at 400W (6.15 W/kg), all in support of Quintana who launched his first blistering attack with about 6.5km to go and blew the race apart. At this point, Anacona’s job was done — his high tempo had weakened all of Quintana’s main rivals before the final attacks of the race.
Quintana’s last attack with around 5km to go saw him leave Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) who’d managed to bridge after the Colombian’s first attack. This time they couldn’t handle the pace and Quintana set off in his bid to take the stage win and the overall lead.
After his final attack Quintana put in an effort of 368W (6.36 W/kg) for 6:40. This was after having ridden the previous 25 minutes at approximately 6 W/kg. Being able to lift the pace to accelerate for one minute at 430W (7.41 W/kg) in his final attack and then settle down to a hard tempo of 368W is a very impressive feat, and proved too much for anyone else in the Giro to handle.
One of those who rode the climb without responding to the hard accelerations by Quintana was Tom Dumoulin of Team Sunweb. Dumoulin rode his own pace on the climb and maintained a high tempo which was enough for see him pass many who tried to follow Quintana.
At the time when Quintana made his move with 5km to go, Dumoulin was also setting a high pace on the steep, 10% slopes. For 6:34, Dumoulin rode at an average of 441W (6.3 W/kg) with a peak one-minute effort at 561W (8.1 W/kg). His pacing was similar to that of Quintana which is why he was able to claw back some time after initially losing ground in the early attacks further down the mountain.
The Dutchman went on to finish in an impressive third place, only 24 seconds down. Quintana won the stage and took the overall lead.
Stats from the Blockhaus climb
|Rider||Position/time||Climb time||Ave power||Power-to-weight|
|Sébastien Reichenbach||9th/+2:28||42:21||373W||5.83 W/kg|
|Winner Anacona||20th/+4:17||44:06||358W||5.51 W/kg|
|Laurens ten Dam||21st/ +4:28||44:18||372w||5.47 W/kg|
|Cristian Rodriguez||25th/+4:39||44:39||322w||5.46 W/kg|
|Michael Woods||33rd/+6:50||46:44||339w||5.38 W/kg|
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