After returning from its 4 year hiatus in 2017, the Giro d’Italia Giovani (Baby Giro to its friends) begins on Thursday this week, in Forlí, near Imola. At 10 days and 11 stages, including the prologue time trial, the race has built on last year’s success and strong support from the Italian Cycling Federation. Up from 7 days in 2017, it is now the second longest stage race in Italy and will test every aspect of the riders’ abilities.
As the teams hide the pink bar tape in the back of the van and go on steady rides in the hills around Forlí, here are three things that EW is looking forward to from Italy.
Philipsen & Moschetti
Even six months ago, nobody would have listed Matteo Moschetti (Polartec-Kometa) as a bunch sprint specialist to watch. When Jasper Philipsen (Hagens Berman Axeon) won stage 4 to Gabicce Mare on last year’s Baby Giro, Moschetti placed ninth – his best result of the season.
Transformed by a move to the Spanish-based Polartec-Kometa team (the Contador/Basso backed feeder squad to Trek-Segafredo), the Italian under-23 champion has 7 wins to his name this season, including the ZLM Tour round of the Nations Cup
Philipsen, by contrast, won the points jersey here in 2017 in addition to his stage win. If under-23 racing sits below the public radar, the man from Mol announced himself to a global cycling audience by headbutting his way into the Quickstep leadout train at the recent Tour of California.
The sprint matchup in Italy will be an interesting one. Moschetti’s win count is boosted by having raced in the fringes of the Europe Tour (Rhodes, Antalya), although some weight is provided by wins in Normandy and ZLM. Philipsen has only two race wins to his name in 2018 but has been placing highly against WorldTour opposition in Belgium and the USA, as well as being listed as a “favourite” in every preview of every under-23 race this year. The chaotic finishes will suit Philipsen better, but if Moschetti can muck in then he has 4 sprint stages to find the line.
Prediction: elbows 2, headbutts 1.
The “real time” or “pursuit” final time trial has been the subject of fleeting interest in the mainstream cycling press (i.e. one or two briefly reported it) and the Garibaldi clarified some remaining questions around the drafting rules.
To recap, the final ITT is as normal for all but the top 15 on GC. Those top 15 are started in non-reverse order, i.e. 1,2,3,4 etc with the first man across the finish line at the top of Ca’ del Poggio winning the race overall. With no drafting allowed in time trials, the relatively narrow last climb could have been farcical if the whole race were conducted on these lines – all riders would have been required to keep 2 metres lateral distance and the open-to-interpretation rules about dropping back when passed would essentially mean the first man to the foot of the climb would probably win, with anyone else risking a DQ if they got too close without passing quickly.
But! It’s as if the organisers thought of this. The last 2km of the time trial are to be run under road race rules, with a bike change allowed (from a member of team staff on foot) at the base of the climb. Tactics familiar from the 2017 Bergen TT Worlds come into play, with the added complexities of road race tactics and overall time gaps. Add in the anticipated 10,000 spectators, a live broadcast on RAI and the organisers promise of “artists” being present, this will be a spectacular and memorable way to finish the race. It was that or a neutralised traipse around Rome, after all.
This isn’t a criticism of last year’s route, and the race had to re-establish itself on the calendar, but the event’s cheddar has matured for 2018.
Logistically the extra days, point-to-point routes one-road mountains make the race harder and more tiring: moving hotels every night instead of staying put for four makes life even more out-of-a-suitcase than ever; some days the soigneur who does the feed may not be able to pass the bunch again, and at Dimaro Folgarida it’s not really clear what anyone will do at the line other than volte-face where they stand and go back down again in reverse order.
Five ‘category 1’ climbs and the ‘HC’ climb of Monte Grappa, over 50% more time-trialling and fewer laps of circuits bring the race onto at least a par with the Tour de l’Avenir in terms of length, difficulty and scale. It might be called scale, or magnitude, or epicness if you’re American. Scala loosely translates as ‘ladder’ or ‘stair’ and this year’s race has climbed several steps up it.