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SAN JOSE, Calif. (VN) — For the podium contenders, or those daring to fly the coup solo today, there is but one true mountain remaining in the 2013 Amgen Tour of California.
And it’s a big one. Saturday’s stage, from Livermore to Mount Diablo, ends on the hors categorie climb and represents the last real chance to knock Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) from what would be his first major stage-race win. The South Gate Road ascent of Diablo covers 16.4 kilometers at an average of 5.7 percent.
According to Strava, the rider with the best ascent time via South Gate is none other than 5-Hour Energy’s Nate English — so who better to ask about the climb that will make or break the Amgen Tour for van Garderen than the King of the Mountain holder. English has ridden the mountain in 45:28 at an average clip of 23 kilometers per hour.
“It’s a relatively long climb, 40-45 minutes. It’s not a climb for pure climbers necessarily. There’s even some flat parts in it. Definitely helps to know it because there are some parts where you can attack and get out of sight pretty quickly,” English told VeloNews. “The wind can definitely make a couple minutes difference. It’ll probably be hot this year. It’s a good day for someone like Tejay who’s not a pure climber but is super strong and is able to hold it if he attacks early. A lot of people want to win that stage.”
Well, KOM, would you like to win it?
“I would love to win it, but it’s a super tall order for someone like me,” he said. “[There’s] definitely people who can climb better than me. It’s one of my favorite climbs and I’d like to be in a position to go for it.”
The climb, English said, flattens out a bit in the middle, kicks up again, and serves up a harsh final 200 meters. The move, English and van Garderen said, will come in the final third of the climb.
Van Garderen said he knows the climb, and thought much of the same.
“I expect it to come on the upper third of the climb. That’s where it gets a little bit steeper. And that’s where guys are going to start to suffer a little bit. But I think we’re going to have a strong team,” he said. “I think the usual suspects are still the dangerous guys. Like [Michael] Rogers and [Janier] Acevedo and [Philip] Deignan.”
As it stands now, van Garderen has more than a minute on his rivals. Rogers is in second, but seems to know that unless he pulls off something brilliant, the writing is on the wall.
“It’s uphill, I know that,” Rogers said of the climb. “I only know what’s on the course profile. It’s not so steep, I’m not expecting it to be like the finish into Palm Springs. At the end of the day it’s the riders who make the race. I’m sure a lot of the guys who are just out of the top 10 will be trying to make an attack from a long way out. Obviously BMC have a very strong team, and all the reason in the world to defend the jersey, and I’m sure they will.”
What about Rogers’ GC chances?
“Every kilometer that passes and every second more makes it that much more difficult to close. I’ve been around long enough to know that anything can happen,” he said. “As I said it gets harder, and Tejay has a strong team. It will be hard to bring back, but it’s certainly not over until you cross the line.”
As for that KOM, English thought it may stand.
“If people are just looking around at each other I could see Acevedo going in the last half mile and holding it,” he said. “If it’s all together going into the climb there’s no reason to go hard from the bottom. I see it more likely playing out that people won’t go hard until at least halfway.”
- Great Bike. 56 cm. $450.
- by Molly Hurford I know it’s silly to be writing about this: blogging about being unplugged from phone, Internet and even cameras? A bit of a contradiction. But nonetheless, I learned a kind of cool “life lesson” out in California last month. Working from home (or wherever I am)...
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CHERASCO, Italy (VN) — The pink jersey hangs in the balance this weekend for a pair of decisive climbing stages on both sides of the Alps that could go a long way toward deciding who will win the 2013 Giro d’Italia.
Winter-like conditions could prove the spoiler, however. Snow on the upper reaches of the Col du Galibier, the historic climb in the French Alps that’s featured in Sunday’s 15th stage, might be removed due to unsafe racing conditions.
As for Saturday, organizers removed the climb and the descent of Sestriere because of snow.
If the weather holds, the weekend promises to be critically important for all the major aspirants for the pink jersey.
Despite the departure of pre-race favorites Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) and Bradley Wiggins (Sky), there are still a half dozen riders within striking distance of pink.
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) will be looking to consolidate his grip on pink. The Italian looks rock solid and takes the pole position into the Alps.
Though Wiggins and Hesjedal are gone, he still has to worry about Cadel Evans (BMC Racing), lurking at just 41 seconds back, and another half dozen riders all within three minutes of pink.
Nibali will want to take important gains in the two mountaintop finales. He can mark the wheels, then counter-attack to pick up finish-line bonuses, and carry a larger lead into Monday’s rest day.
Stage 14, Cervere to Bardonecchia (Jafferau), 168km
Riders woke up Saturday not really knowing what to expect. As of early Saturday morning, the stage was still on. Teams were preparing for the worst, packing heavy rain gear and warmer clothes for what lie ahead.
Organizers took out the Cat. 2 climb of Sestriere because of snow at the summit and concerns for the riders’ safety on the descent. Instead, the course, which was reduced from 180km to 168km, will take the riders through the Susa Valley before the final climb up Jafferau.
Jafferau has been overlooked in a Giro packed with legends such as the Galibier, Stelvio and Gavia. The climb becomes steeper as it progresses, with an average grade of 9 percent and ramps as steep as 14 percent. The final section of the climb is over unpaved roads, which could turn in a sloppy muck if it’s raining and/or snowing.
Who it favors: Of the favorites, this type of steep finale is tipped toward Rigoberto Urán. Now that he’s thinking big-picture podium as the new outright leader of Sky, Urán might be looking to defend his position going into the final week of the Giro. Puncheurs such as Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale), still hunting for a stage win after two second places, or impressive Polish climber Rafal Majka (Saxo-Tinkoff) could thrive in this terrain.
Weather alterative: Officials were also worried about the upper reaches of the climb at 1,908 meters. If conditions are deemed unworthy, the finish line will be moved to the Bardonecchi ski village at 1,281 meters. That would dramatically alter the dynamics of the GC battle, with a likely break winning the stage, and the GC riders having little terrain to try to make a move.
Stage 15, Cesana Torinese to Col du Galibier, 149km
On paper, this is one of the most dynamic and explosive stages in the Giro. The short stage features the long grinder over Mont Centis right from the gun. After dropping into France, the Télégraphe-Galibier double is sure to blow up the peloton. Worsening weather conditions are all but sure to eliminate major sections of the stage, however, throwing a wrench in the GC picture. If that’s the case, this weekend could be a bust.
Who it favors: The Galibier’s Cat. 1 grade favors the strongest, with Nibali poised to turn the screws to his rivals. On a weather-shortened course, it will most likely be an uphill sprint right from the gun. Anyone who is slow out of the gates could be doomed.
Weather alternative: Worsening conditions high in the Alps could see a dramatic reduction to the stage. Snow continues to pelt the upper reaches of the Galibier, and Mont Cenis is also looking spotty. A decision is due later Saturday afternoon, but it’s all but certain major parts of the stage will be eliminated.
The latest news is that Mont Cenis and the upper parts of the Galibier would be taken out. That means the stage would start on the French side of the Alps, climbing only the Col du Télégraphe in its entirety. Officials were looking to move the finish line at Plan Lachat, which at 1,962 meters is about 8km short of the Galibier summit. On Saturday, they were looking at an alternative even lower on the Galibier. That would create a short, unpredictable course of less than 70km where anything could happen. It could make for some exciting racing, but it would leave the GC picture unsettled until the final week of the race.
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