Leaving the North
It’s Stage 3 and the 2014 Giro turned south out of Northern Ireland and headed for the capital of Eire. The rain may have turned pink in the time we’ve been in the north but no matter what color it is, it’s still cold and saps the strength of the riders. The race has left a lasting impression in Northern Ireland and once again every kid wants to ride a bike and win big races. Here’s how today’s stage played out before the riders transfer back to Italy.
It was all a blur out of the last corner.
Towards the Land of Guinness
As the race headed out of Armagh, a break set off up the road after just 6 km and it was no surprise that Maarten Tjallingii (Belkin Pro Cycling Team) was involved. He was in the break yesterday and wears the KOM jersey and he’d stated that he would try to get in another break today. The intention was to score points on either of the two 4th category climbs and he did just that by taking the Markethill Summit and, with no climbs on stage 4, he’ll wear the jersey at least until the end of stage 5.
His companions were Gert Dockx (Lotto Belisol), Giorgio Cecchinel (Neri Sotteli-Yellow Fluo), Yonder Godoy (Androni Giocattoli) and Miguel Angel Rubiano (Colombia) and they quickly built a lead of just over six minutes. Orica-Greenedge were policing the front of the peloton but just to keep things in order. With the threat of rain never far away, and even more rain forecast at the finish in Dublin, they didn’t want the break to get out of hand.
The day’s break enjoying the sun – it wouldn’t last long
Sunshine and Rain
As news reached the race that the rain had in fact started at the finish, although the riders were still enjoying some sunshine, Orica began to up the pace. The gap began to come down and by the time the race entered the Republic it was dropping steadily. With less than 100 km to go, and with the wind increasing in strength, the gap was now down to just over two minutes.
There was a crash at the back of the bunch with Belletti of Androni going down hard and looking to be in a lot of pain. Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) also went down but was soon back on his bike. After the nervousness of the crash the chase was relaxed and the gap went back out to 2:20. The sun may have been coming and going but the roads were now wet and the riders were torn between losing the rain gear and getting ready for an increase in pace or staying warm in the meantime.
As they went through the feedzone at Castlebellingham, and with riders keen not to miss their energy products, the gap to the breakaway went back out to over three and a half minutes. The race was now in County Lough and with nothing more than a blip on the horizon before entering County Meath and then on into County Dublin it looked as if the only deciding factor for the day would be the weather.
Just Rolling Along
For the next 35 km the gap hovered around 3:30 and the only real change was that Orica had been replaced at the front of the bunch by FDJ and BMC. Riders were moving back to the team cars as the rain was now on for the duration. At 60 km to go there was a big crash in the peloton that, most significantly, took down Michele Scarponi and a whole guard of his Astana teammates and others from Lampre and Androni. From the helicopter, it looked as if they were picking Astana riders out of the bushes on both sides of the road.
This was a significant enough crash that the word was passed throughout the bunch and the pace was turned off to allow the downed riders to regroup and rejoin. Of course, they were unaware of this in the break and the gap moved out to 4:15 with 54 km to race for the escapees.
Once Scarponi and his honor-guard made it back into the bunch they were keen to make sure they didn’t get caught up in any other drama and moved straight to the sharp end of the peloton. With a flattish run to the finish, and a slight headwind, Giant was now thinking of a sprint finish in favor of yesterday’s winner. Marcel Kittel wouldn’t say no to two wins in two days and with a sharp 90-degree turn before the finish straight, if it came to a sprint it would favor the strong men. Meanwhile former race winner Ivan Basso (Cannondale) stopped for a wheel change but it was quickly done and he was on his way again.
Doing the Math
With 40 km to go, and three minutes in hand, it was now time for the peloton to turn up the gas. FDJ was back pushing on the front alongside Giant and riders throughout the bunch were getting rid of their wet-weather clothing. The domestiques for the main contenders were doing their jobs and both Cadel Evans (BMC) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) had their guys keeping them out of trouble.
And then the second big crash of the day that brought down a number of riders. Nobody was really hurt but with the sprint teams beginning to wind up the speed of the peloton it resulted in a split bunch with the second group and stragglers working hard to get back.
Orica’s Michael Matthews enjoyed another rosy day in pink.
Sprint Trains in Control
Now FDJ and Giant were joined at the front by Omega Pharma Quickstep as their thoughts turned to their Italian veteran Alessandro Petacchi. However, they were fighting for space as all of the teams of the overall contenders were trying to stay as close to the front as possible to protect their men. It soon became clear that Petacchi was protecting his leader Uran and not solely looking out for himself.
As they came under 25 km to go, and with the break now at 48 seconds, Ben Swift (Sky) had to stop for a bike change. With the gap plummeting, it was going to be a big ask for the Englishman to get back on but then the sprint teams decided that they didn’t want to make the catch too soon and backed off a little. Swift was chasing on his own but his team car was doing its best to shield him while remaining onside with the commissaries and he was soon back in the fold.
15 km to go and the gap at 30 seconds meant that the sprint teams were about to push once again.
Outskirts of Dublin
Within the space of two kilometers the gap had been reduced to 15 seconds as the break looked just about spent. It seemed as if it was the GC teams that were pushing as Trek, BMC and OPQS drove on thinking about their overall chances and keen to avoid any possible crashes caused by the road furniture.
The pace was yo-yoing as the break hung in front of the bunch by no more than a handful of seconds; often looking back, they must have known that it was only a matter of time.
Pick Your Moment
As they passed through 10 km to go, and with the gap sitting at 15 seconds, the teams were all watching each other to see who would be the first to take up the running. Rubiano sat up in the break, deciding that it was all over but Cecchinel did the exact opposite and attacked off the front in an attempt to solo the remaining kilometers to the finish.
Dressed all in yellow, fluorescent yellow, it looked like Big Bird holding off a full pro’ peloton but they had him in their sight the whole time as they rode along the waterside and there was no way he could escape.
Irish Hopes Dashed?
At 6 km to go it almost all went wrong for Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) as he had to stop for a rear wheel change. His teammates were with him though and had him back into the bunch in no time at all with all of Ireland heaving a sigh of relief!
The sprint teams were now back in charge but this time it was Cannondale looking to their man Viviani. Giant also moved to the front again in support of Kittel and with the narrow streets and technical turns, the whole bunch was beginning to line out as riders fought to get to the front.
Into the final kilometer and Cannondale was still driving as Sky also began to move in aid of Boassen Hagen but it was Swift who hit the front at 100 meters to go. It looked to be between Swift and Viviani but then who should come to drive it home from about eighth place but the big German, Marcel Kittel. He timed it to perfection and came round Swift on his right-hand side to cross the line by no more than a wheel’s length.
For a man who had to chase back on after a bike change at 25 to go, Ben Swift gave Marcel Kittel one of his hardest-fought battles so far in his career with Viviani holding on for third place.
The riders get a chance to recover now as they transfer back to Italy and while they may be hoping for better weather they won’t find any better enthusiasm and support than they’ve had here from the Irish tifosi. There is still snow on the passes of the Stelvio and the Gavia though so they may be in for yet more cold weather.
Keep it Pez for all the latest action and Gord’s roadside report from Dublin.
Stage 3 Results:
1 Marcel Kittel (Ger) Team Giant-Shimano 4:28:43
2 Ben Swift (GBr) Team Sky
3 Elia Viviani (Ita) Cannondale
4 Davide Appollonio (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale
5 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ.fr
6 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team Sky
7 Roberto Ferrari (Ita) Lampre-Merida
8 Edwin Avila (Col) Colombia
9 Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek Factory Racing
10 Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin Sharp
General Classification After Stage 3:
1 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica Greenedge 10:06:37
2 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:00:08
3 Daniel Oss (Ita) BMC Racing Team 0:00:10
4 Luke Durbridge (Aus) Orica Greenedge 0:00:14
5 Ivan Santaromita (Ita) Orica Greenedge
6 Svein Tuft (Can) Orica Greenedge
7 Pieter Weening (Ned) Orica Greenedge
8 Cameron Meyer (Aus) Orica Greenedge
9 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:00:19
10 Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team