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Race Design Thread

A place to discuss all things related to current professional road races. Here, you can also touch on the latest news relating to professional road racing. A doping discussion free forum.

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Re: Race Design Thread

15 Nov 2017 21:34

Trka Kroz Bivšu Jugoslaviju

Stage 2: Ljubljana - Kranjska Gora, 169km


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GPM:
Kladje pri Cerknem (cat.3) 10,2km @ 3,3%
Prelaz Vršič (cat.1) 11,0km @ 8,2%

Many long-form stage races will ease the competitors into the race, but here I am going straight to the well; the sprinters may have had to work hard for it yesterday but they got their one and only chance to win the leader's jersey, because we're in Slovenia, and one thing about Slovene geography is that not much of the country is especially flat, even if the organizers of the Tour de Slovénie would have you believe otherwise. Realistically, however, we also aren't going all out with the kind of multi-mountain odyssey that would be possible in the Julian Alps of the former Yugoslavia's most northerly successor state, because it's still only day 2 of the race. Therefore while we do have a marked, clearly GC-impacting climb on the menu, it is the only significant mountain of the stage, and it is also followed by a descent finish.

Such early MTFs are of course not unknown to racing - the Österreich Rundfahrt has frequently had Kitzbüheler Horn on stage 2, the Dauphiné a few years ago placed the Col du Béal MTF on the second stage, and one year in Austria they even had a HC MTF on the very first stage, to Kühtaisattel back in 2013 during Riccardo Zoidl's breakout season. Sure, LS, you might say, but those are one week races, your Yugoslav race is two and a half weeks long! I acknowledge your argument and counter with the 2013 Vuelta, which had the Monte da Groba MTF on the first road stage. We've got some way to go before we reach our decisive mountain, however, as we're travelling around the Slovene republic on our way to one of the former Tour of Yugoslavia's favourite stomping grounds, the northwest Slovene region of Gorenjska.

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Our first notable stop-off is a very early - less than 20km into the stage - intermediate sprint in the town of Škofja Loka. A scenic, red-roofed, white-walled Alpine town with one of the best-preserved medieval centres in the country, it played host to the local Passion Play, the oldest known Slovene play, annually on Good Friday. Coming so soon into the stage, it will be interesting to see if the intermediate prime is contested and, if so, by whom, as sprinters will probably not care about virtual yellow with Prelaz Vršič to come, but GC men may not want to show their hand too early; nevertheless, it's close enough to the start that they could prevent a break from going if somebody with the skillset of a Cadel Evans or Alejandro Valverde is on the startline, legitimate GC contenders who have a strong enough sprint that if the specialists aren't contesting it they can get some free bonus time.

From there we head through the valleys that take us from Škofja Loka province and into Idrija's municipality, taking us into the Alps proper this time. Our actual introduction to the mountains is far from intimidating; the climb above the Cerkno ski resort is very gradual, and so despite being over 10km in length has only been granted cat.3 status. It may dislodge some sprinters from contention but that's all, and they wouldn't have been genuine contenders for the stage anyway. After the ascent there's simply a descent which is notably steeper than the climb, but only features a couple of technical challenges near the top before becoming a fairly trouble-free descent as we head from Notranjka to Primorska, or Littoral, Slovenia. A ski town by winter, in the summer this is a lush and verdant area which will provide a wonderful backdrop for the riders.

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There then follows a long flat stretch through the valley carved out by the Idrijica river, which takes us through chiselled mountain terrain towards the feed zone at Tolmin, another natural beauty spot; while perhaps Vintgar is the most famous Slovene gorge, the Tolminka gorge is arguably no less beautiful and offers a much quieter experience, although unless you're travelling from Trieste province or are within Slovenia already it is perhaps more difficult to access. It has incredible steep sides and mineral-rich water that keep it a bright blue colour that's simply photo-perfect in most weather situations.

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Here, we're in terrain I travelled by the opposite direction in one of my Tours de Slovénie, coming from the north over Vršič to then loop northwards again over Bohinjsko Sedlo and the Pokljuka plateau. Believe it or not, unlike every other trip to Slovenia I've had in this thread, there is to be no biathlon connection today, nor is there to be the steep and difficult Kolovrat climb, because, hey, it's still day 2. Therefore we continue through the valley road unencumbered through the Primorska region, although after the second intermediate sprint in Kobarid, under the watchful eye of its famous mountaintop church, a town famous for cliff diving and for a brutal two year conflict between Italy and the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy in World War I, the road starts to angle upwards again, with some uncategorized, gradually ascending rolling terrain for the next 30km or so. And then, things get serious from a cycling perspective.

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Prelaz Vršič is probably the most famous cycling ascent in Slovenia, dividing the Littoral Primorska region and the Gorenjska region, also known as Upper Carniola and essentially making up the mountains surrounding the long valley from Ljubljana to the Italian border near Tarvisio. This region contains many of Slovenia's most fabled spots, both as tourist attractions - the beautiful lakes of Bled and Bohinj, the preserved medieval centre of Radovljica, as transport hubs - the major town of Kranj and the tri-state border station of Ješenice - and for sporting purposes, with what was previously the world's largest ski jump at Planica, the biathlon centre at Pokljuka, and the Alpine station at Kranjska Gora, each hosting an annual round of their respective World Cups and serving as the main training centres for the national teams. Known to the Italians as Passo della Moistrocca, and to the German-speakers of Austria as Werschetzpass, it has strangely passed into general parlance as the mixed term Passo Vršič, using the Italian descriptor and the Slovene toponym, which is a diminutive of Vrh, "summit".

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Under the watchful eye of Slovenia's national emblem, the three-peaked Triglav mountain, this 1611m pass is a strip of winding tarmac with occasional sections on smooth, well-aligned cobbles, along a ribbon known as Ruska cesta ("Russian Road") in honour of the forced labourers captured from Russian forces at the Battle of Isonzo, who constructed the road over an old, destroyed trade route at the behest of the Austro-Hungarian forces. It's a beast, and is the hardest climb of the race not considered to be HC. That is mainly because it is only 11km or so in length as a 'real' climb; another couple of kilometres at 8% and we'd really be in business, Alpe d'Huez style. By using the Coeficiente APM, we arrive at a difficulty rating of 242 for the final 11km; the PRC guys often use 240 or 250 as the cut-off for HC, so you know we're talking toughness here.

I would say that the closest comparison to Vršič from the Trenta valley that cycling fans may be more familiar with would be the Col de Menté by its harder, western face. In fact, in its characteristics from each side the Slovene monster resembles the Pyrenean challenge. The gradient is relatively consistent but it is consistently steep, being mostly around the 9% mark; coming off an almost complete cold open, in order to make this count, riders will want to have their teams hammer the tempo right from the bottom, and shed as many people as possible to prevent riders from catching back on on the descent into Kranjska Gora. Vršič was a common climb in the Tour of Yugoslavia, signalling the entry into the Gorenjska region when the race was spending time in the north of the country, and although its thunder has been stolen somewhat by the Rogla climb over near Maribor in recent years, that tradition was carried on by the Tour de Slovénie where instead of as a pass it was used as a mountaintop finish, such as for example in this 2013 stage which was won by Croat veteran Radoslav Rogina, the most recent summit finish there. Back through the 90s and early 2000s it was an annual queen stage extravaganza, with winners including Jure Golčer and pre-fame Przemysław Niemiec, and, most notably, in 2007 a young Italian upstart by the name of Vincenzo Nibali.

In recent years, being usurped by Rogla and with Gorenjska focusing more of its regional sports funding towards its multitude of wintersport needs, the climb has fallen off the menu; it has also somehow never been climbed in the few times the Giro d'Italia has been in the vicinity, which is a strange oversight. Nevertheless, the fact that it has fallen from favour makes it all the more interesting to include here, especially as it's in that sort of role of sorting the contenders from the pretenders without completely annihilating the field (which is why it's effectively a one-climb stage). The descent is also technical - very technical in fact, including scores of hairpin bends, lacets, twists and turns, so while it's very possible that the favourites may lay down their arms on the way down the climb, for those who are dropped to make it back to the others will take some effort that they probably would rather not expend. The first part of the descent is quite steep but it becomes more gradual, though while the road is sufficiently wide to take safely the cornering doesn't let up and continues all the way to the outskirts of the finishing town.

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I really was tempted to continue a little way west in the valley to put a finish up a small punchy climb to Planica ski jump, but I pulled that same type of finish in yesterday's stage, and also Kranjska Gora is a more realistic stage host, last hosting the Tour de Slovénie in the 2007 Vršič stage, but despite its meagre population easily able to handle the trappings of the race. That's because every year, Kranjska Gora hosts the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup, usually towards the end of the season due to the comparatively reliable snow at that stage. Due to relatively small slope size, the typical race menu is for Slalom and Giant Slalom, and curiously while the men tend to race Kranjska Gora, the women tend to not hold a round here, instead the Slovene round of the women's calendar is at Maribor-Pohorje; I'm not sure if this is the specific reason, but the fact that many of Slovenia's most well-known female skiers in recent years - most notably Tina Maze and Ilka Stuhec - are from nearby to Maribor may play a role in that division.

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For logistic purposes, also, the proximity of Kranjska Gora to other spots rich with tourist activity and hotel infrastructure, such as Bled, Radovljica and Ješenice - or even, given this is post-Communist-era racing, Tarvisio or Villach - means that there should be little problem with hosting here, and means that apart from the last 2km or so the descent runs right to the line, with the final summit just 12km out. This will be a keenly-fought stage as the riders get their first chance to duel - but at the same time, do the GC men really want the jersey now and to have to defend it for 15 stages? And yet, some riders peaking for later in the race may not be at their best on the Vršič climb, and so if you don't take time on them now you may regret it in the coming days and weeks. This will be the quandary they find themselves in, and should therefore help make this an intriguing first GC-relevant stage - part of the benefit of having such a mountainous area at the periphery of the country's geography, if you like - difficult to include all of the relevant areas while slow-boiling the race pacing...
User avatar Libertine Seguros
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15 Nov 2017 22:43

Great job, a Kranjska Gora finish is always great.
I once created a Tour of Slovenia that finished with a short Kranjska Gora-Kranjska Gora stage as the final stage, Vršic from North, then
Passo del Predil/Predel, down to Tarvisio and over the Austrian border and then Wurzenpass/Korensko Sedlo from the steep side before the final descent.
User avatar Mayomaniac
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16 Nov 2017 00:05

@railmix

Obviously it's possible to do other things. I have a 23km Roubaix lap as well that could be used, but I wanted to use one of the famous 5-star sectors. Carrefour, Arenberg or Mons-en-Pévèle. Keeping it inside Belgium and going northwards to Kortrijk/Oudenaarde and doing cobbled climbs as a first lap would also be feasible, but the terrain of the Tournai lap wouldn't reflect the earlier terrain in such a case. Doing a bit of a PR homage was the most thrilling for me at least. There are many options around there though.


Great Giri btw, and Kranjska Gora is excellent. So many lurkers around here and it's only other designers commenting on each other in a massive circle (do I even dare finish this sentence?). It's nice to see the thread so active now though. There's not many better things to do during off-season anyway.
User avatar jsem94
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Re:

16 Nov 2017 07:39

jsem94 wrote:@railmix

Obviously it's possible to do other things. I have a 23km Roubaix lap as well that could be used, but I wanted to use one of the famous 5-star sectors. Carrefour, Arenberg or Mons-en-Pévèle. Keeping it inside Belgium and going northwards to Kortrijk/Oudenaarde and doing cobbled climbs as a first lap would also be feasible, but the terrain of the Tournai lap wouldn't reflect the earlier terrain in such a case. Doing a bit of a PR homage was the most thrilling for me at least. There are many options around there though.


Great Giri btw, and Kranjska Gora is excellent. So many lurkers around here and it's only other designers commenting on each other in a massive circle (do I even dare finish this sentence?). It's nice to see the thread so active now though. There's not many better things to do during off-season anyway.


You could have used the now defunct 5* cobbles of the chemin des postes near Valenciennes (and use that city as host for the WC). Chemin des postes was the first main sector until well into the 90's and has been used on a couple of other occasions since. Its total length is 3.9 km, with the first 1.5km false flat uphill. And it can be conbined with the also brutal cobbles between Sebourg and Saultain (3.1km) for a total of 7km cobbles in a lap of 28km. (9 laps = 252km with 63 km cobbles)
rghysens
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17 Nov 2017 22:58

Stage 3: Bled - Slovenska Bistrica, 167km

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GPM:
Padeški Vrh (cat.2) 7,0km @ 7,2%
Veliko Tinje (cat.2) 6,6km @ 5,5%

With some time gaps now established on the GC after yesterday's ascent of the Passo Vršič, the riders will get to enjoy a good night's sleep before a hilly to intermediate stage heading back eastwards today. The riders will mostly overnight in either yesterday's finishing town or, more likely, today's départ, because it's more than capable of hosting it. That's because the legendarily picturesque town of Bled, on the eponymous lake that shares its name, is one of, if not the absolute pinnacle of, Slovenia's best-known tourist magnets.

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Renowned for some of Europe's most awe-inspiring natural views, the area around Lake Bled has attracted visitors for many reasons even before the addition of the scenic church on the island and the clifftop castle. Accordingly, around the eastern tip of the lake, the old village has expanded into a resort town, featuring significantly sized hotels. Which is also convenient as it serves as an excellent base for a bike race; we also know that the town's infrastructure can withstand it, for every year a couple of hundred athletes and their auxiliary staff and equipment rock into town, since the plateau above the lake is called Pokljuka, and is known to any Nordic sports fan for its historic biathlon venue; one of the smallest on the World Cup, but with a fairly safe position owing to its comparative high altitude meaning a much better safeguard against lack of snow. The scenery around here can rival the Italian lakes, so it will make a relaxing start to the day. It isn't a frequent supporting town for cycling (although I've used it in both of my Tours de Slovénie) but it did host a stage start in 2010's national tour, the mountain stage to Krvavec which was won by Vincenzo Nibali. It's also been seen in the Giro d'Italia once as well, in 2001 when it played stage start for a transitional stage back into Italy at Gorizia, which was won by Pablo Lastras from the remains of a break of 10.

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We're not heading back towards the Italian border here, however, for there is much more of the former Yugoslavia to see, so instead we head west. The very start of the day takes us towards one of Slovenia's best preserved medieval cities, Radovljica. With its painted chocolate-box housing, cobbled streets and Gasthöfe serving hearty Alpine fare in traditional dress along with numerous day-tripping Austrians and Italians, you could be forgiven for mistaking it for Bavaria or Südtirol from a distance, before you clocked the Slavic language. This leads to our second early intermediate sprint of the race, after less than 30km from km0, in the city of Kranj, a sporting centre for the country in all respects.

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Populated since prehistory, the city of Kranj has expanded out of a medieval core and is now a key transport link in Slovenia, and the capital of the Gorenjska region, it is the closest city to Brnik Airport and an important transition town from Ljubljana toward Austria and Italy and the gateway to the resort areas. As the home of Slovania's national literary treasure, France Prešeren, it holds a strong cultural presence in the country. It's also a leading candidate for Slovenia's sporting capital, holding world class facilities for numerous worldwide sports as well as a few more regionally popular ones; football, basketball and swimming are all popular sports which talented Slovenes can progress to the top level here, while the city's position as the gateway to the Gorenjska resorts means that the Kranjska Gora downhill runs, Pokljuka trails, Planica ski jump and others have led to numerous sons and daughters of Kranj becoming world class wintersports competitors - it is the home of the record-shattering Prevc brothers, consisting of Peter, former World Cup overall winner and the first man to jump 250m; middle brother Cene (not pictured), a developing World Cup talent, and youngest brother Domen, a youth phenom who is among the youngest athletes ever to compete on the World Cup, let alone win in it. In addition to the three brothers, fellow ski-jumper Robert Kranjec, a specialist in ski flying and former Olympic medallist, was not born in the town but lives there and competes representing SK Triglav Kranj. Cross-country skier Vesna Fabjan also calls the city home.

But the city's sporting influence extends to cycling; the city hosts the GP Kranj, a popular race in the former Yugoslavia that has continued, with a couple of brief pauses, unabated since independence. It has mainly been a provincial affair - dominated by locals at first, especially four-time record winner Bojan Ropret, another native of Kranj- until Fabrizio Bontempi became the first extranjero to win the race, in 1987. After Independence was declared, the Yugoslav flag in the winner's column was simply replaced by a Slovene one and the home crowd continued to go home satisfied, until around 2000 when the race reduced down from a short stage race around Gorenjska to a one-day event and the Italian teams started to take more of an interest. The most famous outside winner is probably Giovanni Visconti, although Simone Ponzi also won in 2011 and Lukas Pöstlberger's story is for the most part yet to be written. The town also hosted the Tour de Slovénie a few times as well as being a hub for one of the Tour of Yugoslavia's most supportive areas, and perhaps this is why some of the city's most famous children have been cyclists too - in addition to Ropret mentioned above, there's former national champion Tadej Valjavec and more recently, Giro stage winner Jan Polanc to think of.

Anyway, so that's why it gets an intermediate sprint.

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After that we pass Brnik Airport, the national airport of Slovenia but a relatively small affair, mainly due to flat land being at something of a premium in the eastern Alpine republic. It is one of the more scenic backdrops you'll get from a national central airport, for sure, but we breeze by as we don't need to cause more disruption than necessary. Instead we head on towards the city of Kamnik, which leads us out of Gorenjska towards the northeast, and over the small - uncategorized - Prelaz Kozjak, a fairly unassuming little climb which is basically false flat until very late on; had this been before any serious climbing I would have given it cat.3, but as there's no need to just give mountains points for the hell of it at this point, I've been stingy.

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We then have a long rolling, flat section towards Celje, which is nestled not amongst the high Alpine peaks we saw earlier but comparatively low-lying hills in a wide valley, and is Slovenia's third largest city, built around the confluence of multiple small rivers. Here we turn north and head through some uphill and somewhat rolling terrain that takes us to the village of Zreče. It is here, with 40km remaining in the stage, that things start to heat up.

If you look at the 2017 Tour de Slovénie queen stage, you will note that it began around Celje and finished at the Rogla ski resort on the Zreče Pohorje mountain massif. Rogla is also a former World Cup cross-country skiing host, so has plenty of amenities, however having had one big mountain yesterday, instead we're more interested in those smaller climbs on the shoulders of the massif. The 2017 Tour de Slovénie did a continual job of criss-crossing itself, sometimes descending and ascending the same roads at different points in the stage. We're not going to do that kind of job today, that kind of meandering can be reserved for the Amstel Gold Race and Dave Brailsford's answers to simple questions. Instead, we simply climb up the shoulder of the massif twice and descend back down.

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The first ascent of the day is actually the same side that the Tour de Slovénie climbed at the END of that stage, since Padeški Vrh is a stop-off village partway to the Rogla resort. When the race climbed just to Padeški Vrh earlier in the stage, however, they climbed from the opposite side, descending the side that we are climbing. As you can see from that profile however (we climb up until the 8km point), this is a tricky cat.2 climb with a toughest kilometre at 9,5% - not to be sniffed at! Essentially 6km at just under 8% once it gets going, this comes with 32km remaining, so close enough to the finish for the most daring of riders to consider but probably too far for the top names unless somebody they're afraid of is clearly having a bad day. It ought to get rid of most of the sprinters, however, who will have to work hard on the descent to come back before the final intermediate sprint in Oplotnica. The final climb of the day is a bit easier but still gets cat.2 status, up to the church of Saints Peter and Paul in Veliko Tinje.

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The rolling terrain leading into this ascent is good for keeping the chasers at bay, so it will likely be a reduced group that handles this final climb at the head of the péloton. I'm envisioning a group of around 40-50 at this point although the break may still be up the road. The climb to Veliko Tinje starts up fairly standard, before ramping up to 3km @ 7,5% in the middle, with the final kilometre and a half being false flat once more. As a result, with the summit just 9km out, I anticipate that that 3km @ 7,5% will be where any attacks for the stage will be made, whether from the break or the péloton for GC time. Most of the rest of the stage is a manageable descent with only a couple of technical challenges, although simultaneously it's not all fast and straight into Slovenska Bistrica either. Our stage town today was an old medieval town which retained its division between the Slavic-speaking country folk and the German-speaking urban elite all the way until 1918; to German-speakers it is still known as Windisch-Feistritz ("Windisch" for Slavic, see also "Wendisch" as an outmoded term for the Lusatian Sorbs). Perhaps for this reason it has few historical figures of note, although Tito's second wife, Herta Haas, was from the town. It has hosted stage starts in the Tour de Slovénie in 2000 and 2002, although stage finishes are new territory for the city.

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The finish - which may be a sprint but shouldn't be of many if so - will be at Liberty Square, which is upper centre in this picture. This one should hopefully see up to 40km of interesting racing, either from the break or from the GC men and stagehunters. It's also feasible that the race leader will be somebody who went well yesterday but doesn't fancy having to control the race for two weeks, since it's unlikely that a team of the calibre capable of producing a pure race-strangling machine like we often see from teams like Sky, BMC and W52 will be out in force for the Trka Kroz Bivšu Jugoslaviju, and so they will be trying to manage who they allow up the road whilst simultaneously trying to offload the leader's jersey to a breakaway. A range of possible outcomes, which is a good thing and sets up the weekend's stages to come.
User avatar Libertine Seguros
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18 Nov 2017 12:34

Stage 4: Maribor - Zagreb, 168km

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GPM:
Grad Vurberk (cat.3) 2,1km @ 5,3%
Sljeme (cat.1) 16,4km @ 4,7%
Sljeme (cat.1) 17,5km @ 4,8%

After another short transfer, the first Saturday stage continues the run of tricky stages - no sprinter's race, this - along with continuing some remarkable consistency in stage length; after the short first stage, all three stages have been within a couple of kilometres' distance of one another. This stage also sees us move on to our second country of the race, for today we leave Slovenia for good, settling in the other post-Yugoslav republic that has established itself a national Tour at the pro level, although the Tour of Croatia is a much younger race than its Slovene cousin. However, a more optimal position in the calendar, in a good position to prepare for the Giro, it has swiftly established itself with a pretty strong field, seeing Vincenzo Nibali among its winners, with Cavendish, Nizzolo, Modolo and Rosón among stage winners as well. Before we get to Croatia, however, we have a short transfer from yesterday's finish to today's starting town of Maribor, Slovenia's second city.

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Another classic well-preserved medieval city typical of Slovenia, Maribor takes its name from the German Marburg and sits on the Drava river (indeed, in German it is known as Marburg an der Drau). Like Slovenska Bistrica yesterday, it was primarily settled by Germanophone Austrians until World War I, with the ethnic Slovenes relegated to the surrounding villages. Upon the proclamation of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (i.e. the future Yugoslavia), however, most of these left for the new, slimline Austria; in 1919 Slovene troops fired on Austrian Germans in the marketplace in a controversial incident, and throughout the interwar period a period of cultural acclimatization was undertaken to better assimilate the remaining Austrians into the new Slav-led state. This process was obviously not approved of when Nazi Germany rode roughshod over the town in WWII, and in 1945, Maribor was in the worst state of any Yugoslav city in terms of the state it was left in. The city was however comprehensively restored, with its proximity to Austria proving beneficial enabling it to grow as a transit town as Yugoslavs looked to visit overseas, taking advantage of their rather unique position among the Communist nations of eastern Europe as possessors of an open border.

Maribor's sporting heritage may not compare to the Gorenjska region but it does have plenty of credibility in that area too; as mentioned in my stage 2 summary, the women's Alpine World Cup takes place in the nearby Maribor Pohorje ski resort, capitalizing on the popularity of Slovene female skiers from the region such as former Olympic medalist Katja Koren back in the 90s, and more recently Ilka Štuhec and Tina Maze, while the city's football team, NK Maribor, is the most successful Slovene squad of all time. The city was the original planned host of the 2013 Winter Universiade, however this fell through and the events were relocated to Trentino. Back in the 1990s it was a regular host of the Tour de Slovénie, but this has become an infrequent visitor, with the nearby Rogla resort preferred now that it has taken over the mantle as the race's mountaintop finish of choice. Two of Slovene cycling's long-standing veterans call the city home, however. These are 40-year-old veteran Jure Golčer, who won his home tour in 2008 and has had a near-20-year career bouncing between smaller central-eastern European teams and Italian ProContinental squads like LPR Brakes and Acqua e Sapone, and small race specialist Gregor Gazvoda, who has made a good career for himself barely ever leaving small Continental teams; his only year at the top was 2012, the season when the UCI points system's specifics led to teams on the cusp of World Tour qualification level signing riders from much smaller scenes than usual, and Gazvoda's triumph in the Tour de Qinghai Lake made him attractive for that reason.

The first half of the stage isn't especially challenging, but we do have an early punchy climb to the hilltop castle Grad Vurberk to test the legs and also ensure there are no absolute climbing scrubs in the breakaway, although with an early sprint once more, the fight to escape might be postponed by teams focusing on the points classification or even, if somebody with a fast finish along the lines of a Valverde or a Garzelli is high in the GC mix here, some of the top contenders' teams.

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Through the early 2000s, Ptuj was a strong supporter of cycling, hosting the Tour de Slovénie most years, and the national championships twice (including the Croat national championships in 2010 when they experimented with a format akin to the Czech and Slovak double race). They even briefly funded a team, Perutnina Ptuj, and riders such as the aforementioned Gazvoda and Golčer rode for Ptuj at its peak, along with other familiar names like Robert Vrečer, who also went to the top level in that points raid in 2012, with Euskaltel, and Matej Mugerli. As such it seems like a good place to travel through and honour with an intermediate sprint, the final intermediate sprint before we say goodbye to Slovenia for good.

Entering Croatia at a little before an hour of racing is done, most likely, we then speed southwards through mostly flat country for a good 40km. I was tempted to detour the race a bit to the west to race through the village of Kumrovec, where Josip Broz Tito was born, but decided against it. It might be a bit controversial, to say the least, to honour Tito, even though opinions in some countries remain divided to this day as to whether it was better to be a federated state under Tito's brand of communism or in today's divided republics. Instead, we will head straight towards Zagreb and the Medvednica promontory/range that serves as the Hausberg of the Croatian capital, and where the remaining action in the stage is due to take place.

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Although far from the biggest mountain the riders will see in this race, the fact that Medvednica rises directly out of the streets of Zagreb in much the same way as, say, Monte Naranco out of Oviedo or Malbun out of Vaduz, makes it almost surprising that the Tour of Croatia has yet to take advantage of this, especially as, unlike those climbs, there are multiple ways to ascend the range, enabling a more interesting stage design than a compulsory mountaintop finish. The main roads peak at a summit called Sljeme, the highest point in the massif, which I have used in this stage. It is also a well-known location for Alpine skiing (considering what a Nordic sports fetishist I am, there's been an alarming amount of downhill skiing going on in this race thus far!), having hosted an event called the Snow Queen Trophy annually for women since 2005 and for men since three years later; it is the largest World Cup event on a permanent slope to be held in proximity to a major urban centre, although the limited size of the resort restricts the World Cup level athletes to slalom events only.

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In my stage, we arrive at the Medvednica range from the north, and so we initially climb the north face of the summit. The climb is by no means as tough as Prelaz Vršič, the last cat.1 climb on the route, but the meagre stats only tell half the story here, too. Although not setting the world on fire with its gradients, the initial northern climb consists of 13,1km @ 5,6% (steepest kilometre at 8,1%) before a couple of flat kilometres then a final short dig up to the summit, the final 400m being at 9%. The steepest gradient throughout the climb is 14%. Coming with around 65km remaining at the summit, it's going to be more about gradually ratcheting up the pace than anything else; I do not anticipate any 'serious' moves here, even if it is a weekend stage. To the consternation of some, the side that we descend from Sljeme is, in fact, the steepest side. I think this side, which passes the Medvedgrad castle, is best served as a descent, since it isn't ridden with lacets like the main southern face but it still has some real technical challenges, so can potentially be raced to create a difference, at least the second time around.

We descend into the city streets of Zagreb, arriving at the Muzej Iluzija, one of the city's prime tourist attractions, before heading into the old town for the first passage of the finishing line, with 47km remaining. This also serves as our second intermediate sprint. More on this later, but it's not so straightforward. But now, we're on our way back up to Sljeme by the southern side. Again, the stats aren't all of the story, although this still isn't likely to be the monster climb that tears the race to shreds; of the 17,5km at just under 5%, the first four kilometres are false flat, so after that we have 11,5km @ 5,8% - definitely a legit cat.1 - although this is mostly very consistent and there is no full kilometre over 7%, and so I expect attrition and tempo riding to be the main point of selectivity here; after that lengthy stretch there's then the same short flatter stretch and then steep final 400m that we saw from the Pila side. In favour of attackers, however, is that there are literally dozens of hairpins in the climb from this side, on Sljemenska Cesta, which is also heavily forested, so getting out of sight of the chasers could be easier than otherwise would have been the case. Nevertheless, there remain 28km at the summit, and that isn't flat, so riders will have to be sure of themselves to take that risk.

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That's because the finish of the stage is in Gornji Grad, or 'upper town', the old quarter of Zagreb, which is picturesque, traditional and, from a cycling point of view most importantly, cobbled. In fact, you'll all know this finish, because I've lifted it wholesale from the Tour of Croatia. In my original draft of the race this was the final stage of the race, but I thought that using that 5,5km circuit would simply be too short a loop on a tricky stage when the riders have been going for over two weeks and just want to make it to the end. The Zagreb stages using this circuit have been won by Maciej Paterski (in the leader's jersey no less), Sondre Holst Enger and Sacha Modolo, each time with small time gaps being opened up, the top 20 being split by around 20 seconds. However, of course, that was without coming via two very significant ascents of a cat.1 climb in the vicinity of the city, so not an obvious comparison. After the second descent of the Medvednica range, we pass the finishing line for the second time with 11km remaining, after which point we have two laps of the short circuit, details of which are on the top right of this information on the real-life Tour of Croatia stages.

You can see replays of the circuit racing in the 2016 edition here and the first time the circuit was seen, in 2015, here. As you can see, it's a scenic circuit that allows us to see a fair few of Zagreb's sights while simultaneously encouraging strong racing. Seeing as the intention of my stage is to rid us of as many helpers as possible leading to difficult-to-control racing on the circuit, I think we should get a good day's racing out of this, which is perfect for a weekend stage really.

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User avatar Libertine Seguros
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Re:

18 Nov 2017 14:13

Libertine Seguros wrote:Stage 4: Maribor - Zagreb, 168km
considering what a Nordic sports fetishist I am, there's been an alarming amount of downhill skiing going on in this race thus far!

Great stage, but I really don't understand what's alarming about downhill skiing ;)
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Re: Race Design Thread

18 Nov 2017 21:50

GIRO D'ITALIA

(Sun) stage 14: Bozen - Pfelders, 204 km

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Welcome to the queen stage of my Giro. 6.600 meters of climbing are on the program today, most of them on roads that are neglected by the Giro. We start on Piazza della Parrocchia in Bozen/Bolzano.

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We begin with a big loop south of Bozen. The first climb is Obergummer (12,3 km at 8,2%), which should see a nice battle to get into the breakaway. The hardness of the climb basically guarantees that we will get a very good group.

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Obergummer begins with a series of hairpins in the woods...

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... but then continues with views like that:

Steinegg with Rosengarten in the background (km 14)
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Next is Regglberg, a mountain ridge south of Bozen. The climb is 9 km at 6,6% and leads to a sunny high plateau, where we will stay for a while.

Deutschnofen with Latemar in the background (km 39)
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Petersberg (km 45)
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Aldein (km 50)
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The riders will then descend to Etsch valley, where a couple of short but steep climbs are waiting for them. The first one is Kreither Sattel (1,1 km at 12,3%). Even harder is the small road that leads - amid orchards and vineyards - to Altenburg (4,2 km, the last 2 km have 10,3%).

Altenburg (km 87)
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After crossing Etsch valley yet again the riders will climb the Tschögglberg mountain range north of Bozen.

Etschtal near Terlan (km 110)
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The climb initially leads to Mölten and is a hard one (8 km at 9,9%).

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We then stay on the Tschögglberg plateau for a while. This includes a couple of sharp climbs, for instance an incline of 2 km at 9% to Leadner Alm.

Verschneid (km 121)
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Hafling (km 146)
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From Hafling we descend towards Meran, then turn right towards Schenna, which lies on a sunny balcony above Meran.

Schenna (km 156)
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Schenna marks the begin of the finale of this stage, 48 km are left to race.

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The climb to Prenn is 11 km long and on average 8% steep. The first 6 km are fairly easy and are followed by a short descent. But the last 4,4 km are brutally steep at 12% on average. The road is narrow and spectacular.

Prenn, pics from quäldich
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Prenn (km 167)
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The road actually continues even further up the mountain, to Videgg, but it's a dead end road with not enough space for a stage finish. Which is sad, because i mean look at that.

The descent from Prenn is fairly steep as well (9 km at 9,9%). The next 8 km are flat on the bottom of Passeiertal.

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The final climb to Pfelders is very irregular. It has a resemblance to Alto de la Marta as it consists of several smaller climbs. Pfelders is 20,4 km at 5% while Alto de la Marta is 25,9 km at 3,9%.

The first step of Pfelders is 4,8 km at 10,9%. If the peloton hasn't exploded so far, it will here.

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The short descent to Breiteben is pretty tricky.

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The short climb to Platt is not difficult. The road is slightly bigger now, making the descent towards Moos in Passeier easier.

Platt (km 194)
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Before we reach Moos we turn left into Pfelderer Tal, a side valley of Passeiertal. From here 8,6 km are left to race. The first 4 km are very steep at an average of 11,2%!

There are lots of cute hairpins at the start of this section.

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Later the road pretty straightforward follows the valley.

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The final 4,6 km are not difficult any more (average 3,2%), but i guess at that time the peloton will be down to ones and twos. There is a big parking space just outside Pfelders, which is a perfect venue for a stage finish. Pfelders is a ski station and a popular base for hiking.

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Re: Race Design Thread

19 Nov 2017 17:04

GIRO D'ITALIA

(Mon) rest day

(Tue) stage 15: Cles - Passo del Maniva, 160 km

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The final week begins with a tough mountain stage. I usually don't put important stages on days following a rest day, so this is an exception.

Cles is the population center of Val di Non and the home of Maurizio Fondriest.

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The first climb is the well known Passo del Tonale (15,2 km at 6%).

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The second climb of the day is the mighty Passo di Croce Domini (20,5 km at 7,6%). This climb has an altitude gain of more than 1.500 meters. After 14 km of climbing a section of 4 km at 9,6% should be ideal for attacking.

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descent
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The final climb is Passo del Maniva, which used to be a staple of the now defunct Brixia Tour (although usually climbed from the west, while we use the eastern side). The eastern side is hard, 10,7 km at 8,5%.

only the last 10,7 km
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Passo del Maniva
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This is the last mountain top finish of the race.

P.S. One could turn this stage into a monster by including Vivione. But that was not my intention at this point of the race. Also, the stage is hard enough as it is.
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19 Nov 2017 22:15

Beautiful stuff!
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Re: Race Design Thread

20 Nov 2017 00:12

I really like the Pfelders stage, hadn't really thought too much about the potential for finishes there, think the Spanish climb it best resembles is probably Sete Carballos rather than La Marta, but makes for a very interesting finale after Prenn. And also Prenn would be a great addition to my Jaufenpass - Ridnauntal stages too...

Trka Kroz Bivšu Jugoslaviju

Stage 5: Bjelovar - Osijek, 185km


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I know, not the most inspiring stage for a Sunday, but we've had no stage that hasn't been GC-relevant thus far, and having moved out of Slovenia and into Croatia, we are now headed eastwards. Anybody who is familiar with the geography of the former Yugoslavia will be aware that very little of the country and its successors is truly flat; the least topographically interesting regions from a traceur's point of view are Slavonia, in northeastern Croatia (as much as you can say east in a nation as unusually-shaped as Croatia undoubtedly is) and the main part of Vojvodina, the autonomous northern part of Serbia which was a separate province of Yugoslavia from "Serbia proper". And in order to maintain the course of the race and provide suitable pacing, we now head back eastwards from Zagreb which entails heading into this flatter area; of course it also helps that this northern strip of the former Yugoslavia was also a relatively strong cycling base within the country, although strong presences of these areas in the race did often lead to less selective editions, such as 1981 when Riho Suun took the GC prize, an unexpected crown in the career of the Estonian hardman who was much more fêted for his qualities in tough flat races and on bad surfaces.

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The fort town of Bjelovar, around an hour's drive from Zagreb, is our start town today, an unusual town in a couple of ways. It has been around since the late middle ages, but as little more than a hamlet until the fort was built at the behest of Empress Maria Theresa in the 18th century to protect the frontiers of the Habsburg lands from Ottoman advances. As a result it is built much more on a modern grid pattern than many other cities of comparable size in the region, which have more concentric models or shapes dictated by fortifications or natural features. It sits on the western edge of a range of rolling hills that prove the major topographical feature of the Slavonia region. It is also a pocket of Kajkavian-speaking land, a tongue of disputed linguistic status, with its position unclear as to whether it is a distinct dialect of the pluricentric Serbo-Croatian language, whose initial standardizations used the Shtokavian dialects further south as their basis, or an independent language in its own right, due to features more in line with Slovene than with the Croatian standard language, a situation further complicated with the language contact situation restricting its usage and exposing it to heavy influence from the national standard. Its position is perhaps best considered analogous to Low German, in that both languages display evidence of a continuum between two areas that now have established standards, with the language being spoken in one of those countries and therefore eroded by contact with that standard. Bjelovar is also best known to the outside world - if indeed it is known at all - due to the sport of handball, as back in the Yugoslav days, the city's local club, RK Partizan, was one of the strongest squads in Europe. Since the fall of Communism, the club has renamed itself RK Bjelovar, but has not been able to recapture the success of its glory days.

This stage is, in comparison to the four preceding it, completely benign; the first third of the stage is through rolling terrain, but once we're north of the hills and leaving "Croatia proper" into Slavonia, moving into the floodplains where the Drava flows toward the Danube, it really flattens out. While the most notorious winds of the region may be the Bora which are closer to the coast, the fact we have a lot of former collective farm land up in this region means that there's very little in the way of what winds that may blow, and since northerly, cold winds are not a rarity in this part of the world, this is something that riders will have to be mindful of, even if a sprint remains the almost certain outcome of the stage.

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To try to incentivize the péloton to race hard, especially if there is wind, I have forgone the early sprints that we have seen in the stages thus far, in favour of placing all 3 in the last 50km. The first is in Donji Miholjac, a smallish town on the site of a former Roman settlement near the Drava which comes literally a few metres inside the 50km remaining mark. The second, with 26km remaining, comes in the town of Valpovo, a medieval town with a park and botanical garden whose biggest claim to fame is as the hometown of Communist Party founding father Đuro Salaj; the final one comes with just 10km remaining in Josipovac.

This takes us to the outskirts of our finishing town for the day, which is the regional capital of Osijek. With a population of over 100.000 it is one of the most populous cities in Croatia outside of Zagreb, and like many cities in this part of the world it has had an interesting history; it was first attested in Roman times, fell into disrepair, built itself up in the middle ages before being destroyed and rebuilt in their own tradition by the Ottomans upon their arrival in the area in the 16th Century. Upon being regained by the Austria-Hungary dual monarchy, the city was then fortified and rebuilt in the central European style which is now the dominant architectural legacy in Osijek, which swiftly became Croatia's biggest city. Although the new Novi Grad section of town was appended in the 19th Century, in the industrial revolution it lost ground as against Zagreb, but in the Yugoslav days its position as a key stopping point on the route from the Croatian provincial capital to the national capital, Belgrade, meant that it retained a level of importance.

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Arriving in Osijek also means our first time in the race dealing with the other side of the history of Yugoslavia, that is to say its painful, violent and bloody break-up. The Jugoslavenska narodna armija (Yugoslav People's Army, or JNA) heavily bombarded the city for a period of almost a year in 1991 and 1992 following the Croatian declaration of independence, using the nearby city of Vukovar that had already been captured as a base to launch assault from. Complicating matters, the JNA had garrisons and barracks stationed within Osijek themselves, which Croat forces assaulted and captured in turn. Over two thirds of the population of the city fled further from the border between the newly-declared independent Croat state and the remainder of Yugoslavia, and 800 people had been killed in the fight for the city by the time the Vance Plan came into effect in mid-1992 and the shelling ended. The war continued for three further years, and casualties in Osijek eventually doubled, but the rate at which death and destruction was wrought slowed dramatically following that original period of brutality; the proximity of Osijek to the border and the broader campaigns in Croatia Proper and Dalmatia, as well as the issues of the war in Croatia being rather overshadowed by the even more complex situation in neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina, mean that the war in this part of the country is perhaps less well known than in other areas, but ultimately the wars that took place resulting from the breakup of Yugoslavia are something that touched the vast majority of its former citizens, and is a subject that the race will absolutely need to tackle. The horrors of war are vivid memories around large swathes of the former country, and compared to many places Osijek's sufferings were fairly minor, but they also don't deserve to be downplayed.

As the country emerged from war, however, there was a great clamour for unity, and one of the things that always serves to unite a country, of course, is national sporting achievement. And one of Osijek's most famous sons was a key part of the country's national awakening as a prominent sporting nation - Davor Šuker. A promising young forward with Dinamo Zagreb, Šuker had been forced into a move to Spain to continue his career when war broke out, after a tumultuous period when he played for both the newly-established but not FIFA-registered Croatian side as well as the extant Yugoslavia team. His phenomenal goalscoring record - 45 in 69 international matches - helped the fledgling Croatian team make it to their first international tournament - Euro '96 - and perhaps his greatest achievement was to win the Golden Boot at the FIFA World Cup in 1998, as the chequered shirts made a phenomenal and unexpected run all the way to the semi-finals before being knocked out by eventual tournament winners France, who had the benefit of playing for a home crowd. As is perhaps always the way in this part of the world, however, while he may be an iconic player and star his career did not come without its controversies, and politics of varying troubling natures come into it - being pictured posing for photos at the grave of Ustaše leader Ante Pavelić is probably the most notorious of the controversial acts Šuker was responsible for.

Osijek has been the start town for the Tour of Croatia two years running; it has never hosted a stage finish, although the race remains pretty young. However, stage 1 in both 2016 and 2017 set off from the city, to enable the route to cover the country more comprehensively but not put the toughest stages first negating action in the flatter north of the country. Italian sprinters have enjoyed these stages, with Giacomo Nizzolo winning the former stage, to Varaždin, and Sacha Modolo the latter, to Koprivnica. Clearly there is an interest in cycling in the city, and therefore it makes a useful stopping point for the race as the setting for what will probably the first 'true' bunch sprint - the Ljubljana stage should be a sprint but is more aimed at the Matthews, Bouhanni, Lobato type of rider whereas this will enable the 'true' fast men to duke it out near the city's dramatic cathedral.

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User avatar Libertine Seguros
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Re:

20 Nov 2017 09:14

jsem94 wrote:Beautiful stuff!

Libertine Seguros wrote:I really like the Pfelders stage, hadn't really thought too much about the potential for finishes there, think the Spanish climb it best resembles is probably Sete Carballos rather than La Marta, but makes for a very interesting finale after Prenn. And also Prenn would be a great addition to my Jaufenpass - Ridnauntal stages too...

Thanks.

Pfelders is my favorite stage, hence the ton of pics. ;)

I didn't even know Sete Carballos, but it indeed is similar to Pfelders.
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20 Nov 2017 22:55

Stage 6a: Vukovar - Novi Sad, 99km

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GPM:
Fruška Gora (cat.2) 9,3km @ 4,7%

After dipping our toes into the subject with yesterday's stage to Osijek, today we leap head first into the difficult subject of war. After all, this is intended as a race of peace and reconciliation between the various former Yugoslav successor states, so it is fitting for the race to provide reminders and be respectful of the long-lasting effects from the time when the country was collapsing in bloody conflict between its constituent parts.

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35km from yesterday's finish in Osijek, the city of Vukovar, whose name is a mixture of the Croatian name for the Vuka river, which flows into the Danube at the city, and the Hungarian suffix relating to its role as a fortified town, which supplanted the original Croat name Vukovo during Habsburg rule, served for many years as Croatia's most important river port owing to its strategic position on the Danube and on the frontier between Slavonia and Vojvodina. Its position along the Danube, which became something of a de facto boundary between predominantly Croatian and predominantly Serbian-settled lands, also may have played a role in why it was there, in 1920, that the Socialist Labour Party (of Communists) renamed itself officially to the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, which was then to seize power in the aftermath of WWII.

Even so, it isn't for that that Vukovar is known. Instead, it is known for what came afterward. I hinted at its capture by the Serbs in the previous stage, but it does bear further description, because this was a much bloodier conflict than Osijek, and the people of Vukovar do not deserve their struggle to be relegated to a footnote. It is better known for enduring an 87-day siege in the autumn of 1991, arguably the worst single battle of the Croatian War of Independence, that saw the city's population dwindle to less than a third of its pre-1991 size, amid mass destruction with the city becoming the first European city to face total destruction since World War II, as the JNA fought for control of the city, against a much smaller guerrilla defence force of the newly-integrated Croatian army. Some of the most vivid and lasting images of that war, which served as a prelude to the more sustained and better-known conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, are those from the Battle of Vukovar. Various ceasefire deals were brokered, and promptly broken, sometimes in barely a few hours, by both sides of the battle.

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Although the three-month campaign to capture the city took up huge quantities of the JNA's stocks of manpower and weaponry that made the victory over the exhausted remains of the city a Pyrrhic one in the long run, the suffering endured by the city was far from over upon its takeover. Fleeing soldiers were killed on their retreat toward Osijek; many Croatian soldiers and civilians alike were shot in plain view. The JNA reneged on part of a deal with the International Red Cross, removed over 200 people who had fought with the Croatian National Guard from hospital, and handed them over to paramilitaries and Croatian Serb Territorial Defence forces for execution, the worst massacre of the war in Croatia. The scars of war haunt the city to this day; while much of it has been rebuilt, it is still strewn to this day with destroyed buildings, riddled with bullet holes and makeshift repairs to mortar and shell damage. The city's most prominent architectural feature, its watertower, has been left in its battle-scarred as a permanent reminder of what we humans can do to each other at our worst.

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Against such a backdrop, let's face it, cycling doesn't seem especially important. But just as the Tour de Pologne paid its respects at the gates of Auschwitz a few years ago, and the Tour has in recent years honoured the WWI battlegrounds, the concept of Vergangenheitsbewältigung, an evocative German term loosely translating as "coming to terms with the past", is an important one and therefore in order for the race to truly embody peace and reconciliation, we must confront the past head-on in order to truly understand why peace and reconciliation is required. And that's, in part, why Vukovar serves as a start town for a stage which straddles the two biggest, most populous and strongest successor states, Croatia and Serbia, although of course we do not head into Serbia proper, instead the semitappe moves from Croatia's easternmost provinces into the autonomous province of Vojvodina, with its population of 2.000.000 and a multi-ethnic population that runs contrary to received expectations following the ethnic cleansing in neighbouring areas during the war.

The actual stage is short - after all, it's a semitappe - and with only the one notable challenge. At first we trace the course of the Danube on the Croatian side of a stretch of river where it serves as the border between the two countries; after passing the city of Bačka Palanka, which lies on the opposite side of the river in Vojvodina, and the famous Tikvara lake and natural park, the river ceases to form the border, and we cross into the modern state of Serbia. The region of Vojvodina is mostly on the Carpathian plain, and is the outright flattest part of the former Yugoslavia, however having had a true sprinters' stage yesterday, we are going to make use of pretty much the only part of the region which is topographically interesting from a cycling point of view, which is the long, thin Fruška Gora mountain area in Srem.

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Designated a national park in the 1960s and dotted with villages and vineyards (in the Habsburg era it was known for producing Hungary's best wine) along with over 10 different Orthodox monasteries, Fruška Gora is far from the most threatening mountain a cyclist will ever see, but it does have a nodal road along its spine with multiple roads up and down on each side, sort of resembling a sort of oversized Montello. I have elected to climb from the fancifully-named village of Brazilija, which yields a cat.2 climb of sorts that will crest 30km from the finish. I don't expect any GC threats to be particularly interested here, but I do anticipate some stagehunters may try something.

The climb consists of a gradually steepening ascent of just over 6km at or around 5% (although without too many tough ramps) before a short descent and then a final 1,6km at 8,6% which ought to at least give a platform for some to test out their opponents' legs; this ought to be where any significant stagehunting move goes, especially as there's no immediate respite at the summit, instead the riders take around 10km of flat riding and rolling terrain across the mountain's summit before hanging a left and swooping back downhill towards Novi Sad, the capital city of the Vojvodina region. Durable sprinters may be able to just about make it over this one given there have been no other obstacles, but the ability for teams to ride tempo for much of the climb will mean that it is unlikely to create large and GC-relevant gaps. Especially as the descent is pretty wide and mostly very straight which will not benefit a sole escapee or small group. At the base of the descent we arrive in a sparsely-populated part of southern Novi Sad called Mišeluk. Mišeluk has two claims to fame. The first is as a famous motor racing street circuit in the region, a stupendously fast course comprising a series of box corners around a junction off of the main highway, a long curved highway and a series of corners and hairpins at the far end of this before returning down the highway. This is a pretty dangerous course too; high speed accidents could see bikes, riders and cars flipping into oncoming vehicles, but that won't be an issue for the péloton. It is, however, Serbia's best-known and best-loved motor racing circuit and continues to host racing to this day.

The other reason for Mišeluk's fame is that it was heavily hit and damaged during NATO's 1999 bombing of Novi Sad, a military intervention designed to withdraw the Serbian-dominated Yugoslav forces from Kosovo.

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Today's finishing city is Novi Sad, which is the de facto capital of Vojvodina, Serbia's second largest city with a population of around 300.000. For centuries, during Austro-Hungarian rule, the city was the largest Serb metropole, but the highly cosmopolitan mix of peoples in the Habsburg Empire did have an effect on the city, which gradually became more ethnically mixed, eventually having similar numbers of Hungarians and Serbs amongst other groups before the outbreak of World War I. This multicultural history is borne out in the fact that many of the city's most prominent sons, daughters and other inhabitants have achieved their fame or notoriety elsewhere; take, for example, Israeli politician Yosef Lapid, American tennis ace Monica Seles, born in the city, and German-American legendary scientist Albert Einstein, a former resident. The city was re-taken by the Hungarians after the Axis powers invaded in 1941, before being restored to Yugoslavia post-war whereupon it undertook a rapid development process, expanding outwards at pace and more than doubling in size. The strategic targeting of the bombings mentioned above were mainly economic, taking out the city's three bridges over the Danube, oil refineries and powerplants, although from an aesthetic point of view at least the damage could easily have been worse, as much of the city's central-European old town was mostly preserved other than for the effects of the smoke and fire from the attacks on the city's resources. Small mercies, and all that.

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At this point in the day, it's a fairly direct route to town; we'll see more of the city later. We simply head straight from Mišeluk across Most Slobode (rebuilt since that photo was taken, obviously) and into the city, along a long, wide-open straight that will favour the chasers, before taking a right turn onto Jevrejska Ulica with its distinctive synagogue, protected as a historical monument but no longer used for religious ceremonies by the few hundred remaining Jews in Novi Sad today. A further 90-degree right-hander comes at 450m to go before a sweeping, wide open left as we skirt the southern side of the old town passing the National Museum of Vojvodina and finish the semitappe on Bulevar Mihajla Pupina. In the image below, the final right is at the very bottom of screen, you can see the left-hander and then the finish is at the partially-obscured cross-roads on the right about 2/3 the way back.

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This semitappe should be fast and furious, lasting only a little over 2 hours. Sprinters who can make it over Fruška Gora will see this as one of only a few opportunities in the race, while stagehunters of the Voeckler, de Gendt or Hoogerland kind may also see this as an opportunity to steal a march on riders who are keeping their powder dry, feeling the run-in not to be suited to an escape. Or, somewhere between the two, people with strong sprints who are willing and/or able to get into a break and work - the likes of Matteo Trentin, for example, or for a more realistic example for a race of this kind Marko Kump - will see this as a strong opportunity, although at the same time many riders in a breakaway would not be keen to work with somebody like that in this stage. The options are open, and besides, it's a semitappe, the only split day of the Tour, so the day's racing is only half-done...
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22 Nov 2017 17:09

I've been thinking about races that would actually made a great addition to the race calender and the main idea that I came up with was a one day race in California, around 2 days before the start of the Tour of California. If the race still starts on a Sunday you can have this one day race on Friday, if the ToC starts on Monday you can have the one day race on Saturday.
The circumstances should be favourable, the ToC usually has a decent field when i comes to classic specialists, many guys should still have decent form after the cobbed classics/Ardennes classics and usually only a small amount of them is racing the Giro.
The most obvious choice would be a returning San Francisco Grand Prix, but I went wth somthing different.
If you have something different in mind, please post you race in this thread, I'd like to see different ideas.

Santa Barbara - Los Angles; 207.7km
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The race starts in Santa Barbara, a medium sized coastal town.
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The first 26km are mostly false flat/a bit of rolling terrain, then the first obstacle of the race starts.
First we have West Casitas Pass, 3.7km at 5.5%, then a short decent, about 1.3km long, then East Casitas Pass, 2.5km at 5.4%.
After that we have the descent down to Ventura, a lot of it is just false flat.
The next 100km are mostly alongside the coastline and mostly false flat with a bit of rolling terrain.
After that we get the next climb, Benedict Canyon Drive, 3.2km at 5.7%, on top of the climb we spend some time on the iconic Mulholland Drive.
Mulholland Drive:
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After the descent we only have around 3km of false flat, then the next climb starts.
It's Laurel Canyon Blvd, 1.3km at 8.2%, a short, but rather steep cimb that should suit the puncheurs.
After the following descent we actually enter Los Angeles, we have 9.5km of false flat, then the final part of the race starts.
The final part of the race:
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I've split the altimetry into 2 different maps:
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First we have Duane Str. a bit ove 200m at 15% with a max. gradient of 32%.
After a short, steep descent w have 800m of false flat, then the ungodly steep Fargo Str. starts after a sharp right curve, 160m at 30.6%!
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On top of the cilmb we have 100m of false flat, then a short, steep descent will lead the riders into the next climb, Baxter Str., 100m at around 20% with a legbreaking max. gradient of 32%.
The first part of the following descent needs to be repaved, but all in all it's not a technical descent, the 2nd part is more of a false flat, but still a highspeed descent. After the descent we still have 6km to go, most of it is false flat and on rather wide roads.
WIth around 2.3km we enter the Stadium Way and the road starts going uphill again, at the start we have 800m at 4.1%, then a section of false flat.
The final 100m are flat, but before that we still have 500m at 5.2%, so the final should suit punceurs and other rather fast one day racers.
The race ends right in front of the Dodger Stadium, LA's famous Baseaball stadium.
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This one should be a showdown between the puncheurs and the cobbles specalists, the shorter, unglodly steep climbs near the finish should suit the cobbles specialists more, so the Ardennes specialists will be forced to ake th race hard on the two longer climbs befor that, if they wait until Duane Street they shouldn't really have a chance.
The uphillish finish should also give the puncheurs a better chance in a potential sprint, I also think that guys ike GvA, Gilbert or Kwiatkowski should be able to beat someone like Sagan on such a finish after a hard race.

I know that it's not he most realistic race, closing a city like LA for the traffic would be a bit o a nightmare, but in the end we only rider through a rater small part of LA, so it could work without causing huge problems.
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22 Nov 2017 22:12

I hear that Laurel Canyon is full of famous stars, but I hate them worse than lepers, and I'll kill them in their cars.

Stage 6b: Novi Sad - Novi Sad, 17,2km (ITT)

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As a brief aside, I did not start posting this race with any intention of it coinciding with this, but Ratko Mladić was sentenced to life imprisonment today. It was a decision that satisfied many but not all, as while the punishment may not have altered, the fact that some of the atrocities were ranked differently from others was a controversial line. Nevertheless, the "Butcher of Bosnia", as the former Bosnian Serb commander was informally known to the western press, was adjudged to have knowingly played a direct role in some of the worst acts seen since WWII and Europe's biggest genocide since the Holocaust. That al-Jazeera article includes some remarkable reportage, most notably that differences in reportage and broadcast meaning for some, his crimes aren't so much defended as not even known. That is one of the great tragedies of the post-Yugoslav breakup, and one of the main reasons my project is but a pipe dream in today's world; peace and reconciliation requires the Vergangenheitsbewältigung that I mentioned in the first semitappe, and given many of the worst acts of the Yugoslav wars were suppressed by propaganda, and some were only reported in limited fashion in the wider world, many in the respective countries need to be made more fully aware of the past, and its implications on the present and indeed future, in order to reconcile with it. The sentencing of Mladić coinciding with my posting this race has, if anything, made me more pessimistic about the idea, because the reportage and responses have driven home just how bitterly divided that period left the region, and just how difficult and lengthy a process such a reconciliation would be.

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While it may be a pipe dream, however, this thread is all conjectural of course, so while it may have been brought home to me just how fantastical and unrealistic an idea this is at this point in time, let that not deter us from continuing. After the morning's semitappe crossing into Vojvodina, we follow up with a short-to-mid-length ITT around the streets of Novi Sad. The finishing line is the same as the semitappe's; the start, however, is a little further down the Bulevar, by the regional government building of Vojvodina, as seen above. This TT consists of two parts; a looped section crossing the Danube and taking in some of the touristic sites of the city, followed by an out-and-back along the boulevards and dual carriageways that made up the closing stages of the morning semitappe.

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Essentially the first thing we do is cross the Danube and ride up to the Petrovaradinska Tvrđava (Petrovaradin Fortress), Novi Sad's tourist attraction par excellence. The site has been occupied since Neolithic times, but the current iteration began with a fortress on the Limes, the border between the Romans and the barbarians. After subsequent Hungarian rebuilds and then over a century of Ottoman control, the modern fortress came with the city's reconquest by the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the late 17th Century. In the early days of Yugoslavia, with Austria-Hungary divided between (at least in theory) nation-states and the Ottoman Empire dismantled and no longer a threat, most of the old fortifications along the former Imperial borders were razed or taken apart for resources during the post-war rebuilding phase, however Petrovaradin was spared this fate due to its beauty and history. The riders head from the short hill to the fortress into the suburb named after it, before doubling back on themselves to the north and crossing back to the west of the Danube over the narrow tramway bridge Most Boška Peroševića. They then take a left and skirt along the banks of the river, between the city's old town and the river that has proven its lifeblood. A right turn then takes us onto the main straight where we pass the start and, shortly afterwards, the finish, and retrace our steps from the morning semitappe, passing the old town, the regional museum of Vojvodina, the synagogue, and so forth.

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As these roads are mainly dual carriageways and boulevards, they either have their own natural lane-breaks in the form of central reservations, trees or bollards, or they will be in the final kilometre so can be separated using barriers without too much trouble. Most of this stretch is on Bulevar Oslobođenja which, as you can see, has a grassed central reservation meaning there should be no logistical problem whatsoever in the semitappe followed by TT out-and-back on the same roads as the right hand side can be used in the semitappe run-in and end of the TT, while the route out in the TT can use the left hand side. Sorted. Anyway, we continue out and cross the river once more, as we did yesterday, before heading through the tunnel on to the famous Mišeluk highway. The time check will come at the far end of the motor racing circuit, before the full hairpin and then 5,3km mostly very straight and pure power test back to the finishing line that the riders got the chance to see earlier. The most notable stopping point on the way back is Karađorđe stadium, the home of FK Vojvodina, which was for many years known as Vojvodina Stadium, but saw its original name, in honour of the leader of the First Serbian Uprising (against the Ottoman Turks), restored in 2007.

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The rest of the stage is a very simple clone of the finish from the earlier semitappe. It is an almost totally flat ITT; the only climbs are brief ramps that shouldn't really disrupt the rhythm too much, and indeed after that initial uphill to the fortress, once the TT engines have built up momentum, there are only a couple of corners that are tight enough to really disrupt them. It's not a long TT but it should be fast, and the climbers will be on the back foot, relatively speaking, here.
User avatar Libertine Seguros
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22 Nov 2017 22:59

Only a reference to Mulholland Drive the road? That's the perfect segue to talk about dreams, and how cycling has the same need for interpretation!
Goodbye, Tommeke; thank you for all you have given us!
User avatar Netserk
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Re:

23 Nov 2017 09:40

Netserk wrote:Only a reference to Mulholland Drive the road? That's the perfect segue to talk about dreams, and how cycling has the same need for interpretation!

I get what you're saying, but it's only a small part of the race on top of a climb, so I didn't want to spend too much time talking about it.
Of course that would be totally different if we'd talk about a potential Olympic RR route for LA that would feature the Mulholland Drive as a central part of the circuit, in that case it would make a ton of sense.
User avatar Mayomaniac
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23 Nov 2017 10:48

Only jesting, but it is the very first thing I thought about (the movie), when I realized the route would get there :p
Goodbye, Tommeke; thank you for all you have given us!
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Re: Race Design Thread

24 Nov 2017 08:42

Re: Giro

I just realized today that soon after the start of the climb to Pfelders you can look down to Passeiertal and see the Sandwirt, where Andreas Hofer was born in 1767. That's quite a big thing for a stage taking place in Südtirol.
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24 Nov 2017 21:36

Stage 7: Zrenjanin - Beograd, 148km

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GPM:
Park-šuma Zvezdara (cat.3) 3,2km @ 5,2%
Avala (cat.3) 4,2km @ 5,1%
Dedinje (Beli Dvor)(cat.3) 1,7km @ 5,8%

For you, the day Bison graced your town was the greatest day of your life. But for the péloton, it was Tuesday. We are completing the first week of the race, and heading into a rest day, so it's perhaps appropriate that we're speeding out of Vojvodina and into Serbia proper, to spend the rest day in the erstwhile former capital city of Yugoslavia, and present capital city of Serbia, Belgrade (Beograd in the local parlance). The stage is pretty short and offers a couple of noteworthy opportunities to make an escape, so with a rest day coming up, there's little reason for the riders not to try something if they have the legs, whether it be in pursuit of stage glory or time for the GC mix.

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Like many cities in former Communist Europe, Zrenjanin has undergone a few name changes. The capital of the Banat region was originally known as Bečkerek, reflections of which remain in its names in numerous languages, especially those of former Imperial rulers of the region - Hungarian, German and Turkish. It was renamed Petrovgrad in the 1930s before its present name, in honour of Vojvodina Partisan leader Žarko Zrenjanin, was established in the aftermath of WWII. The city was a supporter of the old Tour of Yugoslavia until the bitter end, holding several stage starts and finishes all the way until 2000 and the final edition of the race, when it held a sprint stage on the first day which linked today's two stage towns in the opposite direction. After a long absence from the sport, in 2017 it hosted the final stage of the abridged Tour of Serbia, which was similarly won in a sprint by Turkish paceman Ahmet Örken.

In fairness, however, it would be difficult to host anything other than a sprint stage finishing in Zrenjanin, as after all the city is deep into the Pannonian Plain here - we are in some serious Po floodbasin flat stage land; as a result the first half of today's stage profile could be used as a billiard table. The first hour should therefore be very fast as the breakaway tries to force some rope, so that they can contest the intermediate sprint in the biggest city we pass through en route to Belgrade, the South Banat capital of Pančevo. This city of 75.000 inhabitants may be pan-flat but sits to the north of the Danube, with the impending views of the more geographically interesting second half of the stage to warn the riders as they skirt the mighty river in search of an appropriate place to cross into the capital. There are, after all, only two places to cross the Danube in Belgrade, and the newer one, the Pupin bridge in the district of Zemun, was not opened until 2014, so for reasons of a) saving distance and b) authenticity of the Yugoslav times, Pančevački Most it is.

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The main thing that tempted me towards using Pupin Most is that Zemun is a site I wanted to incorporate, as it is the hometown of the best ever Serbian cyclist, Aleksandar Zorić. Zorić won one of the two co-editions of the Peace Race in 1948, its inaugural year, winning the shorter (5-stage) Prague-Warsaw route as opposed to the longer (9-stage) race in the opposite direction won by more celebrated then-compatriot August Prosenik (who was a Slovene); Zorić also won the Tour de Yugoslavie that year, as well as competing in the Olympics. Not a bad haul for a rider with no depth perception, having lost an eye in 1945 during a bombing of his hometown. However, after the public schism between Tito and Stalin, Yugoslav participation in the Course de la Paix was restricted, and disillusioned, Zorić retired from cycling before turning 25, living in relative peace in his homeland until death aged 75 in 2000. Here he is on the right, with his compatriot and fellow Peace Race winner Prosenik:

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Although we've now crossed into Belgrade, things don't stay urban for long - indeed we almost immediately leave the urban centre long before touching our finish area, instead heading for Park-šuma Zvezdara, the largest forest park in the area, and an important source of oxygen for the city. Protection of the green area has been an ongoing source of debate in Belgrade, and indeed Serbia in general, periodically for generations, but its position at the top of a hill also enables the area to sustain other features, such as an observatory crest, owing to the restricted light pollution in the nearby area, and this also enables us to include our first categorized climb of the day as the riders ascend through the forest access roads.

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From here, things simply cease to be flat, and although there is little to bother those who aren't complete scrubs when the road turns uphill, it is undulating and there are a few uncategorized ramps and repechos that might have a cumulative effect if the racing is hard. The second intermediate sprint comes at Vrčin, with 42km remaining, and then there is an uncategorized climb of around 3km at 4% - this may reasonably have been categorized in an earlier stage but is essentially an irrelevance here, although it does however not offer any respite since there's no descent, the riders just stay on a plateau before taking on the next categorized climb.

This next climb is called Avala and it is, of sorts, the Hausberg of Belgrade. It is protected as a natural beauty of Serbia, offering spectacular panoramas thanks to the low-lying land surrounding it. It is most famous for its TV tower, which was destroyed in the NATO bombings of 1999 and subsequently rebuilt to restore the mountain's trademark appearance. It also features the Monument to the Unknown Hero, a key WWI monument in the same vein as other "Tombs of the Unknown Soldiers", among other historical monuments and sites. Perhaps the most poignant of these is the Monument to the Soviet War Veterans, an unusual designation in Yugoslavia given the rift between Tito and the USSR; this commemorates the plane full of Soviet war heroes of the Red Army who were killed in 1964 when, on their way to an event commemorating 20 years from the liberation of Belgrade, the plane they were travelling in crashed into the Avala mountain.

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As a cycling climb, it is not especially steep - although it has ramps of up to 12%, its overall gradient is a fairly meagre 5,1%, the first half being steeper than the second. It might be familiar to some of the riders, however - this fairly small climb served as the 'mountaintop finish' in the queen stage of the 2017 Tour de Serbie - a very disappointing one after some of the stages we've seen in the past, but the recent ones into the Bosnian Respublika Srpska finishing in Pale were not viable this time around, and nowhere in the south was willing to host, so they were left with the comparatively flat parts of the country, and so Avala was a logical finish. I did a double take when I saw the results originally - not because Luca Chirico won or eventual winner Charalampos Kastrantas came 2nd, not even because of Bosnian climber Antonio Barac in the top 5, but because I misread U23 Austrian prospect Marvin Hammerschmid's name and thought that German women's biathlete Maren Hammerschmidt somehow appeared on the results list...

Anyhow, biathlon references aside, the riders will crest Avala with 25km to go, the first four or five of which are taken up by a twisty, technical narrow descent, before it opens out again, so if time gaps can be made on the climb, they can be consolidated pretty well before the bunch has the chance to chase back on.

Shortly after the descent rejoins the main road and widens out, we have our final intermediate sprint for the day, as we speed back northward towards the Belgrade suburbs. We head into town on Bulevar JNA - perhaps a bit testy given the JNA's role in the conflicts for some, notably in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina - before heading down towards the valley leading to the Sava. We then hang a right and include the last categorized climb of the day, into the Dedinje district of the city with the former royal complex of the Karađorđević dynasty. The climb is 1,7km @ 5,8% but it's very much a Cauberg-alike - consisting of a kilometre at 8% with its steepest ramps at the bottom, before flattening out. At the end of the steepest section lies the White Palace (Beli Dvor), also home of the Kraljevski Dvor with its spectacular interior.

This comes just 8,8km from the finish so offers a very good opportunity to get away, especially because the final run-in is far from - far from - flat. After dipping back down to the valley we climb again on Bulevar Vojvode Putnika, a wide open boulevard for sure, which will favour the chasers, but also 1,4km at 5,1%, albeit fairly consistent, but this ought to give another platform for some to chance their arm, finishing at a roundabout at Hajd Park just 4,7km from the line. We then head through the government buildings on an absolutely straight run-in to favour the chase and balance it out once more before a final sharp 90-degree left-hander at Pionirski Park leading on to the final kilometre.

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The finish of the stage is at Republic Square, after a couple of twists and turns onto an important thoroughfare through central Belgrade, passing the National Assembly of the Serbian republic (not to be confused with the National Assembly of Respublika Srpska!), among other tourist magnets of the city such as Dom Jugoslavije.

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This will give us a scenic finale fitting of the last stage of the week's racing, and see us pass through our third capital city of the race. The riders now have a day in Belgrade to rest their weary legs before the race restarts.

The finishing straight:

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