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An overly long-winded preview of Giro Stage 12

Hi guys.

In recent years I have come to doing previews of each stage of the Tour De France for a group of friends who are gambling degenerates (like myself) but not cycling enthusiasts (unlike myself). We've had great success, though as with all punting this has had a fair bit to do with luck. Anyway, I thought I'd do one today for the Giro time trial and post it on here after my friends have had a chance to get any bets on that they want to.

It's kinda long but hey, you don't have to read if you don't want to, so don't hate me ...

Stage 12 Preview

This is one of the most unusual time trials you'll come across and as a result is very difficult from a betting point of view. Usually in a grand tour time trial it's not hard to narrow it down to the top three chances, who collectively will win more than 70% of the time. This is not the case here because:

(a) The course is unusually long (stamina more of a factor than normal);
(b) The course is more technical than most (bike handling more of a factor than normal);
(c) There are some wild cards whose prospects are incredibly difficult to assess (primarily Armstrong and Basso).

My impressions, therefore, are that it is much more open than usual and a major surprise is a possibility. Here are the prices from a major bookmaker for the favourites (better prices can be gained if you shop around).

Leipheimer $2.25
Menchov $4.00
Rogers $7.00
Bruseghin $10.00
Armstrong $11.00
Basso $15.00
Cancellara $18.00

My overall comment is that there is no value in the favourites. Leipheimer is understandably the favourite but I couldn't back him at less than $5. His descending (which there is plenty of in this course) has looked a little shaky but he has big motivation for this stage. He needs to be taking at least two minutes off Di Luca to put him where he wants to be for the GC. The Giro is, after all, his grand final, as he will be riding as a domestique in the Tour.

Menchov is always solid but generally unremarkable. He's just about my top pick for the GC but I rate him only about a 10% chance of winning this stage.

Likewise Rogers. I believe his time trialling is over-rated and he still lives off the glory of four or five years ago. It seems to me that as his climbing has improved his time trialling has declined, such that he is not quite good enough to win either a mountain stage or a time trial stage.

So, where does that leave us to find some value?

Generally, I try to find comparable time trials from recent years and factor in the changeable variables (form, motivation etc). This is very difficult on this occasion because there have been no comparable course in major races over the last few years. Here are a few to bear in mind, however:

2008 Giro - 39km - 450m rise - quite technical.

Bruseghin 1st 0.00
Menchov 6th @ 0.46
Leipheimer 9th @ 1.01
Pellizoti 18th @ 2.09
Di Luca 19th @ 2.11

I have ignored the latter time trial from the 08 Giro because it was totally flat and not really relevant.

2007 Giro - 12.6km - Mountain time trial

Bruseghin 1st 0.00
Di Luca @ 0.06

2007 Giro - 43km mainly flat and not overly technical

Bruseghin 6th @ 1.16
Di Luca 8th @ 1.57

2008 Olympics - 47.6km
Similar rises to this time trial but more flat areas and not nearly as technical.

Cancellara 1st 0.00
Leipheimer 3rd @ 1.10
Menchov 20th @ 3.59
Bruseghin 22nd @ 4.00

Here are another couple of recent ones ...

2009 Tour of Califormia - 24km - 120m incline

Leipheimer 1st 0.00
Armstrong 14th @ 1.14

2009 Tireno-Adriatico - 30km, rolling (250m incline)

Lovkvist 3rd @ 0.21
Basso 20th @ 1.14
Bruseghin 37th @ 2.06

OK then, in interpreting this the overriding thing is that we can't take too much from these numbers because of the course. One thing we can take, however, is that Bruseghin is competitive in a wide variety of courses, so long as they are at the Giro. Basically it is the only time of the year he performs. He will have targeted this stage and at his age he will get very few more opportunities to win a stage of his home Tour. I think he is over the odds at $11 and rate him a better chance than the more fancied Menchov and Rogers.

Cancellara? Well, he is the gold standard amongst time trialists and he could win, but this isn't a great course for him and I think his best form is 4-6 weeks away. He is rightly priced between 20-1 and 30-1. I do love him as a rider, however, and am currently trying to teach my six month old son to say "Cancellara" as his first spoken word. Progress is not great. I might have to focus on "Fabian" (three syllables must be easier than four).

So, then we come to the wild cards. Let's talk about Basso first.

Basso is obsessive about winning the Giro and apparently has ridden this course many many times in preparation. On a technical course this is a huge advantage. Is he good enough to win a time trial, however? I still say no. Before he disappeared from the scene for "attempting to dope" his time trialling had improved to a very respectable standard (witness the final time trial at the 2005 Tour). I can't conclude that he's at that level yet, though.

So that leaves our friend Lance, the cancer on the sport of cycling as Paul Kimmage (rightly in my opinion) described him. In the last 24 hours I have warmed to his prospects of winning and here is why ...

First, his form is improving menacingly as the Giro progresses.

Secondly, he has stated he wants to win a stage of the Giro and when Armstrong "targets" something he invariably seems to achieve it. With the injury to Horner I just don't see Armstrong riding off ahead of Levi in a mass start stage as long as Levi is in the hunt for the GC. Additionally, if they end up together in the lead at the end of a mountain stage I expect Levi to be allowed to win to take the time bonus. I think you will see Lance be a perfect teammate for Levi in the expectation of reciprosity at the Tour. So a time trial stage is logical for Arnstrong to "target".

(By the way, I point out that "target" in the above paragraph includes all sorts of malevolent practices to achieve a goal)

Thirdly, stamina intensive time trials with climbing components suit Armstrong perfectly.

Fourthly, Armstrong's nous and bike-handling is underrated (remember him going cross-country in the 2003 Tour).

And fifthly ... how much would it scare the hell out of potential Tour rivals if he won this stage - with them knowing that he will be better in six week's time? He could send a huge message to Contador about who is the alpha-male at Astana.

The flipside of this is of course that he's old. Really old. And he hasn't really been pressured to peform since he's come back so we don't know whether he can ride at anything close to the level he once did. Take a minute, however, to remember just how dominant he was right up until he "retired" and bear in mind he doesn't have to be at that level to win this time trial. Whatever you think of him and his methods (and to me he is as morally bereft as a mutant offspring of Ted Bundy and Lucrezia Borgia) he wins a lot of bike races.

So to summarise, here's roughly how I rate the winning chances:

Armstrong 25%
Leipheimer 20%
Bruseghin 15%
Menchov 10%
Rogers 5-7%
Basso 3-5%
Rest of the field 20%

I thinking there is therefore value in backing both Armstrong and Bruseghin.

Have fun!
 
Mar 10, 2009
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But but...

1) What were Armstrong's TT results this year?
2) You can't predict Armstrong's TT performance from his pre-retirement (read: doping) TT results. Next, you will call Rasmussen a good climber.
3) Did you forget last year's second time trial?

1. Pellizzotti
3. Simoni 0.17
7. Bruseghin 1.04
...

;)

All kidding aside, I like your analysis. My only small disagreement is with too much importance given to psychological factors in Armstrong's case.
 
Apr 12, 2009
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if he is right I wonder what Mellow Velo would say, anyway it could be a strong possibility. I think maybe about levi you're wrong because he could just have been careful on the descent.
 
Apr 12, 2009
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Leopejo said:
But but...

1) What were Armstrong's TT results this year?
2) You can't predict Armstrong's TT performance from his pre-retirement (read: doping) TT results. Next, you will call Rasmussen a good climber.
3) Did you forget last year's second time trial?

1. Pellizzotti
3. Simoni 0.17
7. Bruseghin 1.04
...

;)

All kidding aside, I like your analysis. My only small disagreement is with too much importance given to psychological factors in Armstrong's case.

that was an all uphill time trial on dirt, I don't think you can take that result as a comparison.
 

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