Sky's Rod Ellingworth studying Giro d'Italia's Saltara time trial
Sir Bradley Wiggins
The Giro d'Italia, after a tricky stage today, delivers one of its most decisive stages in the form of a 54.8km time trial on Saturday.
It is the longest individual time trial since 2009, when the race skirted the coast in Cinque Terre. The longest was back in 1951, when Italy's campionissimo, Fausto Coppi won a 81-kilometre test.
As soon as news leaked of the Giro route last year, experts said the stage would suit Sky's Bradley Wiggins perfectly. He won his Tour de France title last year partly thanks to two long time trials. The time trial and dream of winning the race's maglia rosa was enough to lure Wiggins to Italy this May.
Since taking the decision, Sky has been preparing for this day in Italy's Le Marche region. Dario Cioni, Sky's Italian press officer and a former pro, gathered information and planned a reconnaissance trip. On April 21, Wiggins went to see it and Cioni filmed it.
"It's a long old way," Wiggins told Cycling Weekly, "and took two hours to ride it."
"He rode it once, we filmed it, they looked at it. Brad knows the course," Sky performance manager, Rod Ellingworth worth said early morning leaning against the team's car in Policastro Bussentino. "I'm sure he'll watch the footage of himself riding the course again in these next days."
Wiggins often will ride in the follow car when a teammates races early in the day. However, given the distance, he lacks time to do so. Ellingworth or sports director Marcus Ljungqvist will drive the course early and feed back feedback any new information.
"When you are in the starts and finishes it's different with the barriers," Ellingworth (pictured left) added. "We will have the first riders go off and feed back any of the info that's different than what we filmed. Because it's long, though, it'll be hard to feedback the information and we'll have to phone it back."
Today's stage weaves its way through Abruzzo, similar tricky roads to those where Chris Froome lost the lead in Tirreno-Adriatico in March. Local Dario Cataldo will lead Wiggins through today so that he can have his best shot at the time trial in neighbouring Le Marche.
Le Marche is just as undulating and produces punchy climbers like Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida).
"It's not like the Olympic course, which was not technical at all and really a Bradley sort of course, all power and aerodynamics," explained Ellingworth.
"This is a little more technical with corners, where people can gain time on corners if you make mistakes. It's more technical than any of those ones [in the Tour de France], it's a typical Giro TT - interesting. It spices things up."
Wiggins gained one to two minutes on his rivals in the Tour's first time trial in Besançon. He should produce important gains on GC rivals like Scarponi and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). Defending champion Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp), Robert Gesink (Blanco) and Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) will be able to stand their ground.
Garmin's sports director, Charly Wegelius warned the gains might not be astronomical.
"Due to the nature of the course - this isn't the Tour de France boulevard, straight-type of time trial - you could see some climbers doing good rides," Wegelius said. "It's going to make a lot more balanced race than people first thought when the route was announced."
Giro d'Italia stage eight profile
Giro d'Italia 2013: Stage reports
Stage six: Cavendish wins stage six of Giro
Stage five: Degenkolb avoids crash to take win
Stage four: Battaglin sprints to first Giro stage win
Stage three: Paolini takes charge
Stage two: Sky wins team time trial
Stage one: Cavendish wins opener