The Giro d’Italia’s next three days are difficult ones, capped off with the first mountaintop arrival of the race. The stages are not the high mountains of the Dolomites and Alps, those will come in eight days, but they will put stress on the teams’ workers.
Steve Cummings’ role is to look after Sky’s captain, Bradley Wiggins, and make sure his days are stress free.
“My job is about positioning Bradley and our other riders in the right place in the key parts of the race,” Cummings told Cycling Weekly. “If I can do that without expecting too much energy, then I will hang on as long as possible and try to be there in case something happens to them.”
Wiggins and the other riders will face the first category two climb in today’s stage to Marina di Carrara. The climb comes early, but there is more to come: the category two Spolverina and the category three Bedizzano.
“Everyone will be fighting to be at the front, but roads aren’t big enough. A lot of it will be about position,” Cummings continued.
“The small roads continue to the finish. They are made worse by the dust coming from the marble mines in this area. It is difficult, it will be a race to the top to be positioned for the descent.”
The difficulties continues in the Montalcino and Monte Terminillo stages. Organiser RCS Sport will use some of the same roads for the stage to Montalcino as it uses at the Strade Bianche in March: white gravel roads that roll up and down, left and right.
The final Poggio Civitella climb tops out at only 585 metres, but it is 14 kilometres long, all on gravel roads and contains a section of 16 per cent gradient.
“I think Montalcino will be a bit more selective because of the stage’s length [222km]. I have never raced Strade Bianche, but I have trained on similar stuff in the area. Those climbs are really hard and steep.”
The weekend ends with the stage to Monte Terminillo, the Giro d’Italia’s first mountaintop arrival this year. It does not compare to the high passes in the third week, but it will give fans an early indicator of who is up to the job of winning the overall title.
Cummings will have to shepherd Wiggins over two category three climbs, the Monte Nibbio and the Marmore, ahead of the final climb up Monte Terminillo. Terminillo rises 1168 metres over 16.1 kilometres, with an average gradient of 7.3 per cent.
“The Monte Terminillo stage is about racing to the base of the climb and then the leaders take it from there.”
After the weekend stages, the race continues with a series of stages that should end in a sprint. Though these days may seem easy to the fans, Cummings is looking ahead to the race’s third week and the high mountains.
“So far, the Giro d’Italia has been quite stressful. Even yesterday was not that easy, you had to be up front over those climbs. The next few days will be more of the same.
“It is almost going to be a relief for me to get into the mountains! I will be able to sort of switch off mentally and just ride. It will be good to be there, once the race settles down.”
Giro d’Italia 2010: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index
2010 Giro d’Italia coverage in association with Zipvit