Giro d’Italia stage 14 preview: Ganna favourite as GC riders clash in key time trial

Filippo Ganna, Tadej Pogačar and Ben O’Connor give their thoughts on the 31km test to Lake Garda, which comes before the race’s queen stage

Clock18:03, Friday 17th May 2024
Tadej Pogačar and Filippo Ganna will be protagonists in the stage 14 time trial

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Tadej Pogačar and Filippo Ganna will be protagonists in the stage 14 time trial

Stage 14 of the 2024 Giro d’Italia brings another individual time trial test, with the riders taking on a slightly lumpy 31.2km between Castiglione delle Stiviere and Desenzano del Garda on the shores of Lake Garda.

It will be the second TT of the race, coming after Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) stormed to victory on stage 7 to extend his lead in the pink jersey, and Saturday is expected to be another key day when it comes to sorting out the overall standings in Italy.

A flatter day than the previous test, stage 14 is perhaps less angled towards Pogačar’s abilities, but the pink jersey is never out of the frame in TTs, and will still look to take time on his rivals.

“It's a more flat time trial, it doesn't suit me really well. So let's see, I don't know,” was Pogačar’s non-committal answer when asked about the TT a few days ago.

“I will give it a go, maybe I need to ride around 100 per cent, because also the next day is really hard, but let's see. It's 31km long, you need to set a good rhythm from the beginning and then see the gaps from the opponents and try to make a good TT. We will see, I hope for a good result.”

Read more: The GC standings at the Giro d'Italia

After Pogačar overhauled the Italian at the last moment on stage 7, former TT world champion Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) is a big favourite to take the win on Saturday, but the real interest is in how the stage will impact the GC, particularly ahead of possibly the hardest stage of the race on Sunday.

At a glance, the 31.2km route looks like it has a pretty flat profile, but in reality it’s fairly up and down throughout and will be a fatiguing test, where maintaining an even power will be key. Being long, technicality won’t come into it too much, but there are twists and turns to deal with, so being prepared and focused on your effort will be key.

The final quarter of the route is flatter, so whilst the lighter riders may go out the gate faster and look to be taking time, the big powerful riders should be able to push out a stronger finish and arrive at Lake Garda with better times.

Ganna to seek revenge, but GC riders will be there

When it comes to a time trial in the Giro d’Italia, particularly one that is relatively flat, there is one name who is always atop every list: Filippo Ganna. For a period, Ganna was unbeaten for five TTs in a row at this race, making the discipline and his home Grand Tour his happiest hunting ground.

However, in this race Ganna has been beaten in the first TT, with Pogačar dramatically outclimbing him on the final ramp in Perugia to seal the victory and knock Ganna down to second. With that in mind, and Ganna still chasing a stage win here, the Italian will have a fire in his belly on Saturday.

“We try to recover in these two days and then we see what can happen,” Ganna told GCN on Thursday.

“For sure Tadej also wants to win the second TT and he'll try to arrive in the front.”

Though Pogačar may want to win, the course is likely to play into Ganna’s hands, but he wasn’t taking that as a given.

“There's less climbs, but it's all day up and down, it's a really intensive day. If you have good legs it can be a good opportunity to give 100 per cent. If you arrive 50/50, it's really intensive.”

Much of the peloton also seem to be looking at Ganna as the favourite to win the stage, with Ben O’Connor (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale) picking out the Italian when discussing the stage with GCN.

“I think Ganna will win this one, because there's just so much absolute power there,” he said.

“For sure we should as GC guys be close, more or less, in that top 10, but I think Ganna will probably take the win, but you never know.”

What will worry Ganna, however, is that Pogačar – who is undeniably a great time trialist, but had some confidence knocks in recent seasons – is feeling extra buoyed after winning in Perugia, and is becoming more brash about his chances as the stage approaches.

“I’m more confident in my time trials than the last time,” he said on the eve of stage 14.

“So let's hope for good legs again and that I feel good on the bike and I will do my measured effort until the final. Let’s hope for a good result. It’s going to be tougher parcours for me than the last time but I can still do a great time trial.”

Read more: 10 days in pink, is even Tadej Pogačar bored at the Giro d'Italia?

A few years ago, we may have looked at this TT as one for the specialists, rather than the GC riders, but the distinction between those two types of rider has completely blurred in recent seasons, to the point where the so-called specialists rarely have their day in Grand Tours. The GC riders are now the specialists.

A handful of riders will be trying to challenge that idea, like Mikkel Bjerg (UAE Team Emirates) and Luke Plapp (Jayco AlUla), but as O’Connor pointed out, the top 10 is likely to be busy with GC riders.

No saving energy before Livigno queen stage

One thing that makes stage 14 so different from stage 7 is what comes after it. On Sunday, the peloton will take on what is arguably the queen stage of the race, a huge day to Livigno that takes in 222km and 5,724m of climbing. It’s a brutal day packed with big ascents which will likely become attritional, so having something to give when you’re on your limit will be important.

Read more: Stage 15 of the Giro d'Italia

With Sunday in mind, outsiders may think the GC riders may want to hold a little back when they get on their TT bikes, but in reality, trying to save energy in the TT can be a riskier strategy than it’s worth. What’s more, time is there for the taking in a TT in a way that it isn’t on a mountain: you don’t have to be tactical or time things right, you just give all you have and are rewarded – or penalised – in the end.

“You can lose more time in a time trial than you can lose in a mountain stage sometimes, or you can gain even more than you would in a mountain stage, so it really is one of those ones where it's up to you to take the benefit or minimise your loss as best as you can. There's really no conservation,” O’Connor explained.

“That would have been more for [Thursday’s] stage [12], for example, if you really wanted to open it up and attack on that final climb then it was definitely possible, it was a bit technical after, but you're not really going to win a lot for trying something like this, whilst in a time trial, you really can win a lot.”

How will the TT impact the overall standings?

In the top 10, you can make a fairly good guess on which riders have a chance to win something in the TT, and which will be in the loss-limiting camp. Fourth in the previous TT, 10th-placed Thymen Arensman (Ineos Grenadiers) sticks out as a rider who should make gains, whilst Pogačar seems likely to put even more time into his lead, even if he may not win this time.

Riders like Lorenzo Fortunato (7th) and Filippo Zana (8th) may slip, whilst Antonio Tiberi (5th) impressed in the previous TT and will look to consolidate his grip on the white jersey, though an assault from Arensman surely looms.

Read more: White jersey Antonio Tiberi impressing in 'dream come true' at debut Giro d'Italia

When it comes to second and third – Dani Martínez and Geraint Thomas – the outcome is hard to predict. It seems possible that both could lose to Pogačar, but how they give or take to each other should be interesting. On paper, Thomas should be the better time trialist, but he lost 11 seconds to Martínez on stage 7, allowing the Colombian to leapfrog him into the runner-up spot. If Thomas waivers in the TT again, he risks falling off the provisional podium altogether, with O’Connor certainly within striking distance.

Of course, whatever happens on stage 14 is, in many ways, only temporary. The GC will change, whether that’s in terms of positions or only gaps, but it’s certain to change again only 24 hours later when the peloton hits the slopes of the Mottolino climb. Saturday will start to bed in the GC positions, whilst Sunday has the potential to cement the overall.

For everything you need to know about the 2024 Giro d'Italia, from the history of the race to this year's route and start list, be sure to check out our dedicated race hub.

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