For the daily previews I’ve included the stage profile diagrams to illustrate the day’s racing. But Stage 1 is better depicted by the aerial map of the course, especially since the course is quite flat. Riders start at the green point on the map above. The route looks like the path out of a maze.
Technically a prologue has to be less than 8km so this is 8.7km stage is labelled as Stage 1 but it’s just like a prologue: fast and intense. The roads get wider and faster the longer the course goes on. At first riders will be changing gears and braking hard but the closer they get to the finish the more the roads open up and the speed will go up. Remember this when you see the split time taken at about half way because some might fade in the latter half if they’ve wasted too many watts and others can recover time by getting a big gear rolling.
Who will win? I’m tempted to say Taylor Phinney and leave it at that. The American can ride like the wind, he can sprint too and so this seems ideal for him. But there are some good names to rival him. This is course where explosive prologue power specialists will have their day, a “diesel” time trial specialist who can hold a high pace won’t enjoy this, instead is all about accelerating hard, cornering well and then picking up speed again. So look out for Greenedge’s Jack Bobridge. Sky’s Geraint Thomas won the prologue in Romandie. Local rider Alex Rasmussen of Garmin-Barracuda has been training for this day whilst local team Saxo Bank have the powerful Manuele Boaro. Daniele Bennati is an outside pick, often labelled as a sprinter he has more than a fast finish and his Radioshack team mate Jesse Sergent could surprise. And we’ll also know more about Thor Hushovd’s state of form.
TV and Timing: the first rider is off at 3.40 pm with the last rider expected to arrive at 7.30pm. Eurosport start at 5.00pm and Italian TV goes live from 6.00pm onwards.
Weather: cold and cloudy. A top temperature of 12°C (54°F) with a breeze hitting 20-30km/h. There’s a chance of rain too and a shower late in the afternoon could influence the results.
Local produce: Italy and Denmark are, within Europe at least, opposites. The Italian press pack has been making rude noises about “crap pizza” in Denmark. I’m waiting to see if the Danish media kick up a rude fuss about the poor quality of pickled herring and smoked eel once the race arrives in Italy. Herning is as far as you can get from the sea in Denmark, bang in the middle of Midtjylland. Pork is a big part of the diet and bacon a significant export. But the riders will prefer some bread for their morgenmad or breakfast. The country is famous for its rye bread which, whisper it, is better than 95% of the bread you’ll find in Italy.