A downhill profile today means a fast stage as gravity does its work. But don’t imagine riders can frolick their way down to Vedelago to the sound of whizzing freewheels. Instead today should see a duel between attackers and sprinters with the soundtrack of the chain clunking between the 11 and 12 sprocket as many will be trying to break away whilst the sprinters teams will want to reel them in.
Even before the stage starts several will go for a warm-up. Normally the sprinters and their teams gobble up escapees with relative ease but many sprinters have left the race already (Farrar, Démare, Goss, Renshaw and Bos, Haedo, Feillu) meaning a lot of the burden will fall on Mark Cavendish’s Team Sky but they have to worry about Rigoberto Uran and Sergio Henao whilst they’ve also lost workhorse Jeremy Hunt. Other teams like Androni with Roberto Ferrari or Colnago with Sacha Modolo might try to send a rider up the road. In short today is the last chance for the heavier rider to win a stage, unless they’re a pure time trial specialist for Sunday. Note Mark Cavendish is battling for the red points jersey, he has 110 points whilst Joaquim Rodriguez has 109 and the Spaniard will surely collect more points in the mountains.
En route the race passes Belluno, one of the largest towns in the region. It was the birthplace of Dino Buzzati, the Italian novelist who was also dispatched to cover the Giro during the “golden age” of Italian cycling for the Corriere della Sera, Italy’s biggest newspaper. Here’s a sample from 1949 when Buzzati mediates on the arrival of industrialisation, nuclear power and wonders whether the humble bicycle will vanish…
Fly with your tiny energy among mountains and valleys, sweat, toil, and suffer. The woodsman will still descend from his isolated mountain hut to cry “Evviva!”, fishermen will come up from the beach, clerks will abandon their ledgers, the blacksmith will let his flame die out to come to celebrate you, the poets, the dreamers, the creatures humble and good will still line the roadsides, forgetting, in your honour, their troubles and hardships. And the women will cover you with flowers.
The finish is pan flat and straight, with the last bend 5.3km from the finish line.
Today will also be the chance for recovery for those on the overall classification. Yesterday saw Ivan Basso stretch the race to the limits as he put in repeated accelerations. We even got a rare glimpse of him riding out of the saddle. He’s arguably the strongest climber in the race and can time trial but we’ll see what Joaquim Rodriguez does as “Purito” needs more time ahead of Sunday’s final time trial. One big loser yesterday was Roman Kreuziger who came in over ten minutes down after cracking horribly on the Passo Giau. Long touted as a big hope he’s bound to find it hard to get out of bed today.
1 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team 74:46:46
2 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin – Barracuda 0:00:30
3 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:01:22
4 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre – ISD 0:01:36
5 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling 0:02:56
6 Benat Intxausti Elorriaga (Spa) Movistar Team 0:03:04
7 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Colnago – CSF Inox 0:03:19
8 Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:04:13
9 Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team 0:04:38
10 Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Col) Sky Procycling 0:04:42