So far, so predictable. After a set piece weekend with an opening criterium and the team time trial and accompanying logical results, Stage 3 brings plenty of risk and uncertainty.
A scenic start in one of Italy’s most prized tourist destinations sees the race head south to wilder terrain. There’s some surprisingly steep climbing on the way to thwart the sprinters – how does 16% sound? – and a twisting high speed descent on a narrow road to the finish. Oh and the forecast says it could rain too.
Yesterday’s stage: we’re only two days in but it’s been the ideal start, Naples newspaper Il Mattino said “the Giro beat the Americas Cup, with a show and crowds”. A win by Mark Cavendish on the opening day to satisfy the global audience and then on the island of Ischia (I-Sky-ia?) the Giro got an Italian wearer of the maglia rosa to boost domestic interest.
Puccio wasn’t supposed to wear the jersey. Sky ensured Dario Cataldo crossed the line first, confident that he’d take the overall lead as Sky’s first man home. But in the event of equal time the Giro rules say it’s based on the cumulative stage finishes and on Stage 1 Puccio (33rd) was ahead of Cataldo (84th).
If that was a miscalculation, it’s nothing compared to Euskaltel-Euskadi reaching the finish line with just four riders. In a team time trial the clock stops on the fifth rider so it was down to the lone rider well behind them to set the time. Despite this they didn’t finish last.
The Route: you can break the stage up into four sections:
- the race will do two loops around the start town of Sorrento, a ploy to satisfy the host town by retaining the race for a bit longer. Then a very scenic start to the day as the race rolls out along the Amalfi coast with its winding cliff road. Hotels perch on the cliffs here, with elevators to take guests down to the beach. At times the road is narrow, it climbs and descends, twists and turns. Ideal for a breakaway to get away
- a flat coastal section roughly bookended by the two “TV” intermediate sprints
- the climb of San Mauro Cilento, which climbs away from the sea with 77km to go. It averages 6.7% for 7.8km but starts with a 16% section right and a series of narrow hairpin bends. The first 2.4km average a lactic-acid 8.7%. There’s 69km to go to the finish at the top of the climb but this is a strategic moment
- the final climb of the Sella di Catona, some 8.0km long at an average of 6.6% but a max of 13% and then a tricky descent all the way to the finish for the final 20km, broken by a short rise with 11km to go.
The Finish: dangerous. The roadbook says “The final kilometres are descending with demanding sections on well-surfaced roads of
medium width” which is generous. Most of the last 20km are downhill but there’s an short uphill section into Ascea, the ideal springboard for an attack before swooping down for 11km to the finish. The downhill gradient is 4-5% meaning riders have to pedal fast to keep their position but it’s enough to make an organised chase very hard work.
The roads they look narrow, wide enough for two cars to pass each other but no more. It’s the kind of road you could ride down yourself without problem but send 207 riders downhill with a stage win and time bonus available and it’s completely different. Here’s the map, note the twists and turns.
Sorry for the multiple graphics but this is a tricky downhill finish with bending roads and it might be wet. The finishing straight is flat and on the sea front. If a small group arrives ideally you want to me on the second or third wheel into the final bend.
The Scenario: the sprinters had their chance on Saturday and it’s hard to imagine the likes of Mark Cavendish and Elia Viviani coping with the climbs. Perhaps John Degenkolb will fare better? The second category climb to San Mauro Cilento is hard enough to eject the sprinters and with mountain points waiting at the top it’s a valuable point in the race. Worse for the sprinters if they fight to get back on there’s still another climb to go. But the race could easily split apart on the final climb or the descent, meaning a nervous day.
Sky will be delighted with the stage win and the overall lead but I can’t see them defending Puccio’s lead. Perhaps they’ll commit a couple of riders but fatigue in a grand tour is like compound interest and there’s no point adding to it with bigger objectives in mind.
The more you look at the route, the more the big teams have an interest in letting some lesser riders go up the road so that the final descent is not too chaotic with riders fighting for position. If you want names, watch out for the likes of Filippo Pozzato (Lampre), Fabio Felline (Androni), Fran Ventoso (Movistar), Stefano Garzelli (Vini Fantini) or Angel Vicioso (Katusha) but the race is still wide open and anyone could jump at the stage win.
TV: hopefully by now you’ve worked out a way to watch the race. It’s on a variety of TV channels according to where you are in the world. Eurosport is covering the race across most of Europe. beIN SPORT has the rights in the US and France. Italian host broadcaster RAI offers the best coverage with experienced commentators as well as roving reporters on motorbikes to add extra coverage.
As ever cyclingfans.com and steephill.tv are the go-to sites. The live feed starts at 3.10pm Euro time, just in time for the steep climb and be sure to watch the last half hour. The finish is expected around 5.15pm.
Weather: sunshine and clouds for most of the day but the clouds are forecast to bring rain. Temperatures won’t get higher than 18°C (64°C), a cool day. Rain is a worry with the downhill finish. Often the first shower is the worst as it is mixes with residual dust, drops of oil and diesel to make a slippery film on the surface of the road.
Local food: the insalata caprese is a mozzarella and tomato salad eaten across all of Italy but comes the island of Capri just of the coast. There are vines along the coast but the local speciality is limoncello, a cloying liqueur made from lemons.
Word of the Day: ammiraglia is Italian for team car but the word actually means a flagship, the vessel in the navy where the commanding officer sails.