Stage 10, we’re in to double digits now. Today’s stage is a mini gastronomic tour starting in the vinegar capital of Italy and including a ride straight through the city of Parma, city of hams, on to the small spa town of Salsomaggiore.
It could almost be a tourist spin. But it’s a stage for the sprinters even if that little bump at the end is perfect for a late attack.
The Route: 98.5% flat and tactically unremarkable. We should note and celebrate the ride through Parma for the Giro will ride into the city and go straight back out, a rarity for a grand tour as races tend to finish in major places.
Now to the bump at the end. The race could have gone straight to Salsomaggiore but instead they go to Bagni di Tabiano and then start a short climb. It’s a wide road and very straight, a sprinter can sit tight on the wheels here but if they can’t keep up with the place they’ll lose vital places in the bunch. Then comes a sharp descent into town which is steeper and has several hairpin bends. These are wide sweeping bends but all the same, a sprinter sat on a train will find it had to make up lost ground.
The Finish: an urban sprint with a few hectic moments. The race tours the small spa town and there are tight bends and roundabouts to negotiate along the way. The roads are wide avenues – this is no medieval town – and it gets more predictable just after the 1km point with a long sweeping bend all the way to the line. The road rises slightly at the finish.
The Scenario: a sprint seems the most likely option. For the sake of illustration let’s say 80% sprint, 12% breakaway, 8% late attack. Why? Today is the only stage all week to offer a probably sprint finish and several teams won’t want to miss out. FDJ, Giant-Shimano, Trek and Cannondale can all pull hard to reel in a breakaway for their sprinters. If a move goes clear look to see if it contains a rider from these teams, if not they’ll presumably chase.
The Contenders: Nacer Bouhanni is the prime pick. the red jersey wearer has taken two stages already and has what it takes to win more. His first win showed strength and nerves, his last win showed speed and nerves. However it was not a dominant win and Elia Viviani and Giacomo Nizzolo are the other obvious picks, they’re both due a win if they can get the right leadout. Giant-Shimano have Luka Mezgec who was close on Stage 6 too.
On paper old men Tyler Farrar and Alessandro Petacchi are next in pedigree but watch Roberto Ferrari, Nicola Ruffoni and Manuele Belletti. Sky’s Ben Swift is still stage-hunting too.
|Elia Vivani, Giacomo Nizzolo,
|Luka Mezgec, Ben Swift, Tyler Farrar, Alessandro Petacchi
Weather: it should be dry but at times cloudy. Temperatures are still cool for the season with 20°C. No wind.
TV: the race is 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. There’s cyclingfans.com and steephill.tv for TV schedules and pirate feeds and more.
Tune for the sprint build-up from 4.40pm Euro time with the finish expected around 5.10pm.
Mountain High: what better place than a spa town that trades on hot water to mention the snowy peaks that await? Twitter is awash with pictures of the Gavia, Stelvio and other passes covered in snow: how can the Giro go here?
But it’s normal. These mountain passes never open until late May anyway and it’s why the Giro visits the Alps for the last week. The race’s position on the calendar means it can just about dare to cross these passes. Some roads are open all year round to ensure tourists visit but the high mountain passes are closed, in fact some are ski runs.
Once the ski season ends in April the resorts have a break as Mother Nature gets to work. The snow starts to melt and by late May the roads are ploughed, cleared and the sunshine gets to work on keeping the black tarmac just warm enough to be frost free during daylight hours.
Meanwhile the rest of the snow takes weeks and even months to melt. Above 2,500 metres it’s normal to find snow from the winter lingering well into July. So we should not worry about the images of a still closed mountain pass.
No, the worry is not the snow that has fallen over the winter but that which has yet to fall. The only thing that will stop the Giro is fresh snow. Should a weather front bring cold and damp air this can close the roads or at least make them unrideable, as happened last year when a persistent weather system kept much of Italy under a cold spell for May and brought fresh snow to the Alps forcing stage alternations and cancellations.