A speedy sprint stage to Switzerland. Normally this kind of stage sandwiched between the mountain stages would be reserved for the fast men but there are not many sure-fire sprinters left in the race and many riders will fancy their chances in a breakaway.
Stage 16 Wrap: a crazy stage. On the way to the Mortirolo Astana’s David Malacarne crashed and it caused a split in the bunch with Alberto Contador on the wrong side after a puncture – not the first time Contador’s had problems from bad meat. Astana and Katusha started driving the pace. It was an idiotic idea, as if Astana should seek to profit from Contador’s misfortune and especially because Fabio Aru has been getting slower every day so his chances of staying clear of Spaniard on the Mortirolo were slim. An enraged Contador set his team to chase and once on the Mortirolo went solo in search of Aru, displaying that carnivorous rictus as he weaved up the road, standing up on the pedals for most of the climb, his front wheel weaving left and right to lessen the gradient. Contador caught Aru and Landa and sat behind them. Aru was climbing with his head dipping down, a sign of fatigue. After getting his breath back Contador jumped clear to leave the Astana leader more sardonic than Sardinian. Mikel Landa was given permission to mark Contador and they joined up “human coathanger” Steven Kruijswijk who can now hang the mountains jersey on those wide shoulders. Aru was left to fend for himself. Landa took the stage win, dropping Contador with ease. Can he do the same again in the mountains? It’s worth trying but he benefited yesterday from sitting on for a long time. Landa might have won the day and took a clear win but others like Kruijswijk, Amador, Trofimov and Hesjedal deserve credit for their hard racing.
The Route: the stage starts with the 6km climb to Teglio and an average of 7%, enough to force an early selection of stage hunters but they’ll have their work cut out on the main Adda valley roads. Indeed the sprinters need to contest the two TV points to bolster their lead as Alberto Contador still has the arithmetical chance of beating them all for the points jersey. The Croce di Menaggio late on is an easy climb, 3km at 6% and won’t be enough to eject the sprinters.
The Finish: the race rushes into Lugano via a small climb, not steep with 2km at 4%, especially as the sprinters left in the race are handy on short climbs and it’s probably not hard enough for Philippe Gilbert to do what he does. To reward any breakaway there are two hairpins on the way down with 3km to go to stretch things out before a flat run to the line littered with street furniture.
The Contenders: this would be a sprint stage if there were enough sprint teams. But with the exit of André Greipel and Greg Henderson plus Michael Matthews too the balance of escape artists versus teams wanting to set up a sprint has changed and tilted to the fugitives.
As it’s hard to pick who will triumph in a breakaway, pick from 40 names who are far down on GC but still have the strength to barge clear. Otherwise the default picks are the sprinters with Giacomo Nizzolo surely due a stage. He got chopped to bits in the finish in Jesolo but has the leg speed to win. The chopper that day was Sacha Modolo who is another obvious pick. Elia Viviani has a clear run and he’s been working in his climbing so the route should be fine for him. Moreno Hofland is a classy finisher but hasn’t been getting the final kilometre right, the same for Luka Mezgec. Given the absence of sprinters Katusha’s Sacha Porsev and old man Alessandro Petacchi too could be in the mix.
|Nizzolo, Moldolo, Viviani|
|Hofland, Mezgec, Porsev, Any Breakaway Hero|
Weather: better weather returns with a sunshine and a top temperature of 25°C.
The Giro is: not only on TV. Everyone has their preferred TV commentators, each to their own. RAI do a good job on TV and like other host broadcasters their output is superior to the international feed because it has additional input from moto commentators, just as Sporza has “Wielerman” Renaat Schotte on a motorbike following the spring classics. If you can try to find the ESPN Latin America coverage of the Giro during a mountain stage to listen to the commentary, they’re passionate about South American r-r-r-r-iders and r-r-r-oll their R’s theatrically for Andrrrrey Amadorrrr and it’s always Darrrrwin El Puma Atamapumaaa and Carlos Betancur is Banannnn-ito, it’s great. Italian radio is good but the live coverage on Rai 1 is not continuous, they’ll cut to the Giro and then play some music or discuss the news before returning to the race again. But the radio coverage is enjoyable thanks to ex-pro Massimo Ghirotto on the moto, his emotional, passionate voice sees his vocal chords straining as much as calf muscles on a rider.