A mountain stage? This stage features a very tough late climb and puts a premium on descending skills.
Stage 17 Wrap: a three rider breakaway went with a rider from Nippo-Vini Fantini, Androni and Etixx-Quickstep. Spot the odd rider out from the World Tour team but all three squads are still hunting for a stage win in part because a handful of teams have dominated the stage wins including Lampre-Merida who win their fourth stage thanks to Sacha Modolo who finished off the work done by his team mates in the finish, helped by drifting across the line to thwart Giocomo Nizzolo who now wears the red points jersey. “I’m not a champion”, Modolo said afterwards, “just a good racer”. The finish in Lugano showed that if the likes of Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali have moved here for tax reasons there’s some good riding to be done too.
The Route: a flat procession from Lake Lugano to Lake Maggiore. It all changes when the race flicks in land to climb Monte Ologno. It’s a good sized road but 10km at 9% make this a very tough climb especially as the steepest ramps come early to make it selective from the start.
If that’s not enough the Mountains Prize point is not the top because after a short and twisty descent the race continues up to Alpe Segletta on a roller coaster road.
The Finish: it’s downhill to the line, the road twists and turns on the descent but the closer to the finish it gets the road gets bigger and it’s not the most technical of descents, it’ll be hard to chase but it’s not necessarily the terrain for a descent daredevil, anyone away will need the power to sprint out of corners and keep the pace up. The final 5km are flat and interrupted by several roundabouts.
The Contenders: given Lampre-Merida are collecting stage wins Diego Ulissi could get his second stage win if he can hang on up the climb as he has a fast finish but is better suited to uphill sprints. Carlos Betancur is a rider who can win a sprint from a small group and climbing better and better. Yuri Trofimov is a great descender but this might not be technical enough for him, team mate Ilnur Zakarin might prefer to take flight on the climb. Beñat Intxausti is still in the fight for the mountains jersey even if he hasn’t looked so good in the last few days and team mate Giovanni Visconti is well suited to a climb like this if the main GC riders avoid too much aggression. If things do go all out – it keeps happening – then Fabio Aru could finally get the better of Alberto Contador in the sprint to the line.
|Carlos Betancur, Diego Ulissi|
|Zakarin, Trofimov, Inxausti, Visconti, Aru, Contador, Felline|
Weather: sunshine and a pleasant 23°C
The Giro is: doing ok on television. Just over two million Italians tuned in last weekend to see the stage finish in Madonna di Campiglio while six million watched the Formula 1 Grand Prix. It’s good but not stunning. By contrast the Tour de France can get six million on a good day among French viewers, and over 50% audience share too. The population sizes are similar, 59 million in Italy compared to 66 million in France.