A day for a breakaway with tough terrain all the way to the finish to disrupt any chase. But there’s no script and Astana might fancy another tug of war with Tinkoff-Saxo. Unlikely but the hilly course as means there’s uncertainty.
Stage 8 Wrap: a clever win for Beñat Intxausti (Movistar) who made the day’s breakaway after a fierce start to the race. The move that eventually went clear was packed with quality riders, all with an interesting past or a promising future. It split and the trio of Steven Kruijswijk, Carlos Betancur and Krisof Vanderwalle started the final climb together until Betancur attacked only to see Kruijswijk come flying past seconds later. The Dutchman, who resembles a pedalling coat hanger with his wide shoulders, went solo but started to slow like a toy with drained batteries until he cracked and was passed by IAM Cycling’s Sebastien Reichenbach and Intxausti with the Spaniard sitting tight. Reichenbach looked smooth and powerful but on the 7% slope the Spaniard was saving muchos watts and, near the top of the climb, spent his savings on a huge attack to leave the Swiss climber and take the win.
Behind Fabio Aru tried a few attacks but could not dislocate Alberto Contador. The Spaniard seemed ok although he had his head tilted to the side at times. When Aru jumped Contador took time to close him down. Porte and Uran responded too and the Colombian seems back to form which bodes well for the contest. Astana hold all the cards and have a demonstration today with Landa up the road and three helpers around Aru late on the climb when Contador had just one rider with him. Contador’s shoulder passed the test and tomorrow is an easier day, Monday is a rest day and then come some softer days to help the recovery. Remember the official bulletin said this was a subluxation, not a dislocation and there was only small instability: it’ll hurt but it’s not as big as the headlines of dislocation could suggest.
The Route: with the profile of an electrocardiogram this stage promises a hard day for everyone. The climb of Monte Termino is as steady as it looks on the profile, a 4% slope for most of the way. It’s followed by a harder descent and then straight up the other side of the valley, this time with a hard 4km at 10% for the Colle Molella before passing Lago Laceno, the scene of Domenico Pozzovivo’s only Giro stage win.
The Passo Serra might look small but it rates on the same scale as the long Termino. It’s 4km at 7% and with a 10% middle section, tough at the end of the stage but a large road where it’s hard to sneak away, an early attack on this climb can be monitored and reeled in by a steady rider but any climbers in the breakaway will have to try their moves here because the finish suits powerful riders.
The Finish: the race drops to San Giorgio Del Sannio on main roads crosses a bridge and climbs into town via 4% ramp 4km from the finish before circling the town on flattish roads before the road tilts up at 3% for the final 500 metres.
The Contenders: you might as well put the names of riders into a lottery machine and see who drops out. There’s climbing but the tough Colle Molella comes mid-stage so even the heavy riders can scale it and it’s surely too far for Astana to try and detonate the peloton.
We can look to those who had an easier day yesterday for clues, say, Pieter Weening, Kevin Reza, Luca Paolini, Simon Geschke, Adam Hansen or we can see in-form riders trying hard for stages, think Diego Ulissi, Luca Paolini, Philippe Gilbert or the quietly impressive Jonathan Monslave. But watch to see how many team miss the move, some might be obliged to chase and there’ll be a sprint. Michael Matthews is feeling under the weather but Lampre-Merida might fancy supporting Sacha Modolo and Movistar’s J-J Lobato is getting better each day and Fabio Felline will be in the mix too but we can probably forget the likes of André Greipel and Elia Viviani, this is too hard a day.
|Luca Paolini, Diego Ulissi, Philippe Gilbert|
|Matthews, Lobato, Gerrans, Modolo, Hansen, Felline, Monsalve|
Weather: early showers turning to sunshine with mild temperatures of 23°C. The route is a large U-shape and wind of 30km/h will blow the riders out to Monte Termino and then prove drag on the riders as they approach the finish.
The Giro is: cracked roads. Potholes are everywhere across Europe as municipal and regional budgets are stretched but as a rule the further south you go in Italy the rougher the roads. Don’t take my word for it, the Giro’s own roadbook warns “the road surface is worn out” for today’s stage.
However in Italy there are not the rounded potholes, described in French as “chicken’s nests”, but long cracks in the road, often ideally placed to swallow a carbon rim. As such the experience of cycling in Italy can be different, rather than having to hop over an obstacle or two you may have to ride along the middle of the road to avoid the cracks. The good news is that as bad as some sections can be Italian roads have a universality about them, from north to south they are often made from the same materials and in the dry offer excellent grip.