How was your rest day? The Giro resumes with a hilly and draining 219km stage, probably one for the breakaway specialists.
The Route: 219km and hardly a metre of flat. The opening phase past Prato and Pistoia has probably generated more pro cyclists than the entire length of several other stages of the Giro. Then begins the Passo della Collina, 700m of vertical gain but as the name suggests – “Hill Pass” it’s not terrifying, only a Categoria 3, the lowest level of climb and it does have a gentle and regular gradient, 12km at 5.3%, it used to be a major highway from one side of Italy to another until the Autostrada arrived. Next is the climb to Pietracolora, 8.7km at steeper at 6%. They pass the feed zone and head for the hardest part of the stage as the race heads deep into the north Appenines and a road that’s constantly changing in gradient, from the macro as it scales the hills to the micro with its cracks and bumps.
Pian del Falco might sound familiar, it was used in 2014 when they climbed here and went from Sestola to Pian del Falco and beyond to finish on the Passo del Lupo. Like the climb to Aremogna the other day this isn’t fierce, steep slopes are interspersed by more level moments but by now the riders have done 200km and then the last few kilometres are 10% for several kilometres, brief but the longest sustained climb in the race so far. It’s followed by a tricky descent making for a selective moment in race and a chance for the GC contenders to wage war.
The Finish: 7.5km at 5%, a big ring climb with a wide, regular road that twists through the forest, it’s easy to get out of sight here. The steady gradient continues all the way to the finish line.
The Contenders: there’s a good chance we get two races for the price of one. The distance, the early climbs and the difficult terrain make this ideal terrain for a breakaway to go clear and for the bunch to struggle with a chase meaning a second contest behind among the GC riders.
For the breakaway Tim Wellens comes to mind, as does Alessandro De Marchi, Rein Taaramäe and Stefano Pirazzi as they’re all powerful riders who can churn out the power for hours. Can we add Giovanni Visconti to the list, he knows this area very well after moving here since he was a teenager, quitting Sicily to race in this cycling-mad region but he could be on team duty for Movistar? Many will have bookmarked this part of the Garibaldi, the road book, because it’s so well suited to a breakaway. Wellens might have less room for manoeuvre now but he has good cause to get in a early move as he’s wearing the mountains jersey and the two early climbs.
Among the GC riders Alejandro Valverde is suited to a finish like this, the sprint from a group. Diego Ulissi too but he’s looked marginally off the pace since his stage win. Maybe Ilnur Zakarin tries to take flight on the Pian del Falco climb in order to take back time but equally his crash injuries could see him nurse himself over the next couple of days.
|Alejandro Valverde, Tim Wellens, Rein Taaramäe|
|Visconti, Pirazzi, Moser, Jungels, Kruijswijk, Landa|
Weather: sunny in the plains with a top temperature of 21°C but cooler and cloudier later on in the stage with a top temperature of 14°C at the finish, possibly just 11°C according to one forecast.
TV: the finish is forecast for 5.15pm Euro time, tune in with an hour to go catch all the climbing action to the Pian del Falco, the technical descent and then the finish.
As ever Eurosport is covering the race across most of Europe; beIN SPORT has the rights in the US and France while Italian host broadcaster RAI offers the best coverage with experienced commentators as well as roving reporters riding on motorbikes to add extra coverage during the ride. Cyclingfans.com, cyclinghub and steephill.tv are the go-to sites for schedules and pirata feeds.