A decisive stage and a chance to turn the race upside down or at least invert the hierarchy before the race heads into the high mountains. The route celebrates the Chianti vineyards, branded these days with the Chianti Classico label and a black rooster.
Once upon a time the cities of Siena and Florence decided to stop fighting each other and draw up borders and hit on a novel idea: at dawn when a cockerel crowed for the first time in each city a band of horsemen would gallop out of the city gates towards their rival city. The point where they met their opponents would be the frontier between the two city states. Siena picked a white rooster and cosseted the cockerel. Florence opted for a mangy black one and kept him hungry. On the appointed day the white bird rose to announce dawn but long before he’d deigned to announce the day, his black rival had stirred and sent the Florentine soldiers on their way so they took more terrain and won and the legend lives on every wine bottle now with the black rooster brand. The moral of the story? Style is all well and good but being faster gives you the win. Does this foretell a win for the gangly but effective Ilnur Zakarin? Or perhaps now that Tom Dumoulin is back in black he’s going to win?
The Route: arguably more famous for its strade bianche and the birthplace of the Eroica vintage ride, today’s stage sticks to larger roads for most of the day. The road climbs up from the start and sets the tone for what is to come for the rest of the day, a twisting road that is never flat. It’s a course where having team staff with rally-style notes to relay over the race radio could really help, to know which line to take into a corner to set you up for the next one or whether the slight rise in the road is going to continue in which case change down a gear or whether it’s temporary. Do this right and you can save a lot of time around a course like this.
The route takes a smaller road after the second time check in Madonna di Pietracupa with a technical descent and a punchy climb up the the tiny hilltop village of Sicelle. This is the exception, elsewhere all the slopes along the way are gradual, typically 3-4%. They’re awkward, a real load on the legs uphill but also the descents rarely offer moments to freewheel meaning a sustained effort for over 50 minutes.
The Contenders: Tom Dumoulin is the prime pick. He’s been targeting this stage and has found winning ways this season. It’s ideal for him, a technical course with some climbing where is power to weight ratio gives him the advantage on the bulkier time trial specialists. Giant-Alpecin team mate Tobias Ludvigsson should thrive here too for the same reasons.
Fabian Cancellara is the time trial specialist but this course could be too hilly, he’ll suffer on the climbs and his position doesn’t look as aero these days when compared to his rivals. He’s bound to be close and has the benefit of having been able to take the last few days easy while Dumoulin has had to race hard and do all the media work.
Rigoberto Urán is first among the big contenders who will count on today’s stage to gain time on the climbers who will put the hurt on him in the high mountains. He’s gained a reputation as a time trial expert thanks to the Giro but has been poor this season, 43rd in the opening stage of the Giro is his highest place in a time trial this season.
Ilnur Zakarin‘s a contender too. He didn’t impress in the opening stage but today’s terrain suits him and the time trial used to be his speciality so today’s technical course should not scare him. He hasn’t put a foot wrong so far in the race, following the right moves and always on the right side of any time gaps on the finish line. Now the maglia rosa is within reach too and should he take it it’ll be hard for the others to pull it back off him.
What about Diego Ulissi? He’s in form of course but can he time trial you ask. He was second in the wine country time trial of the 2014 Giro, a result few predicted. A result today seems improbable but that 2014 ride stands out.
Rafał Majka is improving against the watch. A win is improbable but watch to see how he does, he could well beat the likes of Vincenzo Nibali, Steven Kruijswijk, Esteban Chaves. Another pick among the GC riders is Jacob Fuglsang who is in great shape and extra motivated. Also Steven Kruijswijk has been targeting this stage too and could and perhaps should make the top-10.
The distance and hilly nature means some time trial specialists will suffer. Stefan Küng is young for such a long course and his bulk won’t help, nor will the accumulated fatigue from breakaway efforts. Primož Roglič had a great start in Apeldoorn but it’s been downhill since with a crash and more time losses. Perhaps he’s been riding in economy mode ever since losing time in order to make a surprise today?
|Fabian Cancellara, Ilnur Zakarin, Rigoberto Uran|
|Fuglsang, Kruijswijk, Jungels, Ludvigsson, Roglič, Kangert, Roglič|
Weather: sunshine and clouds and a top temperature of 18°C with a moderate chance of rain. There will be a light southerly breeze, 10km/h, barely enough to register but some of the roads are exposed on top of ridges so maybe it’s noticed in places.
TV: as ever the last rider is expected for 5.15pm Euro time. 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 on motorbikes to add extra coverage. As ever cyclingfans.com, cyclinghub and steephill.tv are the go-to sites for schedules and pirata feeds.