The final mountain stage and everything to play for. Yesterday saw Tom Dumoulin crack on the final climb, lose time and surrender the race lead. Today has more climbing and could see more changes.
Stage 19 Wrap: Mikel Landa took the stage win, going solo on the final climb but taking his time, letting Luis Leon Sanchez and Rudy Molard go clear, then Rui Costa and only later overhauling them on his way to a solo win to put a triumphant seal on his mountains jersey. He was lucky too because he’d missed the early break but a split in the field saw the pace go wild and the breakaway was caught. The split caught Tom Dumoulin napping for a while there was a panic as his rivals raced up the road but it all regrouped.
But did Dumoulin pay for this chase on Monte Cavallo? He was dropped on the final climb, pacing himself for much of the way to limit his losses to 20-30 seconds while ahead Nairo Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali let their team mates work, notably Franco Pellizotti for Nibali, a local who knew every metre of the road. As the slopes levelled out Thibaut Pinot took off and the others couldn’t or wouldn’t chase. Nibali and Quintana tried moves but eventually Ilnur Zakarin and Domenico Pozzovivo jumped away and this increase in the pace distanced Dumoulin further who lost over a minute and conceded the maglia rosa to Nairo Quintana.
The Route: a 190km mountain stage. The small climb of Ca’del Poggio is a a regular in the race of late, and has been the Italian national championships so its steep slopes should be familiar to many but it’s short and on to Feltre via more familiar roads, this time part of the Valdobbiadene “Prosecco” time trial stage from the 2015 Giro.
After 98.5km they climb Monte Grappa. There are many ways up and this isn’t the hardest but it’s still a big effort, 24.2km at 5.2% average but plenty of 7-8% sections along the way, especially during the first third. It’s a hard climb, the gradient changes a lot, an irregular road. There’s aa fast descent through shaded woodland, in two parts with a small flatter landing in between. Then comes 14km up the Brenta valley.
The climb to Foza is the final climb of the Giro and a scenic one. It’s not steep but climbs via 20 hairpins at a regular gradient of 6-7%, a fast climb that rolls well. At the top it’s 14.8km to the finish across the plateau, down and then up, nothing for the climbs but awkward roads for anyone dropped on the climb who is tired and forced to chase.
The Finish: it’s downhill into Asiago, Italy’s jam and honey capital. There are three ninety-degree bends in town but on wide roads culminating in a right hander onto the final 250m with a slight uphill gradient to the line.
The Contenders: another day with two races, one for the stage and one for the overall? Why not but Movistar, FDJ and Bahrein-Merida are likely to accelerate towards Monte Grappa and Valstagna so any more that goes clear early won’t have it easy. Still, let’s think of Tejay van Garderen, Omar Fraile or Laurens de Plus.
Mikel Landa might prefer to wait, no need to go in the break when he can try his chances against the GC contenders but if the climb to Foza suits him the finish doesn’t.
Among the main GC candidates things get complicated, the stage win seems almost incidental given the possibility of the podium or even the overall win. Tom Dumoulin can find the finish suits him but can he cope with Monte Grappa and the climb to Foza? If the legs are still heavy and he’s dropped on the road to Foza he risks floundering alone like a beached fish while his rivals press on. Nairo Quintana loves Monte Grappa, or rather he ought to because in 2014 he put aside the polemics to storm to the stage win in a mountain time trial here but surely he’ll look to exploit the final climb to Foza. Meanwhile Vincenzo Nibali might try a move on the descent of Grappa. Thibaut Pinot has been jumping away of late, he’s the momentum pick and brings assurances in case of a sprint but this is a crucial day for him, a well-timed attack could theoretically doom Dumoulin and distance the others. The fascinating thing here is that the top six overall all have their claim to the stage win and time with Ilnur Zakarin and Domenic Pozzovivo also in the mix. The fear is they all cancel each other out rather than trade attacks but we’ll see, Nibali and Quintana especially need not worry about a podium finish, for them second place would be first loser and we’ll see if this motivates them, especially Nibali.
|Thibaut Pinot, Mikel Landa|
|Dumoulin, Nibali, Quintana, Zakarin, TvG, Fraile|
Weather: sunny and a few clouds and a top temperature of 26°C in in the plains and valleys.
TV: the climb of Monte Grappa should start around 2.30pm CET, Foza at 4.15pm CET and the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CET. There’s live coverage on home broadcaster RAI in Italy and Eurosport for much of Europe and beyond. L’Equipe.fr seems to have an non geo-restricted site with French audio.