The Giro resumes in Italy with a quintessential Italian route packed with hills, worn out roads and all before a tricky uphill finish.
Stage 3 review: a belated reminder that Elia Viviani won the stage to Eilat, outsprinting Sam Bennett who switched across the road and had he’d gone any further he’d have been in Jordan. But because he didn’t totally close the door on Viviani he wasn’t sanctioned. Viviani’s Giro is a success whatever happens but he’s in the points jersey now and being Italian likely to stay the course if he can until Rome. He’s also an interesting character, usually bereft of the swagger of so many other sprinters.
The Route: 198km around the south-eastern corner of Sicily, the riders will keep catching glimpses of Mount Etna and the summit finish to come on Thursday. It’s a hard route, undulating and all on rough roads. The first rule of writing stage previews here is not to read the roadbook… but worn out roads aren’t a slight on the region, the Giro’s Garibaldi roadbook itself warns of “strade… …con fondo a volte usurato” making this a test of rims and arms as much of legs.
The Finish: a difficult final five kilometres. First the ride through a short tunnel before a rise in the road and then snaking around the old town in a finish reminiscent of the kind the Giro used to feature regularly and which we still find in Tirreno-Adriatico today with tight bends and narrow streets.
The final kilometre is uphill, a short rise and then a brief flat landing before 750m uphill at 8.5% average, including a brief section at 12-13% as the circle around the outside of town.
The Contenders: BMC Racing won’t want to surrender the maglia rosa and in fact Rohan Dennis is a contender for the stage today. He wouldn’t be the first pick but maybe leading the race is beneficial, he doesn’t have to strike out for the win but can mark before trying a late sprint to the line. Team mates Jürgen Roelandts and Jempy Drucker could win too but surely the boss gets priority today.
More obvious picks for an uphill sprint are Diego Ulissi (UAE-Emirates) although he often wins out of smaller groups, the probability here is most of the peloton charges into Caltagirone at the same time while Valerio Conti is due a stage win of the Giro, he’s got the talent and the form and missed out last year. Both are in with a chance and so their team should join BMC to chase down a breakaway.
Pello Bilbao (Astana) is the form pick having won the opener of the Tour of the Alps and finished sixth in the Jerusalem TT.
Michael Woods (EF Education First-Drapac) is a pick, if only it was steeper for him. Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) is handy for uphill finishes but this might be too intense for him. Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) is another of the GC candidates in with a chance.
Zdeněk Štybar (Quick Step) needs a win, his contract is up and after several classics seasons as a contender he’s missed more than he’s scored. Instead he’s won more in stage racing, notably his Tour de France win in Le Havre and this would have the likes of Bahrain-Merida and UAE-Emirates start a bidding war for his contract. If not Max Schachmann might be close too.
Tim Wellens (Lotto-FixAll)is the bookmaker’s pick but far from a racing certainty as he’s prone to do-or-die efforts rather than picking off stage wins. Gianluca Brambilla (Trek-Segafredo) is similar but less reassuring as he hasn’t won for a while.
Among the sprinters the finish should be too steep but while Niccolò Bonifazio is versatile for this kind of finish. Androni’s Francesco Gavazzi could strike, tipping him for a Giro stage win sounds big but he’s alright for this kind of finish and the field isn’t so packed.
Finally what chance Carlos Betancur (Movistar)? He’s been more paunchy than punch of late but is looking sharper and this kind of uphill finish is ideal for him in his pomp.
|Diego Ulissi, Pello Bilbao|
|Valerio Conti, Zdeněk Štybar|
|Dennis, Yates, Gavazzi, Battaglin, Woods, Konrad, Dumoulin, Wellens|
Weather: 21°C and sunshine and the wind will reach 25-30km/h from the SE meaning crosswinds and the terrain is often exposed featuring roads along ridges with sparse vegetation.
TV: Host broadcaster RAI offers the best coverage, Eurosport has the rights for many countries across Europe and Australia and it’s streamed via Fubo in the US and Dazn in Japan. The finish is forecast for 5.15pm.