Giro Stage 4 Preview

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

The Giro resumes in Italy with a quintessential Italian route packed with hills, worn out roads and all before a tricky uphill finish.

Elia Viviani

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.

Augie March May 8, 2018 at 7:05 am

That stage 3 sprint is another example of how the rules in pro cycling are almost always conditional. For all the UCI talk about “lane/line deviation” as you note they’ll only enforce it if the rider affected loses out: if Bennett had “won” the stage he would have been relegated and fined probably, but because he didn’t everything is sweet.

Anyway, looking forward to today’s finish, in the absence of the usual Sagan/GVA/Matthews brigade a lot of riders could potentially come away with a win.

AK May 8, 2018 at 8:56 am

Completely agree with you regarding the sprint rules. Letting Bennett get away with this makes it more likely others will take the risk.

The Inner Ring May 8, 2018 at 9:37 am

Yesterday’s Gazzetta (paper only) had a good article on the sprint with the commissaires explaining their decision. It’s contestable but at least they’re explaining why, largely because Bennett was in the lead so he was allowed to ride over the road. Viviani was gracious in victory but may have been less so had things gone wrong.

Richard S May 8, 2018 at 10:23 am

Viviani’s foot was millimetres away from the advertising hoarding. If he’d have bounced his face off the tarmac at that speed he would have been a good deal less gracious I bet. Still, sprinting is dangerous at the best of times I suppose.

Ecky Thump May 8, 2018 at 9:40 am

The chaps were heading towards 80 kmph yesterday in the run-in, with a tailwind.
No wonder there was a few squeaky derrieres.
For all the criticism of Israel, it’s mixed up the GC enough to give the race a real edge.
Grand Tours need a few flat stages, be they in northern Europe, transition stages across central or southern France or, dare I say it, elsewhere.
If the critics want to damn Israel with religious, political and military argument , I suppose they may as well add the landscape / weather too!?

J Evans May 8, 2018 at 9:55 am

There was political and military criticism – I haven’t read any religious criticism. I and others didn’t boycott those stages due to the landscape/weather either.
There’s an excellent article on this subject on cyclingtips.

jc May 8, 2018 at 8:21 am

I wonder if yesterday being a “rest” day will affect any of the riders. Especially with the disruption of a 3.5 hour flight it might cause upset to some routines and a consequential bad day. The stage also seems likely to bring bad luck for some, an ill timed puncture or crash could seriously dent some overall contenders chances.

Giorgio May 8, 2018 at 8:34 am

I look forward every day to these. Could you please put a link for a donation or to buy your apparel? Thank you for some great journalism!

betabug May 8, 2018 at 9:15 am
The Inner Ring May 8, 2018 at 9:37 am

Thanks for beating me to it. All purchases welcome, it really helps especially for these previews.

Richard S May 8, 2018 at 8:53 am

This is the type of stage that exemplifies the phrase ‘the Giro is harder to control then the Tour’. I fancy Stybar for this in the absence of any of the usual big hitters who might deny him or a gc man to work for. He’s looked very strong in his lead out role so far. Interesting that his contract is up. Is he certain to leave QS? I’d imagine if the oil barons start a bidding war QS won’t match the bids. It’d be interesting to see if he wins more as a big fish in a smaller pond.

StevhanTI May 8, 2018 at 9:40 am

I think Lefevere will probably offer him a similar contract to the one he’s on now. Styby did a LOT of good work for the QS-winners this year and he’s every year a top contender for Paris-Roubaix as well as a versatile stage-hunter. Of course if there’s a team on the market for this type of rider and willing to shell out the top Rubles/Dinars/Dollars he’s probably gonna take it. I mean the man’s in his thirties all right…

StevhanTI May 8, 2018 at 10:40 am

Also the owner of QS is Czech like Stybar so maybe the Top Dinars get matched with Top Koruna in the end…

J Evans May 8, 2018 at 9:53 am

Yes, I’ve thought that about Van Keirsbulck, Trentin and Vandenbergh – are you more or less likely to win if you move away from the very successful team? More chances to ride for yourself, but far less support when those chances come. Early days, particularly for Trentin, but doesn’t seem to be working out so far. Vandenbergh’s still playing lieutenant at Ag2r, considering they have Naesen (and even Gallopin must be ahead of him).

Richard S May 8, 2018 at 10:27 am

Yeah leaving QS seems to generally go pretty badly! I’m not sure I’ve seen Brambilla on a TV screen since he left and Dan Martin hasn’t done much yet. Granted other factors may be at play in those examples.

The Inner Ring May 8, 2018 at 10:32 am

Vandenbergh has had injury issues, so has Brambilla.

StevhanTI May 8, 2018 at 10:37 am

De La Cruz seems to be doing fine on the other hand. I think Trentin will bounce back, but can’t see him raking in the wins like last summer.

StevhanTI May 8, 2018 at 10:36 am

I think Stijn VDB has probably settled in his role by now. Also being on a French team with a genuine French TdF contender most be something special too.

Dave B May 8, 2018 at 9:24 am

Is it a given the breakaway doesn’t make it, this early in the race? Profile looks like ambush country to me.

(Did you mean to give Dennis 1 ring, not Dumoulin?)

The Inner Ring May 8, 2018 at 9:35 am

I’ve put Dennis in there with one ring just now.

Davesta May 8, 2018 at 11:36 am

It’s very unlikely that a breakaway makes it, I think, as there will be a good number of teams who will fancy their rider to win the uphill sprint, and thus plenty of firepower and willingness to chase down the break…

Scarabeo May 8, 2018 at 9:39 am

This stage is similar to the Paris-Nice stages won by Betancur when he was in form.
Is he back? we’ll see.

The Inner Ring May 8, 2018 at 9:40 am

I wrote the preview last night thinking I should add a paragraph about him… but was busy tipping another rider and promptly forgot. I’ll add him too.

StevhanTI May 8, 2018 at 9:41 am

Good call! Not many people seem to have noticed but ol’ Carlos did very well in the opening TT, same-ish result as Yates I think. That’s an indicator of good form isn’t it?

Watts May 8, 2018 at 11:27 am

It will be interesting to see if Trek-Segafredo backs RvV prodigy Mads Pedersen, and if he can do better on a finish like this than in the regular sprints where he has been in the top10 the last few stages.

Betancur.. Let’s hope he gets his head straight and takes the win. He’s such a great racer

gabriele May 8, 2018 at 12:51 pm

Oh unknown maglia rosa contender, perhaps supported by a decent (or more than so) team, “qui si parrà la tua nobilitate”. This is one of the very few occasions this Giro is going to offer for aggressive and creative racing.
It’s far from ideal, sure.
First of all, the main rivals and their teams are too fresh: the ideal slot would be between stages 7 and 10, like Arezzo 2016, S. Giorgio del Sannio 2015, Pescara 2013 or Montalcino 2010, among others.
Yet, the 2015 Giro also reminded us how much damage can be inflicted as soon as stage 4 with the famous Astana show on the road to La Spezia. However, exceptional determination is required: otherwise, you’ll end up more often than not with a more or less selected sprint, a reduced and lively one in the best case; that is, Greipel material (Tortolì, Benevento) or Ulissi’s (Praia, Viggiano). Degenkolb and Battaglin, or their former selves, won this sort of stages in 2013.
The final isn’t ideal, either: the last quarter of the stage is the easiest one, apart from the very first 30 kms or so (which might be hard fought to form a break, anyway). Though, the main obstacle there in terms of altitude gain won’t probably be a springboard as much as a firewall against which the attackers’ hopes may crash: the long drag towards S. Bartolomeo is wide and low gradient, that hateful kind of false flat which is perfect to get away after a côte but which hugely favours bigger groups and teamwork, especially in case of wind – it’s quite exposed, too. If teams will be able to organise themselves, it will be used to keep or bring back things together, if anything wearing out rivals in order to prepare the final 5 kms fireworks. Still not bad for a first-week stage, but the stage could be much more promising if tackled with the right spirit (and legs).
The finale design could make the whole stage more dull than it looks on paper – though, I won’t stop hoping for an aggressive central part of the stage: in case we get to the last 20 kms with a decent selection which reduced the gregari firepower of most teams, it could be great fun.
But they really need to fire it up (most contenders without a strong ITT might repent later if they don’t… monoclimbs alone won’t solve their problems). Ferro ignique.

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