A summit finish? Sort of, today’s stage has a long uphill finish only it’s not so steep.
Stage 7 review: a win for Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe). Having launched too early in previous sprints this time he was waiting on Elia Viviani’s wheel and surged late towards the line to take the win, his biggest so far and it’s good for the race, adding suspense and uncertainty to the sprint finishes to come.
The Route: 209km north up the coast via Agripoli and Saterno, a scenic route not far from Vesuvius, the dormant volcano, and alongside many buffalo farms which make the milk for all the mozzarella cheese.
The Finish: almost 18km long, today’s climb is has a steady and gentle gradient. It’s the final 10km that feel like a climb proper because if the slope is not savage it heads into the chestnut woodlands and soon starts to snake and sashay it’s way up the hill via a series of hairpin bends. Just because it’s not 8% doesn’t make it easy, 5.5% is still enough to let gravity force a selection. The winner needs to play it just right, to sit on the wheels for as long as possible and to take the smoothest line through the hairpins in order to save energy for the final ramps to the line, still 5% again.
The Contenders: there’s a good chance the breakaway survives now that plenty of riders have lost time on GC. Mitchelton-Scott might prefer to see a move go clear and take time so that someone else can lead the race for the coming days in the expectation they’ll collapse come the real mountains. Many breakaway specialists will have made an appointment for today. To win our winner has to cope with the climb, they need to be a forceful rider. So prototype riders are Alessandro de Marchi (BMC Racing), Felix Großschartner (Bora-Hansgrohe), Robert Gesink (Lotto-Jumbo), Ben Hermans (Israel Academy) and Tim Wellens (Lotto-FixAll). Diego Ulissi should be on the list but hasn’t seemed so convincing so perhaps UAE-Emirates team mate Valerio Conti is the better pick?
Carlos Betancur (Movistar) is still within two minutes of the maglia rosa so won’t get much room but packs a punch for this climb. The last winner here was Bart de Clerq, once a promising middle-distance runner before turning pro so what chance Michael Woods (EF Education First-Drapac)? Etna didn’t work out for him but this may be better terrain.
Can we get a GC showdown? There’s still the chance that some of the big teams drive the pace and so the day’s move is swept up. Astana could try but all the same teams will want to save resources for tomorrow; the Kazakh’s best rider on GC is now Pello Bilbao who has a chance today ahead of Miguel Angel Lopez because the Basque rider is punchier and more experienced. Otherwise Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) come to mind among the top GC riders with Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) the obvious choice too, he’s quick out of a group too.
|Ben Hermans, Felix Großschartner, Alessandro de Marchi|
|Woods, Wellens, Conti, Bilbao, Yates, Dumoulin, Gesink, Pinot, Betancur|
Weather: cool and cloudy, a top temperature of 21°C and the outside chance of rain.
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.