The mountain stages begin with a summit finish of sorts on the slopes of the giant Colle del Nivolet.
Two races in one: First a maxi-breakaway of 25 riders met the Montoso climb and over the top four riders were clear. Cesare Benedetti wasn’t among them but used the descent to get back in contention and form a group of seven. They hit the wall climb in Pinerolo and Gianluca Brambilla surged clear with Eros Capecchi on his wheel and Eddie Dunbar got across to them during the ensuing descent. It looked like the trio were going to sprint for the win but they started marking each other and Benedetti made a long sprint to take the stage win, a reward for a worker.
The second race was among the GC contenders and Miguel Angel Lopez and Mikel Landa attacked early on the climb of Montoso and used team mates up ahead as relays to get them across the plains into Pinerolo with 28 seconds on the GC group which had most of the big names barring Davide Formolo and Tao Geoghegan Hart. Lopez and Landa got some time and applause, using a stage when they could have sat tight to make a move and we’ll see what they’re capable of today, whether they pay for it or surge again. Roglič looked tired at the finish and when the race hit the climb of Montoso his team mates were dropped in a flash. This will worry him but most of the climbs to come are more gradual. Jan Polanc is now in the race lead with four minutes on Roglič and should keep his lead today and it means UAE will continue to try and control the race.
The Route: 195km and after days on end of the Giro deliberately skipping the climbs, things change with a vengeance as the race seeks out new roads and steep climbs. Outside Pinerolo there’s the unmarked Colletta di Cumiana of which the final 5km are mostly at 10%. Then comes the Colle del Lys, used last year but in the other direction and this is the harder side, almost 13km at 7.5% average but there’s a descent on the way up meaning it’s often 8-9% and it sets up a hard first 55km. Then things calm down with a gradual descent and a gentler section to Cuorgnè.
The Pian del Lupo climb is a new one for the Giro. Listed as 9.4km at 8.7km, there’s an extra 3km of climbing just to get to the start of the climb including a cobbled section in the town just before the climb proper starts. Once underway the road here is a very narrow and rears up from the start, this is a tough climb to see who has mountain legs and it’s irregular, including a surprise 14% kick just before the top. The descent is in two parts, the first is awkward and technical on a narrow, sketchy road before reaching the main road outside Frassinetto but from here it’s still difficult with awkward blind bends and an irregular feel.
The profile suggests it climbs right after the descent but this is the main road up the valley, it’s a drag for the most part for 25km to Noasca.
The Finish: the Giro uses 20km of the 26km Colle del Nivolet, subjectively one of the best two climbs in Europe alongside the Fauniera (which wins here as it feels wilder). The start is marked by a series of numbered hairpin bends outside the village of Noasca, as if the road has to suddenly start gaining height after tracking the valley it its approach. They take the new old road (an old road repaved to allow cyclists to escape what is said to be the longest tunnel in Europe on a mountain pass) and it’s steep here with some long 10% sections before picking up the main road again and riding into Ceresole Reale, a small town with a big lake where the road is level. From here it’s 6.9km at 8.9% as they ride into an Alpine paradise and the final 3km are regularly over 10% just before leveling out for the finish.
The Contenders: the breakaway has a chance they can build up enough of a lead because once the race hits the climb to Pian del Lupo the big teams are likely to accelerate and it’ll be hard to stay away. Still Ivan Sosa (Team Ineos) is one to watch, Tanel Kangert (EF Education First) can ride hard over multiple mountain passes but is only eight minutes down on GC, and maybe the likes of Sam Oomen (Team Sunweb) and Francois Bidard (Ag2r La Mondiale) fit the bill too.
It’s crunch day for Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), if he can win here or just beat his GC rivals then he’ll send a big message that he’s in control. Only yesterday he was without team mates and looked tired at the finish, so for all his apparent form he’s not getting three chainrings today. Still it’s hard to imagine all his condition has vanished and he’s won on big climbs before, like the Galibier stage of the 2017 Tour de France.
Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) and Mikel Landa (Movistar) took time yesterday and should be confident today. Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) should be reassured because he stayed with the leaders to Montoso yesterday and can try today. Vincenzo Nibali is the rider the rest will fear, he had a quick try over the top of the Montoso climb which dropped Bauke Mollema for a moment. Finally Rafał Majka is climbing very well and Bora-Hansgrohe are strong.
|Primož Roglič, Vincenzo Nibali, M-A Lopez, Mikel Landa|
Weather: 22°C with sunshine but increasing chance of rain later.
TV: the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST / Euro time. The climbing out of Cuorgnè for the Pian del Lupo should start around 2.30pm and the final climb begins around 4.40pm. As usual it’s on RAI in Italy, Eurosport across most of Europe and Australia, L’Equipe TV in France and Flobikes and Fubo.tv in the US. Note that because the finish is in a national park that the TV coverage will be scaled back, there will be no helicopter for the final part.