Look closely at the finish on the profile because the race finishes on Monte Berico where the road rears up to 11% just before the line. Will this be where Fabio Aru give it everything to take over the race lead from Alberto Contador?
Stage 11 Wrap: just when you think the race can’t get stranger, up pops Ilnur Zakarin. The surprise winner of the Tour de Romandie had a tough opening week but the Crane of Tartarstan bounced back to win on the Ferrari track in Imola. The way he rode suggests he could win more stages and if he’s back to his Romandie form he’s a contender for the time trial too. Behind Carlos Betancur won the sprint from the breakaway for second and further back Alberto Contador tried a small attack, saying later he sensed Fabio Aru was tired.
Had enough of Porte’s wheel change and the time penalty saga? So have Team Sky, they have apparently taken a vow to forget about it and not mention it again internally. It’s done and the focus isn’t on rules and penalties but how Porte can take back time in the upcoming time trial and the final week across the Alps.
The Route: unremarkable except for the short climbs along the way. The first climb of Castelnuovo-Monte Venda is steady at 6km. Crosara is a mini-wall with a 17% section and 12% for 2km, steep and spiky and with hairpins to make positioning even more important. The uncategorised climb after Finon isn’t easy, 2km winding uphill with more tricky uphill bends at 8-10% before a sharp and tricky descent into Vincenzo and a fast flat road that passes a few chain lengths away from the Campagnolo factory.
The Finish: one kilometre at 7%. It’s a gradually curving wide road that rises gradually then kicks up just before the end.
The Contenders: the perfect finish for Diego Ulissi. He’s won uphill finishes before and this suits him just right. However the final climb is short and open to many more candidates, it’s just the kind of finish where a rider can be blocked by the wrong wheel. Michael Matthews is another obvious pick or will Orica-Greenedge back Simon Gerrans or maybe a two-pronged approach? At the risk of repeating the same names Philippe Gilbert could be in the mix although he’s not looking so sharp but the day we write him off is the day he’ll probably win. The same for Fabio Felline and Damiano Cunego. If the sprinters are still there then Movistar’s J-J Lobato will be close while team mate Giovanni Visconti is contender too, will they work together? Don’t discount the fast-improving Carlos Betancur. While breakaways are proving successful today’s finish suggests any move will need to be packed with heavy hitters from all the right teams otherwise the bunch will be chasing hard behind.
Fabio Aru and Alberto Contador are trading attacks and RAI’s studio pundit Beppe Conti is yearning for Aru to attack and take the time bonus and with it the maglia rosa from Contador. Just the small matter of doing this, Aru is very aggressive on the climbs but this kind of finish simply isn’t long or steep enough for him.
|Diego Ulissi, Michael Matthews|
|Simon Gerrans, Fabio Felline, Carlos Betancur|
|Gilbert, Cunego, Lobato|
Weather: wet with cool conditions and a top temperature of 17°C. Long range the forecast is for wet weather in the Alps and some of the high passes have fresh snow.
The Giro is: geographical variety. Of all the places in the world to stage a three week grand tour Italy has the perfect geography and road networks. French writer Paul Fournel once wrote US landscapes don’t always suit cycling as scenery is so big it takes a long time to change and you can sense this watching the Tour of California, the racing might be good but the scenery passes differently. Meanwhile the Tour de France is a great race but half of the country is flat farmland making it hard to have a variety of stages. Italy just has the variety, take today’s finish is able to use a sharp uphill climb to Monte Berico above Vicenza and the race can dip in and out of the mountains almost at leisure, budget permitting.