A marathon stage with a strength-sapping uphill finish. Of all the stages to ride after your shoulder has been dislocated and taped up this has to be a tough one. At least there’s no strade bianche portions for Alberto Contador to endure.
Stage 6 Wrap: after the action of recent days here was a stage ridden in splendid torpor for the best part of four hours. Towards the finish the wind was bending the cypress trees but it wasn’t enough to split the field. Lotto-Soudal delivered a big lead out and André Greipel went for a long sprint which paid off. It was a perfect sprint but the triumph lasted minutes.
In the final straight a spectator wanted a souvenir and will have left Castiglione with plenty to remember when his long camera lens clipped Nippo-Vini Fantini’s Daniele Colli sending him spinning to the ground, snapping his arm. This triggered a wave that brought down Alberto Contador on the other side of the road, he somersaulted over the bars but got up and crossed the line. As the photo above suggests, initially seemed fine. But the first sign things were bad was on the podium where he couldn’t put on the pink jersey and then the news emerged that he’d partially dislocated his shoulder. It all depends on the resulting tissue damage, he plans to start today but whether he finishes is another matter and so is his ability to perform in the coming days. Plenty of questions and the likes of Chris Froome, Nairo Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali will be as keen to know the answer as you.
Some are calling for bigger barriers to installed in the finish but this is costly, first for the new barriers but more importantly it isolates people from the race when proximity makes the sport so unique. Education is needed and in France a series of “respect the riders” messages are played on TV and radio during July. It’s welcome but they can’t reach everyone.
The Route: a 264km marathon. Because of the length the little details don’t matter so much and the first 200km are a long procession. It’s not the geography that matters here but other details like food, water and riding economically. The roads start rising later on but it’s gradual, 3-5%.
The Finish: the final 10km are uphill with 5km at 4.5% average, not enough to break anyone but just enough to sap weak legs after 250km. The gradient eases and the final kilometre is uphill at 3%, not much but enough to make life hard for some as it rises up the shady road past the spa for which Fiuggi is famous.
The Contenders: there’s no three chainring pick because it’s an ideal day for a breakaway for riders who are well down on GC and besides, there could be a truce between Tinkoff-Saxo and Astana who, unlike previous days, will not go wild with the pace-making in the final two hours in order to accommodate the crocked Contador. Plenty of riders have an interest to go clear and try to build up a gargantuan advantage. Take Sylvain Chavanel, Philippe Gilbert, Fabio Felline, Silvan Dillier, Adam Hansen, Maciej Paterski or Pavel Kotchetkov for some random picks.
If random isn’t your thing then look to Italian breakaway boss Stefano “RAI” Pirazzi because not only does he look forward to this kind of stage he is from Alatri, just up the road from where the stage finishes and he’ll have marked this day in his diary from the moment he learned of the route.
But others will be chasing and the uphill finish is harder for pure sprinters. Michael Matthews and Sacha Modolo are default picks with Fabio Felline and J-J Lobato as back-ups.
|Michael Matthews, Sacha Modolo, Fabio Felline, J-J Lobato
|Greipel, Viviani, Colbrelli, Battaglin
Weather:clouds building and a top temperature of 25°C. There will be a 15-20km/h headwind to make the longest day even longer.
TV: the feed is supposed to start around 3.10pm the finish is forecast for 5.15pm Euro time but could well be later. Cyclingfans and steephill.tv both have links to feeds and streams if you can’t find it on TV.
The Giro is: Italian. Obvious but the race appears to trades on national identity more than the Tour de France or the Vuelta a Espana. The Tour de France has visceral nationalism at its root but today it’s a commercial event that rarely invokes patriotic sentiments. Italy is a young country, Rome was only appointed as the capital in 1871 and if the race is a rare visitor to the capital it’s a celebration of rural Italy from north to south, one of the rare cultural institutions to cover the country in one go. Over the years the race has been used as thread to stitch the country together. Let’s not exaggerate this but it helps and even in small ways, the television becomes a window to look at other parts of the country, the Milanese apartment and the southern farmer can see parts of their country they’d probably not see otherwise.