So far, so little. The general classification has seen small climbs used to tease apart time gaps measured in seconds. Today’s stage is the first mountain stage and features a series of very steep climbs and twisting descents to put race leader Bob Jungels under pressure.
Stage 12 review: a stage of stultifying boredom with nothing happening until the sprint finish when a late crash took some riders out and saw a reduced group of sprinters contest the finish. Once again André Greipel left no doubt about his superiority, his raw power simply too much for Caleb Ewan’s aerodynamic advantage. The future of sprinting will have to wait for tomorrow.
The Route: a concentration of climbing with a figure of eight loop around the finish town of Cividale del Friuli in Friuli, a semi-autonomous part of Italy on the Slovenian border where you find bilingual roadsigns and why Montemaggiore is Matajur to the locals.
The first climb sets the tone for the day, 8.3km and much of it above 10% and on a very narrow, winding road through woodland, the kind of road that’s great for cycling but you wonder if the Giro’s travelling caravan will fit (it will, just). The descent is similar although opens up on some wider roads at times and there’s the Passo San Martino, a bump on the profile but a steep climb for the race and again on a narrow road.
There’s a toboggan run to Clodig where it pays to spin the legs as much as possible on the way down to keep the legs supple given because the race goes straight back up the other side and with some sustained steep sections. The gradient might ease after Trusgne but the road doesn’t, it’s uphill and very twisty with sharp 90 degree bends in the road at times and very easy to get out of sight.
The Cima Porzus is the big climb of the day and steep again but this time wider, just, and freshly surfaced for the Giro. The road climbs to the village of Porzûs – known as the scene of a late wartime massacre – and beyond and is chased by another steep descent which leads to the foot of the final climb again, another consistently steep climb that twists up through the woodland and then the same again on the way down. Complete the descent and there’s just 7km to the finish.
The Finish: flat and rather humdrum. The Giro often serves up charming finishes in front of picture-postcard romanesque buildings. Not today, this is a plain road on the outskirts of town transformed for a day into the centre of the world.
The Contenders: a good day for a breakaway, today’s stage is exciting but tomorrow’s is critical so the GC riders could play it safe. This requires everyone to agree though and there’s a game theory proposition here, only if all sit tight will the truce hold. It only takes, say, Rigoberto Uran, to jump which promps Esteban Chaves and Ilnur Zakarin to follow and in no time Rafał Majka and Steven Kruijswijk jump and by now the entire hornets nest is buzzing.
Among the breakaway candidates BMC Racing’s Alessandro De Marchi ticks all the boxes, a strong raider who has won vicious mountain stages in grand tours before, he’s a local – the Redhead of Buja – and there are no team duties plus it was his birthday yesterday. None of this entitles him to win but but expect him to try. Giovanni Visconti is another contender, active the other day which is proof he’s off the leash rather than serving Valverde but he was spotted on the post-stage Processo Alla Tappa TV show yesterday evening, maybe not the thing to do if he wanted to give it everything today. Tim Wellens is another contender but these climbs are long for him, although the mountains jersey will surely tempt him go to in the early move. No mountain breakaway seems complete without the indefatigable Stefano Pirazzi either.
Alejandro Valverde is the default pick given his sprint finish and crafty ways. He’s climbing well and team mate Andrey Amador could play the team card trick again and go clear while everyone marks Valverde.
The tricky descent suits Vincenzo Nibali too and he might try to put the others under pressure. Ilnur Zakarin‘s already lost time but seems to descend like an articulated bus finding its way down a mountain and so the Russian could be tested here… unless he surges clear and given his climbing abilities this is worth watching out for.
Bardiani-CSF are having a good Giro and Francesco Bongiorno is a good climber. You might remember he was pedal to pedal with Mick Rodgers on Monte Zoncolan two years ago until a “fan” disturbed him. Another rider in a bright green jersey is Davide Formolo, released now given Uran’s GC ambitions are toast.
Finally which Sky rider would you pick? They’re orphaned after Mikel Landa’s departure and have no Plan B other than stage wins. Mikel Nieve seems the best bet but better suited to tomorrow’s stage so perhaps Nicolas Roche gives it a go?
|Alejandro Valverde, Vincenzo Nibali, Alessandro De Marchi
|Visconti, Wellens, Bongiorno, Pirazzi, Nieve, Formolo, Roche
Weather: dry and sunny with a top temperature of 23°C in the valleys, probably just enough to dry the woodland descents.
TV: the finish is forecast for 5.15pm Euro time. They reach Attimis, the start of the climb to Porzûs, at 3.55pm.
Eurosport is covering the race across most of Europe. beIN SPORT has the rights in the US and France while Italian host broadcaster RAI offers the best coverage with experienced commentators as well as roving reporters on motorbikes to add extra coverage. As ever cyclingfans.com, cyclinghub and steephill.tv are the go-to sites for schedules and pirata feeds.