A 10.5km mountain time trial. It sounds easy only the riders have two consecutive days of hard racing in their legs must now produce the most intense effort today.
The Route: a ski station access road. The Giro has visited before but the less said about 2009 the better given Danilo Di Luca won the stage and Denis Menchov went onto win the race.
After a gentle start out of Castelrotto (“Rotten Castle”) the race flicks left to tackle the climb to the Alpe di Siusi ski resort, a solid slog with 8% gradients making it a pure climbing test. I’d like to offer details on the climb but it’s not necessary, this is a big wide road leading up to the ski resort, an access route engineered to take bus loads of tourists up to the slopes. There are one or two secrets along the way though:
- the gradient:does on the way between 7-9%, the best riders will work their derailleur, click up a gear when the slope eases to pick up speed.
- the large hairpins: so wide it pays to hug the inside line all the way in order to shorten the distance, especially as their diameter means the slope is gentle.
It’s uphill all the way to the line and the real challenge is not the road but gravity, this is a pure test of Watts per kilo and freshness.
The Contenders: Esteban Chaves is flying. El Chavito looked at ease yesterday whether it was slaying Nibali or on the finishing roads to Corvara where he was working but without excessive contributions. He’s a climber so this suits but has worked with his team a lot to improve his time trialling, part of this is his aero position which won’t matter today as nobody will want a full TT bike but the pacing strategy will count.
Steven Kruijswijk says he hasn’t visited the climb but this isn’t going to be a problem, he can ride it in the morning or check it out by car and discover the route suits. He’s perfect for climbs like this but will need to show discipline and not get carried away by pink fever.
Vincenzo Nibali won the mountain time trial of the 2013 Giro on his way to the overall win. He was clearly the best in the race that year but that day he really hammered his supremacy home. So even if he’s not as strong as he was three years ago he’s still got what it takes and will be roared up, and possibly pushed, by the tifosi.
Rafał Majka was beaten yesterday and didn’t impress in the Chianti time trial but is good in these efforts and an outsider. Rigoberto Urán had a shocker in the Chianti stage too and hasn’t been able to compensate his bad day with superior climbing so far but could feature. Ilnur Zakarin has been struggling with the attacks but otherwise climbing very fast, today’s linear effort suits him more.
What about Primož Roglič? He was supposed to be a climber before storming the two time trials in this race. He has good chance here and even if Lotto-Jumbo need all hands on deck for the coming days to help Kruijswijk surely he gets a chance to give it his all today given the rest day and sprint stage that follow.
Among a few other names, Team Sky’s Sebastian Henao climbs fast and Mikel Nieve is even faster, Ag2r La Mondiale’s Domenico Pozzovivo is strong even if he’s lacking the zip needed to follow attacks and Stefano Pirazzi is an old diesel for an effort like today although is chances of winning are surely between slim and zero.
Otherwise most of the field will have two questions: “what time do I start?” and “what is the time cut?” as they look to ride up the mountain without contesting the stage win.
|Steven Kruijswijk, Vincenzo Nibali, Primož Roglič, Rafał Majka
|Nieve, Zakarin, Urán, Henao
Weather: a top temperature of 23°C in the valley and it should be dry for all. The wind will pick up in the afternoon from 10km/h to 20km/h from the south, noticeable but not enough to alter the result.
TV: last rider home is Steven Kruijswijk, is forecast for 5.15pm Euro time. It’s bold of RCS to put a time trial on a Sunday because this is a prime time slot but in reality only 20-30 riders are going to race this hard and among them the TV production will struggle to make it exciting even if this stage is crucial for the overall outcome.
As ever 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.