A race to the ski resort of Andalo on the Paganella plateau and what promises to be a lively stage with just 132km to cover and some fast climbs.
The Route: the race speeds down the Eisack along a large valley road and an awkward place to get away, the big road has few obstacles to encourage the metaphorical elastic to snap.
The Mendola is as it looks on the profile, a steady ascent on a well-engineered climb that rolls well for 15km, the kind of road that roars with the hum of motorbike tourists during the summer. It hugs the cliff-edge in place for stunning views and the ensuing descent which starts at the GPM point is similar, at least at the start. The road eases as it passes by all the apple orchards of the Trento area, home to 1988 World Champion Maurizio Fondriest and the slope from KM70 the next 40km are gently downhill as they lead to the next climb.
The climb to Fai della Paganella stings, it’s 10km with harder gradients and hairpin bends to start with which give way to long straight sections, the kind of terrain where it’s hard to escape but riders can easily be shelled out.
The Finish: an uphill run to the line with some snaking bends and then 2km of false flat roads into Andalo.
The Contenders: who to pick? The brevity of today’s stage suggests it’ll be an action-packed day as groups try to surge clear early on and if that fails then the Mendelpass will be ideal for a move to go clear but given the short distance nobody will take much time.
Look out for two locals: BMC Racing’s Manuel Quinziato gets to ride through his one time town of Bolzano early in the stage even if the hilly finish isn’t suited. Closer to the finish brings us right into the fiefdom of the Moser clan so Moreno Moser is likely to be active and the punchy finish suits him. Team mate Joe Dombrowski is looking strong but I think he might be saving himself for the big Alpine stages to come.
Diego Ulissi isn’t a local but he’s in form with two stage wins and the ability to sniff out a win when others struggle. His regular Giro stage wins tend to come early in the race which suggests he fades but it could equally be a matter of course design here where suitable terrain tends to come in the first ten days. He’s also in with a chance of the red jersey and so will want to score points.
Giovanni Visconti seems to be Movistar’s free radical but the longer the race goes on the better Carlos Betancur looks, if he can hang in during the finish he’s got a shot, he once outsprinted John Degenkolb but gravity will be his biggest problem. Alejandro Valverde‘s been tipped several times for the stage win but yet to deliver. Still he’s in with a chance on this stage, the lack of altitude and the selective climbing still suit him.
Gazprom-Rusvelo are back in the game after Sacha Foliforov’s stage win and Sergey Firsanov is their best bet, a punchy rider with several wins and placings this season including in the Giro del Trentino which borrowed some of the same roads last month.
Now for four who can climb well and finish fast. Katusha’s Rein Taaramäe reemerged from a discreet start to the race to take 12th place in the mountain TT. Team Sky’s Nicolas Roche is an outside pick for a finish like this, to be able to climb well and then finish the job from a small group, ditto Lotto-Soudal’s Tim Wellens and Lotto-Jumbo’s Enrico Battaglin although Battaglin’s personal ambitions could be put aside to support Steven Kruijswijk.
Finally the short nature of the stage means that if a breakaway struggles to go clear it will have to work even harder to take time on the peloton as the big teams lead into the main climbs so we could still the big names duke it out.
|Diego Ulissi, Giovanni Visconti, Nicolas Roche
|Jungels, Moser, Kruijswijk, Wellens, Taaramäe, Valverde, Firsanov
Weather: sunshine and a top temperature of 22°C
TV: the finish is forecast for 5.15pm Euro time.
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.