Giro Stage 4 Preview

So far, so predictable. Now the Giro returns to Italy and today’s stage offers a difficult finish that’s going to thwart many of the sprinters. Can Marcel Kittel keep his hold on the pink jersey?

The Route: if Italy resembles a boot, today’s stage starts in the arch of the foot and then starts to ride up the shin. The route hugs the coastline for most of the stage. With 120km the race makes the first of several inland incursions and each time it climbs up. The first climb up to Bonifati is 6km at 6% and on a regular road, although packed with hairpins. The second climb to San Pietro is 5.3km at 6.8% and a rougher, tougher climb. There are 50km to go and the race returns to the coast.

You might think that’s the end of the climbs but just because they are not marked doesn’t mean the climbing is over. From here it’s a tale of two roads, the old coastal road and the new SS18 express road that runs across the hills, perched on giant viaducts and cutting through tunnels and the race will switch between both. The road rises out of Scalea, it’s on a regular sweeping road and the ensuing descent is on a twisting road makes moving up the bunch that bit harder.

The race then heads to the strategic point of the day, the climb of Fortino. The race flicks off the main road to take a small, irregular and steep road. It’s 1.6km at 8% but not even. Crucially it starts steep and finishes steep with a flatter section miday. This means any heavier riders will pay an immediate price at the start and if they’re still within touching later on then the final ramps could prove ruinous. It then joins the big SS18 road and takes the big viaduct but this section is still slightly uphill making it hard for any sprinters dropped to get back on. There’s then a tunnel and 8km to go, a race for the sprinters to get back into position.

The Finish: a gently sloping descent, some bends through the town and it’s difficult to get a chase going, if the bunch up ahead is doing 65km/h into town a chase group will struggle to reach 70km/h. Once back down by the seaside there’s a 2.5km long finishing straight.


The Contenders: Can Marcel Kittel cope with this climb? He is in great shape, the two stage wins already show us how well he is sprinting but his win in Romandie two weeks ago showed us he was climbing well. But while he hung on in Switzerland the climb there was a fast one where being on a good wheel mattered. Today’s final climb is steep, probably too steep and the kind of effort where it’s everyone for themselves, a private fight with gravity. So this climb is surely too much for him. But… if he gets dropped what if he was paced back by his team on the descent? He’s got the helpers on hand so this is why he can still have a chance. Perhaps the question is which teams will try to rip up the race in order to drop Kittel and the other more traditional sprinters? If not then Paris-Tours winner Matteo Trentin is a good back-up plan but will EQS play two cards or use Trentin to help Kittel?

Bardiani-CSF have Sonny Colbrelli for the sprint, he made the podium in the Amstel Gold Race. But do the green team they have the firepower in the team to take command of the race? Probably not but Colbrelli is an outside pick for the sprint if he can hang on while others have been dropped.

André Greipel is always better on short hills than he looks but so far his form hasn’t been impressive although he was a steady fourth on Sunday. Jurgen Roelandts could get his chance too.

If this preview is reviving a few names from the spring classics then what about IAM’s Heinrich Haussler? A small chance but today is just the kind of day to suit. Similarly Nippo-Vini Fantini have two good options today in Damiano Cunego and Grega Bole, neither can win in the high mountains but they pack a fast finish when the others are dropped.

Enrico Battaglin

Once upon a time Lotto-Jumbo’s Enrico Battaglin (pictured) would have been a good pick today, a fast finisher who can climb well. But he’s vanished from the results of late. Still worth watching. Talking of past glories Filippo Pozzatto‘s career isn’t over. He’s been lurking and could pop up here.

Cannondale’s Moreno Moser is showing signs of life again and within touching distance of the maglia rosa too but how can he win, he’s unlikely to win a sprint from 50 riders. The team might be all in for Uran’s GC bid but a spell in pink for Moser has to be a goal for a team that’s stuggling to get noticed. Ramūnas Navardauskas is another option for the sprint but perhaps he’ll work for Moser? Simon Clarke is quick too but would probably be better suited if the finish line was on a slope.

Movistar are another strong team and could try to seize the race. It’s almost too early for Alejandro Valverde to take the pink jersey but a stage win would do nicely. Andrey Amador is looking very impressive already while Giovanni Visconti could try to clip away over the top of the climb too.

Finally a few random picks. Tinkoff’s Manuele Boaro could try a late move with 1km to go, Katusha’s Alexander Porsev is sprinting well and can manage a climb and Dimension Data’s Kristian Sbaragli often contests bunch sprints but is good on hilly courses too. Finally if we’re thinking about sharp climbs and then a fast descent into a seaside finish then what about Arnaud Démare?

Grega Bole, Sonny Colbrelli, Matteo Trentin, Alejandro Valverde
Démare, Kittel, Greipel, Amador, Sbaragli, Pozzato, Trentin

Weather: warm and sunny with a top temperature of 25°C and still conditions.

TV: the finish is forecast for 5.15pm Euro time, tune in for the final half hour to watch the jostling for position ahead of and on the final climbs.

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, cyclinghub and are the go-to sites for schedules and pirata feeds.

52 thoughts on “Giro Stage 4 Preview”

  1. Just looking at the teams and their probable objectives, I think that Lotto Soudal could try something here.
    The Italians definitely will – breakaway, jump, and sprint. Any locally-born riders?

  2. Kittel did an impressive climb in the stage he won at the Tour de Romandie but the stage was shortened significantly to approx. 100 kms due to the weather conditions. This took out quite a lot of early climbing that might have affected the end result. I think today’s lumpy profile will test him severely & he might be better off saving his legs for tomorrow’s “flatter” profile.

    • Last climb looks similar to Hatta Dam in Dubai and Kittel was awesome that day, I think he will ‘fight for pink’ today!

  3. I think we can bet on an attack by Tim Wellens on that hill. Of course it’s impossible to predict if that effort will be going anywhere.

  4. No way will Kittel make it over that: but of course me saying that means he will.
    Expecting a Tim Wellens attack. Seems right up his alley.

  5. I like the way you added the link to Arnaud Demare with the subtle San Remo reference.

    He could win today, but it depends if he can hang on over the climb – pun intended

    I like these kind of parcours, gives barondeurs a chance to attack over the top and makes sprinters fight up punchy climbs.

    • Ha! With all the negative local press, the tifosi will go crazy if Demare wins it–or any stage of the Giro, or any race in Italy, for that matter, for the rest of his career.

    • Presumably his accomplishments being respected finally by Anonymous -whose accomplishments are so well known to us all – would for Kittel be the pinnacle of his career.

  6. With the Italian Cycling Federation formally investigating his MSR win, I think Demare is going to have just the motivation needed to get over that climb and clean the plates of the rest.

  7. Difficult to see anyone but Kittel winning a sprint. Expect to see Wellens, Ulissi and Valverde fly off the front on the final ramp, but then caught on the decent. If the decent were trickier this could be ideal Nibali terrain as well.

    • Kimmage the poison-dwarf strikes again. How he reconciles being the incarnation of truth & decency – as he perpetually seemingly does – with throwing out totally unprovoked, crass personal insults is a wonder to behold.

      • Just read Kimmages latest offering.

        What I liked the most is that he included the death of riders in tragic accidents without any context. Antoine Demoitie died after being hit by a motorcycle. I dont know enough about Myngheer or Verdick but the tone of the article makes you think all three had a connection to doping.

        A professional troll

        • Whilst I do take what he says with a pinch of salt with his ‘everything and everyone is doping’ schtick, it is good to have someone asking the questions.
          This –
          “You have not used products that are on the WADA list?”
          “And that’s your definition of clean?”
          – I fear is the attitude of cycling in general – it’s only doping if it’s on the list (as we’ve seen with the meldonium case).
          Never mind how little we know about ‘actual’ doping, we have no idea who is taking what and how much, whilst not breaking any rules.
          This is unhealthy on every level.

          • I agree that he has a point, and fulfils a function, but I just wish he wasn’t quite so myopic. Gaimon and Woods can compete in the WT for example, which doesn’t quite fit his narrative…

            is he still being sued by Verbruggen?

          • It’s important not to fall into the “kill the messenger” mentality. Nobody enjoys reading what Kimmage is writing but SOMEONE has to keep the pressure on, otherwise it’s the old UCI, “Noting to see here folks, sport’s all cleaned up” claptrap we’ve heard over and over. And don’t forget he’s writing in a general interest newspaper rather than the “enthusiast press” who has too often been a willing conspirator or at least happy to look the other way when it comes to any sort of scandal.

          • Unfortunately though Larry, people like me who had imagined myself to be very much on Kimmage’s wavelength, find him to my surprise to be a very unpleasant self-righteous arsehole. And as Bilmo says, the way he just lumps all kinds of things together in his piece, including the comparatively minor issue ugly insults of Roche, ends up amounting to What the hell is the message except a catch-all unfocused whine.

          • “…a very unpleasant self-righteous arsehole.” The same kind of stuff was said about David Walsh and others by BigTex. And don’t forget, unlike the majority of us who type our opinions into this blog, Kimmage has ridden the miles, raced the races and taken the dope.

          • In the very article we’re talking about Larry, Kimmage talks of Roche not having “a patent on shite.” Publicly oersonally insulting someone who has done zero to provoke it is in my book an asshole thing to do, and from what I’ve seen is par for the course with Kimmage. He said it was laughable obvious that Froome was doping during his first TdF win, then when he interviewed him 18 months later, he acts as if he’s his benevolent uncle.

            He was apparently almost finished working on an ‘autobiography’ with Ireland rugby great Brian O Driscoll. WHen he found out O Driscoll was doing an interview with a journo from another paper, he asked him to renege on in & do it with him instead. When O Driscoll said he’d go ahead with the promised interview Kimmage pulled himself from the book. A journalist has to be unbelievably far up his own arse to behave like that. Though it presumably was further proof to Kimmage of his own perfection. He actually when revealing he’d withdrawn from the nearly finished book spoke of “the loving relationship” he and O Driscoll had. Sounds like deep love all right – O Drsicoll, a very famous sportsman doing an interview with another journo, was enough to end the love. I don’t see how anyone can look at that as anything but staggeringly infantile.

          • Andrew – seems like something personal with you and Kimmage. I just read his cycling articles and don’t know or care s__t about rugby. Who, in your opinion should be publicizing and complaining that pro cycling’s far from as clean as the UCI and others would like us to believe? Don’t forget David Walsh was kicked out of the car he used to ride in at LeTour because the “enthusiast press” guys feared for their access to BigTex. Would you suggest we just shut up about it all and enjoy the spectacle?

          • Like I said earlier Larry, I previously imagined myself to be on Kimmage’s wavelength in terms of a desire for truth. From beginning from that perspective & a willingness to see Kimmage very positively, I’ve seen plenty to find him psychologically very off-putting. For me someone behaving consistently in an ugly & simultaneously extremely self-righteous manner doesn’t get excused because he’s supposedly doing it for good reasons – like attacking Roche here. It’s got nothing to do with “Would you suggest we just shut up about it all and enjoy the spectacle?” If someone’s point is in aid of a moral truth, all the more necessary that they don’t behave in Kimmage’s manner. And on those terms of behaving with integrity in one’s search for truth, how do you reconcile that with publicly stating that with certainty Froome was doping, then when interviewing him as I said, having the attitude of a concerned guiding mentor. So where is the integrity in those polar opposite attitudes? What do I do with my intellect? Believe the Kimmage who said it was a joke to believe Froome was anything but a doper, or the 2nd concerned helpful Kimmage getting on well with Froome in the interview? Is there some hidden intellectually & ethically sound basis uniting the two Kimmages?

  8. I’m surprised not to see Ulissi mentioned in the piece.

    He had a decent set of results in the Ardennes and, although he would prefer an uphill finish, he can fair shift on the flat when required.

    He was second to Colbrelli over a similar course at the GP Lugano (against an admittedly much weaker field) so I’d expect to see both of them pushing the top ten.

  9. If you’ve got some time to lose, tune in for the last couple of hours, which should include both categorised climbs, or from four o’clock CET to see at least the steepest of the two.
    Most of the interest of the finale will depend heavily on how they’ll decide to ride what comes before, that is, the two “serious” climbs and the hilly roads from Scalea on (-25 km to go), which include tight hairpins, blind turns and sectors of very narrow roads where two cars would struggle to pass at the same time.
    Luckily for the riders, the last couple of kms before the Fortino climb, just after a narrow bridge, are a little more linear and the road is broader, too, otherwise the fight for the position could become a massacre.

    Every climb will leave whoever finds himself on the back foot with little more than 10 km (13′-14′) to recover or even… to get back to the group instead of recovering!… before the roads goes up again.
    Recovery is especially complicated after the San Pietro climb because the descent is curvy and you don’t go right back to the “highway” but you need to face 5-6 more kms of complicated roads before you can find sort of an open range to really go full speed.
    That said, the altitude gain, both on the climbs and in general terms, isn’t impressive at all, the climbing efforts won’t ever reach 15 consecutive minutes, hence there’s more than enough room for explosive riders rather than resistent ones.

    *Nothing* (?) will probably happen before the Fortino in terms of serious attacks, although some underdog might try an early move (not so likely) – yet, if you like this sort of things, it will be very interesting to see which teams are working, both on the front and on the back, and how they’re going to do that (steady rhythm only on the climbs – to bring people towards the finish with tired legs – or also between them, to try and drop whoever might have a bad day… or just strolling about?).

  10. I’d like to see Colbrelli win and expect to see Ulissi up there but I expect a proper sprinter to win, maybe Viviani or Nizzolo?

  11. BMC have stated they’re here for stage wins and I’d like to see Stefan Kung have a punt today, quick over the climb and TT till the end. He was at the sharp end of stage one until he crashed and if the road rash isn’t impeding too much I can see him doing well.

  12. Great stage! Those spaghetti roads made for some brilliant entertainment, and Kittel was impressive, even if he was miles away from retaining pink.

    Did Colbrelli (or maybe Pirazzi) have some sort of mechanical in the run in? Someone in Bardiani green seemed to be unclipped before crossing the line.

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