Day 2 and the mountains already. The race climbs to 1,000 metres above sea level. These are gentle climbs though and we’ll see which of the sprinters want to fight for the stage. The big factor could be the wind which is forecast to pick up for the finish.
Stage 1 Wrap: the race hadn’t even started before two Bardiani-CSF riders were ejected following A-sample “non-negative” tests for a banned hormone. Stefano Pirazzi and Nicola Ruffoni were sent packing and leave the Italian wildcard team with seven riders and a lot of explaining to do, and under the UCI’s collective punishment rules the team is facing a suspension which will fall as soon as the governing body’s Disciplinary Commission meets and hears the case meaning the entire squad could be stopped mid-Giro. The team issued a brief press release saying they’d fire the two riders if the B-samples come back positive while Nicola Ruffoni took to Facebook to say he’ll fight the case and awaits the B-test, blaming antibiotics.
It’s important to remember there’s a race too. Stage 1 started and break went immediately with six riders in search of the mountain points on offer and Cesare Benedetti of Bora-Hansgrohe – the most Polish of Italian cyclists, even ahead of Jakub Mareczko – took enough points to take the blue jersey, a successful day for his team already. The inevitable sprint finish loomed. A tight corner with 3.5km to go where the road needed to be narrowed by barriers right on the corner lined out the bunch and cost Steven Kruijswijk a few seconds. Ahead the sprint trains never quite got going or they seemed to run out of puff. Except for Bora-Hansgrohe’s Lukas Pöstlberger who was more like a runaway wagon as he rode off the front. He had a gap and normally it looked like the kind of move that would last seconds and at best force others to chase but behind the riders on the front of the peloton resembled owls as they rotated their necks to look back and see who would chase. Meanwhile Pöstlberger kept the power on – 5th in the E3 Harelbeke – and kept going to win. He becomes the first Austrian to lead a grand tour since Max Bulla in 1931 Tour de France.
The Route: 221km inland and into the hills, this is a hard day on rolling roads but without anything too spicy. The first marked climb of the day to Nuoro is gentle but the descent is steeper.
The Genna Silana pass is long but gentle, 3.2% and 19.6km in the roadbook but since it climbs before the intermediate sprint the road is more like 26km at 3.2% and in fact the steepest part of the climb is a kilometre at 6% right at the start. After that it’s often 3-4% on the way up, it climbs but being sat on a wheel helps so much. The descent is gradual and fast but the kind you need to pedal a lot rather than coast down in an aero tuck.
The Finish: they take the main road in and around Tortolì, a long run with straight roads and regular corners but it’s narrow in places, notably with 2.5km to go as the skirt the town’s zona industriale and at 2km there’s a pinch-point over a level crossing just before the right turn. From here it’s one long finishing straight, into a headwind.
The Contenders: it’s hilly but the gradual gradients shouldn’t be too much for the sprinters. Shouldn’t as in the conditional because if the peloton, or sections of it, really wants to rip things up then it is possible to shred the bunch. The chances of this happening seem low but it’d be wonderful to be wrong. A breakaway could work on a course like this but several big teams have an interest in containing the race because their sprinters can take the maglia rosa today or, if not, tomorrow
Assuming a sprint Caleb Ewan showed great finishing speed in the finish yesterday and once again he’ll find a finishing straight to suit him and his aero style. André Greipel was close too and so he’s the second pick, short of more information it’s hard to find more picks. Fernando Gaviria was absent in the sprint yesterday, or rather he was out of place as they rode into Olbia and so his 12th place wasn’t made in the sprint but before. All three can handle a climb too but Greipel is better on shorter efforts rather than a long one, Gaviria could be the best for such a long effort and then a sprint. Nathan Haas is an outside tip in case things get spicy because he can climb well and finishes fast.
|Caleb Ewan, Fernando Gaviria
|Modolo, Bennett, Nizzolo, Haas
Weather: windy by the coast, the direction will shift from an onshore wind around lunchtime to an offshore one late in the afternoon meaning a headwind for the finishing straight it’ll blow with gusts of 20-40km/h by the coast and pleasant temperatures of 25°C.
TV: the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CET. There’s live coverage on home broadcaster RAI in Italy and Eurosport for much of Europe and beyond. Otherwise cyclingfans.com and steephill.tv are the go-to sites for schedules and pirata feeds.