No procession, no parade, no criterium finish. Instead the maglia rosa is in play with Tom Dumoulin likely to take the race but nothing is certain and all steps on the podium are to be settled today.
Stage 20 Wrap: a stage win for Thibaut Pinot, confirmation of his strong riding in recent days” reclaiming time on his rivals with attacks to Ortisei and Piancavallo and now Asiago where he banked a helpful 10 second time bonus. Earlier on the climb to Foza there were attacks from Vincenzo Nibali and Nairo Quintana but they were initially reeled in. Ilnur Zakarin and Domenico Pozzovivo managed to go clear and get out of site. Quintana and Nibali tried again but could only keep a slender lead with Dumoulin watching from behind. Pinot then bridged across and this boosted the move, the trio began to go clear, despite Bob Jungels helping out Tom Dumoulin behind. The trio caught Zakarin and Pozzovivo but it wasn’t 3 + 2 = 5 as the group didn’t look so organised but they kept away to maintain 15 seconds at the finish. It was a hard effort for them all, a hill climb at speed chased by a 15km team time trial, a lot of work for few gains. Why was Jungels helping Dumoulin? At first the stage win was within reach given Jungels’ finishing power but he kept going, perhaps being friendly, perhaps because of a deal, the kind of thing that happens from time to time but nobody declares in public. Bauke Mollema and Adam Yates joined in too. It made for a thrilling finish but didn’t shake up the overall classification. Instead the efforts could be felt today instead…
The Route: 29.3km and ignore the slope on the profile, this is as flat as a piadina. After a lap of the Monza autodrome they leave the circuit for the first time check. Then it’s the Via Borgazzi to Sesto San Giovanni, a big wide road where hopefully some of the Giro’s joy can touch the drab factories and run-down buildings that line the road to the second timecheck in Sesto and onwards to Milan. It’s all on big long straight roads with nothing technical, just some tramlines to hop over, a few cracks in the road and sunken inspection covers. The final two kilometres see the course turn into the swanky Milanese finish as they pass the Porta Venezia. There’s some pavé but it’s smooth urban stones and then a finish on the paving stones outside the Duomo, Italy’s largest church.
The Contenders: there’s a stage win up for grabs and several specialists will have eased up in recent days to be as fresh as possible. So the likes of Michael Hepburn (Orica-Scott), Vasil Kiryienka (Team Sky), Jos van Emden (Lotto-Jumbo), Jan Barta (Bora-Hasgrohe) and Marcin Białobłocki (CCC Sprandi) come to mind although Hepburn has been helping Adam Yates. Kiryienka offers the assurance of experience but the purely flat course isn’t great and he crashed on the Dolomites stage so could still be sore. Van Emden was eighth in the Montefalco time trial so a good pick if he’s fresh while Białobłocki won the TT stage of the Tour of Poland and is a flat course specialist. Bob Jungels is another name suited to a flat course like this but he could have heavy legs after all his efforts to keep Adam Yates in range, only 28 seconds separates them in the white jersey competition.
Can Tom Dumoulin win the stage? Yes, he won the Montefalco time trial by a massive margin but that rolling course suited him perfectly, this flat course a little less. Crucially his efforts in the last few days means he’ll be tired. But I doubt he cares about another stage win, the real contest is whether he can overhaul Thibaut Pinot, Vincenzo Nibali and Nairo Quintana to take the maglia rosa and the 2017 Giro d’Italia. This is most likely, not a certainty but in a straight test of speed we’d imagine Dumoulin can take over two seconds per kilometre over Nairo Quintana on this flat course so unless Dumoulin feels bad or has a mechanical the pink prize awaits.
The interesting contest is between the others, Domenico Pozzovivo can’t challenge and will worry about Bauke Mollema overhauling him for the sixth place. Ilnur Zakarin and Thibaut Pinot are good in time trials, Pinot had a bad day at Montefalco and said he never felt at ease on his TT bike, perhaps his stage win and recent recovery will help him secure a podium finish but he was wheezing like a mule in post stage interviews yesterday. Vincenzo Nibali and Nairo Quintana have a nervous day. Nibali laughed when asked by RAI if he could win the Giro yesterday. Meanwhile the Colombian could conceivably go from race leader to fourth place in the day, this is not a course to suit but last June he pounded a big gear to beat Sylvain Chavanel and win the Route du Sud’s time trial stage.
Jos van Emden, Tom Dumoulin|
Bob Jungels, Michael Hepburn|
Kiryienka, Białobłocki, Barta|
Weather: 30°C. A light breeze will blow from the east but the riders may not feel it on this urban course.
TV: riders go off in reverse GC order with Davide Formolo the first of the top-10 on at 4.29pm CET and then three minutes between each rider until Nairo Quintana leaves at 4.56pm CET. There’s live coverage on home broadcaster RAI in Italy and Eurosport for much of Europe and beyond.