The race begins. Ahead is scenic stage with the coveted maglia rosa waiting at the finish line for the day’s winner.
The Route: the race arcs around the north coast of Sardinia and if you tune in for the full TV coverage expect coverage of shimmering coastlines. There will be a breakaway because the two early marked climbs will reward someone with the mountains jersey for their efforts.
The late climb to San Pantaleo is significant for its altitude, 200m of vertical gain over 3.5km but the average is 5.6% and if the roadbook lists a scary 12% max it’s to be found on the very inside line of a hairpin bend when otherwise the road is wide and regular and even the hairpins are fast, this should be a few minutes and basta but note the road keeps climbing beyond the village itself. Any sprinter in trouble here just won’t have the legs for much anyway.
The Finish: it’s flat as they roll into town and the road is wide and fast. At 2km there’s a narrow pinchpoint and here the tarmac changes for large flagstones for a moment before some more tight bends. Ahead of the 1km to go kite the road opens up and there’s a humpback bridge over the railway line which is long enough and steep enough to disrupt a sprint train before a reciprocal descent. The road gradually becomes wider, faster and safer with a flat 600m finishing straight.
The Contenders: the Giro has a great startlist… of GC contenders. But among the sprinters the pickings are slimmer, partly because of the route and perhaps because the race got annoyed with so many sprinters bailing out last year. Whatever there are three obvious picks in André Greipel, Caleb Ewan and Fernando Gaviria. Who’s the best? Well this preview doesn’t know and the first stage will be instructive. Ewan comes off two losses in Yorkshire so he doesn’t inspire confidence but the longer dragstrip finish is good for him. Greipel has won a stage in every grand tour he’s ridden since 2008 so maybe it’s a question of when rather than if can win a stage and even if nothing is eternal he should find his way through the field. Gaviria had April off and was a DNF in the rainy GP Frankfurt but has the class to win here.
Among the second wave of riders there’s Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe), he took a great stage win in Paris-Nice but still isn’t consistent so the Giro will be perfect to try for more wins with team mate Matteo Pelucchi presumably as a leadout but he has won big sprints too. Next there’s Sacha Modolo (UAE Emirates) who is not a prolific winner but has just taken a stage of the Tour of Croatia.
Finally a third tier. Team Sunweb’s Phil Bauhaus is quick but yet to win in the World Tour and Trek-Segafredo’s Giacomo Nizzolo has won the points classification in the Giro for two years running… without a single stage win plus he’s chasing form after a persistent knee injury ruined his spring. Jacub Mareckzo (Willier-Selle Italia) is very fast but like Bauhaus yet to win against top opposition but that be a matter for time for the 23 year old.
|Fernando Gaviria, André Greipel
|Caleb Ewan, Sam Bennett
Time bonuses: a reminder that there are time bonuse at the second intermediate sprint (3-2-1 seconds) and the finish line (10-6-4 seconds).
Weather: a top temperature of 25°C although cooler at times. There will be a breeze, up to 20km/h off the coast including a headwind along the finishing straight.
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.