A breakaway or a bunch sprint? That’s up to the peloton, the flat finish suits a sprint this is the last chance for many in the Giro to win a stage before the mountains return.
Stage 16 review: a stage win for Rohan Dennis and Simon Yates remains comfortably in pink, as expected. What wasn’t predicted was Thibaut Pinot’s implosion, slower than some of his own team mates and visibly out of it, not just the legs but the head: corners with hands on the brakes that Dumoulin took in the tri bars and taking the final bends around Rovereto like a tourist looking for his hotel. Chris Froome is now looking to leapfrog Domenico Pozzovivo for the third place although there are three mountain stages to come and that’s not been his terrain. Simon Yates will wake up today hoping for an easy day before deciding which stages he wants to win in the coming days before Rome. Surprise of the day was Fabio Aru, just two seconds slower than Dumoulin just 48 hours after it looked he wanted to abandon but he soon copped a 20 second penalty for drafting a police moto and two of his UAE-Emirates got sterner two minute penalties earning the team an embarrassing double-page spread in this morning’s Gazzetta Dello Sport. Aru’s ride still meant he beat several specialists. He’s done this before, for example during a discreet and disappointing 2016 Tour de France he popped up to finish third in the Sallanches time trial although that was surprisingly hilly, yesterday was flat.
The Route: uphill from start and with a twist… the opening climb is a tunnel that rises 600m in the space of 10km. It’s a proper climb and the tunnel matters, it’s hard to get visual clues about the road ahead, the gradient and it even sounds different so it’s disorientating. Not that the peloton will be muddled, it’s just unusual.
The profile of the day’s climb to Lodrino has been smoothed a bit. Some hairpins mark the start of the climb proper in Casto but after it’s a gradual ascent at 5% on a large road, the kind where a team can keep the breakaway in check. The uncategorised climb on the profile next is better known as the Passo dei Tre Termini with some 7-8% sections before a tricky descent with hairpins, gutters and walls down to Lake Iseo. Then the race heads to Iseo and a 23km finishing circuit that’s undulating and the trickiest parts are the urban sections, this isn’t the Amstel Gold Race but it is a more densely populated area.
The Finish: a tricky roundabout with 400m to go that’s made into a chicane for the day but otherwise fast and flat.
Franciacorta stage? The Giro likes to celebrate wine with a dedicated stage each year, an easy task given wine is grown all over Italy from many varieties of grapes. The race roadbook, the Garibaldi, lists the local wines at the start and finish. Franciacorta is a sparkling white wine made mostly Chardonnay grapes.
The Contenders: bunch sprint or breakaway? The opening climb and the flatter but hard section after is the obvious launchpad for a move and it’ll depend on the bunch’s mood. For a share of riders in the peloton today is their last chance to win a stage, the following mountain stages are too hilly and Rome’s criterium stage is pledged to the sprinters so hopefully we get a scrap among to get in the move… should as in conditional and it’s possible the usual move of wildcard invitees ride away on a day release again. Normally come the third week you tend to see the same faces in the breakaway again and again but so far it’s been hard for the breakaways to go clear so we’ve not got obvious picks, a lot of the field don’t have a win between them in the World Tour, let alone from a breakaway. The baroudeurs for today are more out of pedigree so include L-L Sanchez (Astana) who’s good for the breakaway but won’t like the flat finishing circuit so much; Jürgen Roelandts (BMC Racing) is the opposite and his team mate Alessandro de Marchi should try too. Katusha should try something today, their owner Igor Makarov has a lakeside villa and the team used to have its HQ just up the road. Otherwise Matej Mohorič, Valerio Conti and Carlos Betancur are the picks.
As for the sprint finish Elia Viviani is the fastest but as ever you could send the bunch into the same finishing straight a thousand times and the result would not always be the same, if a team leads here or a rider drifts over there then riders find a window of opportunity or a door slamming in their face. Sam Bennett should be close and Sacha Modolo is the third pick, still in the hunt for a stage but hopefully EF Education First-Drapac can spare their climbers from chasing as the next three days suit them.
|Matej Mohorič, Carlos Betancur, Roelandts, Viviani
|L-L Sanchez, de Marchi, Bennett, Modolo, Conti
Weather: a top temperature of 23°C if the sun comes out, otherwise cloudy with the chance of rain and even a thunderstorm.
TV: Host broadcaster RAI offers the best coverage, Eurosport has the rights for many countries across Europe and Australia and it’s streamed via Fubo and Flowbikes in the US and Dazn in Japan. The finish is forecast for 5.15pm. Check online to see what is happeing, if there’s a breakaway battle tune in for the action, if it’s three wildcard riders up the road with two minutes then tune in for the finish.