A long run across landscapes famous for their food before the climb to the ski station of Pratonevoso.
Stage 17 review: a fast start and another hard stage with several breakaway attempts and the peloton splitting. But it ended in a bunch sprint and fourth stage win for Elia Viviani who let Danny van Poppel launch his sprint. Viviani waited for the right time to start his sprint so he could pass the Dutchman on his left hand side. Viviani’s a sprinter but different to the stereotype fastmen with their egos. You might remember him sobbing after losing out Gent-Wevelgem to Peter Sagan when other sprinters might have ducked the media or blamed a rival for blocking them. Not Viviani who is a much more sensitive character and lets his legs do the talking.
The Route: a gourmet stage past the flat plains of the Po river and many fields of rice then onto Asti in wine and truffle country with the climb through the Barolo vineyards to Novello. Why the food tales? Because there’s not much else to report and a reminder to eat plenty during an otherwise featureless stage until the final climb looms above Cuneo.
The Finish: a long steady climb to a ski station. If you get a picture in your mind of this climb then delete it because it’s an unusual ascent. Yes it’s long and steady but the road is not that big, the kind you’d drive up in car up but it’d be awkward with a team bus at times but other moments easy and the road suddenly opens up into a highway only to shrink back again including a passage with chapel sitting in the middle of the road. Here the gradient softens and the road continues up before eventually emerging at a giant car park surrounded by high rise condominiums for skiers. Still it’s a linear ascent of 13km where the gradient changes little and it rides fast, sitting on the wheels pays. Last used in the Giro in 2000, the Tour de France came here 2008 and as a guide to the slope Denis Menchov crashed on a hairpin bend going uphill that day.
The Contenders: several climbers sit low on GC and they’ll look to get in the breakaway and hope they can pick off the non-climbers who made the move. With only nine teams having had a stage win so far plenty of squads will hope they get a rider up the road. Think of the likes of Jan Polanc and Darwin Atapuma (UAE-Emirates), Joe Dombrowski and Michael Woods (EF Education First-Drapac) or Robert Gesink (Lotto-Jumbo). But it’s a lottery among these kind of riders to make it clear and if not they have more chances coming up.
It’s not been a Giro for the breakaways and there’s a good chance the GC contenders fight for the stage win. This climb is exactly the sort of place for Chris Froome and possibly Thibaut Pinot to put Domenico Pozzovivo because of they can drop the Bahrain-Merida rider and then go into TT mode on this level ascent he’ll struggle to pull them back but Froome’s not been consistent on the climbs and Pinot’s state is unknown. Tom Dumoulin has a chance too, which means Simon Yates has a better one too and then there’s space for Miguel Angel Lopez to put Richard Carapaz under pressure too and go for the stage win without threatening the others.
|M-A Lopez, Simon Yates
|Dumoulin, Froome, Pinot, Bennett, Bilbao
Weather: improving, mainly sunny and 25°C on the plains
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 in the US and Dazn in Japan. The finish is forecast for 5.15pm.