A summit finish, this is the highest altitude finish of the Giro but only the final five kilometres of the climb are selective. With luck we’ll get two races for the price of one, a breakaway to contest the stage win and the GC contenders in action soon after.
Stage 8 review: the day’s breakaway had a chance until it rained, at which point the bunch became a lot more nervous and teams took up formations to place their leaders out of danger, increasing the pace. Koen Bouwman, the cherub-faced winner of a stage in the Dauphiné last year, was the last survivor of the breakaway but was caught by Mikaël Cherel who had just attacked what was left of the peloton with the white jersey Richard Carapaz in his wake. The Ecuadorian passed Cherel and rode off for the stage win ahead of a bunch that seemed indifferent in its efforts until Thibaut Pinot attacked and took some bonus seconds with Davide Formolo who has recovered from his Etna woes. Earlier on Chris Froome had a crash going up the final climb, inconsequential but adding to the noise that he’s not looking in control of the race but remember he was hitting the deck in the Vuelta last year too, crashing twice in a day… and won overall*. We’ll learn more today. It’s a big win for Carapaz who is a big talent and if he’s in the white jersey and aged 24 is already a father of two.
The Route: 225km is long, crossing the Apennines makes it longer. Next Tuesday’s stage is the longest in distance but today’s race starts earlier making it longer in terms of time spent on the bike. Still the route borrows some express roads to use big viaducts in order to level the route.
The first big climb is to the ski town of Roccaraso, a stage finish of the 2016 Giro when Tim Wellens won, but today only a stopping point but still 7km of steady climbing. The second climb to Calascio is 13km long and mostly at a steady 6%.
The Finish: a 26km climb? As the profile shows it’s more 10km at 4%, a pause and then the final 4km are steep, enough to force a selection. The top takes the riders beyond 2,000 above sea level and if this isn’t the Alps, the decor feels like it, an open space reminiscent of the top of the Galibier climbed from the south.
The Contenders: a good day for a breakaway where the climbers can win the stage. Alessandro de Marchi (BMC Racing), Felix Großschartner (Bora-Hansgrohe), Robert Gesink (Lotto-Jumbo), Ben Hermans (Israel Academy) and Tim Wellens (Lotto-FixAll) were cited yesterday and are good for today again, especially Gesink and Hermans who sat up on yesterday’s climb to keep themselves as fresh as possible. Let’s add Guilio Ciccone (Bardian-CSF) and given Astana have GC ambitions they seem happy to send riders up the road too so maybe Alexey Lutsenko comes good, he started ok in Jersualem but has vanished for a while?
Among the GC contenders Mitchelton-Scott duo Simon Yates and Esteban Chaves are obvious picks for this high altitude finish and Yates in particular looks leaner than ever. Thibaut Pinot isn’t big on altitude training camps while Domenico Pozzovivo is riding as well as he ever has both come to mind and it’ll be interesting to see how the riders fare, this is a hard finish at altitude so there’s the possibility to open up gaps in the finish. Finally for the fun of it where else can Davide “Roccia” Formolo win than the Gran Sasso d’Italia, the “Rock” atop the “Great Stone of Italy”, the headline writer’s pick.
|Ben Hermans, Robert Gesink
|Ciccone, de Marchi, Wellens
|Yates, Chaves, Pozzovivo, Pinot
Weather: sunshine and clouds, a top temperature of 21°C in the valleys.
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.