A likely sprint stage – but maybe not – and a chance to see the sprinters establish their pecking order.
Primož Rocket: there’s Roglič and the rest, he put 19 seconds into Yates, 23 into Nibali, 28 into Lopez and Dumoulin and the rest. In three weeks’ time in Verona maybe 19 seconds won’t be a lot but for the moment taking 19 seconds in just 8km is a psychological win for Roglič. Inevitably the question is whether he can sustain this but we’re left guessing and he’ll provide the answers in the coming weeks. Among the relative losers were Ilnur Zakarin, 1m20 down and Mikel Landa at 1m07s.
Fernando Gaviria was the best of the big name sprinters at 1m57s and Arnaud Démare at 1m59s which means they and their peers can only aim for stage wins and points now. Indeed Jumbo-Visma have the problem of leadership in that it looks near impossible to engineer a friendly hand-over of the jersey. Finally spare a thought for Hiroki Nishimura who was outside the time limit.
The Route: 205km through the Apeninnes to Tuscany, one of the hotbeds of Italian cycling where names like Lamporecchio and Mastromarco rhyme with pro races and Italy’s strong U23 racing scene alike and this means a course familiar to many in the peloton and convoy alike. As such the two climbs to Montalbano and the San Baronto road shouldn’t be a surprise but they’re the crunch points and will have the sprinters on edge. Montalbano is steeper but San Baronto twists and turns. The twisting roads will line out the peloton and it’s possible some riders who have issues with gravity may be dropped in the finish.
The Finish: a hectic town centre finish with narrow streets and tight corners. Just within 3km to go there’s a pinch point as they take a narrow shopping street and then flick right and for the remaining 2.5km the finish uses bigger, wider roads before a flat finish.
The Contenders: a sprint? That’s the obvious outcome but let’s say the breakaway actually has a chance. First Jumbo-Visma don’t need to lead the peloton out of an old fashioned sense of duty and they won’t want to either, so in the time it takes other teams to pick up the reins a good move might be able to get clear, we’ll see if some world class breakaway specialists are active in the first hour or whether the wildcard teams just send a five riders away on a day return ticket. Second the hilly finish isn’t easy to chase on, the sprinters teams can’t chase at warp speed for fear of putting their fastmen into the red. So the short version is that “grand tour, flat finish = breakaway” may not be so certain but even if it’s still the most probable outcome because if Jumbo-Visma won’t chase, then UAE, Lotto-Soudal, Bora-Hansgrohe and Deceuninck-Quickstep will at some point.
As for the sprinters Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-Quickstep) is an obvious pick based on reputation and home motivation but he’s not having a great season so far with “only” four wins and his lead out train isn’t as good or as long as last year. Fernando Gaviria (UAE Emirates) is a great talent but he’s not having a great season either. The same story all over again for Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) even if he took two stage wins in the recent Tour of Turkey.
Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) rides his first grand tour and is still a work in progress but capable of big wins. Arnaud Démare can win but he’s not as fast as the names cited already, he’s much better in a hard finish and his Groupama-FDJ team are prone to doing a great lead out until they drop him off 50 metres too soon; but not easy as Démare is good at going long, leave it until 50 metres and a track rider like Viviani or Gaviria will have the torque to pass.
Breakaway picks? Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) lets his team play two cards, he can try for the stage win and his team don’t have to chase. Otherwise after spinning the random wheel three names who fit the bill: Marco Canola (Vini Fantini-Nippo), Nans Peters (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Tanel Kangert (EF Education First) fit the bill.
|Caleb Ewan, Elia Viviani, Fernando Gaviria|
|Pascal Ackermann, Arnaud Démare|
|Cimolai, Nizzolo, De Gendt, Kangert, Canola|
Weather: sunshine and showers, a top temperature of 16°C and cooler earlier on.
TV: the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST / Euro time. It’s on RAI in Italy, Eurosport across most of Europe and Australia, L’Equipe TV in France and Flobikes and Fubo.tv in the US.