A big summit finish on Monte Etna. This isn’t the hardest climb of the Giro but it’s plenty for the first Monday of the race.
Ulissi’s joys: A break including Thomas de Gendt who looked to be stretching his legs, he won every climb and sprint along the way and thanks to brute force alone, he didn’t try to outmanoeuvre, he just rode them off his wheel. Aleksandr Vlasov abandoned, he’s been ill and even if you’re not an ardent Astana fan his absence is bad for the race as the Kazakh team were one of the few who had multiple cards to play in the mountains and now they’ve lost Fuglsang’s two lieutenants. We got the inevitable uphill sprint and UAE got to work with Valerio Conti leading the charge and taking team mate Diego Ulissi clear with Quickstep’s Mikel Honoré and Luca Wackermann who launched but faded. Peter Sagan bridged across, the Slovakian seemed to be in prime position but couldn’t finish the job and Ulissi was the clear winner.
The Route: a downhill start but the worst part is neutralised, and then comes a long climb through Leonforte, a place for the day’s breakaway to form. Then it’s round the wide base of Etna to Linguaglossa with a technical approach to the foot of the final climb.
The Finish: there’s no escaping the volcanic feel, even if the summit above is cloudy the road out of Linguaglossa is paved with large flagstones made from the black rock. Then it’s 18km at 6.6%, a long climb and selective, especially as there’s a gentle 5% section to start with meaning things get tighter later on with the final three kilometres at 9%. It’s all on a big main road that snakes it way up, further up the forest gives way to the characteristic barren volcano landscape and it won’t on TV today but steam rises from cracks beside the road.
The Contenders: Filippo Ganna is the race leader but Geraint Thomas is the first among the GC contenders and Ineos will want to ensure rivals can’t take time. The first way to do this is to let a breakaway go clear to take the time bonuses – so Simon Yates can’t – and if the mix is right, someone can sport the maglia rosa for a few days without threatening the big teams and their big ambitions. Half the field is already four minutes down on GC and the likes of Giovanni Visconti (Vini Zabu-KTM), Mark Padun (Bahrain-McLaren), Simon Pellaud (Androni-Sidermec), Matthew Holmes (Lotto-Soudal) and Geoffrey Bouchard (Ag2r La Mondiale) fit the bill as climbers who could get in a move today and surprise but they’re examples rather than suggestions. This scenario is hard to engineer and the names cited aren’t exactly prolific winners.
Among the GC contenders Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) is the obvious pick, he’s climbing well and has good finishing skills. Geraint Thomas (Ineos) need only mark Yates and then outsprint him.
|Simon Yates, G Thomas
|Majka, Fuglsang, Visconti, Masnada, Konrad, Padun
Weather: sunshine and clouds with a good chance of rain on the slopes of Etna, a top temperature of 25°C and little wind to speak of, today’s side is sheltered.
TV: they start Etna around 3.40pm with the finish forecast for 4.30pm CEST.