A sprint stage. Although after yesterday’s stage, can we be certain?
Chain reaction: three things happened. First, Jonathan “Cubanito” Caicedo (EF Pro Cycling) won the stage from the breakaway, the Ecuadorian got in the early move of eight and dropped everyone to win atop Monte Etna. Second, two big GC contenders in Simon Yates and Geraint Thomas had a bad day, first Thomas crashed in the neutralised descent to the start and looked to be suffering on the approach to Etna, before losing over 12 minutes; Yates on the other hand seemed to be going well as his Mitchelton-Scott team took up the chase behind the breakaway only for him to get dropped halfway up the climb and concede three minutes to his GC rivals, even team management were surprised. Third, the other GC riders traded multiple attacks and were scattered all over the mountain, Wilco Keldermann faring best but his attack with over 4km to go only gained him 11 seconds on Fuglsang, Majka, Nibali and Pozzovivo. All these incidents were connected with the break succeeding in part because the chase behind wasn’t as strong once Ineos were out, then Mitchelton-Scott and the absence of these two teams left the other GC contenders confused, nobody was able to control the race.
It’s game over for Thomas but not necessarily for Yates but one summit finish and suddenly everything’s changed. Wilco Keldermann is in a great position, he out-climbed several climbers and has more time trials to come while Vincenzo Nibali is already in a strong position when normally he’d spring a surprise in the third week.
The Route: 140km and over the Portella Mandrazzi, a proper mountain pass but one without many steep slopes. The Giro has used this climb several times en route to a sprint finish.
The Finish: it’s too strong to call it a technical or twisty finish but there are some details to master. There’s a slight descent into sweeping bend to the left, and then a harder one to the right just before the flamme rouge should line out the bunch a little and reward a stronger train. There’s a sharp bend to the left with 800m to go and the finishing straight is 800m long and flat.
The Contenders: the first sprint finish for the Giro so who to pick? There aren’t many sprinters in the Giro so there’s the outsider chance of a strong break managing to stay away given only a handful of teams have an interest in a sprint… but this is more likely later in the race. Arnaud Démare is the obvious pick he’s won more races than anyone else this year, he’s got his whole Groupama-FDJ train with him and they’re well-drilled… and yet he’s had a small break after his run of success and so doesn’t come into the Giro red hot, it might take him a couple of sprints to get going.
UAE Emirates have a stage win already but Fernando Gaviria is a top class sprinter. Elia Viviani (Cofidis) wasn’t supposed to ride the Giro but his poor Tour de France left him searching for answers and a win. He’s not sounding too confident now but still has a good chance. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) should be close but the win?
Now for two tandems, Decuninck-Quickstep have two options in Alvaro Hodeg and Davide Ballerini while Israel have Rudy Barbier and Davide Cimolai. Normally the first of the two named here would be the faster but both Davides are Italian.
|Arnaud Démare, Fernando Gaviria, Alvaro Hodeg
|Elia Viviani, Mathews, Barbier
Weather: warm and sunny, 29°C. There’s a chance of crosswinds for the final section but the forecast says it looks mild so it’s a mild alert rather than panic stations.
TV: the finish is forecast for 4.30pm CEST.