A hard day ending in carnage. No need to hype up the stage, that’s just the name of the final mountain pass today but it is a steep climb and followed by a toboggan run descent into the finish.
When the dust unsettled: several years ago Mauro Schmid’s mother would complain her son brought home so many bouquets of flowers that they didn’t have enough vases to put them in at home. Young Mauro was an apprentice car mechanic in school by day, but in his spare time a member of the Swiss road cycling team, the track cycling team and the cyclo-cross team and winning flowers and honing skills in all four seasons. Perhaps at exactly the same time as Frau Schmid searched for a spare vase, Remco Evenepoel was taking a shot on goal for PSV Eindhoven. Or when Mauro slogged around a frosty field in a forgotten junior cyclo-cross race, Remco was pulling on the red shirt of the Belgian football team. Hardly a wasted youth for the Belgian but while he was kicking a football, his rivals were developing handling skills that he perhaps hasn’t needed so far. For almost as soon as Evenepoel swapped football for cycling he was winning and in sensational manner, small things like positioning or riding on dirt weren’t keys needed to unlock victory when he could smash the door down with a stomp on the pedals.
So when Filippo Ganna got to work on the peloton on the road to Torrenieri, in the way a meat tenderiser works on a steak, Evenepoel was losing a few places in the dense peloton on the approach. Then on the descent of the gravel section he looked stressed, hands on the tops of the brake hoods and coasting at a time when others, like Egan Bernal, were low in the drops and pedalling. The amazing thing is that Evenepoel was in trouble for the final 50km of the race, he’d bridge back on but at the cost of team mates and his own energy but he only lost two minutes and this after spending a good portion of the final hour alone.
If the gravel did plenty of damage, so did the final tarmac climb of the Passo di Lume Spento. Several riders launched like boomerangs, flying off the front one minute only to come back and get dropped the next. Giulio Ciccone, Marc Soler and even Sacha Vlasov all resembled Australian souvenirs. Emanuel Buchmann was an arrow, he fired and kept going – perhaps because he didn’t have to be chased down – but having the energy to go solo and stay away was impressive and bodes well. Egan Bernal launched and got across to Buchmann and the pair took time on all the rest.
It’s now advantage Bernal and we’ve gone from him sprinting for a one second time bonus to having only one rider in Vlasov within one minute. Caruso, Carthy, Yates and Buchmann are all within two minutes and Evenepoel is only just over two minutes down. It opens up the prospect of several races, Bernal on the defensive (but this can include attacking), Vlasov waiting for an opportunity, the others too but also watching each other to see if they can rise up, all while Evenpoel’s still in contention for the podium. As for Mauro Schmid, he got in the day’s breakaway and won, collecting a giant bunch of flowers that will need another vase.
The Route: up and down, the race website says 3,700m of vertical gain but it’s more like 4,300m, either way that’s plenty. There’s a lot going on in today’s stage. First a start in Siena where the Strade Bianche usually finishes. Then a trip across the Chianti hills although it’s only May so no postcard images of the golden wheat fields as they’re still green. Then past Ponte di Ema, once home to Gino Bartali, then Sesto, home to the dapperest of dapper Alfredo Martini. Then bam, straight onto the climb of Monte Morello, a sharp climb with steep slopes.
The Passo della Consuma is 15km at 6% and the Calla is similar, these are big roads in the Apennines and steady climbs and descents.
The Finish: the Passo di Carnaio – “carnage pass” – should help pick the winner, it’s a steep climb with two descents included. The descent is more even but a tarmac Super-G course that twists down with awkward hairpins. Once the race reaches the valley floor there’s just over 3km of flat road to the finish.
The Contenders: the breakaway has a good chance today and the winner needs to be a decent climber. Dan Martin and Davide Formolo lost molto minutes yesterday but spent time chasing hard and so might be better picks for mountain stages to come.
Geoffroy Bouchard (Ag2r Citroën) has the mountains jersey but really wants a stage win. He’s got a chance but the day after his Campo Felice rampage he was in almost as much trouble as the sprinters on the road to Foligno so we’ll see if he’s recovered, this means he’s not an easy pick.
Deceuninck-Quickstep had their primary objective binned yesterday but they can still help Evenepoel to a good GC finish. Can they spare a rider today? If so Fausto Masnada is probably the best pick.
Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) is suited to this kind of terrain. Movistar’s Italian tandem of Dario Cataldo and Davide Villella come to mind. Gino Mäder (Bahrain) was last yesterday and with no injury reports he’s now got energy in the bank for today and today’s a good day for a rider like Pello Bilbao too. Diego Ulissi (UAE Emirates) is almost a local and still in the hunt for a stage.
A GC stage? It’s mountainous but which team is going to mow down the breakaway early and try to impose a tempo on the race to upset Ineos? Any takers… going…. going… lot unsold?
|Diego Ulisso, Pello Bilbao, Bauke Mollema|
|Bouchard, Masnada, Mäder, Sepulveda, Lafay, TDG, De Marchi|
Weather: sunshine but not summer, a cool top temperature of 19°C in the valleys.
TV: the stage starts at 11.30am CEST and finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST.