The Zoncolan awaits, this first Alpine summit finish of the Giro.
Giac in the box: 197km of farniente and then a thriller. A late attack by Eduardo Affini almost upset the sprinters but Giacomo Nizzolo jumped like a hobo trying to board a moving train to catch Affini’s slipstream and use this to sprint clear for the win. It’s a reward for patience, so many placings but never a win for Nizzolo and he’s closing in on the points jersey.
The Route: a start in the walled city of Citadella and then across the Veneto region, passing near many factories that make Italian cycling goods like Sidi and Selle Italia and then onto the prosecco vineyards.
After 130km comes Tramonti and the start of the Monte Rest, at first a big road then it narrows and twists up via a series of tight hairpins, a proper Alpine climb and matched by a tricky descent that drops down to the valley, crosses the river and there’s a sneaky bonus climb to tackle, almost 2km at 10% and another tight descent. Then 30km on flatter roads…
The Finish: since Dante is a theme of this year’s Giro, the phrase “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here” comes to mind. It’s even a sign at the foot of the Zoncolan, but crucially on the other side of the mountain to today’s course. Today is the Zoncolan summit finish but it’s climbed from the east side and much less infernal than the habitual west side. Today it’s a climb in three parts, first a steady section on a main road for 9km of mainly 8% gradient. It’s hard enough, but regular. Then a kilometre of false flat which leads to a big car park for the ski resort. Here the road flicks left and the hardest part begins. There’s only 3km to go but it’s almost 15 minutes of work. The maximum gradient is 27% on the graphic but that’s if you take the inside on one of the hairpin bends, whip out a theodolite and try to measure the worst bit… but by now riders will be able to choose their line, it’s more like 11-12% for most of the way before an 18% section a few hundred metres before the line.
The Contenders: Egan Bernal (Ineos) is the obvious pick, he’s consistently beaten the others uphill already and his team is able dictate the tempo of the race to his liking. He’s leading the race but part of his defence can be to match others and taking the time bonus helps too. As for his rivals, it’s hard to tip them against him, more to see what they can do. Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana) is consistent but has tried a few attacks, a sign he’s not passive. Damiano Caruso (Bahrain) is a steady rider, unlikely to attack today. Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Nippo) won on the Angliru in the Vuelta last year. For Simon Yates (Bike Exchange) this is a big test, he’s lost time here and there, if he can not do that today his stock will rise. Emanuel Buchman (Bora-Hansgrohe) looked so light on the pedals on the road to Montalcino but he can he repeat today? Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-Quickstep) is still in great shape and today’s steady ride into the climb won’t test positioning too much. Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) has been climbing well but can he avoid the boomerang attack that’s his downfall?
The breakaway has a chance. They need to build up a big lead across the plains and start the final climb with plenty of time to spare. But Ineos seem to be the only team trying to control the race and won’t chase hard from the start. We need to look around the climbers who aren’t on duty for GC leaders which means skipping past riders like Matteo Fabbro,
Jai Hindley or Ruben Guerreiro although they might still get a go. So George Bennett and Koen Bouwman (Jumbo-Visma) and Geoffroy Bouchard (Ag2r La Mondiale) come to mind. Dan Martin (Israel) and Davide Foromolo (UAE Emirates) are “only” seven minutes down on GC and some teams won’t let them take back more five minutes for fear they’ll displace their leaders in the top-10.
|Ciccone, Buchmann, Vlasov, Yates, Bennett, Carthy, Bouwman|
Weather: a cold day on the bike, 15°C lower down and only 3°C at the finish.
TV: the stage starts at 11.40am CEST. The Monte Rest climb starts around 2.45pm and the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST.