The last roll of the dice, a big stage in the Alps awaits. Can Simon Yates attack, and if so where?
Monte Rosa: for once the breakaway didn’t stand a chance as Bike Exchange, Deceuninck-Quickstep and Ineos set a fast pace. The Belgian team kept going into the climb with James “Forte” Knox taking a long pull to launch João Almeida at the foot of the climb. Then Simon Yates went and Egan Bernal didn’t, a tale of two styles with Yates standing on the pedals a lot and attacking the hairpins while Bernal was smooth but slower. Perhaps the significance here was Yates in a long range move, he attacked as soon as the climb got steep. He wasn’t out to snipe the stage win but to build up as big a lead as possible by the top. He extracted 28 seconds by the finish, plus a 6 second net time bonus. Which is good, the glass half-full view is he’s got a stage win, taken time and looks good for the podium as he’s consistent; the glass half-empty view is that at this rate he needs five more summit finishes. We should note Almeida’s ride too, strong in last year’s Giro as in punchy but here he’s climbing better than Egan Bernal and is younger too. Otherwise there was no change in the top-10 in terms of positions, only Yates taking time on Caruso and closing in on second overall.
The Route: a start in Verbania, Filippo Ganna’s home town, and then a trip alongside the swanky shores of the Lago di Maggiore and across the border into Switzerland for the Passo San Bernardino (not the same St Bernard pass used by the Tour de France, nor the eponymous dogs). It’s a hard climb, 23km long and if it averages just 6.2%, that’s because it’s got two descents along the way, meaning 20km of the climb is 7-8% and so a selective climb that will eject many riders. The descent is different, it’s short and packed with hairpins, but all on Swiss-quality tarmac.
The Splügenpass is 9km at 7.3% and climbed from the shorter side, it’s steep from the start. Towards the top there’s a series of tight hairpins, the kind where a rider in the lead can look down to see where their rivals are. Then comes a very fast and technical descent on a road that’s full of engineering features with cuttings and tunnels. It’s almost so fast the race overshoots the town of Madesimo, going further down the valley a bit before turning back, in order to make the final climb of the Giro that bit harder…
The Finish: 7.3km, 7.6% but a finish of two parts, first a regular road to the ski village of Madesimo and a flat section through town. Then, of all the roads in Italy, a small rickety lane out of the village up to the ski lift, it’s an irregular and steep, a tiny road.
The Contenders: Simon Yates (Bike Exchange) is now climbing faster than Egan Bernal (Ineos) but the differences are close. The Briton could attack on the Splügenpass and try to build a lead but this is risky with Ineos having strength in numbers, especially Dani Martinez to chase. It’s also a longer stage – in duration rather than distance – with multiple climbs rather than the short punch so advantage Bernal here. Arguably Bernal’s biggest threat is Damiano Caruso, at least in terms of the TT as the Sicilian should be quicker tomorrow.
|Simon Yates, Egan Bernal|
Weather: a weather alert, it’ll be bright and sunny again which unusual for the Giro. 18°C lower down, 12°C higher up.
TV: the stage start is at 12.30pm, the San Bernardino starts about two hours later. Tune in for the Splügen at 3.50pm and finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST.