A good day for the breakaway and also a hard stage for the GC contenders although today’s stage isn’t severe, the really selective part is the gravel slope right at the end.
Angel Face: the move didn’t go on the climb at the start but on the way down the other side which helped explain a breakaway packed with heavyweight time trial powerhouses. It also had Fernando Gaviria – but he’d crash and struggled – plus a couple of lighter stage hunters too and the trick to winning was to match the big rouleurs on the flat and let gravity dispatch them on the climb at the end. After Nikias Arndt started the attacks with 20km to go riders were trading attacks with Victor Campenaerts the most active. The Belgian launched and relaunched and in a final move was joined by Bardiani bantamweight Giovanni Carboni for the final climb and he cracked Campenaerts on the slope. Behind another lighter rider in Lafay floated across, attacked Carboni, and went solo to win with nobody else in the picture. This Franco-Italian production by the cherubic Alain Delon lookalike brought a rare win for his team, or at least rare until the long weekend in France where Cofidis have won more in the last three days than all of last year combined.
The Route: a relatively short stage, only 158km but packed with 3,500m of vertical gain which is a lot but not wild, let’s not overhype today as a gigantic stage of the race. It’s a solid day in the Apennines but you can face fiercer flanks, think the Blockhause, Carpegna or Monte Nerone.
The stage starts… with riders warming up on their rollers as the course is uphill from the start with the uncategorised Colle della Croce, a big ring kind of climb at 4-5%. So is the next climb of the Passo Godi and also the next to the empty spot labelled Fonte Ciarlotto by the race, it’s not steep either. The same again for the Forca Caruso, another big ring climb. So is the climb from Celano to the ski town of Ovindoli, at least until higher up in the village where the road turns onto a smaller road and it gets steeper for a short while. Then it’s across the top of the mountains to Rocca di Cambio with a small climb into town. None of these are the most selective climbs of the region but they’ll all add up, a cumulative fatigue from the ascents and sketchy descents.
The Finish: a visit to Rocca di Cambio and then the climb up to Campo Felice ski station, the Giro’s been here before and it’s a 5% climb before heading into the tunnel and out to the usual finish line. Only this time it’s literally onto the ski slopes with a finish on a ski piste that’s a gravel track in summer, it’s 1.6km long at 8-9% but steeper in places and because it’s a rocky path this makes things even harder.
The Contenders: another good day for the breakaway and the climbers and strongmen who tried yesterday can give it another go today, yesterday’s picks can almost be copy-pasted. So Alberto Bettiol, Ruben Guerreiro (EF Education-Nippo) and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) come to mind. Alessandro De Marchi (Israel) is back to attacks, plus Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) isn’t working for Ewan any more. Movistar’s Dario Cataldo and Davide Villella feature again. A stage winner already Gino Mäder (Bahrain) is riding well and that’s the problem, he’s only four minutes down on GC and nobody will want to let him get much of a lead. Valerio Conti’s been tipped here but he’s been ill before the race and short of form, he promises to attack but it’s too soon today.
Can the GC guys win? Sure and we can expect Ineos to pick up the pace late but so far there’s no other team trying to out-muscle them, we’re not going to see Astana or Deceuninck-Quickstep out to get them so the speed won’t be as high. So it’s advantage to the breakaways, we could just have two races for the price of one with Bernal and company trading attacks, but late into the stage, on the gravel. The best four in San Giacomo should come to the fore again, Egan Bernal looks consistently good, Dan Martin (Israel) in great form and punchy in any finish, Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-Quickstep) almost looks to be holding back and Guilio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) is the local but as lively as he’s looking, how to win? He’s riding high on GC and he and his team won’t want a boomerang attack where he launches, gets reeled in by Ineos and dropped. Instead he could hang tight and win a sprint. Lastly Simon Yates (Bike Exchange) ought to be a contender here but just matching Bernal and Evenepoel is the test today.
|Bauke Mollema, Alberto Bettiol|
|Guerreiro, Bernal, TDG, Villella, De Marchi, Cataldo, Mäder, Champoussin|
Weather: similar conditions to the previous day, cool weather and the chance of rain in land, 17°C in the valleys, single digits at altitude.
TV: the stage starts at 12.35pm CEST, tune in to watch the scrap to get in the breakaway. The climb from Celano starts around 3.45pm and finish is forecast for 4.55pm CEST, earlier than usual.