The mountain stages resume and today there’s a trip to Slovenia. It’s not a savage route – wait for tomorrow – but it should see a good battle for the stage win.
Bondt, Dries De Bondt: it looked like a sprint stage but it wasn’t to be. It didn’t look like GC stage either but yesterday Mikel Landa’s chance of a podium finish looks almost certain while Vincenzo Nibali moved up to fourth overall. This was of course because João Almeida quit the race after of a positive Covid test. He’d been racing in his socially-distant style but the virus can get anyone, anytime and if it’s happened to others in this race too, it’ll happen to others in other races too. It lends this Giro even more the feel of an elimination race, another contender ejected. Domenico Pozzovivo also gained a place but this time because Juan-Pedro Lopez missed a split in the finish and lost time.
A five man break went clear given the hulking Eduardo Affini must be worth two riders, along with Davide Gabburo, Magnus Cort and Dries De Bondt. Groupama-FDJ, Quick-Step and DSM never let them get much more than two minutes, it seemed at one point the bunch was in danger of catching them too early. Peccato! The quartet had kept something in reserve for the finish and kept the bunch at bay, plus several riders were caught out by splits to shrink the peloton and by now of course many are tired. Cort launched early, Gabburo faded and there was a close sprint with De Bondt taking the stage ahead of Affini.
The Route: first a dash through Buja, also known as Buie, Buje and Biua but perhaps more famous as home to Il Rosso di Buja, Alessandro de Marchi, so guess who is going in the breakaway? Listed as a mid-mountain stage, you can make a good argument to delete the mid- prefix.
Kolovrat is the big climb of the day and in Slovenian it means a “spinning wheel” (it’s also the name of a derivative Swastika symbol appropriated by neo-Nazis but let’s park that) but good luck spinning your wheels here as it’s 10km of 10% if you ignore the flat section midway. Off the top the race descends to Italy
The Finish: The final climb is 7km at 5% but note the dip in the middle, the final 4km are a more selective 7-8% in places but the road is irregular, the slope changes a lot with some other micro descents along the way before it flattens out by the finish.
The Contenders: a great day for the breakaway as everything suggests Ineos and Bora-hansgrohe are going to wait for tomorrow’s stage to try anything (and probably late in the last climb). If so, well it’s not great sport to watch but you can understand why they’re playing it this way: if Hindley and Carapaz are inseparable uphill then a successful attack might only gain a few seconds, whereas a failed move could cost much more if countered in fury.
Who to pick for today then? A climber but today’s finish is a little more gentle than many of the other climbs this week, it opens up the cast of contenders further. Alessandro De Marchi (Israel) is a local and climbs well at his best, the question is whether the legs are there, he seemed alright when he had a trial raid to Reggio last week. Now being local doesn’t make him any faster, just that he’s sat out some stages perhaps waiting for this. Domen Novak (Bahrain) the only Slovenian but more of an unlikely winner.
Otherwise all the riders who went in Wednesday’s breakaway make an obvious list. Thymen Arensman (DSM), Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Gijs Leemreize and Koen Bouwman (Jumbo Visma) are among the Dutch picks, perhaps even Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) again given his show on Wednesday? Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) is just outside the top-10 and could be chased down if he goes in the move but the real question now is whether he can sprint for the win?
Maybe Hugh Carthy (EF Education) can wait for tomorrow as the bigger the climb the better he seems but tomorrow the spoils could go to the GC contenders. Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) is more punchy.
|L Hamilton, Leemreize, Carthy, Hirt, Valverde, Vansevenant, MvdP
Weather: warm and sunny, 29°C in the valleys.
TV: the stage starts at 12:10, the Kolovrat climb begins around 3.30pm and the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST.
Dividing the Alps: the stage today goes into the Julian Alps, and not far away is the Triglav, Slovenia’s highest mountain. The Julian Alps are subdivision of the Alps, the giant mountain range than spans from France to Slovenia via Monaco, Italy, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Austria and Germany. The are smaller ranges like the Dolomites, Bavarian Alps, Bernese Alps and so on which are all subdivisions of the same range. While some areas have long had their names and obvious characteristics, the first attempt to try and label the whole Alps with identifiable subsections came about in 1924-1926 with the Partizione delle Alpi, the “division of the Alps” which despite the fascist imperative of the time managed to offer a pan-Alpine aspect that wasn’t defined by national borders. But it was still seen by some as rather Italian. It’s a fraught process deciding where to draw the dividing lines. There have been other attempts and of late the SOIUSA system has gained ground, itself a system devised in Italy. In short, the Alps are not one uniform geological block but full of different rock types and characteristics and while geologists might debate precise labels and boundaries, visitors can often sense the differences whether the rocks, the climate, the food and more.