The Giro rides on and yes it has the feel of a test of patience for the GC contenders and fans alike. We’ll see if the mythical passes of the Dolomites can discriminate between three riders who have proved inseparable for the last three weeks. Or will it all come down to the time trial in Verona tomorrow?
Stage 19 Review: the breakaway stayed away and the cherubic mountains leader Koen Bouwman won the stage. Bouwman started his sprint on the right and cut across to the left. This wasn’t obvious foul play: the need to get into the final corner first, more than to chop rivals up but it meant Schmid was out of place, which made Vendrame and Valter lose control on a tight bend that wasn’t part of the road but a lane created in a car park and seemed to catch them out.
Landa, Hindley and Carapaz all made attacks in the finish again but still nothing can separate them. This makes it look like they’re trading soft blows but when they go, all the others are gone.
The Route: 167km and 4,700m of vertical gain. After a spin out of Belluno there’s the uncategorised climb to San Gregorio, a short climb into the vineyards, 3km at 7% and then another small climb to Sospirolo but a more gentle rise and then it’s back down to the valley for some big roads to the foot of the Passo di San Pellegrino.
The San Pellegrino’s a big wide road and a steady gradient to start with and stays a big road to the top but the road gets so much steeper. It still suits the GC riders and their trains of sherpas. The attacks are unlikely to fly here but it softens up the riders.
The Passo Pordoi is this year’s Cima Coppi but Koen Bouwman has an unassailable lead in the mountains jersey competition now so there’s a touch of prestige and some cash for being first to the top. It’s a straightforward climb with few secrets, the slight difficulty comes from the 27 numbered hairpin bends, riders going first into them fare better while those at the back get the whiplash/accordion effect and have to work a bit more. The descent is on a wide road but full of more hairpins.
The Finish: the Marmolada is the highest peak in the Dolomites and towers above the Passo Fedaia. For the Giro there’s the 3-2-1 second intermediate sprint at Malga Ciapela with 9km to go and then it’s all about the final 5.5km where the road pitches up after the ski resort, there are double-digit gradients and no recovery sections, it’s a long straight road up until the hairpins with 2.5km to go.
The Contenders: the breakaway or the GC contenders? Normally you’d say the GC contenders who’ll deploy their teams dictate the pace so they can leave their mark on the race. After all Richard Carapaz is in pink but has yet to win a stage. But so far this is not a Giro of grand raids, it’s because the riders are so close on GC that they not having to gamble. Carapaz will miss Richie Porte who left the race yesterday but has a good chance of winning today while Jai Hindley has been sprinting well, see his Blockhaus win, but his Bora-hansgrohe team aren’t quite as strong in the high mountains.
Mikel Landa still has the ability to win a big mountain stage and is perhaps the interesting element here. His Bahrain team are strong and he’s got a buffer of almost five minutes ahead of Vincenzo Nibali on GC so he and his team can take more risks today.
For the others, Hugh Carthy (EF Education) seems to win on the hardest climbs, Santiago Buitrago is climbing very well but could be on duties for Landa, likewise for Joe Dombrowski for Nibali and Astana.
Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) has cut an unusual figure at times, he was even attacking the GC contenders yesterday for little gain when fresher legs could help here but surely if everyone raced like him the GC contest would be wildly interesting.
|Richard Carapaz, Jai Hindley
|Carthy, Martin, Dombrowski, Buitrago, Bouwman, Hirt, Leemreize
Weather: a chance of rain at the start and then once in the mountains it’ll be much colder, just 10°C with the chance of rain and even sleet or snow at altitude. Has Jai Hindley been practising with his rain jacket?
TV: the stage stars at 12:15pm, the Pordoi around 3.30pm and the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST.