A big day in the Apennines on roads where the Giro seldom ventures. This is a day many will have marked for the breakaway while the GC contenders will hope to avoid any traps.
Piano piano: the flag dropped and nobody attacked, not even a Drone Hopper. Magnus Cort tried a mock move, Pascal Eenkhoorn and Bauke Mollema made another spoof attack, the peloton was laughing about actually attacking. But the Giro, especially with live TV from the start, requires an attack, if only to allow the TV production to cut back and forth. Diego Rosa of invited team Eolo-Kometa drew the short straw and went up the road.
We got the promised sprint and Mark Cavendish looked to be dropped off perfectly into position only for Caleb Ewan to gain ground and then suddenly Arnaud Démare came around. But who won? It required a photofinish to show the tiniest of margins in favour of Démare. He’d gone around his leadout via the barriers, passed a slowing Morkov and then launched his sprint to get around Ewan. He can do it all, he grows vegetables with biodynamic methods at home, he can fold a napkin into a penis shape, and now he becomes the most prolific French stage winner in the Giro.
Ewan was so close that perhaps his time will come next, Cavendish was in the mix and in fourth was the consistent Biniam Girmay, we’re starting to see a clear pattern with these four consistently ahead of the rest. The Eritrean needs a harder stage to thrive and he should served with Saturday’s course in Napoli.
The Route: a quick parade along the coast before turning inland at Maratea, a scenic town with a giant Rio de Janeiro-style Christ statue above. The Passo Colla (literally “glue pass”, you don’t want to get stuck here) has a brief steep start before being a steady big ring climb of 4% to the top, a breakaway can go here but it’s hard to jump away, it’ll still be worth being on a wheel.
Monte Sirino comes next, a long trek to the top but with few steep gradients, it’s a small country road with a wild feel, in the middle of nowhere and barely used by the Giro, the race hasn’t been there this century and a faster descent, past Fontana d’Eboli but the peloton won’t stop.
The Montagna Grande di Viggiano is the hardest climb of the day, 6km at 9% towards a small ski station. There’s still a long way to go so it’s not quite a launchpad for the stage win but a chance for the climbers to make life hard for the others.
Next comes an unmarked climb, it’s not too hard and there’s an exposed section over the top before a descent and La Sellata, a proper climb again but rarely more than 6% and a quick drop down to the city of Potenza for the finish. Altogether it’s a hard stage with a lot of vertical gain but nothing fierce so it makes it accessible to many.
The Finish: the town of Potenza’s an unusual place, a mountain city where escalators and elevators are public transport, it’s even got one of the world’s longest escalators. Trivia? Sure but it tells us about the town, it’s hilly but with modern infrastructure, this is no medieval bastion, think appartment blocks rather than ramparts. So after circling around town on some hilly but wide roads, the stage ends with a sharp climb to the line but it’s all on a regular road.
The Contenders: a big day for the breakaway and if anyone has an eye on the mountains jersey, here’s a chance to grab it as Monte Sirino alone offers 40 points to the first rider over the top and current leader Lennard Kämna is on 43 points. There should be a scrap to get in the move while behind teams like Ineos and Bike Exchange don’t need to control things if there’s no danger up the road. It’s one of those “wheel of fortune” days where strong riders should get away but there’s a degree of luck to get in the right move and today’s picks feel like little more than suggestions…
Alessandro De Marchi (Israel) and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) are perpetual breakaway candidates but no word on the form. Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) ought to be too but he’s been deployed to tow the peloton on sprint stages so team mates Matthew Holmes, Sylvain Moniquet and Harm Vanhoucke might go away but they don’t win much between them.
Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma) is down on GC but not out. Fellow long-limbed Limburger Wout Poels (Bahrain) is well down on GC and a candidate too. Astana are stage-hunting now so Vincenzo Nibali could launch a raid but he might still prefer a full mountain stage with faster descents, Valerio Conti or Vadim Pronskiy can try as well.
As much as this is a climbing day, someone might still need to sprint for the win from a group so Magus Cort (EF Education), Diego Ulissi or Alessandro Covi (UAE) and Lorenzo Rota (Intermarché) come to mind.
Any GC contenders? More likely the breakaway stays clear but if there’s a move it’ll have to come from a strong team, think Ineos but how to prise the race open here?
|Diego Ulissi, Bauke Mollema|
|Nibali, De Marchi, Covi, Cort, Rota, Conti, Poels|
Weather: a sunny day but not hot, typically 20-22°C
TV: the stage starts at 11.40am and finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST. Tune in from 3.15pm for the hard Viggiano climb.