What’s Italian for déjà vu? Another contest between the breakaway and the sprinters’ teams on a 200km+ stage with over 2000m+ of vertical gain… and it’ll rain again too. But if the stages have similarities, the racing keeps changing. All change tomorrow though with the start of the Alpine racing.
Magnus Opus: the day started with a weather alert for the Apennines. A medicane, or Mediterranean hurricane, had hit the coast and before a pedal was turned nine riders were DNS with Evenepoel’s absence still the headline news. A majority of riders wanted the stage shortened but their concerns were met with the promise the weather would perk up. Soudal-Quickstep were among the early attackers, keen to show after losing their leader. A quartet finally formed with Magnus Cort, David Bais, Derek Gee and Alessandro De Marchi, although Cort missed it at first but surged across. Later Bais was dangling but he made it to the top of the climb to take the points for his blue jersey. Behind the hard climbing saw Aleksandr Vlasov in trouble and he’d soon quit, and a post-stage test revealed another Covid positive. Despite the slope and the pace many riders were frozen to the bone, unable to work the zippers on their clothing or to pull off soaked gloves. Things were worse on the way down and with the wet roads and numb fingers many crashed, including Jay Vine who despite help from UAE would lose molto time.
The breakaway trio gave the chasing peloton plenty of work, to the point that once the peloton was shrunk by the climbing, crashes and cold weather, there was almost nobody left to chase. Ineos pulled presumably to ensure Vine’s GC challenge wilted. But among the sprinters Trek-Segafredo, Astana and Bahrain willed a sprint but they lacked the means to bring back the breakaway. In the finish Cort was the fastest on paper and his rivals didn’t try much but the course with the flat roads wasn’t exactly ambush country. Cort showed ice cold finishing skills, first bridging across to Gee’s late attack, then biding his time before sprinting to the win and even though well ahead, not celebrating until he was crossing the line. You could show the finish to students of how to finish a stage. After Pedersen got his “Pederslam” of a stage in all three grand tours, now it’s another great Dane in the tredobbelt club.
On the overall classification let’s note how dominant Ineos are with five riders in the top-11, while Vlasov has now gone for Bora and Jay Vine lost over ten minutes on GC; even the non-GC days are turning to their advantage although it’s not passive, they’re putting the squeeze on as well.
The Route: at 219km, the longest stage of the race at least by distance as some mountain stages to come will take more time. There’s 2,100m of climbing and after scenic procession up the Tuscan coast the climbing starts with the 13km Passo del Bracco, “hound pass”, a long climb but it’s bark is no worse than its bite although there is 3.5km at 6-7%. On the way down there’s a small fountain of spring water that doubles as a tribute to Fausto Coppi and the Italian champion is celebrated throughout this stage, he was born near the finish in Tortona and died there; his brother Serse was born 100 years ago and there’s also Costante Girardengo, the first “campionissimo” who was born in nearby Novi.
The Passo della Castagnola, “chestnut pass”, is a gentle big ring kind of climb and so probably not the launchpad for a nutty late attack. It marks the crossing point into the Piemonte region and the race follows the Lemme valley to Gavi, home of the celebrated vineyards and then a largely flat finish all the way to Tortona.
The Finish: in town but via the outskirts on a main road that’s flat. A roundabout at 2km to go but the left exit is more a gentle, sweeping bend than a corner. There’s a right turn with 400m to go.
The Contenders: another sprinters vs the breakaway day. The profile doesn’t look spiky but there’s still plenty of climbing but most of it is gradual. It should be advantage to the sprinters and their teams especially as some breakaway specialists might save themselves for tomorrow’s incursion into the Alps.
Among the sprinters it’s hard to pick. Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck) is fast but had a tough time yesterday off the back and as mentioned already his train his diminished which makes things harder. Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) won the bunch sprint yesterday. Mark Cavendish (Astana) is ripening for want of a better metaphor at the moment. But take your pick from the rampaging Jonathan Milan (Bahrain), Pascal Ackermann (UAE) or Fernando Gaviria (Movistar).
|Milan, Ackermann, Groves, Gaviria|
Weather: sorry to be the bringer of bad news but another cold day, wet and 14°C. A headwind for much of the stage too. It’s not easy for the Giro but it’s harder on Italy too with flooding and disasters in the regions the race has just visited.
TV: KMO is at 11.45am the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST.