A flat stage for the sprinters. They have few opportunities in this race so this is an important stage for them and their teams.
Catch of the Day: blasting past the trabocco fishing huts, Remco Evenepoel got as much he could have hoped for, finishing 22 seconds ahead of Filippo Ganna, that’s more than a second quicker per kilometre better the rider seen as the best time trial specialist of his generation. GC rivals were left trailing, João Almeida was the closest at 29s, Tao Geoghegan Hart at 40s and beating expectations, both impressive. Roglič fared worse than imagined, losing 43s and seemingly labouring at times when normally he looks so smooth but he’ll see the positive side where only three GC rivals beat him. The imagined duel has taken a knock but we’ll see what the mountains bring next week.
For those thinking the Giro’s done, you can often extrapolate information from a prologue so an 18km TTis a less clue about form, more a signed statement. This could well be a luxurious, extravagant performance by the Belgian prodigy that will continue for three weeks… but there are four Sundays left and it could also be hubris in a three week tale of the hare and the tortoise, the story is yet to written. We’ll see if any testudine challengers emerge but for now they’ll be receding into their shells given the 30km time trial this time next week.
The Route: A stage for the sprinters with a handful of sharp climbs along the way to give something to TV viewers and get the mountains competition going and an incentive for riders to go in the breakaway as they can take the jersey in what should otherwise be a futile move. Today’s course borrows some of the spiky hilltop ramps from typical Tirreno-Adriatico stages of recent years. There are two categorised climbs, plus the climb mid-stage to Chieti isn’t rated but it’s as hard as anything else on the route. There’s 70km from the last climb to the finish, plenty of time to regroup.
The Finish: a dash along the coast to a roundabout and then the long away around which slows things down and rewards positioning. When they exit the roundabout the road isn’t as straight as the map suggests, it bends round more meaning the next turn with 1km to isn’t immediately visible. The final right hand bend opens onto a wide road to the line.
The Contenders: there are not many sprinters in the Giro, let alone dragstrip specialists, you can’t blame them given the route. Pascal Ackermann (UAE) probably needs the win today more than most as he’s less versatile if it’s hilly but his win rate is poor of late, not easy to back. Alberto Dainese (DSM) won a stage last year (pictured) but doesn’t win often either. Mark Cavendish (Astana) wants the Tour de France win and will have to surf wheels by himself and his win rate is low too.
The form pick could be Fernando Gaviria (Movistar) who has just won in Romandie but still a touch erratic compared to his best years. Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck) is on the up and has a decent leadout squad. Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) isn’t really a sprinter but can always turn on the power.
|Gaviria, Pedersen, Groves
|Cavendish, Ackerman, Dainese
Weather: a sunny day, 23°C.
TV: the climb to Chieti is around 3.15pm and the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST.