A summit finish, and a high altitude one too but only the final five kilometres of the climb are selective. With luck we’ll get two races for the price of one, a breakaway to contest the stage win and the GC contenders in action soon after but Jumbo-Visma and others might want to mow down the breakaway for the time bonuses so they can start to take back time on Evenepoel.
Hat-trick in Napoli: the Giro was almost upstaged by the sea of flags and banners celebrating SSC Napoli’s win in the Italian football league, so much for the “city of a thousand colours”, it was all blue and white with much of the stage looking more blue than pink.
The day’s breakaway almost made it. The group took over five minutes which looked promising only for Ineos to hit the Valico di Chiunzi hard and shrink their lead, a move maybe to ensure they were first down the descent and out of trouble… but maybe to test Remco Evenepoel after his double decking the previous day. Simon Clarke and Alessandro De Marchi dropped their companions of the day on the next climb out of Positano to form a duo: two breakaway specialists, both 36 years old and former team mates too and they kept a lead coming into Naples. Cooperate as they did, things fell apart in the final kilometre when De Marchi stopped sharing the work, he told Italian TV he was racing to win and didn’t want to finish second and the pair were soon swamped, poker play or not.
The sprint saw Fernando Gaviria take a flyer but this ended up offering a lead out of sorts for Mads Pedersen who went long but was a length clear to claim his hat-trick of a stage win in all three grand tours. Napoli fans may have been pleased to see Milan finished second.
The Route: 218km and 3,900m of vertical gain. Today’s route is very similar to the 2018 stage won by Simon Yates, only the start is different. There’s the climb of Roccaraso which has featured regularly in recent years and there’s 7km of climbing. The second climb to Calascio is 13km long and mostly at a steady 6%.
The Finish: a 26km climb? As the profile shows it’s more 10km at 4%, a pause and only the final 4km are steep, enough to force a selection. The top takes the riders beyond 2,000m above sea level and if this isn’t the Alps, the decor feels like it, an open, almost barren space reminiscent of the top of the Galibier and past waiting banks of snow. It’s uphill right to the line.
The Contenders: a Primož Roglič finish, he’s often unbeatable in an uphill but there are questions about his form, plus he crashed on Wednesday’s stage to Salerno. Still if he wants to take back time on the overall, this is where his comparative advantage lies and because of this Jumbo-Visma could be chasing hard today to ensure their leader gets the time bonus rather than the breakaways.
Tao Geoghegan Hart is also handy in a sprint finish but better suited to a flat one among a small group but it could mean Ineos get to work today as well and he just seems in form.
Remco Evenepoel has got the power to contest the sprint normally, in fact he could just ride away but with his injuries this might well be harder.
As suggested already some teams have an interest in mowing down the breakaway but all the same it’s a lot of work for a potential gain of 10 seconds at best, the breakaway can still make it. Riders low down on GC already who can handle the final climb are Rein Taaramäe (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty), Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Ben Healy (EF Education-Easypost), Harm Vanhoucke (DSM) and Lorenzo Fortunato (Eolo-Kometa).
|Roglič, Geoghegan Hart
|Evenepoel, Taaramäe, Mollema, Healy, Fortunato, Rubio
Weather: dry and 20°C at times early in the stage but with altitude things will cool rapidly, 11°C at Roccaraso and down to 4°C at the finish where it could be damp in the clouds and with the chance of rain too.
TV: KM0 is at 11.20am and the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST.
Big rock: today’s finish is at the Gran Sasso d’Italia, literally the “big stone of Italy” and one of those unoriginal names you find in many mountain ranges. The originality today is this is the highest point of the Apennines, the range of mountains that runs along the spine of Italy. The Giro uses these mountains regularly as they allow the race to have a range of uphill finishes almost on demand, the course need only turn inland and there’s everything from a small ramp to today’s >2,000m summit finish.