By David Hunter
Bologna – San Luca 207.4km
Time for an action packed week of Italian race.
Easily one of my favourite races, Giro del’Emilia is all about the lap circuit around the streets of San Luca. The climb is 2.1km at 10%, but that features a maximum gradient of 18%. Add in the picturesque setting and fanatical fans, you can see why many love this race.
The climb starts with an immediately steep section, which is quickly followed by a kilometre at around 12%. The final 500m does flatten off, but still has a gradient of 6%. As we have seen in previous editions of this race, the climb is a real leg breaker.
There is a strong chance of rain, not great news for the riders. On the plus side, the wind will be light and it won’t be cold.
Early attacks can succeed, as we saw with Visconti in 2017 and Bakelants in 2015. If the first couple of laps are made tough enough, there can be very few domestiques left to chase in the final lap. If the early pace isn’t strong, it all comes back together for a grandstand finish. Also remember that we are at the end of the season, some riders aren’t motivated and legs are tired.
Looking at the squads, Bahrain are the team with the upper hand. Just like last year, they arrive with an incredibly strong squad. Not only do they have Mohoric and Visconti for an early attack, but they also have Nibali and Pozzovivo for the finale. With such a strong team, they certainly have an advantage. They will attack early and hope to have extra numbers if it comes back together.
Matej Mohoric – we have five ascents of the San Luca climb, but we also have four descents, making it perfect for Mohoric. He will certainly look to attack on the downhill and see if he can stay away until the end. He’s not the best on steep climbs, but he certainly is good enough if given some freedom. The Slovenian provides Bahrain with a great option.
Vincenzo Nibali – okay, he wasn’t strong enough to contend for the world title, but he should be stronger for the race. As we head towards the end of the season, we’ll start to see Nibali getting stronger. He started the Vuelta way off form, but after 3 weeks in Spain, followed by Memorial Marco Pantani and then the worlds, he’ll soon be finding some form. He’s won the majority of Italian races throughout his career, but this one has escaped him. He was 2nd to Visconti in 2017, I just wonder if he’s strong enough to compete for the win. If not him, Pozzovivo will be challenging for the title.
Romain Bardet – brilliant on Sunday, the Frenchman is enjoying a fine end to the season. With a number of one day races in his legs, he should be fresher than some of his rivals. This is the type of race he really should be winning, considering his ability.
Ben Hermans – on paper, this is a race that should really suit the Belgian. He is a fan of short climbs and can certainly perform well in one day races. He was the best Belgian finisher on Sunday, coming home in 23rd place, but he would have hoped for better. Moving to a lesser team was always going to be a risk and I don’t think it’s really paid off. He did win the Tour of Austria, but it’s been a frustrating year for the ex-BMC man. He will hope for a strong end to 2018.
Rigoberto Uran – EF Drapac have two strong options:- Uran and Woods. We shall have to see who gets the nod for this one, but Uran will be keen. He ended the Vuelta with great form, but disappointed on Sunday. Back in Italy, a country he does well in, he’ll be keen to find form ahead of Il Lombardia. The Colombians have a great relationship with this race and Uran certainly has the skills to cope with the final climb.
Gianni Moscon – the bad boy of world cycling is certainly enjoying himself. Fuelled by a desire to prove people wrong, Moscon has been in incredible form, winning Coppa Agostini and Giro della Toscana. He followed that up with 5th place in the worlds, a result he can be happy with at just 24 years of age. He competed here in 2017, finishing in 5th place. That day, he was the rider attacking on the final climb, but Nibali marked every move. There is still a question mark over Moscon’s ability to cope with steep slopes, but the climb is only 2km long. The Italian will be hopeful of taking another win on home soil.
Dylan Teuns – this is a very good finish for the Belgian. Steep slopes are his cup of tea, especially if under 2km in length. He left the Vuelta with condition, I’m still unsure how he didn’t manage to claim a stage. BMC have a team strong enough to support his ambitions and he should be confident of challenging for the podium.
Miguel Ángel López – I’m not sure what’s left in his tank. After a brilliant Vuelta, he wasn’t near top form in the World Championships. The recent batch of talented Colombian climbers have all won this race:- Betancur, Quintana and Chaves. The little climber would love to follow in their footsteps.
David Gaudu – another hugely talented youngster. Still just 21 years old, I’ve enjoyed watching him progress this season. Recent performances have been good and despite his age, it looks like he’s still got enough in the legs to finish the season in style. Winning the race would be a big ask, but he should be demanding a top 5 result for himself.
With such a stellar field, I think that the early attacks will fail, as teams will have enough domestiques to chase. That will set up a fantastic finish to the race, with the crowds shouting on their favourites. With a number of riders in very good form, this is quite a difficult finish to predict. I think we’ll see Gianni Moscon take another win, he is riding very well just now.
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