By David Hunter
Catanzaro – Praia a Mare 200km
After the rest day, the peloton has relocated to the south of Italy.
We race along the coast, with many challenges for the sprinters. The opening 120km is very easy, but then we have four climbs for the sprinters to tackle, two of them are categorised as cat 3.
The climb to Bonifati is 6.55km at 5.8%, that would be a cat 2 in some races.
Next up is the climb to San Pietro, 5.3km at 6.8%, but with 2.5km at 8.5%. Despite also being cat 3, this is a real test for some of the sprinters. It crests with 50km remaining, so it might not be taken at full speed.
The final challenge is not categorised but does come very close to the end of the stage.
1.8km at 7.7% is actually harder than the cat 4 climbs we tackled in Holland, but this climb crests with just over 8km remaining, making it perfect for a late attack. The descent to the finish also includes two tunnels, making the chase incredibly difficult. A late attacker will certainly hope to surprise the peloton, probably Tim Wellens.
The final corner is with 2.5km to go, if a rider has 10 seconds, the stage could belong to them. The 18% section near the top of the climb is bad news for a lot of the sprinters, but great for the puncheurs.
It’s very simple for the puncheur teams, go full gas on the climbs. If they want to win the stage, they need to remove the sprinters. Both categorised climbs are long enough and hard enough to cause problems, but do come a little far from the finish. Even if some sprinters are not dropped, the final bump is hard enough to end the day for the quicks. As the GC is close, it’s likely that teams will hold the race together and we’ll get a sprint, from a reduced group.
Marcel Kittel – can he survive the final climb and hang onto the pink jersey? That will be the big question of the stage. His climbing was impressive in Romandie, so this should be within his capabilities, but it does depend on the attitude of the peloton.
Andre Greipel – short and steep isn’t usually a problem for the Gorilla, remember how good he is in Flanders. Given the dominance of Kittel, this could be a great opportunity for him. His stage 3 performance looked to be a move in the right direction.
Sacha Modolo – certainly can climb better than most sprinters. The Italian loves a stage with a hard finish, I think he’ll be looking forward to this one.
Giacomo Nizzolo – impressed on the Hatta Dam, earlier in the season, but I’m not sure about this finish. I also get the feeling that he struggles a little when the pace is really fast on the climbs.
Sonny Colbrelli – this is the type of stage that’s right up his street. His 3rd place in Amstel Gold really was a huge result for him. He should be around at the end of this stage, but he needs to remove some of the faster sprinters.
Arnaud Demare – the winner of MSR would hope to make this finish. FDJ were brilliant on stage 2, dominating the final 2km. A crash stopped them in stage 3, leaving Demare to fend for himself. His win in Paris-Nice showed that he can win, even without teammates. This will probably be his best chance of success in the race.
Moreno Moser – away from the sprinters, Moser is one of the quickest riders. His form is looking good, 3rd in GP Miguel Indurain, 6th in the Romandie prologue and 6th in stage 1. On his day he is a great rider, but Cannondale will have to set a really past pace on the climbs, to slow the legs of the sprinters.
Simon Clarke – same team as Moser, so Cannondale have a decision to make. Clarke was climbing well in Pais Vasco, but didn’t land a big result. With quite a few fast riders, Cannondale will be one of the most active teams in the bunch. If Clarke survives to the end, he should be their man.
Diego Ulissi – will be Lampre’s plan B. If Modolo gets dropped, Ulissi will step forward. He would prefer an uphill sprint, but he’ll still back himself to finish well. He’s yet to win in 2016, but his season is usually all about the Giro. Will hope to add to his 4 Giro stage wins.
The climb to San Pietro should see off most of the sprinters. The ones that do survive will have to see what they have left in the tank for the challenging final 20km. I think this is a day for the puncheurs. I will go Italian and think that Sonny Colbrelli will take a huge win for Bardiani. He should be the fastest rider to survive the climbs.
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