By David Hunter
Foligno – Montefalco 39.8km ITT
Another pivotal day in the battle for the pink jersey.
When I look at this time trial, two words come to mind: long and demanding. We don’t have any categorised climbs, but there are two sections of tough climbing in the stage. The first section is 5.2km at 3.2%, but that does include two flat sections. The next significant challenge is the climb to the finishing line.
The gradients are not “hard” but at the end of a long time trial, this is really going to hurt. Pacing strategy will be very important, as riders need to save energy for the final 6km.
Another sunny day for the riders. The wind is to remain a constant 18km/h, coming from the north-east. That makes the final section into Montefalco a headwind, making it a really challenging finish.
Tom Dumoulin – his performance was amazing on the Blockhaus. He would have been delighted to only lose 24 seconds to Quintana and he now enters his favoured terrain. This is his opportunity to put Quintana to the sword and take a commanding lead on GC. Over 40km, he could beat the Colombian by around 3 minutes, that would put him into a wonderful position overall. I just wonder if his weight loss will have a big impact on his TT ability.
Vasil Kiryienka – will he be allowed to have a go at the stage? Team Sky are not always willing to let Kiryienka go full gas in grand tour TTs, as they need him to save energy for mountain stages. Hopefully he gets a chance to ride for personal glory, especially after the crashes to Thomas and Landa. He won the 60km TT here in 2015, before going on to become the world champion later that year. He is in very good form just now and will love the distance involved in this TT. The Belarusian seems to love pain, he gets stronger the harder the race.
LL Sanchez – was second to Kiryienka back in 2015. The Spaniard is another that likes longer TTs and he certainly has good form just now. The rest day should have allowed him to recover from a very active weekend and he should be aiming for another big result.
Vincenzo Nibali – when on top form, Nibali can do well in demanding TTs. His performance on Blockhaus was impressive, but he did suffer from covering a number of Quintana attacks. I think he might have to settle with a top 10 performance.
Jan Barta – another diesel engine that will be eyeing the top 10. Bora have been one of the teams of the race, Barta has a small chance of upsetting the big names.
Thibaut Pinot – another rider that will be very happy just now. He looked strong on Blockhaus and will be confident of posting a fast TT. This discipline is one that he has worked hard on over the last few years. The current French champion, he is capable of finishing on the podium, although, he will hope to limit his losses to Dumoulin.
Tobias Ludvigsson – the FDJ rider ended 2016 with 3rd place in the Vuelta TT. FDJ will certainly want good times from him, as Pinot will use them as reference points. He looks a solid top 10 contender.
Bob Jungels – he cracked bad on Sunday, that will take a lot of recovering from. He will hope for a fast time and should be able to challenge for the top 5.
Ilnur Zakarin – a disappointing performance from him on Sunday. Zakarin is a very talented TT rider, but he will start knowing there is pressure on his shoulders. After a crash marred TT last year, he will be hoping to stay on his bike.
Stevn Kruijswijk – not great on Sunday, but not a disaster either. The Dutchman is always a rider that peaks in the third week, but he will have been left a little disappointed to finish 2:43 behind Quintana. He will still believe that he can contend for the overall podium, but he does need a big TT.
Geraint Thomas – it will be interesting to see how he recovers from his crash. It was very impressive that he managed to battle and lose just 5 minutes to Quintana, some others would have thrown the towel in. The Welshman is a fine TT rider and is still in contention for the top 10 on GC, as long as he recovers well.
Jos Van Emden – another one of the TT specialists. He was a close second in the Tirreno TT and since that point, he has been focused on this stage. His times will be a key point of reference for Steven Kruijswijk, but Van Emden has a chance of making the podium himself.
Victor Campanaerts – the Belgian national TT champion is another contender for the top 5. Last season he won silver in the Euro Championships ITT, over 45km. This season started well, he won the TT in Andalucía, but disappointed in Romandie. On his day, he is good enough to threaten the podium.
Andrey Amador – great performance on Sunday and a very capable TT rider, especially in big races. A certainty to finish in the top 10, but will hope for even better.
Easy win for Dumoulin, the only question is by how much? 2:30 to Nairo will be the minimum he wants.
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