By David Hunter
Forli – Reggio Emilia 229km
The longest stage of the Giro.
The stage begins with a very long cat 2 climb. The last 17km of the climb rises at 3.4%, but you can see it is a long and shallow start. This is not what the sprinters would like for breakfast!
The next obstacle is the cat 3 climb, 10.1km at 3.3%. This crests with 120km remaining and marks the point where the sprinter teams start to get organised.
No doubt, the morning break will enjoy a big lead, but with such a long time still to go, the peloton have every chance of catching them. Saying that, we do have a lot of tired legs and this isn’t the easiest stage to control. For the break to be caught, we will need cooperation between a number of teams.
The sprinters only have two stages left to shine, this stage and the day after. They will not give this one up without a fight!
Nothing to worry about, but positioning is crucial going into the final 3km.
Yet another sunny day. The riders are really getting spoiled. There will be a light wind from the east, making it a tailwind as the riders turn left in Bologna and head for home. Good news for the break.
Fernando Gaviria – two stage wins and a firm hold on the sprint jersey. The Colombian has enjoyed a good start to his grand tour debut. He has certainly benefited from a solid sprint train, particularly the work of Max Richeze. The Colombian did crash in the TT, but we are told that it didn’t cause any injury. With very little between the big sprinters, positioning is always going to be key. Riding with Richeze gives Gaviria a very good chance of success.
Caleb Ewan – it was very pleasing to see Ewan taking his win in Alberobello, it was overdue! After making a mess of things in Messina, the Orica boys really stepped it up. The role of Luca Mezgec was vitally important, delivering a brilliant lead out for the little Aussie. Due to his small size, if he sprints from the front, he gives the other riders little drafting. That means his lead out have to do a great job, luckily, Mezgec is quality. Sprinting is around 60% confidence, Ewan will be flying just now.
Andre Greipel – unlike Gaviria and Ewan, he doesn’t have a great lead out. The early part of the train is still very good, with the old hands, Hansen and Bak, doing their usual job. This puts Lotto in control from 5km to go, but it starts to fall apart when the younger riders take over. Having De Bie, De Buyst and Hofland just isn’t good enough in a grand tour. There is no doubt these riders are quality, but they have a lack of experience. Greipel can still win, but he is coming from a couple of wheels further back. His train need to step it up.
Sam Bennett – he’s knocking on the door of a stage win. Bora don’t have the big names the other teams have, but I have been hugely impressed by the work of Postlberger, Muhlberger and Selig. You can see the confidence it gives their Irish sprinter. This is the first time that they’ve thrown a lot of resources behind Bennett, in a grand tour, and you can see the confidence it has given him. This has been a breakthrough season for him and a Giro win would be hugely significant in terms of his progression.
Jakub Mareczko – can only win if he gets in Greipel’s slipstream and gets lucky!
Sacha Modolo – a disappointing race for the Italian. He’s sat out a few sprints, but should be back in action here. UAE have an impressive train, but I’m not sure Modolo can finish off their good work.
Matteo Busato – the first of my breakaway hopefuls. To win from this break, you’ll need a big engine. Wilier will be very keen to get a rider in the move and Busato is usually their best bet. Not only does he have a big engine, but he can sprint too.
Cesare Benedetti – Bora have joined the breakaways with impressive success. Benedetti hasn’t really been seen since the opening stage, but I still think he’ll have good legs.
Andrey Zeits – as Astana continue to chase an elusive stage win, they are sure to try and join the morning move. Without a sprinter, they can afford to go full gas early in the stage. Zeits is a very impressive cyclist, one of those ridiculously strong riders.
Manuel Quinziato – in his final Giro, it would be nice to see the Italian make the morning break. Opportunities are running out for him, hopefully we see him up the road!
I’ll be bold and go for a surprise breakaway win. I will go for another BMC win, this time with Manuel Quinziato.
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