By David Hunter
Moena – Ortisei/St. Urlich 137km
Another one of those short, crazy days.
It’s almost hard to imagine how the organisers have managed to pack five climbs into 137km of racing. This is going to be another huge day in the battle for the pink jersey and we spend most of the stage at high altitude.
The race opens with the cat 1 ascent of Passo Pordoi. This climb is 11.85km at 6.7% and a tough way to start the day. It’s a relatively steady climb, good for those TT racers turned climbers.
After a short descent, it’s the cat 2 climb of Passo Valparola. This is 12.9km at 6% and is relatively steady, but does kick up at the very top. A 14km descent leads into the next climb of the day.
Passo Gardena is 9.3km at 6.4%, but rarely drops below 7%. Once crested, we have a 23km descent before the next climb begins.
The cat 3 climb of Passo di Pinei Panidersattel is 4.25km at 6.2% and includes a steep middle section. A 15km descent follows before the last categorised climb of the day, the cat 1 ascent to Pontives. This climb is 9.3km at 6.8%, but it’s the last 3km of the climb that is really tough. With gradients constantly above 10%, this is a great point to launch an attack.
The cat 1 climb crests with 4km remaining in the stage, nearly all uphill. The gradients are relatively easy, except a demanding 13% ramp.
We also have a short section of pave just before the finishing line. It will make the climbers think they can win Paris-Roubaix!
A fascinating battle lies ahead. Movistar got it right on Tuesday, but Quintana didn’t attack. The tactic was for him to attack, but I think he changed his mind as he wasn’t confident in his condition. The Spaniards have two options, do the same as Tuesday or just keep the pace very high for the whole stage? It is no secret that Dumoulin’s team are weak, Movistar might decide to set a very fast pace and drop all of his teammates before the final climb of the day. It’s a big decision, I’m glad I don’t have to make it!
We also have to consider Nibali and Bahrain-Merida. The Shark is in with a realistic chance of winning his third pink jersey, how will he approach the stage? His team are not strong enough to send multiple riders up the road, I think Nibali will wait for the final climb.
Whatever happens, this promises to be a fascinating tactical battle.
This depends on the tactics employed by the GC teams. Beginning with a cat 1 climb decreases the number of riders who will be able to make the move. As we witnessed on Tuesday, the tactics of Movistar will make or break the move. Will they place multiple riders up the road?
We could also see a rider from the top 10 trying to sneak away. Kruijswijk was the man on Tuesday, but he was left frustrated by the tactics of Trek back in the bunch. Being up the road, on a day like this, is certainly no bad thing.
With a number of KOM points available, we will likely see LL Sanchez and Mikel Landa make the morning move. Saying that, Landa does look to have a comfortable lead. I think Sanchez should just focus on the stage win.
As usual, the usual suspects will be there, expect to see lots more of Rui Costa, Omar Fraile and Igor Anton!
Another nice day for the peloton, they really have enjoyed a fine spell of weather.
Mikel Landa – very unlucky not to have won on Tuesday. Landa clearly has good climbing legs, but he is still to take a stage win. He will view this stage as another big chance and I expect to see Team Sky put lots of riders into the morning move. With no GC hopes, they can fully commit to riding for the stage. That gives the break a great chance of success.
Nairo Quintana – his crash seemed to hinder him on Tuesday. The Colombian sits 31 seconds behind Dumoulin, but due to the final TT, he still needs to take around 2 minutes on the big Dutchman. This stage represents a big chance, especially the final 3km of the last climb. Very few riders can follow Quintana on slopes of 10%. This section is wonderful for him.
Vincenzo Nibali – the Shark is flying! Same old Nibali, he knows how to peak for the final week. Sitting 1:12 behind Dumoulin, he needs to have some huge performances before Sunday, but he can TT better than Quintana. His tactics will be fascinating, as he pushes for a third pink jersey. His experience could be crucial.
Ilnur Zakarin – climbing very well and will love that this is a mountain top finish, he’s not the best going downhill. He has a good chance of making the podium, but it would be a surprise to see him win.
Steven Kruisjwijk – seems to have refound his mojo! After crashing hard in Yorkshire and at the foot of Mount Etna, it’s understandable that Kruijswijk has been a little under his usual level. His attack on Tuesday was brave but he wasn’t rewarded for this. Now that his form is picking up, I expect to see some big performances from him over the coming days.
Omar Fraile – usual suspect number 1.
Rui Costa – usual suspect number 2.
LL Sanchez – usual suspect number 3.
Dario Cataldo – despite sitting in 15th position, he isn’t a threat to the top 10. Cataldo sits over 6 minutes behind Polanc in 10th place, this will give him freedom to chase personal glory. Astana are still waiting to take an overdue win.
Hugh Carthy – a rider we’ve not seen much of this race. Peaking for the final week is difficult for experienced pros to do, it’s even harder for the younger riders. I think we will see some riders who have been quiet make the morning move and it would be great to see the big Cannondale rider there. All of this climbing makes it a perfect stage for him and Cannondale might just have caught the winning bug.
Another crazy day in the Giro waits for the bunch. I think we’ll see Tom Dumoulin being left to fend for himself early in the stage. He climbed very well on Tuesday, but I can’t help feeling he burned a few matches. This is the day for Quintana, if he has fully recovered from his crash. I think he’ll wait for the final climb, knowing that he can make big gaps in the last three kilometres. A win for Quintana and he moves into the pink jersey.
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