By David Hunter
San Vito Al Tagliamento – Monte Zoncolan 186km
Time for the Giro to start.
As usual, there will be a fierce fight to make the morning break. There is every chance it doesn’t fully form until the first climb.
It’s only a cat 3 climb, but it’s really steep. We have 2.75km at 10.4%, that will make it a hard break to join. Quite a lot of the squads will be keen on holding the race together until this point, which gives the climbers a great chance of making the move.
Next up is another challenging 3rd cat climb, 4.55km at 7%, but the racing will be quiet at this point.
Passo Duran signifies the start of the finale. The climb is 4.4km at 9.6%, that is nasty! The following cat 3 climb is 7.6km at 5.6%, which will again help to slim down the peloton.
The mythical Zoncolan, one of the hardest climbs in pro cycling. The climb is 10.1km at 11.9%, that sounds brilliant and horrible. The last time we finished here was way back in 2014, where Michael Rogers took the win from the break. I’m sure you’ll remember Manuel Bongiorno getting pushed off his bike by a “fan”.
The climb is relentless, the middle section is incredibly difficult and rarely drops below 10%. The gaps between the GC riders will be huge and this is a monumental day for the GC battle.
A real chance of some rain, which will make the stage even harder. The wind is light and won’t impact the stage.
It is impossible to tell! The stage does contain some long, flat sections. This is good news for the chasers, but only if they want to chase.
Simon Yates – will his form continue? It is very difficult for a rider to be in top form at the beginning of a grand tour, and continue that form until the very end. Yates started the race in amazing condition and now sits with two stages and the pink jersey, he could have had three stages if he wanted to. We are all waiting to see if his condition will start to weaken, but there have been no signs of this. With the TT coming on Tuesday, he knows that more time is required. Yates has to ride an aggressive race and try to distance Tom Dumoulin.
Domenico Pozzovivo – he has enjoyed a fine race, but still no win. This is the story of his career, the little man just doesn’t win enough. Despite being a brilliant climber, he lacks an explosive kick, making it hard to distance his rivals. He is also guilty of mis-timing his attacks, he needs to show more patience. To win this stage, he needs to let the others cover the moves and then he attacks.
Thibaut Pinot – he’ll be looking forward to this climb. Pinot is a brilliant climber and seems to enjoy the difficult mountain finishes. He has quietly gone about his business and sits in 3rd place, 1:04 behind Yates. Pinot is a good TT rider, he would normally take time on Simon Yates, but he must be very worried that he’s already 17 seconds behind Tom Dumoulin. If he’s serious about winning the pink jersey, he needs to make some big gains in this stage.
Tom Dumoulin – he refuses to get put off by the mountain goats, he simply sticks to climbing at his own pace. This tactic has worked well for him and he sits 47 seconds behind Yates. The Dutchman looks like he is growing into the race and finishing 2nd on Wednesday sent a big message to his rivals. Zoncolan will be a very difficult climb for him, he knows that he’ll come under attack, but he’ll ride his own race and hope to finish within 30 seconds of his main rivals. If on a very good day, he could contend for the win.
Miguel Angel Lopez – was hugely disappointing on stage 9, but he is another that will hope to improve as the race goes on. The Colombian is a gifted climber, he’ll love the difficulty level of the Zoncolan. He sits 3:17 behind Simon Yates, that could buy him some freedom. If allowed a gap, he’ll be difficult to bring back.
Davide Formolo – lost a heap of time on Etna, due to a crash. Since that point he’s quietly moved up the standings and seems to be in great condition. Formolo is a hugely talented rider and can challenge for the stage win. Similar to Lopez, being down on GC could buy him some freedom.
Giulio Ciccone – breakaway option number 1.
Robert Gesink – breakaway option number 2.
Ben Hermans – breakaway option number 3.
The break to have the day, with Giulio Ciccone taking a landmark win. Back in the main group, Yates will take more time on Dumoulin, but I can’t see it being more than 30 seconds.
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