By David Hunter
Tolmezzo – Sappada 176km
A big day in the mountains.
This is a classic medium mountain stage, with three cat 2 climbs in the second half of the stage. Not only that, but we also have an uphill finish. The riders are faced with over 4100m of climbing, which means it will be a selective day. With the rest day following, expect many to go very deep into their reserves.
Despite climbing from the gun, the first categorised climb doesn’t come until kilometre 48. It is 8.85km at 4.4%, which will help the break to establish.
The opening cat 2 climb is 7.95km at 7.3%, this would be a cat 1 in many races. It is very demanding, rarely dropping under 7%. A 28km descent follows, before the finale of the race begins.
Again, forget about the fact the organisers have called them cat 2 climbs and just look at the numbers! Passo Di Sant’Antonio is 8.35km at 7.5%, which includes 4km at 10%. After a 10km descent, the riders are then raced with 3.75km at 9%. This beautiful little kicker crests with 15km remaining.
The final 6.5km includes many sections where riders can attack, particularly the 2.5km section at 6.6%.
Looks like there will be rain around for most of the stage. The wind is coming from the east, meaning a pesky headwind as they head for home.
The profile looks like a classic breakaway day. It is a complicated stage for the GC teams to control, especially as the finish doesn’t really suit any of them. It is more than likely we’ll see a large group escape the peloton and they’ll fight out the victory. The only issue will be satellite riders. Some of the GC teams will want to place riders in the break, so they can help deep into the race. This could complicate things for the morning move.
I can’t see the GC fight starting until Passo Di Sant’Antonio. At this point, we have no flat roads and only short descents between the climbs. If a rider is feeling strong, they can attack from distance. The final climb is brutally steep and I would expect to see a small group of favourites survive this one, which sets up a chaotic finish. This could be a classic Giro stage.
Fausto Masnada – this is a big day in the battle for the KOM title and Masnada is currently the best placed of the non-GC riders. Androni will work hard to ensure he makes the morning move and takes as many points as possible. It is always difficult for a pro-continental rider to win a stage in the Giro, but I do like Masnada’s style.
Davide Villella – Astana have many options for the morning move, but they also need to keep good climbers with Lopez. This could mean that Villella is given a little freedom to attack. He is a good climber, but these hills are right on his limit.
Giulio Ciccone – decided to ride with the main group today and not chase the morning move. Looking at the KOM battle, he really needs to be in this break. He is climbing incredibly well, but needs to take advantage of these legs. The climbs are all good news for him, as is the ramp up to the finish.
Ben Hermans – a stage win is a massive target for the Belgian. He might not ride for a brilliant team, but he is a great rider. Hermans has a big engine and that is good news when trying to make the morning move. If he can find his climbing form, he’ll be one of the riders to beat in this stage.
Hugh Carthy – it’s been brilliant to see Carthy attacking in the last few stages. A rider with a huge amount of potential, he now seems to be at home at grand tour level. He is a fantastic climber and will hope to feature in the morning move. Once there, he will try and use his ability on the climbs to distance his rivals.
Robert Gesink – not been seen in a break since Etna. A terrific rider, with lots of experience, it’s only a matter of time until we see him at the pointy end. He took his first grand tour win in 2016 and I fully expect him to take more. He might prefer a stage that ends with a big mountain, but I do think this stage looks good for him.
Diego Ulissi – I’m still waiting for him to show up! When Ulissi rides the Giro, he wins stages. Is this about to stop?
Now that Sky are back, things could get spicy. This is a stage that looks like a breakaway, but Sky might just decide to hold things together. The last two categorised climbs are where we could see some action and that’s not just on the way up. Today we witnessed the race breaking up on the descents and tomorrow has more complicated downhill sections. There is potential for a big GC rider to lose time.
A landmark win for Hugh Carthy. I’ve been seriously impressed with him since the start of the Giro. In the battle for pink, I don’t think we’ll see any gaps between the top 5.
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