By David Hunter
Lovere – Ponte di Legno 192.1km
The start of a big week.
Passo Gavia is gone, the poor weather ended those hopes, but at least we’ve still got the Mortirolo. The change in route means it’s highly unlikely we’ll see any GC moves until the Mortirolo as the gradients of Cevo and Aprica just aren’t hard enough. Then again, this is the Giro and anything can happen!
11.3km at 11%, one of the hardest climbs in cycling. The mountain starts with a bang, the first 7.5km is at 12.3%, before it starts to get a little easier, at no point does it become easy. The crest comes with just under 28km remaining; first up is a technical descent.
The beginning of the downhill is very technical, before getting a little easier for a number of kilometres. Once near the foot, we hit the hairpins!
The descent bounces straight into the final climb to the line. With shallow gradients this isn’t going to test the climbers, but it provides an interesting finish. Overall it’s 13.5km at 2.4%.
Rain, not what the doctor ordered. There will also be a moderate wind, which is coming from the north. On the Mortirolo it means a lot of headwind on the hardest first section, with tailwind as we get closer to the top.
Normally, a GC rider would want to get domestiques up the road, but is that really necessary today? The answer is still yes, it would be a great help to have someone to help pace you in the final 14km.
Movistar are a strong team, they won’t be happy to let Bahrain place riders in the morning move, they will be very watchful in the opening kilometres. Remember, now that UAE are not “controlling” the race, we should see a lot more structure to the beginning of the day.
This is a proper Giro stage, with lots of climbing from the gun. After just 9km, they hit this monster of a climb. Okay, the gradients aren’t crazy, but this is where the break will go, and it could be rather sizeable! If teams get a sniff that a GC rider is struggling after the rest day, the hammer can also be put down to test the legs.
Once the break goes, Movistar will take up the pace work and won’t be overly concerned about keeping the gap down. If a GC team really want this stage, they’ll need to work from the start. Put in simple terms, it’s a good day for the morning move.
Once we hit the Mortirolo, all hell will break loose. I see no more than 12 riders cresting in the peloton and the wet roads will make the descent uncomfortable. Once on the grind up to the line, it will be possible for a rider lower in the top 15 to sneak away and take some time back on everyone else. We’ll have to wait and see if Movistar get Landa to act as a domestique, or will they allow him freedom to attack and also gain some time. Although not difficult, the end to the stage will be fascinating to watch.
The GC Battle
The final week was always going to be the most important, but we arrive in a situation no one was expecting. Carapaz leads Roglič by 47 seconds, Nibali is at 1:47 and Simon Yates at 5:24.
Roglič was gapped on Sunday, but would that have happened if he didn’t waste energy after changing bikes? Is Simon Yates timing his peak to perfection? Can Carapaz continue to surprise? Is the Shark simply waiting to strike?
There are still many questions surrounding the GC riders, remember that Yates didn’t show any weakness until stage 18 in last year’s race, with Pinot blowing on stage 20. In this race, it isn’t over until we reach Verona, and much could still change. In the top 15, Mollema, Zakarin, Sivakov and Formolo are all starting to show signs of fatigue. Waiting in the wings is Hugh Carthy, who still has hopes of finishing in the prized top 10.
This stage will clearly shape the battle for the next week, but will the big guns get dropped on the Mortirolo. With the crest coming a long way from home, normally we wouldn’t see gaps between the main GC riders, but I think we could well see ” the rule book” ripped up and thrown away.
Hugh Carthy – Sunday was his best ever day on a bike, he was faultless. He sits in 14th place on GC, 14:38 behind Carapaz, which means he’ll have freedom to join the morning move. He’s got a big decision to make, as going in the break comes with risk. His other option is to sit in the peloton and hope the break isn’t successful. He can then use his freedom to attack early on the grind up to the line and hope to solo away. This rise to the top level has been a long time in development, he’s been making gradual improvements over the last 5 years and it’s very pleasing to see him now fighting with the best.
Bob Jungels – you might be surprised to see his name in this section after a fairly disastrous week. Jungels clearly hasn’t been at his best over the last week, but something tells me he’s been going relatively easy and saving himself for this week. I expect to see him fighting for the morning break and pushing hard once there.
Giulio Ciccone – after an active first week, I was expecting to see him slow down a little in the second week, but he just got stronger! The KOM jersey is all but his, now he can turn his attention to a stage win. Will he eventually start to slow down?
Alexis Vuillermoz – another rider who came here looking to claim a stage win, not challenge on GC. The Frenchman has carefully tried to ride into form and as we hit the third week I think he’ll be at the front of the race quite a lot. The final 10km is perfect for him, he has a very fast uphill sprint.
Ivan Sosa – proper climber alert! The little Colombian has been quiet in the opening two weeks, but has started to show some interest in recent stages. He’ll love the Mortirolo, but probably not the descent off it. He’ll be better suited to a mountaintop finish.
Primož Roglič – we’ll have to see how he responds to his crash, but it didn’t look too bad. The Slovenian is very good on steep gradients and can also descend very well. As we hit the closing kilometres, he has a very fast sprint finish, something he would love to use to take a stage win. In an ideal world, he would also start to take some time back on Carapaz, but will he have the legs to do so?
Vincenzo Nibali – he’s looking very strong just now. He wasn’t able to drop Carapaz on the Civiglo climb, but that won’t put him off trying on the Mortirolo. With a slippery descent to come, Nibali will look to attack on the uphill and downhill and see if he can crack any of the GC contenders. He doesn’t have the fastest sprint, but it isn’t too bad after a tough day in the mountains.
Simon Yates – can he do a Chris Froome? The second week has not been kind on the Brit, and he sits way off the pink jersey. Saying that, Sunday was a sign that he’s moving in the right direction and you just never know in the Giro, just look at last year. On a normal day, he would be the best rider on the brutal slopes of the Mortirolo, but is he really now at 100%?
I’ll go with my gut and say this is another stage for the breakaway, it just has that feel to it. After his stunning performance on Sunday, this will be an enormous day for Hugh Carthy as he takes his first grand tour stage win.
Back in the GC group, there will be chaos on the climb and descent. I think we’ll see Yates taking time back. Both Landa and Carapaz will struggle on the descent and I think Nibali and Roglič will start to chip away at the time gap to the pink jersey.
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