By David Hunter
Rapallo – Sestri Levante 136km
It may only be 136km long, but this is a tough day in the saddle. We have zero kilometres of flat, for the opening 112km! The race begins with 7km at 3.5%, then a descent, before the cat 3 climb, Colle Caprile, it’s 9.7km at 4.6%. After the descent starts a series of long, unclassified climbs. We have climbs of 17km, 4km and 8.5km. A steep descent follows and then we start the defining moment of the day, the climb to Barbagelata.
The climb is 5.7km at 8.1%, but on close inspection we have a 3.5km section at 9%. The opening 4km of the climb is very demanding and we’re bound to see riders getting dropped.
The climb crests with 43.5km left in the race. That means we do have time for any dropped riders, to try and rejoin the peloton. It does offer the sprinters hope and you cannot write them off, despite the difficulty of the climb.
It’s only stage 3, so the whole peloton are feeling fresh and energised. They will look upon the stage as a challenge, one that many riders will hope to conquer. In the favour of the sprinters is the short distance of the stage, the length of the climb and the distance to the finish. If they get dropped and lose around 1 minute, they will stand every chance of rejoining the peloton, on the descent.
The main team with a lot to gain is Orica. The climb isn’t going to drop Michael Matthews, and they know that they have to eliminate Greipel, Nizzolo and Viviani. The Aussie is a fast sprinter, but not as quick as these boys. Orica need to set a fast tempo on the climb.
Quite a few Giro sprinters headed to Romandie, in preparation for this race. They go there as it’s a bloody hard race with plenty of climbs. That should help Nizzolo, Viviani, Mezgec, Meersman and Henderson. Mezgec survived the climbs on both stages 3 and 4, whereas Meersman finished well on stage 4. Both riders will hope to challenge Matthews here.
Greipel was climbing well in Turkey and in the Ardennes, but he’s already talked himself out of the stage.
We might even see Team Sky set the pace on the climb. They love doing that type of thing, it’s more about ego than anything else. That would help Orica as this stage is difficult to control. The length of the stage, makes it a little easier but they will need some help to pull back the break, in the closing 40km.
Tinkoff might just get involved in a battle of egos! They set a silly pace on the cat 4 climb today and look set to try and prove they are the “big boys” of the race at every opportunity. This is just to keep old Oleg happy, no other reason.
Other teams who will like to eliminate the faster sprinters are CCC, Bardiani, BMC and Southeast. That’s because Bole, Colbrelli, Gilbert, Gavazzi and Finetto will all fancy their chances in a sprint of 50 riders. Grega Bole, in particular, will back himself here. He is a solid climber and will make it over with the bunch and he still has a fast sprint. He started the season well, in Andalucia, and recently won a stage in Croatia. It would be a significant achievement, if CCC could take their first grand tour win.
Lampre have the option of Modolo or Ulissi. Ulissi is getting back to race fitness, but still seemed a little off in Romandie. It would be a surprise to see him beat the likes of Matthews and co.
CCC and Orica will ensure that most sprinters don’t make it over the climb, the big question will be if they can continue the pace inside the final 40km? We will get a sprint and I think around 80 riders will be there. Which sprinters make it over is much harder to predict! If they pace is super hard, then all but Matthews will be dispatched. That would leave him sprinting against Bole, Finetto and co.
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