By David Hunter
Chiavari – La Spezia 150km
After a very demanding day, there is no rest for the riders, as we continue in the “medium mountains.” Yet again, we hardly have a single kilometre of flat, making it very hard to control. Orica got their tactics spot on in stage 3, putting Clarke and Chaves in the break and forcing others to chase. They only contributed to chase, inside the final 20km. Basically, they got Tinkoff and Astana to work all day, for Matthews to take the win.
Now that they’ve played that card, it’ll be harder to do again. Luckily for them, Oleg Tinkov, is directing the team tactics. This is outrageous and another example of how money talks in cycling. This man has made his team work like dogs, for nothing. They are wasting valuable energy and I’m fearful of the consequences. He has no history with cycling, he just has a big wallet and an equally sized mouth.
We have three categorised climbs, all cat 3, and one uncategorised climb. The opening two climbs are in the first half of the race, so won’t have much of an impact. The last two, could and will, blow it apart!
The Passo del Termine is 8.7km at 6.1%. As you can see, it features some demanding sections and some riders will be dropped here. People will be buying tickets for the bus, at the foot of this climb.
The finishing circuit is very interesting. There is 1km of cobbles, slightly uphill too. We then have the climb, 3.5km at 4.7%. Well, they claim it’s 4.7%, you can see that above. However, this doesn’t match up to my calculations. I get the climb at 8.6%. Speaking to one of the riders, he tells me that this climb is harder than Willunga Hill. That’s hard!
After the climb, we have 4km of descending and then a flat, final 3km.
There are a few corners on the way to the finishing line and plenty of opportunities for a late break to succeed. With such a difficult final climb, it’s another stage where anything could happen.
The entrance to the circuit, is via a long tunnel. Once around the finishing line, the fun starts. The climb is very narrow and very steep. You can ignore what the road book says, this isn’t 3.5km at 5%, this is 3.5km at 9%. Halfway up, there is a narrow bridge, where a car can just about fit. That means around 5 cyclist wide, at that point. Positioning is going to be crucial.
The climb is one of the hardest cat 3 climbs, you’ll ever see. I lost count of the number of hairpin bends, most of which must have a gradient, in excess of 13%. The more I think about it, the more I believe that this is a day for the GC riders. There are very few who will be able to follow the attacks. Ardennes style riders do have a chance, but even for Gilbert, Matthews and Gerrans, this is going to be on the limit.
If it’s a GC day, then we can expect to see Sky, Astana and Tinkoff battling for control of the bunch. Hopefully Tinkoff aren’t too tired as this is a stage where positioning is important. The cobbled kilometre before the climb is important, as once the climb starts, it’s difficult to make up a lot of positions. Simply put, you must be at the front of the peloton, when the climb starts. Orica won’t try to control, but they will put men near the front of the bunch.
Don’t forget BMC either. Gilbert is capable of winning this stage and they have a team that are focused on stages. His 3rd place finish was excellent today and they will put everything behind him here.
I wouldn’t expect to see a huge break, as most teams will need to save their riders for the end of the stage. I think it will be a conventional stage, in terms of the break and the chase. When we get to the final climb, all hell will break loose!
That final climb is really going to split the field. The early slopes will be fast and furious and the final kilometre at 12% will blow the field apart. There should be attacks from some of the GC riders. Those in good form now, have to test the legs of Contador, before he gets into his stride. That means, Richie Porte, needs to stand up. He’s in brilliant form and more than capable of dropping the others, on the steep slopes. After a poor TTT, he needs to make up some ground and can do so here.
The problem for Richie, is that Contador and Aru, won’t be happy letting him away. They will mark the attacks and it opens the door to a rider perceived as less of a threat, nipping up the road. That could open the door to Uran, Caruso, Slagter, Ulissi and Intxausti. Hoping to hang onto the main riders and then stealing the win will be Gilbert, Matthews and Gerrans. I think the climb is a little too steep and too long for Matthews to cope. Their best plan is Simon Gerrans. He needs to stay with the favourites and then he’ll be favourite for the sprint, even against Gilbert.
Special mention for Carlos Betancur. The wee man is back in form and in fitness. AG2R were rocked by losing Pozzovivo today and will want to strike back. This is the type of climb Betancur loves, remember, he’s for a former winner of Giro dell’Emilia.
You can call me crazy but I’m actually going with Betancur. He has been targeting the Giro and now he has a huge chance. Seize the day Carlos! If he fails, I say Porte.
¿Quién ganará el Giro de Italia?
- Rigoberto Urán (43%, 1,740 Votos)
- Alberto Contador (39%, 1,553 Votos)
- Fabio Aru (7%, 277 Votos)
- Richie Porte (6%, 227 Votos)
- Otro (4%, 166 Votos)
- Domenico Pozzovivo (1%, 22 Votos)
- Damiano Cunego (0%, 19 Votos)
- Ryder Hesjedal (0%, 14 Votos)
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