By David Hunter
Reggio Calabria – Terme Luigiane 217km
Another day for a nice cycle along the coast.
The stage is one of the easier ones in this year’s race, apart from the distance and last 10km! At 217km, it’s a long day in the saddle for the bunch. The opening cat 3 climb is nothing to worry about, time to look at the finish.
The fun begins with the cat 4 climb cresting with just 23.7km remaining. It is 2.1km at 7% and it should see an initial selection made. Although difficult, the finale really begins with 10km to go.
In terms of corners, this is a very easy finish. The trouble is the rise before the line.
This is one of those brilliant finishes where sprinters and puncheurs think they can win. With 7.2km remaining, we have 1km at 5.9%, with a final 500m at 7.6% The road doesn’t go down after the crest, instead it continues on at 2% for a couple of kilometres. After a descent of 3km, the riders face the final 2km up to the finishing line.
Officially, we are talking 2km at 5.3%, but the final 700m rises at 8%, including a ramp of 10%. Can any of the sprinters survive?
If it was just 700m at 8%, I think the sprinters would be challenging for glory. The problem is the the previous 1.5km of climbing. The sprinters will approach the steepest section with very little speed, making this finish more about explosive climbing ability. The exception is Gaviria, as he can do just about everything!
They will love the final 700m. To win from the main group, a rider must possess a real kick, the ability to punch a huge hole and leave everyone for dead. This race is not blessed with a lot of these riders, they usually head for the Tour. The stage would have been perfect for Diego Ulissi, but he is also heading to France in July. It certainly opens the door to some of the younger puncheurs.
This is a good day for the attackers. As most sprinter teams won’t be very confident about winning the stage, the burden of chasing will fall on the shoulders of QuickStep. They will want some help, but will they get it?
Much like today, with lots of sun and a tail wind.
Fernando Gaviria – a rider now full of confidence, what a change from the opening couple of stages. The Colombian is the only one of the sprinters who has any chance here, but it might be on his limit. Great on short punchy hills, he will hope to be fighting for the win. The problem is the final steep ramp, but at 700m, it might just be short enough.
Enrico Gasparotto – it all depends on his team role. The Italian was a late replacement and hasn’t looked on top form. After crashing in Amstel Gold, it looks like he is still struggling to find form. Bahrain seem to be here with the sole focus of Nibali, that means Gasparotto will be required to guide his team leader in the final kilometres. I think he’ll have to sacrifice his own chances.
Dylan Teuns – after a brilliant Ardennes, the Belgian should start this stage as one of the favourites. His 3rd place in Fleche was a sign that he is now starting to develop into the rider we hoped. BMC obviously have Van Garderen as their leader, but they have enough support for him to let Teuns have some freedom.
Rudy Molard – after joining FDJ in the winter, the Frenchman has enjoyed some recent success with his new team. 8th in Fleche and 17th in Liege were two impressive results and he is a rider that will like this finish. Like some of the others, it does depend on his team role, as Pinot will need men to help in the last kilometre. If he is allowed freedom, he has a chance of making the podium.
Adam Yates – of all the GC favourites, I think Yates is the most likely to win. He has a brilliant burst of acceleration, something his rivals will struggle to match. Orica will not expect Ewan to win this stage, expect to see them throwing all their resources around Yates.
Nathan Haas – after a brilliant 2017, Haas has a great chance of taking his first grand tour win. So far, Dimension Data have been supporting Sbaragli and Gibbons, but I think this stage is better suited to the Aussie. I remember him winning an uphill sprint in Burgos, he can go very fast in this type of finish.
Rui Costa – a possible top 10 finisher, but doesn’t have the same speed he used to have.
Michael Woods – doesn’t have the same sprint as some of his rivals, but he could get away in the final 2km. The Canadian has promised a lot this year, but not managed to deliver the win he probably deserves. He is currently in a rich vein of form, finishing 11th in Fleche and 9th in Liege. Can he get Cannondale’s first world tour win since 2015?
Omar Fraile – the main breakaway contender. He is here to hunt stages and this one is perfect for him. The Spaniard has a very fast kick, and isn’t afraid of attacking. His form in Yorkshire was unbelievable and I hope to see him making the morning move. Such a likeable rider, I hope he can challenge for the win.
Matej Mohoric – can UAE take another breakaway win? The former under 23 world champion is getting stronger all the time and I think he’s ready to take a big win.
Cesare Benedetti – he showed everyone on Friday that he is in great form. Now that he is free from team duties, expect to see the Italian back on the attack. He really did impress me with his display in the opening stage.
There is a real chance the break could survive. For the first time in this Giro, I think we’ll see a fierce battle to get in the morning move, as most riders would have marked this stage with a red cross in the road book. I think the move will stay away and I’ll go with Omar Fraile as the winner.
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