By David Hunter
Orbetello – Frascati 236km
A lumpy day in the saddle.
Only one categorised climb, but over 2800m of climbing! This is going to be a tough stage for the quick men, as we have 236km in the saddle and lots of climbing throughout. Not only that, but we have an uphill finish.
The final 25km is quite tough. Most of it is on narrow roads, in poor condition, which will only add to the drama. The climbs aren’t long, but can be quite steep in places. A tough moment comes with just over 11km to go.
800m at 6.7%, with a maximum of 12.1%. This is sure to end the hopes of many quick men, but not all. The ones who do survive will have some energy taken out of their legs, which won’t help for the final 10km.
Which of the sprinters can haul their ass up the final 2km? This profile misses out the final 300m, which is relatively flat and bends round to the left. The problem for many riders will be the final kilometre of this drag, as it gets quite steep near the top. We are bound to see some attacks, which the sprinters will find it hard to respond to. Once you lose places on this hill, your day is over. I think this is a day where we’ll see a weird top 10, with a mix of GC men, sprinters and puncheurs.
Once the riders hit the 250m to go mark, the road does start to level out and the finish is flat. This is very good for any sprinters who have managed to hang on.
A cloudy day, but it should stay dry. The wind is coming from the north, but will be weaker than today.
Too Hard For Sprinters?
Certainly for some, possibly for all. Okay, 2km at 5% doesn’t sound very difficult, but this is the Giro and those final slopes will be hit very hard. I expect most of the sprinters to get dropped, especially when you consider the stage is 236km and has over 2800m of climbing.
You also have to consider which teams will want to chase the morning break. No way we’ll have QuickStep come to the front, a lot of pressure will be on Lotto Soudal and Bora. Are they confident enough in their fast man to ride all day? It sounds like a day where the break will have a good chance of success, despite being in the first week, where breaks struggle to succeed.
Caleb Ewan – this is a very good stage for the Aussie. He’s always been a fan of an uphill finish, but is this one too long for him? At 2km there are more chances of riders attacking and putting the pressure on the sprinters, when the hill is only 1km this doesn’t often happen. Lotto will have to ensure they have riders available to chase down any late move, and help Ewan stay in prime position. Given the look of the finish, the Aussie starts as the favourite.
Davide Cimolai – a very good stage for the Italian. He has the experience to deal with the long distance and has the punch required in this type of finish. After finishing 6th and 7th in the last two stages, he has a great chance of challenging for the podium.
Enrico Battaglin – crashed today, but it didn’t look too serious. The Italian had a hugely successful 2018, winning a stage and finishing in the top five on four occasions. Now riding for Katusha, repeating that success will be difficult. The finish does look good for him, but which of his teammates will be able to step up and help deliver him into a perfect position?
Primož Roglič – a great option in a reduced sprint. Given the distance and challenging finale, there is a small chance this could turn into a GC day. In that scenario, the pink jersey would be one of the strongest riders.
Simon Yates – see above.
Pello Bilbao – the Basque rider packs a fine sprint, but needs to be released from López duty. Astana have been one of the teams of the season, and are sure to win multiple stages of this race. If they can ensure the sprinters are all put into difficulty, they have a chance of winning a slightly reduced sprint. Will they chase the stage or be happy with ensuring López stays safe?
JJ Lobato – can the Spaniard roll back the clock? Probably not, but it would be good to see.
Fausto Masnada – breakaway, or late attack option.
Tony Gallopin – the classy Frenchman will be lining up an attack in the final kilometre.
Diego Ulissi – we’ve been here before. The Italian usually saves his best for this race, he has accumulated six stage wins since 2011. After a good Ardennes campaign, his legs are clearly in top condition and this stage should be a target for him. The team have Gaviria as a sprint option, but their Italian gives them a brilliant attacking option in the closing kilometre. Can he take the first Italian win of the race?
There’s a lot to love about this stage: the distance, the elevation gain, the final 25km and the last hill. It shuts the door on the chances of many sprinters, but opens the door to many more.
I would expect enough teams will miss the morning move to see someone chase it down. In the closing 20km, we’ll see attacks off the front, and it could stick, as long as they aren’t a GC threat. Then we have the final 2km, which certainly isn’t easy. With domestiques dropping like flies, an opportunist can certainly strike and steal the stage, which will excite a few riders. I think this is what will happen and one of the Giro’s favourite sons will take his 7th stage victory; step forward Diego Ulissi.
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