By David Hunter
Arezzo – Castelraimondo 226km
This is a monster of a stage.
This is what the official website says the stage looks like. This was changed just a matter of days ago. The stage did have a profile that looked like this.
Quite a big difference! I have no reason to distrust the website, so I will go with the top picture.
The race is not only long but features 3 major climbs.
The Poggio San Romualdo comes after 137km, it is 10.85km at 6.4%. This is a challenging climb and will eliminate many riders from the peloton. The only good news for the peloton is the distance from the climb to the end of the stage, 78km. The poor climbers will pray for an easy tempo, but they will fear the worst.
The race then settles down until we hit the lap circuit in Crispiero.
The climb is 3.1km at 9.3% and has to be tackled twice, in quick succession. The climb goes up in a series of steps, something a lot of riders dislike. The steepest section is at the top and it’s a great place to launch an attack. The descent to the finishing line is fast and furious. Expect plenty of attacks and a very select group of riders come the finish.
The contenders for the stage are the GC riders: Contador, Quintana, Uran, Nibali, Pozzovivo, Pinot, Dan Martin, Simon Yates, Niemiec, Rodriguez, Vanendert, Scarponi, Van Den Broeck, Arredondo, Formolo, Rolland, Reichenbach, Poels, Konig and Kreuziger. That’s one hell of a list!
BMC are now in the race lead, thanks to a brilliant win by GVA. I’m unsure whether or not they’ll control the peloton. The clever move would be to send a rider in the break and ask a GC team to work. Tinkoff – Saxo, Movistar, Sky and Etixx would be expected to do the work but we could have a bit of a stand-off. This would allow the break a good lead and the profile is favourable for the breakaway.
As we approach the lap circuit, the peloton will be missing quite a few riders. The first time up the climb will eliminate even more and as we approach the last climb, expect to see a very small bunch. Having teammates is going to be important. Contador will have Kreuziger, a few other teams should be well represented.
Pozzovivo will be hoping that Betancur can find some form, if not, Alexis Vuillermoz, could surprise a few. He was good in the 2014 Giro and is a good prospect for the future.
Astana will also hope to bring numbers into the finale. They should have Nibali, Lutsenko, Scarponi and Westra all left. This would put Nibali in a position of strength and the descent is a huge positive for him. Can he eventually find some form?
I don’t think GVA will last the pace but BMC should have Damiano Caruso still in contention. The Italian is a good rider but is often under-estimated. He’s a danger man.
In theory, Lotto should have plenty left. They have VDB, Monfort and Vanendert. These three are quality riders but haven’t hit the heights in recent years. Having numbers would allow a rider like Vanendert to attack and the steep, final climb is to his liking.
Katusha will hope to have their usual trio riding together: Rodriguez, Moreno and Caruso. These guys are very talented and Rodriguez is another who should really like the final climb. With the Ardennes not far away, he should really be starting to find a bit of form.
Cannondale-Garmin will fully expect Hesjedal, Formolo, Dan Martin and Villella to be present at the end. Like the other Ardennes riders, Dan Martin will look on the final climb with great hope. He can also time his attacks well, remember Il Lombardia!
Other riders who would like to believe they could compete are Arredondo, Pozzato and Geschke.
The break has a good chance but there aren’t many good climbers sitting 4 minutes down. We do have Puccio, Betancur, Riblon, Vuillermoz and Huzarski. AG2R will need to keep men to help Pozzovivo but one of these guys should be allowed to attack and Riblon is the obvious choice. The most likely scenario is for the break to fail and we’ll get a GC showdown near the end. The steep climb and fast descent does lend itself to riders like Vincenzo Nibali. I’m just not sure if he’s in form or not. The stage doesn’t seem made for Alberto Contador, in fact, it looks better for Peter Sagan. I still have doubts about Sagan. If he couldn’t follow the moves in Strade Bianche he might struggle here. Van Avermaet and Cancellara are dangerous riders but I think the finish is too hard for them. Rigoberto Uran is another who descends well and would love to take some time on Contador, before the Terminillo.
This stage is almost impossible to predict, but I’ll try. A small bunch will go up the final climb together and when the GC riders attack each other, a group of 5 will go clear. On the descent someone will get away and solo to victory. I’ll stick my neck and out and say Vincenzo Nibali, despite his recent form.
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