By David Hunter
Montalto di Castro – Terminillo 187km
Last time we were here, it was 2015 and Quintana won in the snow. It’s a day that will certainly live long in my mind. I’m delighted we’re back!
It’s a relatively easy stage, right up until the iconic mountain. This is a proper climb!
16.1km at 7.3%, brutal! This is a pure test of climbing ability. Nothing more, nothing less.
Nairo Quintana – starts the stage as the enormous favourite. He has already displayed his climbing legs this season, and usually only Froome can stop him! In the races this season, he has attacked from distance, a tactic he intends to use against Froome and Team Sky. This is a long climb, but I still expect Nairo to go for a long one. He knows that with some tricky stages ahead, he could do with a good gap over his rivals. He has Amador, Oliveira and Castroviejo to help on the lower slopes, and Dani Moreno if he needs help further into the climb.
Thibaut Pinot – after a tremendous TTT, the Frenchman sits in a good overall position. He has already beaten Contador and co this season, a big confidence boost for him. He’ll have one objective in this stage, try and follow Quintana. I’m not sure he’ll be able to do that, but he certainly has a chance. I would really like to see him doing well.
Adam Yates – after his brilliant 4th place in the Tour, there is some pressure on the shoulders of the youngster from Bury. He doesn’t seem like the type of person that will be too worried about pressure, I like his style. He is a hugely talented climber and does have a real chance of matching Quintana.
Fabio Aru – the Italian has started the season well, much better than 2016. He has the extra pressure of performing well on home roads and his team expects a big result. He lost time in the TTT, so needs to make up some ground on his rivals, if he wants to make the overall podium at the end of the race.
Vincenzo Nibali – what Nibali will we get? I really hope he is on good form. A two time winner of this race, he would love to add a third crown. His TTT was about what I expected, it’s now over to him. Can he match Quintana? Will he attack him? As normal, there are lots of questions surrounding the Shark, we shall have to wait and see the answers!
Geraint Thomas – bad luck in the TTT ruined any chances of winning the overall title, but he bounced back with a great stage win on Thursday. Thomas is about to embark on his first ever grand tour as leader of Team Sky, a good Tirreno is an important part of that build up. The loss of time takes the pressure off his shoulders, that should be good for him. The team have a lot of climbing talent, we’ll have to see how he works with Landa, Rosa and Kwiatkowski.
Tejay Van Garderen – the American sits in a strong overall position, thanks to BMC’s fantastic TTT. He now has something to defend, an easier position to be in than having to attack Quintana. He’ll try to follow the wheels, but when Nairo attacks, the others will put pressure on him to respond. He needs to be strong and let the others do the work, particularly the Italians.
Rafal Majka – a poor TTT was certainly not in his plans. He now has to attack from distance, something he loves to do. Majka was good in Abu Dhabi, but this is another level. Can he cope?
Tom Dumoulin – this climb might just suit him. Dumoulin is a rider that likes to settle into a rhythm and this steady climb will allow him to do so. He’s not scared of attacking and riding by himself either, he’s happy settling into TT mode. A dark horse for the stage.
Bauke Mollema – great early season form, but a win in Argentina will not mean much if he can’t do well here. Mollema is another rider who is going to the Giro, so his form is already good. Trek will expect a big performance from him and it’s a climb that should suit his characteristics. A top 5 is within reach, he might just squeeze onto the podium.
Rui Costa – I heard that he was sick in the run up to the race, not great preparation. If that is the case, he’ll struggle to stay with the best on the Terminillo. A real shame, as he was in tremendous form!
Can the little Colombian be stopped? I seriously doubt it. He looks in great condition and he should take another win on top of the Terminillo. The battle will be on to stay close to him, as the others know that this race still has a long way to go.
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