Avola > Etna 171.7km
The first of the mountain stages. The bunch have had a rest day to enable the race to move from Hungary to Sicily, and we’re now ready for two stages on the island. Mount Etna has become popular finish for the race, this is the 5th time we’ve had it since 2011, but different sides have been used in the various editions of the race, this time they approach the climb from a new direction. It’s unlikely we’ll see any big gaps between the main GC riders, but we will start to see who won’t win the race.
The wind will be around 20km/h at the start of the stage, which will create a few nerves as a large portion of the day has a crosswind. As the stage goes on, the wind will get weaker, I don’t think we’ll be seeing any echelons. There will also be a risk of showers, but it looks like the riders could dodge them.
The opening 50km doesn’t contain a classified climb, but it’s full of little kickers. Climbers hoping to make the morning breakaway will be happy that the road isn’t flat, it gives them a much better chance of making the move. As Etna has been kind to the attackers in recent years, this is the first time we’ll see a fight to make the early move. Once it goes, we’ll have to see if anyone in the peloton wants to chase it down.
23.6km at 5.7%, it’s a long climb, but nowhere near as hard as some of the mountains still to come in the race. With the final 7km only averaging 5%, it’s unlikely we’ll see big attacks from the main GC riders. The wind isn’t that strong, but it will be a headwind for the majority of the climb.
We’re just four stages into the race, the main GC teams won’t be keen on taking the pink jersey at this stage. If you take the pink jersey after this stage, you won’t be able to get rid of it until stage 7. That means two days of having to ride on the front of the bunch, this isn’t something teams will want to do. Also, as the final climb isn’t the hardest, it will also put teams off chasing down the morning break. I think everything is pointing to a win for the break, which means the fight to join it will be fierce.
Not only will the break have a chance of taking the stage, but there’s also a pink jersey in the mix. Alpecin-Fenix know that van der Poel won’t hold on to the jersey, there is no need for them to chase. This means the start will likely be chaotic, GC teams will have to carefully watch who jumps in the break. It’s fine for climbers to make the move, but they can’t be good enough to be a threat for the overall title.
Once on the climb, we’ll have to see what happens in the GC group. It’s hard to see big gaps between the best climbers, but this is a chance for a team with multiple options to try and get one of their second options up the road. The length of the climb means that we’ll see a big selection, most domestiques will be dropped and some team leaders will be alone in the final 10km. This will be a dangerous time for those riders, as teams like Ineos, Bora and Bahrain will try to attack and put pressure on the weaker teams.
Lennard Kämna – as he’s breakaway royalty, he’s bound to start as one of the favourites. After struggling in the Basque Country, he’s managed to ride into good form, just at the right time. The German won a mountain breakaway stage back in the 2020 Tour de France, he’ll see this as a big chance of taking his first Giro win. The opening 50km are good for him to get in the break, but his chances of winning depend on which climbers make the move.
Eduardo Sepúlveda – he took a brilliant win in the Tour of Turkey, just three weeks ago, so the form is good. Androni will desperately hope to make the break, and Sepúlveda is their best option considering it’s a mountaintop finish. Just imagine what Gianni Savio will do if his man takes the win!
James Knox – after a start to the year interrupted by injury, recent signs have been positive. He impressed in the breakaway during the Queen stage in Romandie, and he put in a decent TT on Saturday. QuickStep always seem to do well in grand tour breakaway stages, they’ll have a few riders interested in making the morning move, I hope Knox makes it. If he does, he’ll be one of the best climbers in the break.
Valerio Conti – the Italian always saves his best for the Giro. He was 12th in the opening stage, that was a result that caught my eye. He knows how to make the breaks in this race, expect to see him active in the opening kilometres.
Simon Carr – he’s a good option for this stage. Carr is a strong climber, but not good enough to be a threat to the GC riders. The team won this stage in 2020, maybe Caicedo can give his teammate a few tips.
Thomas De Gendt – more breakaway royalty! He won on the Stelvio ten years ago, winning on Etna ten years later would be very special.
Davide Villella – I’ve included the Italian in this section, despite him not being the strongest climber. Someone like him will have a chance of winning this stage, but it depends on who else makes the move. Villella will hope that it’s full of rouleurs and not climbers.
Antonio Pedrero – he’s a dangerous rider, but it depends on whether he’s allowed freedom.
Alessandro De Marchi – wore the pink jersey last year, but was pipped for the stage win. He’ll see this day as a big chance to eventually win a stage of his home race.
Rein Taaramäe – last year was special for him, he won a stage of the Vuelta and wore the red jersey. He’s no stranger to winning at this race either, he took a brilliant win from the break back in 2016. He’s exactly the type of rider who can win this stage form the break.
Simon Yates – his TT win confirmed that his current shape is excellent, if the breakaway gets caught, he’ll have a big chance of winning this stage. I’m not too sure if BikeExchange will chase down the break, they won’t be happy to do all the work by themselves.
Richard Carapaz – another who looks in good form, and he has a much stronger team than Yates. We’ll have to see if Carapaz is willing to show himself so early in the race.
João Almeida – if we get a sprint from a group of 10-20 riders, he’ll be the man to beat. Almeida has a very fast sprint for a climber, he’s just as fast as most puncheurs.
Richie Porte – he’s the type of rider who can benefit from Ineos having a strong team. In the closing kilometres, there is a high chance of a rider escaping the GC group, it all depends on who has domestiques left to chase. Porte is looking in good form, I expect him to show himself in this stage.
I think it’s a day for the breakaway and I’ll take a win for Eduardo Sepúlveda.
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