Napoli > Napoli 153.1km
After today’s fun, Saturday brings another cracking looking stage. We have a lap circuit around the streets of Napoli, and it has a bit of everything. There might only be 2210m of climbing, but this is a hard day in the saddle.
This is the lap circuit which is done on four occasions. We have two main climbs 2km at 6% & 800m at 8%), and lots of fast descents. The bunch leave the circuit and head back to Napoli with around 25km to go.
This is the final 20km of the stage. Just like the circuit, it has climbs and fast descents. The climbs are 2.2km at 4.3% and 2km at 6%.
It looks like another good day for the breakaway. The main reason is that it’s a very hard stage to control for a sprint. We do have some fast men who can survive a day like this, but I don’t see any of the teams putting their hands up and working all day. That means we’re in for another huge fight to see who can join the morning breakaway.
The big favourite for a stage like this is van der Poel, but we saw today it’s hard for him to make the break as everyone wants to jump on his wheel. This stage is reminiscent of the spring classics, it’s those types of riders who should be challenging for the win. The climbs are short, but there are a lot of them with not much flat in between. Having such a stage at this point in a grand tour is a good idea, it will be interesting to see how the GC teams approach the stage.
The fight for pink is just starting to warm up, but with Blockhaus on Sunday, the main riders will be hoping for a quiet day. However, that doesn’t mean we’ll see a quiet day. I think that Kämna and Vansevenant will sense a chance of putting pressure on López and taking the pink jersey. Both will realise that this is their last chance of doing so, it’s hard to see them surviving on Blockhaus. This subplot could have a large impact on the race, as Trek-Segafredo might have to chase the break if it contains a threat.
The morning break has a good chance of winning the stage, but so does a secondary attack that forms later in the stage, it all depends on the composition of the morning move. We could end up with a large break, maybe even around 15 riders, but the way things go this cannot be guaranteed. If we end up with a relatively small break, some will be interested in chasing it down and then the late attacks will come. Nobody really knows how this stage will play out, that’s what makes it such a good one. Early break, late attack or reduced sprint, take your pick.
Mathieu van der Poel – of course he’s the big favourite, if it was a one day race he’d walk it. Being in a grand tour makes things much harder for him, we saw today just how hard it is for him to get in the break. Alpecin-Fenix will see how the opening kilometres play out before deciding on their approach. Not going for the early move, and then looking to chase it down could be their best option. This would then allow van der Poel to attack once we hit the lap circuit. Winning in this way is much easier than trying to win from the break, but it’s still a dangerous tactic.
Biniam Girmay – given the way he rode in the spring classics; he must start as one of the big favourites for this stage. As the winner gets 50 points in the sprint classification, it’s a big day in the fight for the Maglia Ciclamino. Girmay is currently 53 points behind Démare, this is a big chance for him to close that gap. How will Wanty approach the stage? Will they be brave enough to try and hold it all together? Just like Alpecin-Fenix, it could be their best chance.
Magnus Cort – another who’ll love the look of this one. I think he’d prefer it to be a breakaway stage, he’s got a great record of converting breaks into wins. He says he’s not yet in top form, but I think he’s not too far away.
Caleb Ewan – it’s just not gone his way in this race. He crashed metres from the line in the opening stage, punctured at a terrible time in stage 5 and lost due to having small arms the next day. Will his luck eventually change? The amount of climbing in this stage should be okay for him, but it all depends on how the climbs are raced.
Arnaud Démare – he’ll be hoping for a steady day and a relatively big bunch sprint. His current form is excellent, he cannot be written off in a stage like this.
UAE – after Formolo’s break today, I think the team will look towards Ulissi and Covi. Both should enjoy this type of stage, and both have the sprint required to challenge for the win, if those already mentioned are not in the group. Covi was very active today, he looks to have good legs just now.
Pascal Eenkhoorn – after taking the win today, Jumbo-Visma will be full of confidence. Eenkhoorn is a rider I have a lot of admiration for, he quietly goes about his business and rarely gets a lot of credit. This year he’s climbing better than ever, and this is a stage he can win.
Lennard Kämna – I’m excited to see what he’s got planned for this stage. Of course, he’ll attack, but when? It won’t be easy to put 38 seconds into López, but this will likely be his last chance to try and take pink.
Davide Ballerini – after a tough start to the year, Ballerini is now starting to hit some form. QuickStep will hope to be in the mix to win this stage, I think Ballero will be their best option.
The opening kilometres will be cagey as teams try to decide how best to approach the stage. We could see a big break, but we could also see a small one. The sensible pick is MVDP, but it’s Friday night and I don’t want to be sensible. I’ll take a win for Alessandro Covi.