Parma > Genova 204km
The cat 3 climb at the end of the stage is a hard one, it’s too much for the sprinters in the race, that means we’re in for another edition of breakaway bingo. Only van der Poel could survive it from the GC group, but Alpecin-Fenix won’t be interested in chasing all day long. This is a great stage for the breakaway, which means it could take a very long time for the right move to go, and at this point of the race we almost have an unlimited amount of riders who’ll be interested in the win. Small point for the geeks, this is the longest stage in the race, despite only being just over 200km.
Cloudy sun, with temperatures up around 25 degrees. There’s a small chance of a thunderstorm at the end of the stage.
4km at 8.4%, it’s tough all right. With lots of double-digit sections, serious damage can be done. From the crest there is 30km to go, which is enough road to give those dropped some hope.
Can a climber manage to get in the break? If they do, they’ll love the look of the cat 3 climb, but the start isn’t ideal for a skinny climber to get in the break. It’s really all to do with the size of the break, the larger it is, the better the chance of climbers making it. On a stage like this, where almost the whole bunch want to be in the break, strange things can happen. I’m thinking of stage 8 from last year, when Victor Lafay took the win from a break devoid of the big stars. Weird things can happen in these stages, getting in the break requires a lot of luck.
Teammates are worth their weight in gold in a stage like this. Firstly, if you have a couple of men dedicated to help you get in the break, it really does make a difference. Secondly, having teammates in the breakaway significantly increases your chances of taking the win. Just think back to De Gendt’s win on Saturday, or Campenaert’s win last year. If the break is big, it’s not always the best climber, fastest sprinter or strongest rider who wins, it’s often the smartest.
The final 400m of the stage rises a little, but nothing severe. It’s important to not launch too early, but these days it seems everyone wants to go with 300 to go.
Contenders (Yes, I know this is a very long list!)
QuickStep – same as all breakaway stages, they have Schmid, Vansevenant and Knox. Of the three of them, Schmid looks in the best form. He’s impressed throughout this race and given his climbing ability and turn of speed, he’s a great shout for a stage like this.
UAE – Formolo, Ulissi and Covi are their options. Formolo is climbing incredibly well, but this stage suits Ulissi and Covi a little more. In particular, Covi is looking great just now, he’ll start as one of the men to beat.
BikeExchange – the team are now starting to shit themselves a little. They had planned to come here and challenge for the pink jersey with Simon Yates, with that comes a lot of world tour points. Now that Yates is out of the picture, they are desperately in need of stage wins, it’s no surprise we’ve seen them ride so aggressively in the last couple of stages. For this stage, they’ll have Yates, Hamilton, Juul-Jensen. Can one of them land the points the team so desperately need?
Jumbo-Visma – another team who started out going for GC, but are now looking for stage wins. They don’t need the points, but they do want the glory. Take your pick from Dumoulin, Bouwman, Eenkhoorn, Foss and Leemreize.
Bora – Kämna and Kelderman provide the German team with two great options for a stage like this. Both lost time in recent stages, which frees them up to attack in breakaway stages. Kämna already has a stage win, but with his current form, he’ll be hoping for more. Kelderman rarely gets to go for the breaks, it’ll be fun watching him in the next couple of stages.
Lotto Soudal – Vanhoucke and De Gendt are their best options, both impressed on Saturday. The start of the stage is perfect for De Gendt, he has the motor required to snap the elastic and form the initial break. Vanhoucke has come close to taking his first pro win, could this stage be his big moment?
Trek-Segafredo – now that Kämna is out of the GC picture it means that López can sleep easy before a stage like this, and it provides some freedom to riders like Mollema and Ciccone. The Dutchman was second to Bouwman on stage 7, you can bet he’s keen to claim a win and get his complete set of grand tour stages.
Mathieu van der Poel – yet another stage where he starts as the favourite, he’s always the man to beat. This is another stage that is good for him, but when will the fatigue kick in? A climb of 4km at 8.4% is hard for him, he’ll likely lose some ground to the real climbers on this hill, but he can use the descent to come back to the front group. If he does make the break, he’ll find a common problem that many have experienced of the years, everyone will look at him and expect him to do a lot of work. Overcoming this can be very difficult.
Wout Poels – tactically, he doesn’t always get it right, but there’s no denying his ability. I wouldn’t put it past him to surprise in this stage.
Vincenzo Albanese – a quick finisher who is surprisingly good at climbing. The problem is that he rides for a smaller team.
Lorenzo Rota – now that Girmay has gone, Rota should be the Wanty man for a stage like this. He’s a good climber and packs a fast sprint.
Alessandro De Marchi – seems to be finding a little bit of form. Just like De Gendt, he’s a rider who can use the opening kilometres to his advantage.
Roll your dice, this stage has so much to do with luck it’s almost impossible to predict. If in doubt, go with Mathieu van der Poel.