Marano Lagunare > Santuario di Castelmonte 178.4km
With just two mountain stages left, will we see any gaps between Carapaz and Hindley? On paper, this stage isn’t that hard, but it will seem a lot harder due to its position in the race. Will it be another day for the break? As the Giro have liked to do in recent editions, the stage heads into Slovenia, such a shame Tratnik isn’t here.
Cloudy but warm. There is a risk of a thunderstorm near the end of the stage, fingers crossed they dodge it.
10km at 9.2% is awful, this climb is a proper tough one. It crests with 43km to go, hopefully it doesn’t put Landa off attacking. The descent off it is technical, it takes place on what looks like a narrow bike path. The problem for those wanting to attack is the 15km of flat before the final climb.
7.2km at 6% isn’t the hardest way to finish a mountain stage, but the climb is harder than the number suggest, due to a downhill section. With tired legs, gaps can be made on this climb.
Just where on GC is too close to jump in the break? The way things are going, we could see 6th and below all rolling the dice, but the flat start isn’t ideal for the climbers. For them to get in the break, they’ll need help from teammates. This is a stage where we’ll see big rouleurs launching attacks, with skinny climbers in the wheel, it’s a great method of getting mountain goats in the break. We’ve seen in the previous mountain stages that most teams seem happy to get in the break rather than chase, but will that happen again?
With 3229m of climbing, this is a stage that can be controlled, but it all depends on the attitude of Bahrain and Bora. In previous stages they’ve either waited too long before chasing, or in Bora’s case, haven’t bothered at all. I’m still in disbelief that they didn’t chase on Wednesday, it was a bizarre decision by a team who haven’t made many mistakes this race. Technically speaking, this would normally be a good day for the break, but you just never know at this point of a grand tour.
As the big climb crests with over 40km to go, those in the break who aren’t pure climbers have a chance of taking the stage win. It’s up to the climbers in the group to ensure the pace is high and drop those who would become a threat on the final rise to the line. Due to the flat start, the composition of the break is a bit of a lottery.
At the start of this week, I expected Yates, Ciccone, and Carthy to dominate the breaks, at least big Hugh has impressed. Yates had to abandon, and Ciccone is riding around like a headless chicken, it’s amazing how good he was on Sunday and how poor he’s been since. We’ve seen Hirt and Buitrago step forward but the likes of Arensman, van der Poel and Leemreize have also impressed. These guys would all love to be in the break tomorrow but wanting to be in it and making the move are two different things.
Also looking to get in the mix will be the UAE boys, now that Almeida is out the race, they are free to attack. Basically, everyone in the race apart from the top 5 on GC will be keen on jumping in the break, but we’ll have to see if Bora and Bahrain will also look to jump, this will likely determine the type of stage we get.
The other thing to consider is the impact of having a flat start, it’s likely the battle for the break will go on for a long time, which could mean we end up with a huge break, but it also means the break could be small, you just never know when the elastic will snap.
In terms of the GC battle, Landa is the one who needs to attack early. Now that Almeida is out of the race, he has a comfortable gap to fourth, it’s very likely he ends the race on the podium. This freedom means he can attack on the cat 1 climb, if he as a satellite rider he can bridge to. The problem is that Ineos will know this, they’ll be carefully monitoring who goes in the break, anyone from Bahrain will be jumped on. I doubt we’ll see much movement from the top 2, it looks like Hindley will wait for the big stage in the Dolomites on Saturday.
Hugh Carthy – he’s been in three breakaways this week, resulting in a couple of fourth place finishes. The problem is that he’s found himself behind a split, having to close a big gap to his rivals. What we do know is that the form is good, he just needs a little luck. Being in multiple breaks will have taken something out of his legs, I hope he’s got something left for the next two stages.
Alejandro Valverde – the finish is ideal for him. He’s not looked great in recent stages, but he has the experience to know how to peak at the end of a grand tour.
Lennard Kämna – another who’ll enjoy the final climb, but will Bora and Ineos allow him in the break?
Wout Poels – climbed with the best on Wednesday, but just like Kämna, he might need to sacrifice himself for the greater good. As the stage goes into Slovenia, Bahrain will want to put on a show.
UAE – Ulissi, Rui Costa, Covi and Formolo are all let off the lead. The finish is great for Ulissi and Covi, and Formolo will prefer the cat 1 climb. The problem is that none of them have looked in great form, but we often get surprises at the end of a grand tour.
Lucas Hamilton – he sits 14th on GC, I can honestly say I’ve not seen him in the whole three weeks.
Thymen Arensman – came very close to winning on Wednesday, but after multiple breakaway stages, will he have anything left?
James Knox – looked good today chasing the break, he’ll roll the dice tomorrow and see what happens. He’s managed to get in a couple of good-looking breaks in the last couple of weeks, but they’ve ended up getting chased down.
Bauke Mollema – he’s been quiet in the last week, hopefully saving energy for this weekend.
Jai Hindley – if we get a GC day, he should win considering we have a relatively flat finish.
Mathieu van der Poel – fuck yes!
The writing is on the wall, Mathieu van der Poel is going to win the stage.