Ritten > Brentonico San Valentino 162km
The Queen stage. We start with an extremely fast downhill, we’ll see some splits in the bunch, but it will all come back together again. Once the break goes, everyone can settle in and wait for San Valentino. After two punchy finishes, it’s time for a proper mountain, which will be an excellent yardstick with the Giro just over 2 weeks away.
A beautiful day for the bunch as they head into the mountains.
Lago di Cei is the first climb of the day, and it’s not to be sniffed at. Overall, it’s 10.6km at 7.1% but the opening 5.5km averages 10%. The crest comes with over 50km to go, so it’s not going to be full gas.
San Valentino is the only mountaintop finish in the race, and it’s a beauty. 15.8km at 7.1% is testing, it’s one of those that seem to go on forever. It was used as the penultimate climb in stage 17 of the 2021 Giro, the day Dan Martin somehow managed to hold off the chasing bunch.
So far, Ineos have done a great job in controlling the race, but it’s no surprise given the team they have. This is a day which will interest many breakaway riders, but the downhill start is a nightmare for climbers looking to join the morning move, it’s likely to feature larger framed riders, and Ineos will chase it down. If the break is large, EF will also be interested in chasing it down and trying to set up a stage victory.
Once on the final climb, it’s all about waiting for De Plus to finish his monster pull, he’s likely to take them a ridiculously long way up the mountain. His pulls have been that long, it’s made up for Arensman not being at the races. Once he’s done, it’s over to Thomas (he’s not on great form yet) and this is when the vultures will start to circle. Sivakov is still high on GC, but he’s not exactly flying either, he struggled to chase Cepeda down on Monday and couldn’t respond to Hugh’s attack.
Both EF and Bahrain have two riders high on GC, they’ll attack with Cepeda and Haig, just like on Monday, and hope that it burns Sivakov and Geoghegan Hart is forced to chase. Even if he doesn’t have to cover the move himself, he’ll be alone once they’re brought back, and that’s when the fun can begin, it would be very risky for a big favourite to move earlier than this.
When the attacks flow, we’ll see Carthy and Sosa trying to put Geoghegan Hart under pressure, cycling’s answer to Little and Large (some of you might need to google that one). Despite the stage 1 finish not really suiting either of them, they were up there, and Hugh was very close to winning. Here’s a wee fact for you, both have won on Lagunas de Neila, they are excellent climbers and will fancy their chances against Tao, will he be able to respond? That’s the big question, and I think he’ll also be confident given the way he’s climbed this year. With the Giro just around the corner, and with Arensman and Thomas still not there, a win here would cement his place as team leader in May, this is a huge stage for him. I’m looking forward to seeing the battle on San Valentino, I’m pretty sure you know who I’ll be cheering for.
Tao Geoghegan Hart – two stages and two stage wins, things are going exactly to plan for him and the team, but this is what it’s all about. His season has been impressive, he started with a bang in Valenciana before being a little below his best in Andalucía, then he bounced back with an impressive Tirreno. Basically, 2023 has already been more successful than 2021 and 2022 put together, he’s back to his best. He’ll hope only a few are left when the serious action kicks off, it will be much easier for him to manage the attacks. As he’s in the race lead, he’s in the nice position of “just” having to follow the moves, we’ll see if he can.
Hugh Carthy – he was good in Tirreno, even though the route wasn’t ideal for him. Attacking on Monday was a sign of just how good he’s going just now, and how confident he is. This is a big year for Hugh, it’s based around a proper crack at the Giro, just remember how well he finished the race last year. This is his type of stage, although, he would prefer the final climb to be even harder. Having Cepeda as an attacking option will be a help, he can sit in the wheels and hopefully wait until Tao is without teammates before launching his big attack.
Iván Sosa – when he’s good he’s really good. The first two stages have been positive, now it’s time for him to shine in the mountains. The problem is, I still don’t trust him, you just never know what he’s going to do.
Aleksandr Vlasov – getting dropped today was a terrible sign so close to the Giro. I have no idea what’s going on with him just now, but I do know that his confidence will be low, and he’ll be worried about this stage.
Felix Gall – crashed today, hopefully it was nothing and he’s fine for this stage. Given the length and difficulty of the final climb, I wouldn’t class him as one of the big favourites, but he is riding very well just now, and he could surprise.
Jefferson Cepeda – he’ll attack and Ineos will chase him down.
Lorenzo Fortunato – he’ll be hoping to finish in the top 5, he seems to be going well just now. Last year he seemed to struggle to live up to the hype he created when winning on Monte Zoncolan, but recent signs have been good, and he’ll hope to be still in the mix for the win in the closing kilometres.
Lennard Kämna – Thursday and Friday are excellent stages for the break, so he’s got a decision to make. This stage isn’t ideal for him, but he’s still good enough to finish in the top 10. This would mean he won’t win from the break in stages 4 and 5, will he settle for a top 10 on GC or will he abandon ship and focus on stage wins?
Pavel Sivakov – he’ll be in full domestique mode for Tao.
Jack Haig – he’ll be used as an attacking option. It was good to see him backing up Monday’s ride with 2ndplace today, he seems to be gaining in shape.
Santiago Buitrago – suffered towards the end of stage 1, I see something similar happening in this stage. The Colombian is a good climber, but compared to some of those already mentioned, he’s just a little below their level.
They grew up racing against each other in the UK, but this is the first time they’ve properly taken each other on at this level, especially when both are considered favourites for the stage.
I’m sticking with my man, it’s a win for Hugh Carthy.
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