Terni > Fossombrone 206km
The weekend begins with a cracking looking stage. The bunch head north, and most of this stage is quite easy, but not the finale. We’ve got some steep walls in the final 50km, in what should be a day for the breakaway. GC riders will be wanting to save as much as possible for Sunday’s ITT, and as the climbs are short, it’s not a day for gaps between the best riders.
There’s a good chance of more rain, most in the bunch will be getting fed up with this by now. Not only that, there is a chance of thunder and lightning, hopefully it misses the race.
The road rises from the flag drop for around 10km. The climb doesn’t look hard enough for the break to form, it’s likely to happen once off the descent.
The first of the walls, I Cappuccini. Not only is it very steep, but the road is narrow and horrible. 1.7km at 11.2% with a maximum of 17%. This climb is done with 52km to go and again with just 8km remaining. It’s a brutal wall, you need to be climbing incredibly win to cope with it. The downhill isn’t nice either, just ask Alexey Lutsenko. Back in the 2019 edition of Tirreno, he crashed on the descent but somehow still managed to win the sprint.
This climb starts with 1.5km at 12%, it’s another stiff test. It then continues to rumble on for a while before eventually cresting with 36km to go. The descent doesn’t look very nice, the road is narrow and will be tricky if it rains.
The big breakaway riders kept their powder dry today, clearly wanting to save everything they had for this stage. With the opening 10km going uphill, it’s perfect for a team to line the bunch out in the hope of pushing the domestiques far down the line. Once over the top, the attacks will flow and with the helpers still struggling to get back to the front, the elastic should snap. If it doesn’t, the break could end up being really big or really small. Those going for the break will have to decide on their approach, when’s the right time to go all in?
I have a feeling the break will be big; DSM won’t chase unless someone like Will Barta is in the move. They want to stay in pink, anyone within 4 minutes will trigger a chase. That might not stop someone trying to sneak away and claim the pink jersey, they will hope the break is large and DSM fail to keep the gap close.
If the break is big, it’s likely to contain multiple riders from one or two teams. If you aren’t a good climber, you need to attack before the final climb, it’s all about maximising your chances of taking the win. Davide Bais showed everyone today, the seemingly impossible is actually possible.
The GC group should have another easy day, until the final climbs. They are hard enough for small gaps to be created, riders will attack it and not simply roll to the line. One thing to watch out for is Paret-Peintre looking to take pink. He sits 30 seconds behind Leknessund, and this is his last chance to take the pink jersey, he will throw everything he’s got at trying to take the time and move into the race lead. We’ll also see Roglič looking to test Evenepoel. Primož did this climb when Lutsenko won the stage in Tirreno, he went very well up the final climb. With a lot of talk about Evenepoel’s injuries, this is a chance for Roglič to see if there’s any weakness.
The weather forecast will make the GC riders nervous. With four descents to navigate in the final 50km, hopefully the roads are dry and everyone gets round safely. The descents are tricky enough in the dry, they’ll be a nightmare if wet.
Brandon McNulty – he looks in excellent form, and the steep gradients are to his liking. He came here with the hope of challenging for stage wins, and it seems like he’s got freedom to chase personal glory. He knows that he’ll be closely marked as the break tries to form, I’m interested to see how he approaches the opening kilometres. Full gas up the climb and hope to snap the elastic will likely be his tactic.
Ben Healy – in the exact same position as McNulty. He was too eager to join the break the other day, but he certainly looked good. After he performed well in both Amstel and Liège, it was clear he was going to target a stage win in the opening two weeks of the Giro. The length and difficulty of the climbs in this stage are good for him, he and McNulty will start as the two favourites.
Patrick Konrad – he knows how to win grand tour stages, that experience could be very important. His 2ndplace in Eschborn-Frankfurt was an excellent result, it meant he started the Giro with confidence. He climbs well and has a good sprint, perfect for a breakaway rider.
Lorenzo Rota – the home fans will be praying for an Italian win; Rota is likely to be their best chance. This season, we’ve seen him in excellent climbing form, he’ll be dreaming of winning this stage.
Bauke Mollema – he won’t start as a big favourite, but he’s a dangerous rider. Mollema can pop up from nowhere and take a big win, will it be in this stage?
Alessandro Covi – UAE have multiple options for a stage like this, Covi will like the double-digit gradients.
Samuele Battistella – if you want a kebab, he’s your man. The former under 23 world champion has looked in decent shape this year, but his chances depend on who else makes the break. He climbs well but not as well as the others already mentioned.
Magnus Cort – the form is growing, there is no doubt. This is the type of stage I used to think was too hard for him, but he now climbs so well for a “fast man”. He’s got the engine required to make the move on the flat, which is crucial in a stage like this. He’ll hope the break doesn’t contain a climber, the steep slopes suit a lighter rider, it would also help if EF had more than one man in the move.
Michael Matthews – with one stage in the bag, he can ride without pressure. On his day, Matthews can climb steep slopes with the best, I remember how close he was to the front group at the 2020 world championships. His win in Mende in last year’s Tour was another example of his climbing ability, he’ll be hoping to make the move and fight for the win.
Vincenzo Albanese – lost a lot of time today, which was important as he was too close to Leknessund to be allowed in the break. He was close to a big win on Tuesday, this stage is another good chance for him.
Can we please have a McNulty/Healy battle on Cappuccini? Both look in great form and I’d love to see them punch it out on the steep slopes of the final climb.
I’ll take a win for Ben Healy.