Scandiano > Viareggio 196km
With a rest day on Monday, and hopefully no COVID positives, the peloton will be looking forward to kicking off the second week. Ahead of them is a mix of stages, and as legs start to tire, control starts to slip. I see one nailed-on sprint (Wednesday), one GC day (Friday) and one breakaway day (Sunday). Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday are up for grabs, it will be a fight between the break and the peloton, and as we’re in the second week of a grand tour, breakaways will now start to grow in size and strength. Time for the preview.
Filthy. Heavy rain and it’s going to be feel quite cold in the first half of the stage. The good news for the break is that it’s tailwind for the whole day.
The opening 90km of the stage has 2300m of climbing, that’s an awful lot. There might only be one categorised climb, but this is a tough start to control, and for some sprinters to survive. After just 13km of racing there’s a climb of 3.2km at 7.5%, a perfect launchpad for those wanting to form a strong break. As the second half of the stage is easy, sprint teams will want to try and control the opening kilometres, but it certainly won’t be easy.
A very easy finish, the final corner is with 3.5km to go. You might recognise the finishing straight, it’s the road, which is used in the Tirreno TT, but the finish of this stage goes further down the road.
The weather is going to have a big impact on this day, and there’s also a chance of someone trying to take the pink jersey. Will Barta is sitting relatively high on GC, Ineos would be more than happy to get rid of the pink jersey and get G off his media duties. It’s not just Barta, there are a few riders still in contention who aren’t a perceived threat, Leknessund could well try and jump in another break. This will make for a chaotic start, especially as everyone will have rain jackets on and it’s not easy to identify who’s trying to get in the break.
Santiago Buitrago has already tried to sneak in a couple of moves, but unsuccessfully. He currently sits 5:25 down on GC, but the other big teams won’t be keen on giving him easy time, especially as it would mean Bahrain having three riders high on GC. He might try, but if he makes the move, it will spark a chase in the bunch. I think Leknessund and Barta are the only riders in the top 20 who’ll be “allowed” to go for the break.
Trek-Segafredo are a team who’ll want to try and control. Pedersen won’t be worried about the climbing in the opening half of the stage, and he’ll be keen on dropping some of his rivals for the sprint jersey, but I’m not sure how much help they’ll get. The second half of the stage isn’t ideal for Michael Matthews, he knows they’ll be faster riders at the finish, it would be better for the team to try and get in the break. Alpecin would like to work for Kaden Groves, but they are down to just six men, which complicates matters for them.
Now, teams aren’t stupid, they’ll get a sense of how the stage is going to unfold in the opening kilometres. If Trek-Segafredo get a sense that no one is going to help them, they’ll look for the breakaway too, and maybe even with Pedersen himself. If he attacks, it will send a huge message to everyone else, and the shit will hit the fan. The problem for Pedersen is the points classification, if he attacks, the dominos will start to fall, Matthews will have to follow. I love how the other classifications start to impact the racing, it’s unique to grand tours.
I don’t see a small group rolling off the front, that was fine for the first week, but riders will now see big opportunities in stages like this. With Wednesday looking a certain sprint, riders can afford to go deep in the opening kilometres of this stage and try to snap the elastic, it’s time to burn a few matches.
This could also be a strange day in terms of the GC battle. I’m sure you all remember “that” stage back in the 2010 Giro, a day raced in horrible conditions where a large group got up the road and never came back, a day that huge, huge ramifications in terms of the GC fight. Due to the amount of TT kilometres, there’s several talented GC riders quite far down on GC, and some of these riders come from teams with multiple options. With no one wanting to take control of the peloton, some will sense a chance of jumping in the break and gaining big time back. Remember, everyone will have rain jackets on, and identification might only happen once the break is gone. This is a dangerous start for GC riders.
EF – I think they’ll be going full for the break. This type of stage is a good one for Cort, Healy and Bettiol. Cort is starting to show signs of form, he’ll be hoping this is his chance to jump in the break and challenge for the win. Healy is flying, but the final half of the stage isn’t ideal, if the break is successful, it’s likely to end in a small sprint. Bettiol didn’t have a good spring, but he’s started to become more active in the bunch, which is a good sign for the next two weeks.
Intermarché – I only see Rota as a real option for them. He’s a good option for this stage as he climbs well and has a good sprint finish.
Israel – Premier Tech – Clarke and Würtz will be excited about this stage, both would be hard to beat if they make the break. Würtz is someone I’ve been keeping an eye on for a couple of years, I think he’s an excellent cyclist and a little underrated. He doesn’t mind tough conditions and his form looks good.
UAE – McNulty will keep trying, but he’s got a big sign on his back. Everyone can see he’s in great form, so when he attacks, people follow. He’s finding it hard to make the breaks, I think he needs more help from his teammates. Either that, or he follows the approach of Thomas De Gendt. Ride flat out for 5 minutes and see who can follow. This isn’t a perfect stage for McNulty, but you’ve got to take opportunities when they arise. If not him, Covi and Ulissi are also good for this stage as they have a fast finish.
Trek-Segafredo – will it be all for Pedersen? If they sense it’s going to be too hard to make it a sprint, they can turn to Tesfatsion. Chasing all day in horrible conditions won’t be very appealing, but if they can drop some sprinters and Pedersen takes the win and sprints jersey, it will all be worth it. Their approach will depend on the opening kilometres, they’ll be praying a couple of riders fall off the front and everyone is happy to simply survive a filthy day.
Jayco – Matthews can’t win this stage from a bunch sprint, there’s no point in Jayco riding, they should be going for the break. De Marchi is going well, he’ll try for the break.
Alpecin – Groves for the sprint, Oldani and Riesebeek for the break. Groves has been struggling with a cold, hopefully he recovers during the rest day and is fighting fit for the second week.
Jonathan Milan – with three GC riders to protect, there’s not much help for Milan, but he’s still produced excellent results in the sprints.
Jake Stewart – looks determined to get in a breakaway, this would be a good one to go for. The winner will likely need a good sprint, not a problem for our Jakey.
Trek-Segafredo will try and control the early stages, but I don’t think they’ll be successful. I’ll go risky and say this is a day for the break, it’s time to be bold.
A win for Magnus Cort.