Camaiore > Tortona 219km
This is the only opportunity for a full bunch sprint in the second week, the sprint teams will be determined to ensure that’s exactly what we get. There are two further opportunities in the final week, but some of the fast men will have already checked out by that point, this will be the last chance for a few. Everyone will be tired after today; it was a long day in the saddle in very poor conditions. They’ll not be so happy about the prospect of the longest stage in the race waiting for them, most will hope this will be an easy day.
Cloudy, but there’s only a small chance of rain. The wind isn’t too strong, but it will be a block headwind for the final 70km.
Colla di Boasi starts with 85km to go. 8.9km at 4.2% is hard enough to worry a few of the fast men, but as the climb is a long way from home, they’ll hope it’s ridden at tempo. Some might lose a little bit of time, but the long downhill straight after means they should get back to the peloton.
Passo della Castagnola is the final climb of the day. For me, all the fast men make it over this hill.
This type of finish is a nightmare in a grand tour. The road is relatively narrow, a tight two-lane affair. Every so often, there’s a little bit more space, but it doesn’t last for long. Those tempted to dive up the inside could find themselves in big trouble, moving up the bunch looks impossible to me. The finish reminds me of something you’d see in the old Eneco Tour, narrow roads from about 20km to go and teams get to the front nice and early, basically booking a good spot for the sprint. It’s the cycling equivalent of getting your towel down first on the sun lounger. It might piss people off, but it guarantees you a bed for the day!
Just inside 2km to go the road veers to the left and heads through a roundabout. At this point the road is down to a single lane and on exiting the roundabout there’s a bit of road furniture that needs to be avoided. Just 300m later, it’s down to one lane again for another roundabout. The final/only corner comes with just 500m to go, the winner will be in the first 4 wheels at this point.
It’s a very long stage, the sprinter teams need to ensure the break is relatively small and weak. In the neutral zone, all these teams will make it known that they are going to chase, to deter many riders from even trying. Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are all stages where the break have a chance, does anyone want to go in a 220km breakaway with little chance of success?
The main breakaway riders will be saving their matches for later in the week, but if you are a breakaway rider who can’t climb, this is your only option. No doubt, we’ll see a break featuring the Italian pro-conti teams, I think it will roll off the front. After today, just about everyone will want an easy day.
Will anyone push the pace on the last two climbs? I think the last climb isn’t hard enough to drop riders, the one before that comes with a long way to go, and it’s still not that hard. There’s no point for Jayco to go hard, they won’t drop Pedersen and Groves. I don’t think there’s any point for Trek-Segafredo to go hard, Pedersen has already shown that he can beat everyone, and it means they can save as many men as possible for the finale. I think this will be a standard sprint stage.
The finale isn’t easy, teams that want to control the sprint need to be at the front nice and early. GC teams will also want to be on the front, getting there won’t be easy. Once the front row has been sorted, the speed can slow down, and those too far back will find it almost impossible to move up. This block is likely to happen at some point in the final 20km, you really do need to be on the front very early to guarantee a good spot.
The point inside the final 2km, where the road narrows to a single lane, is obviously very important. Whoever leads the bunch at this point will have a great chance of leading into the final corner, it suits a team with a longer sprint train. The whole run for home is into a headwind, teams need to be careful not to burn through their domestiques too fast.
Mads Pedersen – he’s edging closer to the points jersey, now just 18 points behind Milan. Pedersen continues to impress every time he sprints, he looks the fastest in the bunch. Trek-Segafredo will be one of the main teams to chase, but they’ll hope to only use one man for much of the stage. We’ve yet to see the team do a proper lead out, this is a stage their sprint train can dominate. With Cort winning today, the Danish dominance could well be set to continue.
Jonathan Milan – one win and two second places has been an excellent return for the young Italian. As Bahrain have three GC riders, he only has Sütterlin and Pasqualon to help in the closing stages, but they’re doing something right. He’s got the speed to win, it’s all about starting his sprint from a good position.
Kaden Groves – had a cold a few days ago, which is probably still an adverse factor for him. He’s only got 4 teammates left, that’s going to make life much harder for him in the finale. He’s got the speed to win, but he needs to be 100% and have some luck in the finale.
Fernando Gaviria – 5th and 7th isn’t much to write home about. Gaviria came to this race fresh from a win in Romandie, he would have hoped for much more in the opening 10 stages. I see Movistar being one of the teams to control the break, this is a stage Gaviria can win. I would like to see him and Kanter work better together, that is key to Gaviria winning.
Mark Cavendish – I think he’ll abandon the race after this stage, it’s his last chance at taking a win. The day he crashed, he looked in a great spot to take the win, that was a positive sign after a tough race for him. He still doesn’t have a great sprint train, but he does have numbers, which is important as some teams are depleted. Get him near the front for the final corner and he’ll back himself to take the win.
Alberto Dainese – they’ve not delivered a big result, but the DSM sprint train has been impressive. The team have been rotating between Dainese and Mayrhofer, with the unlucky man riding in position 3, which is a position I like for a sprinter. Having someone with a high top-end speed in that role means that they can burst to the front from a little deeper, leaving Märkl to do the rest. The Italian should be their man today, time to see if he can repeat his success from last year.
Pascal Ackermann – he keeps on knocking at the door, but a lack of support is always going to slow him down.
It’s going to be a rather boring day for those watching on TV, most of the bunch will be delighted with an extra “rest day”.
We’ll get a bunch sprint and Mads Pedersen will take the win.