Pergine Valsugana > Caorle 197km
Hands up who wants a sprint? At this point in a grand tour, stages like this can often go the way of the breakaway, mainly due to domestiques being very tired, but also to do with other tactical decisions. With quite a few sprinters left in the race, it’s unlikely to be a day for the break, but you just never know, that’s the beauty of it.
Rain at the start, should be sunny later. There’s a light headwind for much of the stage.
It’s a technical finish. The roads are fairly narrow as the bunch head along the beachfront, and inside the final 2km they are faced with five corners, having a good sprint train will make a big difference. The finishing straight is around 600m long and is very wide. Like most sprints in this race, it’s a headwind.
The problem for the breakaway riders is that most teams will be happy with a sprint, I don’t see too many teams looking to jump in the break. Of course, the Italian teams will, but aside from that maybe Israel and Trek, it really is slim pickings.
The stage is another long one, nearly 200km, which does give the breakaway riders a chance. It is possible for a “weak” break to go all the way, as sprint teams are always cautious when it comes to how many domestiques they commit to the chase. There are two examples of this in recent memory, Nicola Boem (Bardiani) took the most unlikely of victories back in 2015, an all-Italian break was helped that day by some friendly moto drivers. The other example is from 2019, when Damiano Cima won from a break that also featured Nico Denz, a day where the bunch miscalculated by a fraction of a second. However unlikely a breakaway win is, the attackers will still have hope.
Movistar and Astana are the two teams most likely to control the break, they are still looking for a sprint win for Gaviria and Cavendish. Both are down to 7 men, but that’s enough if they ensure the break is 6 men or less, the opening kilometres are going to be crucial. As the day progresses, they’ll get some help from Bahrain, DSM, and UAE, but some teams will hang back and save all their men for the finale, this is what gives the break a little bit of hope, but not much.
Jonathan Milan – with the points jersey all but confirmed, Bahrain can join the chase of the break. Sometimes at this point in the race, the team who leads this competition refuse to work as they don’t want to give rivals the chance of taking points, but not this year. Milan has enjoyed an incredible race, far exceeding his expectations at the start. With Pedersen gone, he’ll see this as a big chance of taking his second win, and he’ll start as the favourite.
Pascal Ackermann – one stage win and lots of confidence, the German certainly won’t fear Milan. He doesn’t have much help in the finale, but with others to chase, they can save Ryan Gibbons until the very end. The headwind sprint isn’t bad for him either, as he’s likely to start his sprint from the wheels.
Mark Cavendish – after announcing his retirement, he’d love to take one more Giro win. Cavendish will be remembered as the greatest sprinter of all time, and despite being 38, he’s still got the speed to win. His sprint train isn’t great, but just like Ackermann, coming from deep isn’t a bad idea in this finish.
Fernando Gaviria – it’s not been his race, just two top 10 performances is a poor return for a rider of his quality. Despite having Max Kanter as his final man, Gaviria is yet to start a sprint from a good position. If these two get it right, Nando will be challenging for the win.
Alberto Dainese – DSM have been rotating their sprinters, but I think this should be one for the Italian. That means Mayrhofer at 3 and Märkl at 2, both of whom have shone in these roles. I seem to be saying that all the sprinters have the speed to win, but Dainese is another who’s shown he’s fast enough to win a Giro sprint stage.
Niccolò Bonifazio – we’ve barely seen him in this race, apart from being in the break in the Bergamo stage. I’m not sure if he’ll sprint or if the team will turn to Marit, but let’s be honest, neither are fast enough to win.
Mattia Bais – breakaway hopeful number 1.
Pieter Serry – breakaway hopeful number 2.
Alex Baudin – breakaway hopeful number 3.
Laurenz Rex – breakaway hopeful number 4.
Alex Kirsch – no Pedersen to ride for, I demand a late attack. The finale is technical enough for someone like Kirsch to launch with 2km to go and see if they can hold off the chasing pack. It’s definitely worth a try, okay Kirschy?
I can tell you the breakaway’s tactics right now. They know the bunch will keep the lead down to around 3 minutes, so the break will take it incredibly easy and save as much as they can for the final hour. With 40km to go, they will throw everything they have at staying away, the final hour is going to be fun.
The sprint teams will just about have enough to pull the breakaway back in. I’ll take a sprint win for Jonathan Milan.