Giro d'Italia 2024 stage nine preview - a tricky finale into Napoli

The Giro finishes its first week with another complicated stage for the sprinters

Date: Sunday May 12, 2024
Distance: 214km
Start location: Avezzano
Finish location: Napoli
Start time: 12:00 CET
Finish time (approx): 17:14 CET

Napoli is a hostile environment. Mount Vesuvius looms over the city menacingly, a conspicuous reminder of the threat its residents live under. Although never wiped out by the volcano the way ancient Roman settlements like nearby Pompeii and Herculaneum were, Napoli still bears the scars of past eruptions. As it does the scars of the Second World War, during which time it was more severely bombed than any other Italian city. Yet it is also a city that has persisted, overcoming many threats since its initial founding as a Greek colony in the eighth century BC to its joining the nation of Italy in the 1861 unification, to become one of the oldest inhabited settlements in the world — a long history you can sense in its historic centre, which is one of the oldest of its size in the world. 

The terrain of stage nine does not quite live up to the intimidating aura of the city. Though the stage will be long (the longest of the Giro d'Italia so far, in fact, and the first to exceed 200km), the roads travelled on are mostly flat, with only one categorised climb all day. The organisers could have chosen to make use of the Phlegraean Fields, or Campi Flegrei, that lie west of the city, where the aftereffects of volcanic eruptions have formed multiple emptied magma chambers that have made for lumps and bumps in the landscape, but have instead taken pity on the sprinters.

The stage does therefore look more favourable for the sprinters than either of the Giro’s two most recent finishes in Napoli, both of which contained more climbing to encourage attackers. The stage in 2022 was organised as a circuit rather than the convention A-to-B structure, and featured many of the local small Campi Flegrei climbs to give the feel of an Ardennes Classic. Consequently, a very strong breakaway group got up the road featuring the likes of Mathieu van der Poel, Biniam Girmay and Thomas De Gendt, and the latter used his nous and experience to go clear and take victory. Last year’s stage was similarly difficult but in a different way, with longer, larger climbs to the south of the city tackled in the first half before a flat run-in to the finish. This time a break featuring another of this generation’s great escape artists, Alessandro De Marchi, was agonisingly caught on the finishing straight, with Mads Pedersen winning the sprint for the stage. 

There are less complications this year, with the stage starting in Avezzano and approaching Napoli from the north via flat roads, but still some aspects for the sprinters to be wary of. In keeping with the other sprints this opening week, there are some unclassified climbs inside the final 25km, and Napoli is such a sprawling metropolis that the riders will reach twisty, technical urban roads some way out from the finish. Survive that, though, and position yourself well onto the final 90 degree turn just after the Flamme Rouge, a long, wide, straight finishing straight awaits them along the Via Francesco Caracciolo. 

Stage profile sourced via the Giro d'Italia website

Contenders

Like almost all of the 'sprint' stages so far in the first week, it is not a foregone conclusion that the sprinter teams will be able to keep full control of proceedings.

A breakaway could either stay away if they have established enough of a gap before they enter the unclassified climbs and the twists and turns of the roads into Napoli, while some steep gradients could also lend themselves to late attacks.

Stage one winner Jhonatan Narváez (Ineos Grenadiers) could be a good option in these circumstances, while his team-mate Filippo Ganna hasn't been shy in attacking late to try and spoil the sprinters' day.

Mikkel Honoré and Michael Valgren (EF Education-EasyPost) have been very active in attacks so far in the race, as has Alessandro De Marchi (Jayco-Alula), but the terrain may not be tough enough for them to get away in earnest.

Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal–Quick-Step) has been keen to make his mark after a couple of tough seasons, and the final climb could be a suitable launchpad for a rider that packs a punch like the Frenchman.

There's a strong chance if a sprint does take place that the group could be significantly reduced. The likes of stage four winner Jonathan Milan (Lidl-Trek), stage three winner Tim Merlier (Soudal–Quick-Step), and Australian Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck) have shown good form over the climbs so far and will be likely contenders if a sprint ensues, while the likes of Fabio Jakobsen (DSM-Firmenich PostNL) have been caught out on tougher sections.

Ethan Vernon (Israel-Premier Tech) has been in the mix on his Grand Tour debut, as has Olav Kooij (Visma-Lease a Bike), but some tough days in the legs now will mean this is unchartered territory for them.

Other contenders include Jenthe Biermans (Arkéa-B&B Hotels), Laurence Pithie (Groupama-FDJ), Fernando Gaviria (Movistar), Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain Victorious), and Caleb Ewan (Jayco-Alula).

Prediction 

We think Jonathan Milan will double up with stage wins in a reduced bunch sprint.

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