Start location: Seregno
Finish location: Bergamo
Start time: 11:45 CEST
Finish time (approx): 17:12 CEST
Lombardy is at once the economic heartland of Italy, as well as being one of the richest in terms of its scenery and history. The southern part of the region is the industrial centre of the country, with Milan its capital, and industries like automobiles, agriculture and textile are all crucial to the Italian economy. Yet far from grey and severe, the scenery here is as beautiful as anywhere in Italy, with the Alpine summits in the north making a stunning backdrop.
It boasts more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than any other region in Italy, one of which, the Venetian Works of Defence, surrounds the old town of the host of stage 15’s finish, Bergamo. Built by the Venetian Republic in the sixteenth century when it controlled Bergamo, these works were a network of walls and fortifications designed to help protect the city in what was then the new era of warfare with firearms and gunpowder, and have survived today mostly intact.
To cycling fans, Bergamo is also recognisable as the alternating start and finishing location of the Tour of Lombardy, the fifth Monument of the season. Known as ‘the climber’s Classic,’ it’s a race that makes the most of the big hills and undulating terrain of the region, and one with a distinctly autumnal feel as an October-set curtain closer of the season.
Stage 15 profile sourced on the Giro d'Italia website
Although the Giro d'Italia will visit in spring rather than the autumn (this will be a race of the growing, rather than falling, leaves), stage 15 nonetheless features a similarly challenging terrain as the Tour of Lombardy. That race’s most recognisable climbs like Madonna del Ghisallo, Muro di Sormano and San Fermo della Battaglia aren’t featuring, but those that are still hard enough to make this a very challenging and potentially impactful stage on the GC race.
In designing the route, the organisers have gone for fewer but longer climbs than your average Tour of Lombardy. The first of the four categorised ascents, Valico di Valcava, is 11.6km long and rises at a nasty average of 8%, while the Selvino climb that follows it is even longer (11km), albeit less steep (5.6%).
These climbs are too far from the finish for any selections to form, but are certainly hard enough to wear the riders down ahead of the pivotal final climb of Roncola Alta. If any GC riders are going to attack today, it’s likely to be during this 10km climb, possibly as early as the steep 17% slopes near the bottom given how the rest of the climb eases to a more manageable 8% before plateauing towards the top. The lengthy and (mostly) flat run-in to the finish of over 10km following that climb’s descent will make it hard to maintain any time gaps all the way to the finish, but, with a rest day tomorrow to recuperate, riders with ground to make up may feel it’s worth a try.
Like last Saturday's stage to Fossombrone, the nature of this stage looks suited to a potential breakaway with some GC action further behind
We're unlikely to see the GC teams making a concerted effort to chase the breakaway down, while new race leader Bruno Armirail's Groupama-FDJ team will be focused on keeping the Frenchman in pink into the rest day.
Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost) must really fancy his chances in this Lombardy style stage given his exploits on stage eight, and is more than capable of attacking on the steep slopes of the final climb.
The three remaining riders at Soudal-Quick-Step have a free card for breakaways and the terrain here could really suit Ilan Van Wilder, who finished 13th at last year's Il Lombardia.
If allowed the freedom, Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ) is likewise a rider who has gone well in this region before, and has the punchy climbing credentials to stick in with a lead group.
With a such a depleted field remaining in this Giro, we'll almost certainly see some of the same faces that escaped on stage 14 go clear again here. Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samsic) will prefer this stage's profile over yesterday, as will Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo). His teammate Toms Skujiņš may fancy another shot at a stage win having come close a couple of times now, as could Derek Gee (Israel-Premier Tech) who has impressed in his debut Grand Tour.
Alessandro De Marchi and Filippo Zana (both Jayco-Alula), Stevie Williams (Israel-Premier Tech), Davide Formolo (UAE Team Emirates), and Mattia Bais and Davide Bais (Eolo-Kometa) could all also feature in what may be the best chance remaining for a breakaway before the brutal final week.
We think Bauke Mollema will be suited ideally to the terrain and deliver a win for Trek-Segafredo.