Well, we got well and truly smoked yesterday, huh? No-one predicted Geraint Thomas would take a tumble - although we probably could have - or Simon Yates not having the legs for the mountain he stormed into pink on two years ago. We might have seen that coming, too. Instead it was an unheralded, stocky little Ecuadorian who battled his way to the top of the volcano. Not quite into pink, but there's still time. And you thought EF were at the Giro just to show off their new kit?
Today's stage is one for the sprinters, even with that big old bump between the start and finish, right? Hold your horses, says Mr Mole.
Stage 4 - Catania to Villafranca Tirrena
Fernando Gaviria - UAE-Team Emirates
That climb in the middle is steady and not too steep, so he’ll get back into the bunch when dropped. Plus, in Richeze, he’s got one of the best lead-out men in the business guiding him. Often goes a little early, so it’ll be a question of timing his sprint just right. More glory for South America, I reckon
Arnaud Démare - Groupama-FDJ
The profile of this stage reminds me of one of my regular rides back in Colorado. If I could get my sorry ass over that climb pretty well, no doubt the pro sprinters can do this. Judging by the profile, the finish looks fast and not too technical. I’d like to back someone who hasn’t had a ton of luck this year like Viviani, but he has seemed just too off the pace most the time. Whereas French national champion Arnaud Démare has been taking wins left and right all season. With a team built around him, I expect he’ll take this sprint stage of the Giro as well.
Fernando Gaviria - UAE-Team Emirates
A theoretical sprint stage, sure, but the Portella Mandrazzi at 1,125m is a sizable lump in the middle of the day that could shake out a few of the bigger guys. That said, Gaviria has a decent team to get him back in contention for the finale. Can you hear the drums, Fernando?
Elia Viviani - Cofidis
It might be the law that someone has to pick Elia Viviani on every Grand Tour sprint stage (the government jammed it through with their emergency COVID powers legislation #political) but even if it wasn't, I still would have gone with Big Viv. It might be as true that he needs a win as it is that Cofidis do (two for the team in 2020; both at 2.1 level) but you don't become a mediocre sprinter overnight. The Italian still has it in him to take the win in Villafranca Tirrena.
The Cycling Mole says
What a stage that was, Etna did not disappoint. All that preparation and the dreams of a pink jersey for Thomas and Yates are simply a distant memory. With the big two favourites out of the GC battle, the rest of the three weeks promises to be very unpredictable. My pick of Jakob Fuglsang was clearly the strongest, but that’s not enough in this game.
Stage 4 is a weird looking stage. Just 140km, and features a big old climb in the middle. When I first looked at this stage my initial feeling was that pure sprinters didn’t stand a chance. The climb is very long, it can be classified as 26.5km at 3.8%, but the final 12km averages 5%. This will be very hard for the sprinters, especially if a team wants to hit the climb hard.
The panel clearly don’t agree with me, they’ve all picked pure sprinters, something I’m not doing. As there is a grand tour stage win to play for, expect to see Bora and Sunweb set a fierce pace up the climb. Both squads know that their quick man cannot win against the likes of Gaviria, Viviani and Démare, which means they must drop them. We’ve seen both squads do this in the past, particularly at the Tour de France, they won’t pass this opportunity up. The big question is whether Sunweb can go hard enough to drop Sagan?
My pick is a straight choice between Sagan and Matthews, but I keep changing my mind. I’ll take a risk and go with Matthews; I have a feeling Sunweb have a plan in mind.