For the first time since Thomas De Gendt’s win in Napoli on stage eight, this is a day for the breakaway. It’s been a tough few days for teams who don’t have an elite sprinter or climber, so expect them to play as many cards as possible during what is one of the more wide-open stages of the race. With more stages now completed than there are still to come, time is already running out for teams who don’t yet have anything to show from this race, which will further intensify what’s going to be a very competitive stage.
Parma > Genova, 204km
Not difficult enough to draw the GC contenders into attacks, but too difficult for sprinters to stay in contention, today’s stage is prime terrain for breakaway riders. It’ll be a hectic stage from the get go, as the road rises mildly but unrelentingly for almost the entire opening 96km, setting up a potentially elongated tussle to get into the break that will be far from welcomed by by tired riders in the peloton just wanting to survive another day.
Once a leading group has been established, the key to winning the stage will be picking the opportune moment to make a bid for glory. The difficulty of the category three La Colletta climb shouldn’t be underestimated, but, crested 52km from the finish, might be a little too far out see the the decisive move. Instead, it’s on the 8 percent slopes of the 4.3km Valco di Trensasco where the race will be decided, prior to a 30km run-in to the finish.
While a reduced bunch finish isn’t impossible, it certainly looks very unlikely. The problem isn’t just the terrain, which is very conducive to groups going clear with its uphill beginning; it’s also the fact that riders such as Mathieu van der Poel will likely out sprint the rest of the field in this scenario. His Alpecin-Fenix teammates would be hard-pressed to find any allies willing to lead a chase in the peloton with them, as other teams will instead see their best route to victory as being via a breakaway.
The carnage on Sunday’s Blockhaus stage is going to have implications on this stage, as teams whose general classification leader was dropped out of contention switch their priority towards chasing stage wins instead.
In particular, BikeExchange-Jayco have had to totally rip up their original game plan following Simon Yates' loss of over ten minutes. While this terrain isn’t well-suited to Yates himself (who might still be struggling with his hurt knee regardless), expect other of their riders to be active, especially Christopher Juul-Jensen, considering that he already tried an attack during stage ten. It wasn’t clear until the Blockhaus stage whether Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) was going to target GC or stages, but after losing almost ten minutes, he’ll now be liberated to indulge his natural attacking instincts on stages like today — providing he is relieved from the duty of defending Juan Pedro López’s pink jersey. And though Hugh Carthy’s loss of 3-48 wasn’t quite so severe, his EF Education-Easypost team can’t bank on a high GC finish to make this Giro a success, so Magnus Cort, Simon Carr and Jonathan Caicedo will be candidates for getting in the break. For other teams whose Giro is not currently going to plan, the kitchen sink will be thrown at trying to infiltrate the break. Things are going especially badly for Astana-Qazaqstan, for whom Valerio Conti and Fabio Fellini could be relied upon today, while Giacomo Nizzolo’s travails in the sprints may make Alessandro De Marchi Israel-PremierTech’s best hope for a stage win, even if he might be tired from getting into the break on stage ten. But in terms of quality of rider, it’s UAE Team Emirates with Diego Ulissi and Alessandro Covi, and QuickStep-AlphaVinyl with Mauri Vansevenant and Mauro Schmid, who look best-equipped to win today.
One rider who was able to closely match both Biniam Girmay and Mathieu van der Poel in the Napoli breakaway, as well as follow the latter’s attack on stage ten, is Mauro Schmid, indicating that the 2021 stage winner has currently got great legs. Whereas the other two are going to be watched like a hawk should they try and get into the break, Schmid could go under the radar.