There are barely any easy days left in the Giro from here onwards, starting with this intense day of climbing in Piedmont. In terms of the GC, it’s unlikely to have as big an impact as the consecutive summit or near-summit finishes in the three stages to come, but it should not be taken lightly by the GC contenders, who could lose significant time if they get caught out, while Juan Pedro López (Trek-Segafredo) faces a fight to keep hold of the pink jersey.
Santena > Torino, 147km
This might be the shortest stage of the Giro, but it is far from being the easiest. In fact, it’s the very shortness of the stage that helps make it so difficult, as it’s going to be an intense day of racing with barely a moment of let-up.
Following a hilly opening half, the riders will tackle two circuits in and around Torino, where the climbing comes thick and fast. Each lap includes a couple of category two climbs, each characterised by its steep gradient rather than its length: the category two Suprega (5km at 8.6 percent) and Colle Della Maddalena (2km at 11.6 percent, with one especially agonising section reaching 20 percent). In total all the climbing amounts to over 3000m of elevation gain, but it’s descending skills rather than climbing prowess that could ultimately determine the winner of the stage, given the steep, narrow plunge into the finish.
The lack of any long climbs in addition to the downhill run to the finish doesn’t make this an obvious stage for the pink jersey contenders, but there could be some who sense an opportunity to gain time. While most of the top GC contenders such as Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious) and Jai Hindley (DSM) are properly more comfortable on the longer, higher mountains found in the third week, there are other puncheur riders who might fancy their chances of distancing them on the shorter, steeper efforts in store today.
João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) in particular is one to watch in this kind of terrain. He’ll be wary of the high mountain stages, given the way he narrowly avoided losing time on Blockhaus, and therefore aware of the need to gain time elsewhere — such as stages like today, where his punchy accelerations could be very effective.
On parcours like this, there are loads of chances to spring surprise attacks throughout the stage, like the kind Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) has tried occasionally during the race. Whereas those all came to nothing, the terrain here is far more favourable, and his rivals must be sure to watch him like a hawk in order to prevent him from slipping away.
Even if the GC riders do call a truce, the fight for the stage win looks set to be a thrilling one, most probably from a breakaway. There are several top climbers far down on GC who might take their cue from Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Lucas Hamilton (BikeExchange-Jayco) by using their new-found freedom to get up the road. Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco) is the most high-profile of these riders, and already looked to have recovered his good legs when he attacked on stage ten, but won’t like the weather forecasts predicting another hot day.
Others, like Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Easypost) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana Qazaqstan) aren’t quite far enough adrift to yet be granted such freedom, although you can never discount Nibali from doing something special on a downhill finish like this.
The number of climbs is also likely to draw out the King of the Mountains contenders, with current leader Diego Rosa (EOLO-Kometa) in need to keeping a watchful eye of Koen Bouwman (Jumbo-Visma) and Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe) should they try to get into the break.
The GC battle has gone a little quiet of late, so we’re backing it to explode into life today. Of the ten riders still within 1-30 of López, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) is the rider who will most relish the punchy nature of the climbs, as well as the testy downhill to the finish.