The second week of the Giro draws to a close with the most mountainous stage since the summit finish at Blockhaus seven days ago. The GC remains finely poised at the top, but gaps should start to open up between the top favourites in a parcours that promises fireworks. The peloton are at last in the Alps, and unlike the previous mountain stages, there isn’t just one summit finish to worry about, but multiple high mountains to get over during the day.
Rivarolo Canavese > Cogne, 178km
Having spent the last two weeks travelling northwards across mainland Italy, the race at last arrives at the Alps. 91km into the stage the riders reach the foot of Pila-Les-Fleurs, a 12.3km climb averaging 6.9 percent with an especially nasty series of hairpins halfway up. Then, immediately after descending that summit, they’ll head back upwards again towards Verrogne, a steadier 13.8km effort but no less difficult, with a similar average gradient of 7.1 percent.
However, if this is to be the exciting GC battle we’re all hoping for, the attacks will have to have already been made prior to the latter slopes of the final climb to Cogne. Although it starts off difficult enough, with an average of about 7 percent over the first 9km, the gradient shallows significantly to only around 3 or 4 percent or the remaining 13km drag to the top — steep enough to maintain any gaps already established, but not for any new attacks to stick.
ContendersThere are plenty of GC riders who are sure to want this stage to be as aggressive as possible, to maximise their chances of gaining time. Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious) put himself right into contention for the pink jersey on Blockhaus and is renowned for his attacking racing, so we can expect an attack from him at some point — and possibly on one of the early climbs, and possibly in tandem with his teammate Pello Bilbao, whose descending skills would be extremely useful on the downhills in between.
Ineos Grenadiers are sure to want to have a plan for how exactly they want to control the race, and for what the ideal moment is for new pink jersey holder Richard Carapaz to launch an attack. While taking the pink jersey at the end of last week might have been seen as too early, they will be confident of defending it all the way to Verona now.
Jai Hindley’s (Bora-Hansgrohe) win atop Blockhaus means he must again be considered a favourite for today, especially considering how he found his best legs during his breakthrough Giro two years ago during the latter stages, as must João Almeida as arguably the most consistent of the GC favourites so far this race.
Whereas all these riders appear to be top tier favourites for pink, others are hoping to prove their credentials on the climbs today. Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) is only in the top ten by virtue of gaining time via a breakaway on stage 8, but has a strong recent record of high finishes in recent Grand Tours, so could well stay there.
39-year-old Domenico Pozzovivo (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) was one of the surprise packages of Blockhaus, and we’ll have a clear idea of whether he really is a candidate for a first Giro top ten finish for four years; and following the withdrawal of Romain Bardet, DSM are now relying on 22-year-old Thymen Arensman to be their GC leader. Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange) could also perform well following his win on stage 14.
Considering how evenly matched the top GC riders were on a climb as difficult as Blockhaus, there’s every reason to believe that not much will separate them on today’s simpler final climb, meaning a small group finish could be on the cards — in which event João Almeida has the finishing kick to be victorious.