Stage 15 of the Giro d’Italia is delicately poised between the sprinters that remain in Italy and the punchers/attackers, who will look to jump away close to the finish line.
This follows a leg-sapping day where the riders headed to the top of Monte Zoncolan. Egan Bernal further strengthened his lead in the general classification while Simon Yates displayed his best legs yet to jump from 5th into 2nd overall.
However, the day belonged to EOLO-Kometa, who won their first Grand Tour stage on debut after Lorenzo Fortunato attacked from the breakaway, beating Jan Tratnik and Alessandro Covi to the line. Alberto Contador and Ivan Basso will surely be dancing long into the night…
Giro d'Italia Stage 15 profile
Leaving Grado in North-East Italy, the riders have 34km of flat to get things underway. Even the riders may be able to take in the spectacular views as they cross a long causeway to mainland Italy.
After an intermediate sprint in Mariano del Friuli, the peloton will begin a circuit which is the makeup for the remainder of the stage, also crossing into Slovenia. The circuit’s main feature is the Gornje Cerovo, a climb of 1.7km and 8.1%. Rolling terrain follows with two, short ramps under a kilometre in length — attack-friendly terrain.
The 31.4km lap will be lapped three times, with minor king of the mountains points on offer each time the Gornje Cerovo is crested. However, after the climb is ascended for the final occasion with 17km remaining, the riders instead dive East to the finish in Gorizia. A bonus seconds sprint occurs with just 4.5km remaining in Nova Gorica, which leads immediately into the Saver climb. This is just 600m in length but averages 8.1%. This is a key moment in the stage, where the sprinters remaining must resist the puncher’s attacks, who will no doubt make their last-ditch attempts to escape.
The finish in Gorizia is technical with numerous roundabouts and corners present in the final kilometres, making it even more troublesome to catch any attackers that remain ahead of the bunch.
Peter Sagan, who now holds the maglia ciclamino (Image credit: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)
The stage is designed brilliantly to host a battle between the remaining sprinters and the attackers. There are only 1,600 metres of climbing across 147 kilometres, however, the climbs are steep and given the Saver lump takes place so close to the line, any escapees have a good shot at holding on. With Caleb Ewan, Tim Merlier and Dylan Groenewegen all now watching the race from afar with their feet up, there are only a select few teams that will be motivated to control the gap to the inevitable breakaway.
Bora-Hansgrohe will bear the majority of the pressure to chase, particularly following their masterclass on stage 10. Bora pressed on when the road went uphill, dropping the pure sprinters and later placing Peter Sagan in the prime position to sprint to victory. They’ll look to control for the maglia ciclamino leader again here, but the terrain and later hills make this a challenging task. Victory for Sagan would all but secure his first maglia ciclamino.
Another rider that is well-versed to the terrain on offer is Davide Cimolai. The Italian has been second twice at the 2021 Giro d’Italia already and was one of the few sprinters able to follow Bora and Sagan on stage 10. The big dent in his chances is his team strength, which is now heavily reduced after Alessandro De Marchi and Alex Dowsett joined Krists Neilands on the sidelines.
Fernando Gaviria has shown that he is much more than a pure sprinter at the Giro thus far, joining the breakaway on a mountain stage and resisting the tempo over multiple climbs. This stage may be too difficult for the Colombian, but if he can make it over the lumps and bumps at the front, he has a fantastic chance at his first Giro stage in three years.
Giacomo Nizzolo remains in the Giro and remains ecstatic following his stage 13 triumph. The terrain makes it unlikely that the Italian and European Champion will be able to get the finish at the front — he was one of the sprinters dropped by Bora on stage 10. Elia Viviani and Matteo Moschetti will also struggle to follow.
Only one of the two Slovenian’s that started the race will get the chance to travel through their home nation after Matej Mohorič crashed out. Yesterday’s runner-up Jan Tratnik is the only Slovenian remaining and despite his exertions on the Zoncolan, we may see him try his luck again in the breakaway.
As mentioned earlier, the stage could well be decided by a late attack, either on the final ascent of the Gornje Cerovo or the Saver climb which is much shorter but closer to the finish. There are a range of punchers remaining in the race who will be on the offensive. Further, teams without a GC leader don’t need to worry about shepherding a rider to the line and therefore may be more inclined to attack.
Among these teams are AG2R Citroën. Tony Gallopin could be the best option among their remaining riders — he attempted a similar attack on stage 3 alongside Giulio Ciccone which ultimately was unsuccessful. Nonetheless, if Gallopin demonstrates the same attacking intent here he has a greater chance of success. AG2R won a stage recently with Andrea Vendrame where he demonstrated both his climbing and sprinting prowess. If Gallopin can’t attack away, Vendrame may seek a second victory.
Attila Valter has dropped to 12th in the GC after gaining the maglia rosa ahead of the first rest day. He can no longer be the team’s only focus, particularly with Rudy Molard in the ranks. Like Gallopin, Molard possesses a strong punch over short hills and could be given a free card.
UAE Team Emirates are another team whose GC ambitions have crumbled since the rest day, meaning this could be a fantastic chance for Diego Ulissi. The puncher is one of the best on short hills and can sprint in reduced groups too. These skills have helped him to eight Giro d’Italia stage victories over his career, could he add a ninth in Gorizia?
Thomas De Gendt and Remi Cavagna are two of the most offensive riders in the peloton, but have largely kept their powder dry so far. De Gendt has shown that he's itching to attack in recent days and with Deceuninck's GC hopes fading, Cavagna will be given more leeway. Watch out for either venturing up the road.
Other riders with a shot of attacking to victory include Quinten Hermans, Ruben Guerreiro, Mikkel Honoré, Jhonatan Narváez, Gianni Moscon and Alberto Bettiol.
Many riders stand a good chance on stage 15. With few sprinters left and some squads severely weakened, the stage will be highly difficult to control with the pressure on Peter Sagan and Bora-Hasngrohe. With that said, we think that an attacker has the best shot at celebrating in Gorizia.
We are going with EF Education-Nippo’s Alberto Bettiol. He has good legs at the moment and if he’s given the green light by his team, he possesses all the attributes to win.
Cover image: Sara Cavallini/Getty Images