Giro d'Italia 2024 stage 11 preview - a fast finish in Francavilla al Mare

A flat final 100km means that any sprinters who get dropped on the early climb can still be in contention for the expected bunch sprint

Date: Wednesday May 15, 2024
Distance: 207km
Start location: Foiano di Val Fortore
Finish location: Francavilla
Start time: 12:05 CET
Finish time (approx): 17:11 CET

Today marks a turning point of the Giro d'Italia. With 10 stages completed, and another 10 to ride afterwards, it’s the halfway point of the race in terms of days spent racing. And geographically, it marks the moment when the route ceases its southern trajectory down the peninsula, and begins heading back north. 

The riders will set off from the small town of Foiano di Val Fortore, a place that will cause excitement among cheese lovers. It’s around here in Campania that Podolica cattle are found, a breed used for Caciocavallo Silano, a semi-hard, pulled-curd cheese that gets its name and distinct flavour from being hung in pairs and tied by a string while ageing. From Foiano di Val Fortore they will head northwards through Molise before reaching the Adriatic coast in Abruzzo, which they will spend the final 85km travelling north along before reaching the finish at Francavilla. With no climbs tackled here along the coast, a sprint finish looks inevitable.

Francavilla is known for its sandy beaches, whose beautiful views and warm weather these days attracts tourists, and in the late 19th century inspired artist Francesco Michetti to form an artistic literary club here. Michetti would meet with other intellectuals ranging from musicians, sculptors, writers, and the poet Gabriele D'Annunzio at the former monastery of Santa Maria di Gesù. Like much of the town during the Second World War, the centre was destroyed during a bombing campaign, but their paintings from the club remain to be seen.

Though this monastery was located atop a hill, allowing the artists to observe the view of the town, the riders today won’t be climbing up it, in what is a very sprinter-friendly stage. The only challenging terrain for them to negotiate comes 40km into the stage when they must climb the category three Pietracatella, but it doesn’t feature any hard gradients, and is followed by downhill and flat roads. The finish is especially helpful to sprinters, too, with the final 3km all completed on one long, wide road that will be conducive to avoiding crashes and, if need be, bringing back any attackers still out there. Perhaps the one hard thing about the stage is its length, as one of the few stages this year to exceed 200km, but the riders are unlikely to be racing hard enough to notice. 

Unless the wind blows. While coastal roads at this time of the year usually just means the riders get to enjoy pleasant views of the sea, if the weather’s bad and wind blows the right direction, they leave them exposed to echelons. A sprint finish would still be likely in that scenario but the sprinters would have to work hard to stay at the very front of the race, while the GC race suddenly becomes active. Like the tourists flocking to the beach, the riders’ will be anxiously checking weather forecasts before deciding how to race this one.

Stage profile sourced via the Giro d'Italia website

Contenders

So far in this Giro, no sprinter has dominated all the bunch finishes, instead, each sprint stage has seen a different rider take the victory. Tim Merlier (Soudal–Quick-Step) won stage three, Jonathan Milan (Lidl-Trek) won stage four, and Olav Kooij (Visma-Lease a Bike) won the last sprint opportunity in Napoli on stage nine. Kooij is now out of the race after falling ill before the start of stage 10, so the battle between Merlier and Milan continues as we expect another fast finish in Francavilla al Mare. 

But it won’t be a two-horse race, as plenty of other sprinters in the peloton won’t want to miss out on another opportunity for a stage win. Most notably, Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceunick), who came second on stage four and is also sitting second in the points classification. His Alpecin team have been working extremely hard to bring him to the line first, however, Groves has just lacked the finish against Milan and Merlier that has prevented him from reaching the top step of the podium. 

Alberto Dainese (Tudor Pro Cycling) performed well on stage nine, just missing out on the podium, placing fourth. So did Danny van Poppel (Bora-Hansgrohe), who placed fifth and could be a potential for victory. Other fast finishers who have rivalled for the top spots in the sprints are Juan Sebastián Molano (UAE Team Emirates) and Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain-Victorious). 

Another contender for the stage could be Caleb Ewan (Jayco-Alula), who is looking to end his three-year Grand Tour drought, but his highest finish so far this Giro has been sixth place and hasn’t been in the top 10 in the other opportunities.

Prediction 

We think Jonathan Milan will take the spoils in the sprint on this stage, making this his second stage win for the race. 

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