Giro d'Italia stage 19 preview - last chance saloon for the break?

With a GC battle expected on tomorrow's stage, this will be the last opportunity for those attackers wanting a chance at victory

Date: Friday May 24, 2024
Distance: 157km
Start location: Mortegliano
Finish location: Sappada
Start time: 13:05 CET
Finish time (approx): 17:12 CET

We’re back in the Alps again following yesterday's well-earned day off from climbing, but the mountains on the menu today aren’t in the same league as those tackled earlier in the week. None of the three summits to be conquered are classified as more difficult than category two, and altogether amount to 2,700m elevation gain, which is considerably less than the successive stages exceeding 4,000m. 

Yet there is historical precedence for these climbs being game-changing, when Stephen Roche turned the 1987 Giro on its head by attacking and taking the pink jersey from his teammate Roberto Visentini. The Irishman slipped away unnoticed on a descent early in the stage, and, though he would eventually be brought back by Visentini, the Italian was spent by the time they started the final climb to Sappada, where Roche again rode away to make the move that would ultimately see him win the pink jersey. 

What exactly happened that day remains bitterly disputed. Roche himself insists that he never intended to directly attack Visentini on the descent, and in any case, he no longer felt any sense of loyalty upon hearing him tell the press that he intended to go back on his promise to help Roche at the Tour de France in exchange for his help at the Giro d'Italia. Visentini, by contrast, denied ever saying that, claiming instead that he was the victim of a betrayal. Whoever you believe, one thing the story does reiterate is that cycling is rarely more compelling than when in the midst of an intra-team fall-out.

For any GC contenders feeling adventurous, the Passo Duran could provide a springboard for a similarly disruptive long-range attack. It’s certainly steep enough to make a difference, averaging 9.7% for its 4.4km, but is off-puttingly far from the finish, with over 50km and two more climbs to come after. Neither of those climbs are as hard, though, with the Sella Valcalda modest enough to be assigned only category three, and most of the final climb of Cima Sappada not exceeding 6%. Only for the final 3.5km to the top does the gradient ramp up to an average of over 8%, meaning the wise approach would appear to be to hold fire until then, rather than make a risky longer-range attack. Yet the potential gains of doing so are only minimal, especially considering the kilometre of downhill between the climb’s summit and the finish, so those wanting to make up lots of time on GC can’t depend on just this climb to do so. It will be a dilemma calculating how much to risk, but the stage could certainly be a thrilling one if someone does take inspiration from Roche 37 years ago. giro d'italia stage 19 profileStage profile sourced via the Giro d'Italia website

Contenders

With only three stages remaining and a difficult day to follow on stage 20, we expect that the GC contenders will allow the breakaway free reign to go for the stage victory as they await their final battle in the mountains tomorrow. But this is still a difficult day and it’ll be those who excel on uphill terrain that’ll be in with a chance of winning. 

With that in mind, we expect to see Giulio Pellizarri (VF Group Bardiani CSF-Faizané) make another attempt to get into the breakaway. He has been a very active rider so far, especially in the mountains, even winning the race’s Cima Coppi prize against Movistar’s Nairo Quintana. Pellizarri also came second on stage 16, only beaten by Tadej Pogačar, demonstrating how strong he is on the climbs. Quintana will also be keen to get into the break and have a chance at glory, considering his good form shown in the mountains so far, as will his teammate Pelayo Sanchez who took a stage win in the first week.

Visma-Lease a Bike will be searching for a win in these last few stages having only secured one stage win this race and their best chance will be with Attila Valter, who has been keen to get in the break over the last few stages and will want to be in it again in the hopes of beating his climbing rivals. His teammate Jan Tratnik could fare better on these kinds of climbs versus those in the higher mountains. After a stage win for the EF Education-EasyPost on stage 17, the team will be on a high and confident that they can win another stage, so we expect to see a rider like Esteban Chaves or Georg Steinhauser in the mix for the American squad. 

Kevin Vermaerke (Team DSM-Ferminch PostNL) could be a contender for the stage, as could Simon Geschke (Cofidis) Nicola Conci (Alpecin-Deceuninck). Michael Storer (Tudor Pro Cycling) has had some good results so far with two top 10 finishes and he will hope to get a chance at stage victory for his team. Michel Ries (Cofidis), Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier (Lidl-Trek), and the Quick–Step duo of Julian Alaphilippe and Mauri Vansevenant could all be contenders for victory.

Predictions

We think Attila Valter will take the win on stage 19.

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