Portugal are having a good Giro, wouldn't you say? A week in the maglia rosa and a stage win on Sunday for Ruben Guerreiro.
Team EF aren't having a bad race either. Their Stage 9 result takes them to three victories in Grand Tours so far this season - more than they've managed in a single year since 2011 - and we're not (fingers crossed) even halfway through yet.
"Not having a bad race" is more than can be said for our panel. They managed a more than creditable hit rate at the Tour but the Giro... not so much. If it wasn't for Olivia they'd have a not so grand total of zero between them. Fortunately the Cycling Mole isn't faring much better. Will fortune smile on any of them in the second week?
We begin it with a stage that looks more suited to the sprinters than many. That is, until we reach Colonella, 40km from the finish. There the riders will hit what rather resembles a wall - a climb 4km long, with gradients rising up to 25%. Too much for the purest fastmen, surely, but what about those a little less pure?
Stage 10: Lanciano to Tortoreto
Simon Clarke - EF Pro Cycling
Behold, the next stage winner from the Mighty Ducks. You might think I’m quackers, Moley, but that punchy finale suits him well. His best shot is as part of a day-long breakaway, though he’s a top-10 contender for a bunch sprint too.
Michael Matthews - Sunweb
The route for stage 10 reminds me a little of the profile of the Royal Bernard Drome Classic earlier this year with a lot of little sharp climbs near the end. That makes me think choosing Simon Clarke might be a clever move, especially since that crazy jersey doesn’t seem to be distracting EF enough from winning stages. But the Drome Classic is longer and the finish much closer to the final climb. That flat 7 or 8km to the finish today will give a strong, determined team enough time to get their guy back into position. Sunweb has proved themselves to be among the strongest and certainly the cagiest teams not just at this Giro, but all year long. And so long as they are still committed to getting Matthews his stage win, I think they’ll be able to do it today. The only question in my mind is the fact that not only do they have Kelderman in 2nd but also Hindley in 9th, so they may not want to spend the energy getting this stage as well. Matthews took about a 5 second pull at the front of the group on stage 9’s final climb, so he should still have the pep in the legs to make a go of it.
Peter Sagan - Bora-Hansgrohe
This looks like a lumpy old finish, which should enable the other teams to break the run of the unstoppable Groupama-FDJ. Just as Démare's winning run has to end sometime, so Peter Sagan's winless one must end. Bora have what it takes to keep the break on a short lead, reel it in and launch Sagan to the line. I hope.
Mikkel Frølich Honoré - Deceuninck-Quick Step
I've really enjoyed watching this young Dane race in the last month or so. He's been there or thereabouts far more than you might imagine, darting off the front, testing himself as well as other riders. It seems to me like he wants to actively, rather than passively, build up his experience as a racer. It'll pay off sooner or later and my money's on sooner.
The Cycling Mole says...
Stage 10 and we head up the east coast of Italy. Forget about the beautiful scenery, this is all about steep little muros. The route is crammed full of horrible little climbs, which will seriously test the legs. Too hard for the sprinters, probably not hard enough for the GC men,
it should be another day for the breakaway riders to have their fun.
Miles is going for Sagan, this stage is too hard for him, it’s just too steep. Olivia goes with the other one, Michael Matthews. Despite a brilliant showing at the Worlds, I think this is too hard for him too, and I can’t trust anyone that tucks their ears under their cap. Andy and Nick are in the ballpark with the picks of Clarke and Honoré. The Aussie could go well, and Andy is right to point out that EF are on fire just now. Nick is going with my big Danish pal; we frequent the same café in a little town called Nerja. For those that know Andalucía, it’s the Good Stuff café, and always order carrot cake! The problem for the big man is that QuickStep are still riding for Almeida, I don’t think he’ll be allowed to chase personal glory.
I’m going with Diego Ulissi, yes, again. I’ve made a deal with myself; I’m going to pick Ulissi for every stage until he wins another one. This could be a long Giro!