Only one breakaway so far has been successful so far at the Giro, but that’s likely to change on today’s stage of relentless climbing. The ascents here in the Southern Apennines are difficult enough to draw out the GC riders, and it could be that more riders lose time than on Tuesday’s Mount Etna summit finish, even though the last climb today is crested 25km from the finish. Juan Pedro López (Trek-Segafredo) will start the day in pink, but faces his first serious challenge defending it.
Diamante > Potenza, 192km
The Alps aren’t the only part of Italy with high enough terrain to host a serious climbing test with multiple mountains, as proven by this brutal stage in the Southern Apennines. A day of unrelenting climbing begins with the category three Passo Colla to warm the riders up, followed immediately by a leg-sapping 24km trek up Monte Sirino, where gradients fluctuate false flats, and, especially during its second half, the occasional stretch over 7%.
Averaging a viscous 9% for its 6.6km, it’s the next climb, the Montagna Grande di Viggiano, that’s the most difficult on the menu. It’d take a brave man to attack here and commit to riding the remaining 60km to the finish, but the rolling terrain to come, which includes the category three Sellata plus several other uncategorized rises, make such a move possible, especially for a rider in the day’s break with especially good climbing legs. The GC riders may be more risk-averse, however.
The way Ineos Grenadiers rode the Mount Etna mountain top finish on Tuesday suggests that they want to control this Giro with defensive racing for their leader Richard Carapaz, so expect to see them on the front once more on this stage.
Although there isn’t a single, huge climb for them to target like Etna, the multiple hills on route and rolling terrain in between make this a complicated and possibly dangerous day for the GC riders, with the potential for attacks at any moment.
One particularly dangerous GC contender who could make a move is Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco). He’s clearly in flying form following his time trial win, and might want to make the most of that by trying to gain time today, especially considering his tendency to attack. On the other hand, he may not want to burn too many matches this early into a Grand Tour, especially on a stage like this that doesn’t end on a climb.
Teams like Bora-Hansgrohe and Bahrain-Victorious also have the numbers to make the tactical ploy of sending GC contenders out on the attack for others to chase, with Emanuel Buchmann for the former and Pello Bilbao for the latter possible aggressors.
In truth, though, this is more likely to be an attritional stage among the GC favourites than an attacking one, with the significant moments happening out the back of the peloton rather than off the front. The 17 riders who finished in the peloton at the top of Mount Etna should in theory all be fine today, but this is a different kind of test to that mountain top finish, with multiple climbs and descents for them to negotiate scattered across the stage.
In terms of the stage win, this is likely to be one for the breakaway, so be sure to tune in early to catch what will be an intense battle to get up the road at the start of the day. Breakaway specialists Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) and Alessandro De Marchi (Israel-Premier Tech) have both now lost more than enough time to be allowed to get into the break; as have riders like Jonathan Caicedo (EF Education Easypost), Attila Valter (Groupama-FDJ) and Joe Dombrowski (Astana-Qazaqstan), all climbers with the ability to attack for victory on one of the late hills.
Predicting a winner for a breakaway stage like this is a mug’s game considering how many different riders might get into the decisive move, but we reckon this kind of rolling terrain especially suits Davide Formolo (UAE Team Emirates). A safer bet is for Juan Pedro López to defend pink, although he’s likely to come under pressure from Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe) hoping to make up the 39 seconds he needs.