The second week of the race begins with a partially flat, partially undulating stage along the east coast of Italy. Trek-Segafredo still have responsibility of controlling the race after Juan Pedro López just about defended the pink jersey on Sunday’s summit finish at Blockhaus, but they’re unlikely to come under any more pressure from GC riders today, on a parcours featuring undulating terrain, but no major climbs. Instead, the onus will be on the teams of any sprinters or puncheurs who fancy their chances today, to chase what is likely to be a strong breakaway.
Pescari > Jesi, 196km
The first half of this stage will help ease the riders back into racing following the rest day, with nothing on route to trouble the riders prior to an intermediate sprint after 99km. But the impression this opening gives that the stage will be a simple sprinters day is a false one, as things get much more complicated from here onwards, with rolling terrain and narrow, rough roads to negotiate.
There are a total of three category four climbs inside the final 90 kilometres, which might be manageable for sprinters in most cases, but the undulating terrain of the roads in between these climbs make controlling the race much more difficult. A ramp of 11% on the otherwise shallow, 4.2km Monsano climb, crested 8.5km from the finish, could be the launchpad for a stage-winning attack ahead of the finish in Jesi (the birthplace of the late Michele Scarponi, who won the 2011 Giro and was known for taking a macaw with him on training rides).
How stage ten develops may depend upon how Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) wants it to develop. On one hand, as perhaps the quickest finisher of the puncheurs, he could have his Alpecin-Fenix team try and control the race and drop the pure sprinters in order to set him up for winning from a reduced bunch sprint. But that hasn’t been the Dutchman’s approach at this Giro since losing the pink jersey, as he has instead been in a restless mood, attempting a preposterously early attack on stage eight. He’s so powerful that he could single-handedly help a breakaway to survive.
Biniam Girmay (Intermarché–Wanty–Gobert Matériaux) followed almost every move from Van der Poel during the first week, so if he does indeed make an attack, we can expect the Eritrean to be on his wheel. As was the case on the Neapolitan stage on Saturday, all eyes will be on these two if they again propel themselves up the road.
However, despite being the strongest riders in the break that day, neither rider took the win, and so there could be an opportunity for a canny tactician to again outsmart them both, as Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) did that day.
The flat opening roads means that the terrain isn’t in the favour of the climbers to get into the break, and it will take some strong legs for the flat should there be a big battle to get into the break. Mauro Schmid (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) is the kind of rider who could do so, especially considering that he accompanied both Van der Poel and Girmay in the break on Saturday, while riders like Wout Poels (Bahrain-Victorious), Diego Rosa (EOLA-Kometa) and Sylvain Moniquet (Lotto-Soudal) have shown real eagerness to get up the road as often as possible.
Alternatively, this could still be a stage for a bunch sprint, especially if any of the sprinters have good climbing legs. While Mark Cavendish (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) and Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) are unlikely to survive the climbs, Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) and in particular Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) both have a chance, and the force of their two teams would help bring the break back.
Even in the event that they are all dropped, there might still be impetus in the chase from teams of fast finishers less likely to be dropped on the climbs, like Magnus Cort (EF Education-Easypost) and Alessandro Covi (UAE Team Emirates).
A second-place finish on stage seven showed that Caleb Ewan is back in form, and of all the sprinters he’s the one best equipped to manage the climbs. The muddled lead-outs that have blighted Lotto-Soudal’s sprints so far at this race would be less of a problem in a reduced bunch sprint, with less other sprinters present in the peloton to battle for position with.