Roglic's win in Spain and Tratnik's triumph at the Giro was the first time two Slovenian riders had won Grand Tour stages on the same day since... never. That's never happened before. We don't even need to check.
A slightly more impressive stat is that Slovenians have so far won 16% of all Grand Tour stages in 2020. There are still 25 of them left this year, but it's perfectly possible for that figure to stay the same or even increase by the time the Vuelta finishes in (no more than) three weeks time.
Anyway, nobody on our panel tipped Tratnik to win, keeping our score at the Giro to feeble single figures. Stage 17 is spectacular and mountainous, and spectacularly mountainous, which means we can expect some to soar like eagles while others sink like the proverbial stone. Who's likely to land in which camp, though? We'll soon find out.
Bassano del Grappa to Madonna di Campiglio
Jai Hindley - Sunweb
5600 metres of climbing? That... sounds like a lot. I think this stage could produce some massive gaps between riders and while no single team is going to be able to control the race, it will mean that it's a case of the strongest survives. To my mind that means the top four in the general classification. While I think it's unlikely that anyone other than Kelderman will win the overall, his team-mate occupying one of the other podium spots means he has someone to act as a foil and force the others to chase. I think that translates to a win for Hindley.
Rafal Majka - Bora-Hansgrohe
I’ve got a lovely little story about mispronouncing the brand name of a grappa when skiing in Italy, but it’s too filthy to repeat here, sorry. Ask me next time you see me. In the meantime, I’m going for my man Rafa to claw back a bit of GC time and take the stage too. Highly unlikely, let’s face it, but stranger things have happened.
Wilco Kelderman - Sunweb
Though he has been the most consistent of the early GC favorites all race, I’ve had my doubts that he could really come out on top in the end. There is still a lot of climbing between now and Milan, but Sunweb has proved to be the strongest team. And it was clear on Sunday that Jai Hindley has been told to ride 100% for Kelderman. Lots of people expect Almeida to crack, if not today then certainly on the Stelvio. But Almeida’s little jump at the end of yesterday’s stage where he showed a clean pair of heels to Kelderman, Fuglsang et al. could either be seen as an act of defiance, or a sign that he’s not quite ready to roll over yet. It’ll be up to Kelderman and Sunweb to put the screws on and take official control of the race.
Vincenzo Nibali - Trek-Segafredo
Maybe the Shark can't bite like he used to, but he also isn't about to settle for seventh spot. What would that do to his palmares? With four mountain stages left he's going to have to have a go at some point. Better sooner than later, eh?
The Cycling Mole says...
No one managed to pick Jan Tratnik, I wonder why? I have a new plan for this race, always pick a big TT rider! Stage 17 and we head to the mountains. This stage has a lot of climbing metres, but the hardest climbs come relatively early on, which will put off the long-range attacks. The only team who will chase the break are Team Sunweb, but with lots of climbing on Thursday, I’m not sure they’ll commit to a whole day of burning their domestiques. Then again, Nico Denz might just ride on the front all day.
Everyone has gone for a GC day. Ian and Miles have gone with Majka and Nibali, these picks are relatively similar to each other. Despite not showing great legs, they hope that they’ll suddenly find some form and a little freedom from the other GC riders, this is unlikely. Nick and Olivia are having a Sunweb love-in. Nick is hoping that they can pull the old 1-2, or at least a 1. If Hindley attacks, it will be to test Almeida, before Kelderman tries to go over the top. Kelderman is an interesting chap. This is his ninth season as a professional cyclist, and he’s long been considered a very strong GC rider. If you remove TTs, he’s never won a stage in his whole pro career, that is a stat and a half. Olivia, you can take Kelderman, I’ll stick with the history books.
I disagree with all the panel, yet again. This is a day for the breakaway, the odds look stacked in their favour. To win this stage you must be a brilliant climber, so I’m looking at those who are down on GC and took it easy today. Despite him descending like Bambi on ice skates, I’ll take a win for Ilnur Zakarin. He’s a rider who likes this race and is a class act going up mountains, we’ll just forget about the coming down part.