Although technical difficulties prevented up from posting our predictions yesterday, it's safe to say none of us saw Alex Dowsett soaring to a stage victory from the breakaway. Safe, also, to say that none of us minded that our own picks missed out. A more decent rider in cycling, not to mention a better representative of his sport, you'll struggle to find.
Onto Stage 9 which, at a glance, has all the makings of a tough one. Can appearances be deceiving? The final test before the first rest brings with it opportunities to make for GC men and breakaway bandits. Which way is it going to go?
San Salvo to Roccaraso
Pello Bilbao - Bahrain-McLaren
Picked the Basque for the Etna stage, whilst unsure about his form. Now his form is clearly good, as he is nicely tucked in behind the youngster Almedia. So it's Pello, a proven stage winner, again for me.
Vincenzo Nibali - Trek-Segafredo
So far this Giro has felt like a concept album that isn’t really working for me. I mean how did they let the break get 14 min yesterday? I’m glad Dowsett won because he’s a cat guy. Not certain we’ll get another cat lover winning today, but I’m thinking the GC guys will need to mark their territory ahead of the first rest day. A break going the distance seems very possible since none of the GC teams look powerful enough to want to waste energy controlling on a long day like this. But then again, the final few kilometers of the last climb look brutally steep and will be a prime opportunity to test and maybe crack Almeida. I think the pack had their day off yesterday, and Nibali will start staking his Giro claim with a stage win.
Jack Haig - Mitchelton-Scott
Jack Haig is having a pretty damn good season, by all accounts: second in Valenciana (behind a certain T. Pogacar); the same at Ruta del Sol; up there at Tirreno last month. Now finding himself without any general classification concerns, he is free to show what he can do, and make his breakthrough to the big leagues.
Jakob Fuglsang - Astana
I'm going with the GC today and I still think Fuglsang is the favourite for the overall. If, however, he's going to prove me right, he's going to have to take back at least some of that minute-plus deficit. That means treating this stage like it's a Sunday one-day classic in the mountains. Drop 'em all, Jakob.
The Cycling Mole says...
Unfortunately there wasn’t a Rouleur Predicts for stage 8, I heard that the team were distracted by a half-price sale at the local cardigan shop. What a shame they world didn’t see my pick of Alex Dowsett.
Stage 9 and a big day in the mountains. We have over 4000m of climbing, but the important climbs aren’t actually that hard. The final kilometre does average about 10%, which will be a tasty finish for us to watch. As usual, I need to consider whether or not the break wins.
Who will chase? Astana don’t have enough riders, the finish doesn’t really suit Nibali, QuickStep have no need and Sunweb don’t look arsed. The only thing in the favour of the peloton is a nagging cross/headwind for most of the stage. I’m left feeling a little confused, which is perfectly normally during the Giro.
In panel news, big Andy has disappeared again, surely not to head back down his local Asda for some more Fray Bentos. Ian, Olivia and Miles are going for a GC day. Bilbao is a clever pick by Ian, he packs a very fast finish. Olivia is now showing signs of being human, Nibali
can’t win this one, he doesn’t have the punch. Miles is on to a potential winner with Fuglsang, the Dane will eat up the double-digit slopes in the final kilometre. Only Nick is going with the break, and his pick of Jack Haig is a good one. The race has been a disaster
for Mitchelton-Scott, the ginger Aussie(I’m sure he’s really Scottish) is a good shout for the win.
I’m still torn between the break and GC group, so I’ll try and get all smart with my pick. This is a stage for Diego Ulissi, I think he can win in both scenarios.