Well, that turned out to be an incredibly exciting stage in the end! For long periods of time I thought it was going to be another defensive race from the favourites and it looked like it was going to be a bore-fest. That was until we hit the brutal Passo Giau. Astana took over from Movistar and set a blistering tempo, shelling riders out the back. Amador lost contact but regained it on the descent.
On the next (and final) climb once Scarponi had finished his job, Nibali attacked. The GC favourites followed, apart from Amador and Valverde who were both dropped. A couple of counter-attacks later saw Kruijswijk, Nibali and Chaves clear. They worked well for a bit, but Kruijswijk soon attacked again and only Chaves could follow. Those two powered away on the climb (although Nibali did well to stay close-ish), and caught up with 2nd and 3rd on the road at the summit. A frantic descent and flat chase saw them catch lone escapee Atapuma in the final 3km. Preidler took up the sprint from far out, but Chaves (and Kruijswijk) came round him in the final 150m to take the win. The smiling assassin strikes again.
Nibali put in a great descent and effort on the flat to only lose 37 seconds on the stage, the rest of the GC guys were at least 2mins 30secs down. So it leaves the GC looking like this going into a crucial stage tomorrow:
Three words every cycling fan loves to here and I’m sure three words that the majority of cyclists despise: Mountain Time Trial.
A mountain TT returns to the Giro after a years absence, last featuring in the race back in 2014, when Quintana won the climb, and probably the Strava to boot, up to Cima Grappa.
The organisers have been kinder this year, as it’s not as tough as Cima Grappa, but it is still a grippy test for the riders.
“The stage is an uphill individual time trial. After a first false-flat drag (1,800 m), the route climbs steadily over the next 9 km, with an average 8.3% gradient. The road is wide and well paved. Straight stretches alternate with hairpins having a high bend radius. Split time is taken at km 4.4.” (Road book extract)
As you can see, the climb starts off relatively mundanely until we reach the intermediate check point. Hereafter, it averages 8.6% for 6.4km. Not the most difficult climb, but it will be a challenge after today’s GC fireworks!
A sunny glorious day, everyone should get the same conditions.
The only concern might be the wind, but it appears that it’s coming from the same direction and the speed doesn’t change much throughout the afternoon.
Who are the stage contenders?
One thing to consider is if anyone will actually use a TT bike. It was worth it back in 2014 because there was a longer flat section before the climb started, so the riders changed bikes after the first time checkpoint (before the start of the climb). Considering there is only 1.8km of false flat here, I doubt we’ll see anyone use one. Therefore, this eliminates the advantage that some riders would have had by riding better TT machines.
I would not be surprised to see the top 3 on GC be the top 3 on the stage tomorrow. It looks like the bookies think the same, with Paddy Power pricing them up as follows (image on the left). I can’t fault their logic either. I’m struggling really to think who will challenge the top 3.
Majka maybe? He was the one closest to following them on the final climb and he can put in a solid TT.
Zakarin? Was flying in the rolling TT, but has looked out of sorts since his crash during it. He was with Majka today.
Uran was following with Zakarin but then went pop too. Nothing convinces me he’ll challenge here.
Valverde and Amador? I wouldn’t dare go near them after their implosion today.
Jungels? This TT is a different kettle of fish to the one he went to so well in, earlier in this race. If this was a one-week race he could maybe compete. But he finished 6mins+ down today, so I think he’s burnt out a bit.
Henao did an okay performance back in 2014, finishing 8th on that stage. A top 5 would be a good result.
Of the non-GC guys who could go best? Nieve and Roglic on paper probably look the best. Nieve has looked very solid on the climbs. He finished 3’52 down today, offering his support to Sebastian Henao and his efforts for the Youth Jersey.
Roglic: 2nd in the first TT, 1st in the 2nd TT, can he do a repeat performance here? He was going well on the steep climbs earlier in the year and has obviously proved during this race that he can TT. Only concern is that he went down the other day and hasn’t seemed as strong since.
The other big concern with backing non-GC guys on a day like this is that they might not give it 100%, and just take it as another “rest-day”. Well, as much of a rest as an uphill 10km effort is!
Therefore I say we get the 1-2-3 on GC as 1-2-3 on the podium tomorrow. I’m just struggling to decide what order.
Chaves is the weakest normal TTer, but as I’ve said earlier, this is no normal TT. In fact, up until today he looked the best on the climbs. I’m sure he’ll cope just fine tomorrow!
Kruijswijk has now joined him at the top of the pile. He looked very strong when dropping Nibali, but Chaves came across to him relatively easily. Kruijswijk is the better guy on the flat, so he might gain a few seconds there over Chaves. It will be close.
And then there’s the Shark. He went pop on the final climb, but limited the time-gap fairly well and used his descending skills to close the gap. He brought it back even more on the flat, but I think that’s because the two ahead of him stopped working that well with each other. That work on the flat shows that he’s still relatively strong. But on reflection, his attacks from yesterday might have been those of panic, because he’s not as good as he should be.
As I missed out on him today and he seems to be the best climber in the race, I say the Smiling Assassin makes it 2 from 2 tomorrow, with Kruijswijk 2nd and Nibali 3rd. Simples.
With there being some room for error, if you can find Chaves at 4/1 or higher, then back him EW. As you should be able to get your stake back when he at least podiums.
I’ve backed him 5pts EW at 9/2 but that price has gone now. So my official blog bet is 5pts at 4/1 EW (as I’m sure someone will make him that price). If he’s not that price, then a 2.5pt straight up bet will suffice, because there is no value backing him EW under 4/1.
*I’ll update this (and my Twitter later) if I find somewhere that he is over 4/1)*
*UPDATE – 9/2 IS OFFICIAL BLOG BET ^^ *
Hope you all enjoyed today’s stage and this preview! As usual, any feedback or discussion would be great. Get a few beers in for tomorrow, sit-back, and relax, watching the riders giving it their all in the Race of Truth. Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.