Well, lets start of with stage 15 and a very unexpected winner: Alexander Foliforov. I did not see that coming! Although from early on, it looked like his time was a good one and we saw GC rider after GC rider fail to beat it. Kruijswijk came agonisingly close, losing out by under a second.
Our man Chaves finished in 6th, not good enough for a winner, but good enough to move him up to 2nd on GC. Nibali seemed to be struggling and also had mechanical problems, costing him even more time, dropping him down to 3rd on GC.
I’m not going to slander or accuse Foliforov here, I’ll let the young man enjoy his win and if something gets revealed later then…
The TT leaves the GC in a position I don’t think many expected going into the final week. Kruijswijk first with a healthy lead over Chaves and Nibali. It will be interesting to see how his LottoJumbo team manages. They don’t have the star riders that Astana or Movistar have, with Roglic and Battaglin as his two main support riders. So I fear that Kruijswijk could become isolated quite quickly in some of the stages. However, he’s been in that situation all Giro and coped okay until now, but it is a different task having to do all the chasing by yourself!
The final week, especially the latter stages, should be very exciting as everyone has to try to gain back time, therefore we should see some attacking riding. Some co-operation between those behind to isolate Krujswijk will no doubt happen.
Before we get to that point, let’s talk about tomorrow’s stage.
After the rest-day the riders will be greeted with a stage profile that they’ll look at with trepidation. At only 132km long and categorised as 3-star in difficulty it doesn’t, on paper at least, appear too bad.
However, it will no doubt be a very fast day as a lot of the riders will want to get in the break because that seems the most likely outcome for a stage winner. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the break finally get away after the 50km mark. That is of course unless everyone is tired from the past few days and a group gets away early. LottoJumbo would love that!
Furthermore, as I said after the last rest-day, the riders won’t know how their bodies will react. Landa was the major casualty of a rest-day bug that he picked up!
Anyway, onto the actual route itself.
The first climb, Passo della Mendola is 14.8km long averaging 6.6% with a 10% max ramp.
This climb isn’t too tough for the riders, but if the GC guys decide to try to isolate Kruijswijk early then we could be in for some major rider implosions. However, I think we’ll more than likely see our BOTD build up a substantial lead here.
After Mendelpass we get a long, slightly lumpy, descent before reaching the penultimate climb of the day: Fai della Paganella.
Another Cat-2, but this one is a lot more testy. Officially, it is 10.2km long averaging 7.4%, with a max ramp of 15%. However, the average gradient is a bit skewed because of a false flat section that we have for around 1.5km. Therefore, the average gradient on the first part of the climb is closer to 8%. That steep ramp at the end could be a launchpad for some late attacks.
Once over the climb we have a fast descent before the final kick up to the line.
“The final 10 km are clearly divided into two halves: first a fast-running descent (4 km) on wide roads with sharp downhill gradients, then a mild climb (6 km), growing steeper, up to 2 km from the finish. Next comes a false-flat uphill drag. The finish line lies on an 80-m long and 7.0-m wide asphalt home stretch, running gently uphill.” (Road Book extract)
If there is a group of riders together by this point, expect attacks on the final climb. Unless of course if someone is confident of their sprinting ability then they’ll sit in and follow the moves.
How will the stage pan out?
As I’ve said above, I think this stage lends itself to a breakaway. Well, I’m 90% sure it does. The reason for this is that the climbs aren’t too tough for the GC guys to make any differences so I think they’ll keep their powder-dry for later stages.
However, there is a small chance that they go full-gas to isolate Kruijswijk, but I don’t see it. Or, the likes of Movistar and Lampre try to keep the race together in the hope that Valverde and Ulissi can sprint for the win, with a finish that looks to suit them.
Who are the breakaway contenders?
As said in earlier previews, the contenders have to be strong climbers if they want to win. Furthermore, they can’t be too close on GC. We now get into the stage of the race where riders and teams get very protective of their top 10 on GC. With the way the GC is set up, there is a big gap between 12th place (Uran – 8’19 behind) and 13th place (Visconti – 16’31), so it is unlikely we’ll see the likes of Dimension Data chasing if Visconti or Pirazzi get away. However, if the gap to the break gets too high then they’ll have to!
Like before, I’m not going to list all of the options for a break as I could be here for a long time! Instead, I’m going to highlight 3 riders who might give it a go.
- Joe Dombrowski. – Uran’s lieutenant could be given the freedom to go in the break here, with the stage not set to be a GC battle and with Uran going in the wrong direction in terms of the classification. Dombrowski seems to be riding into the race very well and put in a good performance in the TT, finishing 8th. He was one of the fastest up the Passo Giau according to Strava on stage 14, so is clearly going well. Furthermore, he is known to be one of the biggest engines in the peloton in terms of numbers and watts that he can put out. That’s why Team Sky signed him up back in 2013. However, he didn’t fit into their style of riding so has ended up at the more quirky Cannondale, where he slowly seems to be finding his feet. If he makes the break then he’s a very dangerous candidate.
- Ian Boswell. – Another American who could go well in tomorrow’s stage. I’ve highlighted him for the break in a preview earlier in the race but he didn’t manage to get into the break that day. Like Dombrowski, he put in a solid TT, finishing 15th overall so he has some form. He’s not been active at all with his highest finishing position on a stage (aside from the TT) being 44th on stage 4. Saving energy for later in the race? I think the TT was a test of his form and he’ll be happy with the result he achieved and will be confident going into this week. Finishing 3rd in a Vuelta stage from a breakaway last year (behind Landa and Aru), highlights that he has the abilities to go well here.
And finally, my favourite of the three picks (purely for its reasoning)…
- Merhawi Kudus. – The young Eritrean has been touted for great things in the future by his team Dimension Data. He finished 6th on the Green Mountain back at the start of the season and in 2014 he came 2nd on GC at the Tour of Langkawi beating a certain Esteban Chaves (4th) and Steven Kruijswijk (7th). Clearly, he is a very talented cyclist. Like those listed above, he’s failed to excite anyone at this Giro sitting 44th on GC, over an hour down on Kruijswijk. Saving energy maybe? What for, you say?
Well, do you remember what happened on Mandela Day at the Tour last year?…
Could his soft-pedalling at the Giro all be a ruse, so that he can make it in the break tomorrow? I hope so and no doubt the Eritrean cycling fans would love that too!
Special mention must go to Johan Van Zyl or “The Snail” as he’s otherwise known. The 24th of May is also National Escargot Day so he, as a breakaway expert, might find himself in the break. Although I fear that the climbs will be too tough for him to hold on and take a win.
As I said above, I think tomorrow is a breakaway day!
We’ll see a hotly contested battle from the majority of the peloton to try to get into the move that stays away. This involves a certain element of luck,but persistence also pays off.
After dissuading myself from backing Dumoulin at the start of the Giro because everything would be “too Disney”, I’m making a complete U-turn on that principle (mainly because I’m in a good mood) and we’ll get our Eritrean winner on Eritrean Independence day. Merhawi Kudus takes the stage, and everyone lives happily ever after…
A day not to get overly involved with, pick a few breakaway lottery selections for fun. I’m just going for the 3 I’ve mentioned above.
Dombrowski 0.3pts @66/1 with PP. I’d take the 50 available at Coral. (He is also available at 40s on the Betfair Exchange – that’s as low as I’d go)
Boswell 0.3pts @100/1 with PP. I’d take the 50-66/1 available with others.
Kudus 0.1pts @150/1 with PP or 125/1 with B365. This price was only available when I tweeted it out, but I’m including it because I tweeted it out. I would still put a little stake on him at 66/1 you can get with Betfair Sportsbook.
You might find that these guys will be priced more favourable on the BF Exchange so keep your eyes peeled.
I’ll probably tweet something out in-play if none of the above make it into the break. After all, in-play is King.
Hope you enjoyed this preview. It was a bit more long-winded this time but that’s because I felt I had more to say. Again, any RTs, Likes, or general discussion Twitter would be great. I hope we get an entertaining stage tomorrow! Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.