*I apologise in advance if this preview seems more rushed than normal. I’m very hungover and also have to pack as I’m moving out of my flat tomorrow*
My oh my, what an exciting stage!
A real shame for Kruijswijk who loses the Maglia Rosa lead after falling on the descent over the Colle Dell’Agnello. Apparently he’s a bit bashed up, sore ribs etc but will carry on tomorrow. If he’s as sore as he says then he’ll be looking behind, protecting his podium spot, rather than ahead of him.
Unfortunately, Zakarin had to abandon after a bad crash on the same descent. It’s a suspected broken collarbone, nothing too serious. It says a lot for the strength of these guys that a broken collarbone is regarded as a minor injury.
Back at the business end of the race, Nibali dropped Chaves on the final climb and rode away to a superb solo win, destroying the field and setting up a very exciting final day tomorrow. A lot of people will argue that it was bad etiquette that Nibali pushed on after Kruijswijk’s fall. However, in my opinion he was perfectly fine to do so. It was Kruijswijk’s own fault that he crashed, it wasn’t a mechanical or someone else bringing him down. That’s just the unfortunate side of bike racing.
Chaves a.k.a the Smiling Assassin (very apt after today, going in for the kill after Kruijswijk’s misfortunes) moves into the leaders jersey ahead of Nibali. Leaving the GC looking like this going into the final proper day.
All guns blazing from the start, and a very tough day to finish the GC battle with. At only 134km long, it’s going to be fast and furious. Some riders will be very concerned about time limits.
The climbing action starts straight away with the Col de Vars. 18.2km long at an average gradient of 6%, max gradients of 13%. I hope the riders have eaten their Weetabix in the morning!
Next on the menu is the famous Col de la Bonette. At 22.2km long with an average gradient of 6.7% (max 10%) it’s a proper Alpine climb and energy sapper. One that Vincenzo Nibali will love.
The final Cat-1 climb of the day comes with just under 30km, the Colle Della Lombarda. Another brute of a climb at 19.8km in length and an average gradient of 7.6% (max of 12%), we’re bound to see splits here, especially if there has been no action on the previous climbs.
Once over the summit, the riders face a fast descent, before a final kicker up to the line.
It may well be that the winner of this stage wins the Giro.
Who are the stage contenders?
The last mountain stage of a Grand Tour often lends itself to a breakaway win, but there is no chance that is happening tomorrow. With the profile climbing from Km 0, all hell is going to break loose, with Astana trying their best to put Chaves into difficulty.
I can’t see who would be given freedom. Those 10 bonus seconds on the line could be the difference between the top 2 on the podium.
Chaves has looked so strong going uphill this race, but faltered a little today. He was made to do a lot of the work by Nibali and others throughout the race. Maybe that took it out of him at the end? He won’t go down without a fight tomorrow.
Whereas Nibali has remarkably came back from the doldrums and now looks the strongest in the race. Is he strong enough to put the required time into the Colombian?
As for the others, I don’t think Kruijswijk will recover for tomorrow unfortunately, and Valverde and Majka can’t match the top 2.
If we somehow do get a break, look to those who’ve been active so far. Potentially Ulissi and Nieve again, with the young American Dombrowski being a strong break candidate as well.
As I’ve expressed above, I can’t see past a GC winner for this stage. Going off of recent form (i.e. today) I can’t see past Nibali. The Shark will smell blood and take back-to-back stage wins!
The big question remains, will he take the GC too?! I can’t call it, it’s going to very close!
Keep your money in your pocket and just enjoy the race!
Again, apologies for the shorter preview. I don’t really have much to say for this stage, and as expressed above, I’m not feeling too jolly/need to pack. I should be back with a more flowery and wordy preview on Saturday night. Although that will be late as Saturday evening will be family time, so I probably won’t have it out until 11pm GMT. Hope you all enjoyed today’s stage, we should be in for more of the same tomorrow! Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.