Stage 3 wasn’t as fraught with crosswind danger as I was hoping for, but we did get some action in the last 10km. Quick Step were the main protagonists behind the splits that we did get and their young Colombian sprint sensation, Gaviria, duly delivered the result taking first place and the Maglia Rosa too.
Selig took second, with Nizzolo coming home in 3rd. It was a frustrating watch for me with 200/1 man Jungels looking the strongest in the group! There was one moment that a gap started to form and even with my incandescent shouting at my TV, telling him to “Go!”, Richeze decided it was a great idea to close him down.
Still miffed about that, but oh well!
Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders after the early rest day.
Toughest stage of the race so far with two very long climbs, including a summit finish up Mount Etna.
The first climb of the day, Portella Femmina Morta is an absolute monster in terms of length, coming in at a whopping 32.75km! Gradient wise it’s not so bad, averaging roughly 4.5% for the whole climb.
It does pitch up to 8% in some areas but it’s certainly not a climb for attacking, just tempo riding all the way to the top.
We then have a reasonably long descent before the first intermediate sprint, which is actually on top of a hill. But I guess the organisers needed to fit it in somewhere! The road then descends again before the second intermediate sprint in Biancavilla.
From there, all focus will turn to Etna and the approach to it.
The riders will be able to stretch their legs on the prelude to the main event, an uncategorised climb from Santa Maria di Licodia to Ragalna. At 6.6km in length and average a shade over 5% it’s not tough, but if the pace is on already then we could see a few riders shed from the peloton here.
At 17.95km it’s another long climb but it is steeper than the previous climb on the day, averaging 6.6%. However, the most important thing about the climb is its irregularity. There are several sections that go well above the average gradient and the kilometre at almost 12% half way up could be a launch-pad for the proper mountain goats to attack.
Will they go on to take the win though…
How will the stage pan out?
The first mountain top finish of a Tour is a tough one to predict (getting my excuses in early). You would expect Quickstep to honour the jersey, but how deep will they really be willing to go knowing that it might be tough for Jungels at the end of the stage to hold onto it? I’m not sure if they’ll burn all their matches and instead will look to other teams for help.
Who of the GC favourites will want to take the jersey early and spend energy over the following stages protecting it until Blockhaus?
Well, I’m sure Nibali would. The Shark as he is affectionately known is from Sicily itself, but more importantly he is from Messina where we finish stage 5. I’m sure he would love to wear the Maglia Rosa into his home town.
Will his Bahrain team get any help from anyone else? I’m not so sure, but Sky certainly have the squad here to control the race if they want to. It’s the first time I’ve looked at a Sky team for the Giro and thought that it could match what we have seen at the Tour over the past few years. With a two-pronged threat in Landa and Thomas they have the ability to let one attack while the other sits in.
There is going to be a slight headwind on the climb and that might discourage riders from attacking but given that it’s the first summit finish of a Grand Tour I highly doubt everyone will sit in the wheels!
With it being the first summit finish though and as it comes so early in the race there is a chance we could see an “outsider” win. A rider who is a good top 10 candidate but isn’t seen as an immediate threat for the overall GC.
In that situation there are two riders I have in mind.
Domenico Pozzovivo – The Italian looked very sprightly at the Tour of the Alps and he was a feature at the pointy end of the race in the mountain top finishes. He always seems to wane in the last week of a GT so I imagine he’ll want to take advantage of his current form here. Due to his terrible/atrocious/awful (delete as appropriate) time trial, he probably isn’t viewed as a massive threat for the GC, so he might just be given some leeway.
Tejay van Garderen – He probably would have been the last rider on my list from the GC contenders had you asked 2 weeks ago who I thought would be competing here. However, he was very strong in Romandie and that has changed my mind! Like Pozzovivo, Tejay often is let down by having one bad day at some point during a three-week race so he will want to make the most of his form. He might surprise one or two tomorrow!
There is always a chance that the break stays away on a stage like this. Last year’s race saw Wellens win the first mountain top finish of the Giro. Although that finishing climb was a lot easier, we could still see a similar situation play out tomorrow. I think QS would be quite happy to relinquish jersey duties and as I mentioned above, I’m not so sure many others will want to take over this early.
Therefore, I think it’s a 50-50 split and it’s a tough one to call! Like normal though, I’ll buy a few lottery tickets and name a couple of break contenders.
Rohan Dennis – Bitterly disappointed after his crash on Stage 3, the Aussie says that his GC attempt is all but over. However, he says that he will continue and see how far he can push himself in the race, trying to take some opportunities over the next few weeks. Why not start tomorrow?! He is in very good form at the moment and looked strong in the Tour of the Alps, although he did have one bad day there. Nonetheless, I think if he makes the break it is unlikely that there will be many better riders than him that are up the road as well.
Giovanni Visconti – Riding for Nibali’s Bahrain team, Visconti may be sent up the road earlier in the day as a ploy to have a man up the road for a Nibali attack. However, if the gap is too big to the breakaway then Visconti himself could challenge for the win. Always lively at this time of year, he’ll be hoping to repeat something similar to his very impressive performance on the Green Mountan in Oman from back in February.
I’m looking forward to a good race but I think there is a chance we might see a race on two fronts, with the break taking the stage but there still being some fireworks behind. I’ll go for a feisty Australian to turn things around from the break, Dennis to be a menace and win!
If not, I think we might see Pozzovivo take a surprise win ahead of the other GC contenders.
Not a day I can advise backing GC guys before the off, although the EW odds on my two highlighted riders look tempting, it’s just not worth it. The odds won’t change too drastically after the start of the stage so I might go in-play on them if it looks like it will be a GC day, but pre-stage I’m just backing my two breakers;
0.5pt WIN Dennis @ 150/1 with Ladbrokes/Coral (Would take 125/1)
0.5pt WIN Visconti @ 150/1 with Bet365 (Would take 125/1)
Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow and how will the stage be won; break or GC? I hope we get an exciting stage either way! Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.