Well that was annoying!
After naming three riders in yesterday’s preview they all came home in the top 4 today, but none of them finished on the top step.
It was quite a dull stage until we got into the final 20km when the pace started to ramp up and a crash in the peloton caused a few splits. A couple of GC guys were held up but most made it back into the fold, aside from Lopez who lost 40 seconds come the end of the day, but that was due to his own crash. On the final climb of the day Pozzovivo set a relentless pace at the bottom that shelled some riders and the Bahrain rider was quick to latch onto an attack by Ulissi.
That set things up for Visconti to catch everyone, aside from today’s eventual winner Battaglin, by opening up his sprint early. It was a head to head drag race between the two on the final straight but the Lotto Jumbo had the strength to hold on in the end. Interestingly, the effort Visconti put in to bring back Pozzovivo before might have cost him the stage. Behind those two we saw a massive charge from both Schachmann and Goncalves who were both poorly positioned around the penultimate turn, leaving them 9 or 10 bike-lengths behind Visconti when he opened up the sprint. The Katusha rider just pipped the current Young Jersey holder on the line to complete the podium.
Definitely a day of “what ifs?” punting wise. What if Visconti didn’t have to expend energy bringing Pozzovivo back? What if Schachmann didn’t expend energy coming back himself or starting the sprint too far back? What if Goncalves didn’t run a bit wide in the penultimate turn and cost himself a few positions? Alas, this is cycling though and none of that can be changed, and I’m sure I could ask myself various questions after every stage! Kicking myself a bit for not backing them all EW but oh well, I’ll stand by my reasoning for that.
However, it is good to know that my radar is still working pretty well. Bring on tomorrow!
We’re onto stage 6 and the riders are greeted with the first mountain top finish of the race, on Mt Etna. Cue the numerous puns I can make about volcanoes throughout the rest of this preview, would you lava to hear them? Moving on…
A fairly short day in the saddle at only 164km but the riders will face over 3000m of elevation gain throughout the day. The opening half of the stage is very rolling, much like what we have had over the past couple of stages. It will be used for either the breakaway to gain time or if a lot of the GC teams are interested in the stage, they can keep the move on a tight leash and use the rolling terrain to wear down their opponents.
The peloton climbed Mount Etna last year, only the 4th time in Giro history, so it is a surprise to see them back so soon. In 2017 the stage was made a bit too dormant due to a strong head wind that saw the GC favourites mark each other out (aside from Zakarin who launched an attack a couple of kilometres from the top), and consequently the early breakaway rider Polanc held on for a very strong stage win.
Interestingly, the race will tackle Etna from a different side for the first time. Will this see some more explosive racing? Before they start the climb proper though, the peloton will be heading upwards for a while.
The unclassified climb of Belpasso isn’t tough, only averages 3.2% for 14.4km, but it will act as a warm-up/leg-sapper for what is to come. A short descent follows before the climb of Etna begins.
Averaging 6.5% for 15kms, this approach of Etna is easier than last year (18km at 6.6%). It is quite an irregular climb though which might see some riders find it hard to get into a rhythm. The toughest 4kms of the ascent come near the top, as they average 8%. This is where someone hoping to make up any GC time will need to attack to put others into difficulty as the closing kilometre eases off.
Looking at the wind conditions there seems to be a light breeze of 5 or 6 km/h coming from the East on the climb which should mean it is a crosswind for the majority of it, but with a headwind in the closing few kilometres. However, with the wind being light I don’t think it will have anywhere near as bag an impact as we saw last year so hopefully we should still be in for some attacking racing.
How will the stage pan out?
We saw a rather surprise breakaway win here last year so can Polanc repeat the feat this time around?
It all depends on the attitude of the GC teams. I think BMCs best way to defend the jersey is to let the break take the stage and with it the bonus seconds, meaning Dennis only has to follow the other contenders to hold onto Pink. That is no easy task though!
Normally on a day like this we would see Sky come to control the peloton with but them and Froome being a bit shaky at the moment with their performances, will they do that? Astana could really do with a good result after Lopez’s crash today but his form is a question mark, especially when you consider his pre TT accident too.
Dumoulin will be happy with his current GC position and the fact Sunweb don’t have to commit fully to any chase. They have helped out here and there over the past few stages but it has been more to show face than anything else. It will be interesting to see if they help out tomorrow – does Dumoulin and the team want the pressure of the jersey already?
The two GC teams that I do think will help to chase, especially if the break is kept on a tight leash coming into the final 60km will be Mitchelton and Bahrain. Both Yates and Pozzovivo have looked very lively in the past couple of days which indicates that they are in a confident mood given the tricky finishes we have had. If those teams commit a man to the chase from the gun then the break has no chance, but if not, then we could well see a surprise.
I’m very torn as to how this stage will pan out, as you can probably tell by now!
I’m nailing my colours to the mast and saying if we get a GC showdown it is between Yates and Pozzovivo for the stage but I want to mention a couple of potential breakaway riders as well.
The Bardiani rider was flying in the Tour of the Alps, which saw him then going on to win Giro dell’Apennino not long after. He crashed the day before the start of the Giro in Israel, suffering some damage to his hand. As Bardiani’s hopes for the mountains, he’s lost some time on GC over the past couple of stages and I would expect to see him on the attack in stages to come. A very talented rider, he already has a Giro stage to his name when he won a tough stage to Sestola back in 2016 when he was only 21 years old. In fact, adding to that is his Queen Stage win in the Tour of Utah and it paints the picture of a guy who can go well in the high mountains. If he makes the break and starts Etna with a 2-minute advantage, the peloton won’t see him until the top.
Sticking with the Italian pro-conti teams here and Androni’s pure-climber. Torres is a bit of an enigma in that whenever he is going well he seems to be really strong but he often goes missing in a lot of races. So far here he has done nothing noteworthy and now finds himself over 5 minutes down on GC. Androni have been well represented in the break every day and tomorrow would be a good day to try to get the Colombian into the move. If he’s on a good day and makes a break with some average climbers, then he has a good chance.
Could see a break, could see a GC showdown. Hmmmm.
Things will get brought back by a keen Mitchelton and Bahrain led chase with both of their main riders attacking in the closing kilometres and getting a gap. I would normally go with Yates on a finish like this given his better sprint but with how red-hot Pozzovivo has been riding so far this past month, I have to go with him to take a “magmanomous” victory! Sorry.
These are the types of days where I really don’t like to get involved with GC rider bets pre-stage. Particularly when the odds don’t change too much once the stage starts but they look chunky for Pozzo whereas they look short for Ciccone.
1.15pt EW Pozzovivo @ 14/1 with Bet365
0.2pt WIN Torres @ 200/1
Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think is going to win? Could we see a break stay away or will the GC guys come out to play? Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.