It took a while for the break to form but it was ultimately a rather poor group that escaped and from that point, it was only ever going to be a GC battle on the final climb.
Poels set a fierce pace on the front of the bunch from around 8km -> 4km to go, with riders dropping out the back at regular intervals. Froome decided it was his time to make a move at just under 4km out, spinning his usual ridiculous cadence as if he was on a static bike.
There was a bit of a stall behind but Yates attacked not long after and we saw him actually grimace for the first tim at this race. He desperately tried to catch his compatriot but it wasn’t enough and the Sky rider held on for the stage win.
Pozzovivo came back to catch Lopez in the closing few hundred metres and rounded him for third place. Dumoulin and Pinot came home not much later, with the top 6 spread over only 42 seconds. Consequently Yates has increased his lead over most in the GC and he is now 1’24 ahead of Dumoulin and 1’37 over third-placed Pozzovivo. It might not be enough with the TT coming up on Tuesday (I think Dumoulin will gain 1’45 – 2’15 as a rough estimate), but tomorrow presents another opportunity. Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.
Oh so you’ve just done Zoncolan the day before, how about a 176km stage with over 4000m of climbing, sounds good right?
There are almost no flat roads tomorrow and it could prove to be another decisive stage in the GC battle.
The road rises almost from the gun with an uncategorised drag and a bit of rolling road before the Cat-3 climb of Passo della Mauria (6km at 5.3%). A fast descent follows before a long grind to the foot slopes of the Cat-2 Passo Tre Croci (7.5km at 7.5%). We might see some attacks here from the GC group but the likelihood is that everyone will keep their powder dry until the final 38km where the riders will face three climbs.
Anyone hoping for an easy finish will be disappointed as those final 38kms have an altitude gain of 1400m, or 3.6% if you want to view it that way!
The most difficult of the climbs is the first one they will face: San Antonio.
At an average of close to 8% for almost 8kms, this is a tough climb which can put a lot of the domestiques into trouble if a strong pace is set. The steep gradients are perfect for an attack to be launched and with a tricky descent on the back-end of it, a rider could be out of sight and out of mind quickly. The forecast doesn’t look great either with rain set to fall at some point throughout the day.
The riders bounce straight from the descent onto the climb of Costalissoio which offers some steep gradients in the first half. However, it gets easier in the second half, so any gaps need to be made early. Once over the crest there are only 16kms of the stage and which almost 8km are descent.
As for the run to the line, the final climb is uncategorised but as you can see on the profile above, the road rises in steps throughout the final 6km. With a predominantly flat final 3km, could we see a small group come to the line or will that final kicker with 1.5km to go prove to be decisive?
How will the stage pan out?
I mean on paper it looks perfect for a breakaway and after there no being any successful ones at all this Giro, tomorrow might be the perfect opportunity. Plenty of riders will have tried to save as much energy as possible on Zoncolan today, although as to how much they will have recuperated I’m not too sure given how tough the climb was.
The GC guys will be tired but more importantly their teams will be and no one in theory will want to sit in the bunch and chase all day. Saying that, we could see Sky try something now that Froome looks back to being a contender for the podium.
However, the stage also looks perfect for a GC raid.
Plenty of tired bodies after today, a stage with a shed load of climbing metres, especially when the day is back-loaded with ascents. Sneak a rider into the morning move and watch the panic unfold. Normally we see tactics like this in the closing week but only stages 19 and possibly 20 are suitable for an approach like this.
A lot will depend on the attitude of the team’s with two riders within 10 minutes of the race and they are as follows:
Sunweb – Dumoulin (1’24) and Oomen (5’57)
Team Sky – Froome (3’10), Poels (7’56) and Henao (8’52).
Astana – Lopez (3’42) and Bilbao (4’29)
Movistar – Carapaz (3’56) and Betancur (5’39)
Bora – Konrad (4’43) and Formolo (8’26)
A nice selection of riders there!
I highly doubt that any of the riders on the left will be able to sneak into morning move but there is a chance those on the right slip away. If so there will be some pressure on Mitchelton to keep things on a tight leash which might leave Yates exposed to attacks in the closing 38km.
Sky hold the best card with Poels as he looked very strong today but it is not in their nature to ride this aggressively. Can they change their approach?
Everyone’s favourite Androni rider, right? No, just mine? Masnada has been very impressive so far this race and has shown that he can compete with some of the best riders in the world in certain situations. He currently sits 5th in the KOM classification and with plenty of point so on offer tomorrow I would expect to see him up the road competing for them. If he expends energy doing that, will he have enough left in the bag to compete at the end? We’ll see!
We’re nearing the start of the final week in a Grand Tour which means that the Dutchman finally decides to turn up. I noted during the stage that he was a lot further up the peloton that normal and I wondered if that meant his shape was better – we certainly got the answer on Zoncolan. Out of the riders above, Poels is probably the only one that the likes of Yates and Dumoulin might fear in a GC battle given just how well he goes in the last week. If he can infiltrate the move tomorrow and gain a few minutes to move up to a similar standing of Froome, they will be a dangerous pairing on the tough mountain stages next week. Riding super strong today, I think he could drop most people in the race on the last two categorised climbs and cruise his way to the line. It all just depends if he is given the freedom to do so.
What are Mohoric’s limits? The Slovenian superstar has been brilliant so far in this race on about every front, whether that be; helping to position and lead-out Bonifazio; shepherding Pozzovivo around; or going for a stage himself. His stage win came after what was a tough and aggressive day in the saddle but tomorrow will be a real test of his abilities. One thing that is too his advantage is the uphill but not crazily steep opening to the day which could see him get into the break. Once onto the final climbs it could be tough if there are some other super climbers ahead with him, but not many will be able to match him on the downhill. Mohoric has impressed me on a few of the summit finishes so far and I think he is capable of a surprise result.
I’m just going to leave it at that because with it being such a wide open race, I could be here a while.
GC raiding party day and a rejuvenated Sky to set their stall out with Wout Poels taking the stage and setting up a very interesting third week, until Tuesday’s TT.
Tomorrow is a really tough day in the saddle and it will benefit those who are strongest in the race. I do expect a good performance from Mohoric if he makes the break, it will be no surprise to me!
We could of course see a quiet day out, but this is the Giro and there are never any “quiet” days…
1pt WIN Poels at 20/1
0.5pt WIN Mohoric at 150/1
I’m not sure how much Masnada will have left in the tank if he is going to sprint for KOM points so he might miss out on the stage win so I’m leaving him just now, hoping for better odds. Instead, I’ll throw a little on some more break candidates,
0.25pt WIN Grossschartner at 300/1
0.25pt WIN Roche at 200/1
Thanks as always for reading, who do you think is going to win and how? Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.