Giro d’Italia 2018 Stage 5 Preview: Agrigento -> Santa Ninfa

Today’s Recap

A bit of a slow burner despite UAE’s best attempt at stirring some action with over 100km to go. However, things settled down and it was only on the uncategorised climb before the finish that things got spicy, with Conti quickly bridging to a Zardini attack and duly dropping the Wilier rider. He looked strong and for a little while as if he might have a chance of the win as the peloton looked at each other. Lotto FixAll took up the pace setting and were joined by Mitchelton, eventually catching Conti in the final 3km. On the downhill run to the kick up to the line the pace was incredibly high and there was a slight split in the peloton which saw a group of riders start the climb with a small gap.

Wellens powered home to take the win, with Woods following not far behind and Battaglin holding on for third from a charging Yates who was closing by the metre.

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A poor day punting wise but all of the picks started too far back and couldn’t make any places up on the climb itself. With that said, Goncalves was unfortunate with mechanicals and I think Betancur was hindered by the pile-up. Certainly a day for the bookies though as they nailed the 1st, 2nd and 4th riders as their pre-stage favourites.

I was also slightly disappointed at the lack of attacks in the finale but hopefully we’ll see some action a bit further out than 10km from home tomorrow. Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

Another rolling day in Sicily but there is less vertical gain than today’s stage.

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However, the majority of the climbing comes in the last 60kms, with there barely being any flat kilometres on the run-in so you could argue that it is harder. None of the three Cat-4 climbs are overly tough with the distances and average gradients being as follows; 2.5km at 4%, 8.5km at 3.8% and 5.5km at 4.6%.

After the last categorised climb the road continues to roll though with an unclassified lump of 4.5km at 3.5% before the riders head downhill and towards the finish.

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Like normal, I’ve made a profile of the final 5km that you can view here.

The riders will turn off the main road, taking quite a sharp right-hand bend and instantly hit a climb.

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The final 2km of the day averages 4.2% but the majority of the climbing comes in the first 1.4km of the run-in which is a steeper 6%. There is a short descent for a couple of hundred metres which heads into a very sharp corner.

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Approaching from the road on the right the riders will swing around and complete a tight 180 before continuing on in the final 400m. Interestingly, the road rises all the way to the finish: the gradient isn’t too severe but the 3% average means you don’t want to open up a sprint early.

How will the stage pan out?

Pffft, we’re already at the stage of the race where we could feasibly see a breakaway make it to the line. There are plenty of riders, over 100, who are over 4 minutes down on Dennis already. If a group of 6 or so guys escapes in the morning that are all in that bottom 100 and no-one commits to a chase then we could see them stay away.

However, I think there will be enough guys who want to give tomorrow a go to chase behind. Therefore, I give the morning break a 20% chance of making it.

That then leaves a late-attack or a reduced sprint as the two possible options. Depending on the attitude of the peloton and who makes the attack, I would split the remaining 80%, 43:37 in favour of it being a reduced sprint. I think…

I’ve watched back the finale from today at least 5 times to try to ascertain who was gapped because of being held up by the fall on the run-in, or who finished further back just because the legs weren’t there. It’s not been easy but I have a couple of riders who seemed to finish strongly after being far back and a sign that they might go better tomorrow with some more luck.

As usual, on a stage like this I could name several riders who might have a chance in different situations but we all know how I roll by now so here’s my trio of riders to avoid.

The Terrible Trio

Giovanni Visconti.

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Although the Italian was born in Turin he was raised and lived in Sicily so he will want to put on a good show on what are some of his home roads. After not mentioning him for today’s stage I was hoping he would keep a low profile and go for it tomorrow. He’s even handily lost some time too over the previous days! The easier gradients on the climbs are well suited to the Bahrain rider and I think he should be given a free-role to chase some personal glory; the team did say that he would be allowed chances throughout the race and stage 5 is the last opportunity for Visconti to challenge on home roads. I’ll be intrigued to see how he plays it out; whether he goes in the morning break or waits for a late attack. His performances in the Autumn Italian one-day races were very good and if he is near that level again then he could be hard to beat from a small group.

Jose Goncalves.

I didn’t back him straight away yesterday but couldn’t resist and stuck some cash on him later on in the evening. Of course, the inevatble #HaugheyCurse followed and the Katusha rider suffered several mechanicals ranging from a puncture to loose handlebars. It meant he was constantly chasing on in the final 12kms but still managed to finish a respectable 39th, just behind the likes of Froome and Lopez. If we get a reduced bunch sprint of 30 riders or so then Goncalves should be one of the fastest, if not the fastest guy there. His form seems to be hot right now and a win is coming, it is just a matter of when?

Max Schachmann.

 

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The young German reminds me of better times a couple of months ago and his remarkable win in Catalunya that I somehow predicted. Although luck was definitely on my side that day after the change of course saw only a two-man break go but a strong tailwind on the run in helped them stay away. On today’s stage he was near the head of the group but crashed into some spectators around one of the tight corners on the descent. After managing to gather himself and his bike, he pushed on and finished in 21st place – a very good result all things considered. He certainly lost more in the crash than the 10 seconds he finished behind at the end. Strong and lively enough, I think we could see a late attack possibly stick from him tomorrow; he seems to be in great form at the moment.

Prediction

We all know where this is going…

Come on Jose “#GoOnCalves” Goncalves!

José-Gonçalves

Betting

1pt EW Goncalves @ 18/1 

1pt WIN Schachmann @ 33/1

0.5pt WIN Visconti @ 33/1

All with Bet365.

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think is going to win tomorro and how? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Giro d’Italia 2017 Stage 5 Preview; Pedara -> Messina

Today’s Recap

We did end up with a break winner and it was the only rider left standing from the original move, Jan Polanc, who took a wonderful win, holding off the GC favourites.

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Behind, Zakarin attacked and gained back some of the time he lost the other day coming home solo in second place, with Thomas winning the GC bunch sprint for 3rd.

That result leaves Jungels in pink with a whole host of other overall contenders not too far behind. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

The riders head south from Pedara before heading north and skirting past Etna, eventually heading along the coast towards Messina.

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The first half of the stage is what I would call “rolling”, with a lot of uncategorised climbs out on the route but nothing too severe. In fact, we only have one Cat-4 climb to reward the breakaway with KOM points.

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There is roughly 2500m of elevation gain throughout the stage and most of that comes in the first 100km; deceptively tough! However, the rest of the stage is almost pan-flat for the remaining 60km as the road hugs the Sicilian coast line so the sprint teams will hope to use that to pull back any break.

When we enter Messina itself, the riders will face a local circuit that they’ll complete 1 full lap of, but join the circuit with roughly 2/3rds left for a first “lap”.

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As you can see it is a fairly technical finish with a few 90-degree turns littered throughout the circuit. However, the only real challenge towards the end is the roundabout they have to do a 180º turn on at roughly 1.7km to go.

It *should* be a fairly straightforward sprint for the peloton…

How will the stage pan out?

With the rolling parcours in the first half of the race some of the sprinters teams might not be too keen to control the stage from the off and instead chance it until they get to the flat coastal section.

Jungels being in the Maglia Rosa has really thrown a spanner into the works regarding my thinking for this stage though. If let’s say for example Thomas was in Pink, Sky don’t have a designated sprinter so as long as there is no GC threat then they would be happy to let the break go. Quick Step obviously do have a sprinter in the form of Gaviria so they’ll be more likely to pull hard over the opening part of the stage to keep the break in check.

Once onto the flat section we might get representatives from the other sprint teams, namely Lotto and Orica, coming to help with the pace making and bring it all back.

I mean it should be a sprint after all of that, and if you were to only look at the profile then it would seem nailed on. Yet, at the Giro nothing ever seems to be nailed on 100%.

We often see expected sprint days turn into breakaway wins at the Giro as teams don’t co-operate 100% behind to bring the race back and tomorrow does have that sort of feel about it. With a lot of climbing today, some of the riders might be wanting an easier day in the saddle tomorrow.

One other thing that has to be taken into consideration is the…

Weather

It looks set to be another sunny day in Sardinia but that’s not what interests me! Sounding very much like a broken record here, it is the wind and its direction that I care for most.

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Source: Windfinder (Ali Terme)

The above image is for Ali Terme which is roughly 45km from the finish line. As you can see, there is a reasonably moderate wind coming from the South/South-SouthEast which looks to be fairly consistent throughout the afternoon. Consequently, the riders will have a cross-tail wind for the majority of the flat run in to the line. Admittedly, it’s not as strong as the wind we had towards the end of stage 3 but it can still cause some damage.

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Just North of Ali Terme

The road to Messina from Ali Terme looks like this for the majority of the way. Sea to the right, or cliffs to the left. There is no real room to hide from the wind at all, especially on the relatively narrow roads.

I think we could see some splits on the run in tomorrow and unfortunately they might be caused by crashes due to the nervous and fast racing.

With that in mind, the break should be brought back but then it is just a case of whether or not we do get the splits and if we do; who makes them.

Sprint Contenders

If it is a full bunch sprint, going off of form it looks to be a battle between Greipel / Ewan / Gaviria.

Greipel made the front echelon on Stage 3 before an unfortunate collision took him out of contention. He seems in great form and will want to make amends tomorrow.

Gaviria obviously won that stage and you would expect him to be challenging again, especially when you consider how strong Quick Step are in crosswinds. Nonetheless, he is still young and if he is not being shepherded at all times, I fear he may miss out if there is a split due to that inexperience. QS may then look to Richeze as a possible option.

Ewan will be bitterly disappointed coming away from Sicily empty-handed. He was dominant in the sprint for second on stage 1 and who knows how we would have fared on stage 2 had he not had the mechanical. He made the second group on stage 3 and will hope to make any splits this time. However, like Gaviria I think his inexperience might get the better of him.

Away from those three, Nizzolo looks the best sprinter on a flat day and he rode well for 3rd place on stage 3. He seems to be growing into this race.

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After talking him up pre-race, Modolo has disappointed so far but I would expect him to go better tomorrow. Or I at least hope so, he needs to do something!

 

Outsiders?

If it does get crazy then we could have a few groups on the road before we do get into Messina but the likelihood is we get some kind of sprint, unless it gets ridiculous which even I can’t see it being.

Look to second sprint options from teams, such as Hofland and Mezgec for example.

One rider I am interested in is Filippo Pozzato. The Italian veteran has been very quiet this race so far, saving energy with targeted stages in mind. Now, I’m not saying that tomorrow will be one of those targeted days, it is more a case that his young compatriot Mareczko has been pretty disappointing so far this race and I can’t see him turning that around tomorrow. If we do get some splits tomorrow, Pozzato may well be given the chance to go for the sprint. He’s not a spring chicken anymore, but he’s still no slouch and could be up there if he’s lucky!

Prediction

We’ll get a sprint of some description at the end of the day and Greipel will make amends for what happened on stage 3, making his experience count and taking his second stage of the race!

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Watch out for a wily Italian though if things get choppy out there!

Betting

2.5pts WIN Greipel @ 5/2 with various

0.25pt EW Pozzato @ 300/1 with PP/BF (would take 250/1 elsewhere)

 

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win the stage tomorrow? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.