What a nasty welcome back to racing the riders face with the second longest stage of the Giro at 219kms, a stage that has four categorized climbs including the summit finish to Sestola.
Giro d'Italia St 10 - Campi Bisenzio to Sestola, 219kms
Rest day's over and what a nasty welcome back to racing the riders face with the second longest stage of the Giro at 219kms, a stage that has four categorised climbs including the summit finish to Sestola. There are plenty of other little hills along the way in between though and it should make for a very exciting stage.
The rest day will be spent trying to recover from the hard week of racing they've already endured, and a particularly nasty and wet TT, but also preparing and thinking about this tenth stage as it could be a wild one. It's almost like an Ardennes Classic, at 219kms and with unrelenting hills all day, it's going to be a particularly tough day in the saddle. The last 35kms or so should be particularly wild with the climb of the Pian del Falco, the descent off of it and the climb up to the finish in Sestola.
The Pian del Falco is a tough climb that tops out with over 200kms gone and only 16kms left to the finish. It averages 4.9% for 16.35kms. They carry on climbing past the finish and it kicks up for the last 4kms at a steep 8.9%, hitting a max of 13%.
They now head off on a zig-zagging loop south of Sestola (right) that first takes them down a fast and technical descent off the climb for 8kms to Fanano. The descent can be divided into two quite steep parts: the first one runs on large roads, with just a few bends, and leads into a second one where the road is narrower at points, and which twists and turns all the way into urban Fanano.
Finally, they tackle the final 7km climb, with gradients of 5-6%, on a wide yet winding road that leads into the final 100m long, uphill home straight, on 6.5-m wide asphalt road. The road climbs steadily all the way to the line with the last kilometre averaging 5.9%.
Contenders and Favourites
Where do you even start on a stage like this?! A day after the rest day, and straight in to a beast of a stage over 219kms of hilly roads with a summit finish at a ski station! Not only do they have that finish up to Sestola, but the climb before it that ends with 4kms at 9%, a great opportunity for the really strong climbers to shed some of the weaker guys ahead of the final push.
The early cycling odds out had Alejandro Valverde as the +400 favourite, and that's a price I am torn about. He hadn't started great to me but in the last two days he has started to impress a lot more. He was one of the key drivers of the attacks on the gravel road climb of stage 8 and won the sprint of the first group home after De Marchi. He put in a pretty good TT too on stage 9, finishing 22nd, just 4" behind Landa and 11" behind Nibali.
Of course, on a finish like this with a steady gradient of 5% all the way for the last 7kms, he will have a good chance if it comes to a reduced group sprint. But I think that possibility is slim and a price of +500 now doesn't appeal to me much. The reason I say that the possibility is slim is that there is a good chance that the break of the day makes it, and if not, there's a good chance that the race could explode on the penultimate climb or final climb and we could get a late attacker take it.
If we are looking at the break of the day, then the likes of Alessandro De Marchi and Tim Wellens are two likely lads, but around +1200 for both of them is frankly ridiculous. They should be about twice that price. Yes, they are likely to be trying to get in the break, but De Marchi just doesn't look strong enough to finish it off to me, he faded badly on stage 8 when in a great position. Wellens is a big danger in a break again, but will they just let him go again? I'm not sure.
Bongiorno, Pirazzi, Hansen, Suitsou, Anton and Txurruka - all men who could fancy a day in the break, as could Premyslaw Niemiec - I added him as my cycling pick a few stages ago, I think it was stage 6, and he actually got in an early break that got 13" but were reeled in. I think he could try again, but +2800 is a poor price, was hoping for +5000 or so.
But if it does come to a GC favourites scrap for the finish, then it could be any of about 20 riders! Diego Ulissi is only +1400, he could be a late break candidate too though now that he is nearly 3 mins down, but also if it comes to a sprint, he would definitely have a chance on a 5% slope like this - his problem will be the 4kms at 9% on the previous climb. Ilnur Zakarin is only 16/1, but he is going to be really fired up to make amends after his disaster in the TT. He has looked very strong when closing down attacks in recent races, both here and in Romandie, and he could well go on a rage attack in the last 5kms in an effort to get some time back.
Mikel Landa is 18/1 and he showed in the TT that his legs seem to be getting better after an iffy start, but when he has been tested so far in this race on the hills he has been found wanting a little. Unless the ride in the TT boosts his confidence and he is starting to feel his climbing legs, he might be happy to follow wheels for now, but if he is feeling good he could take off. Don't think he's a bet though at +1800.
Vincenzo Nibali has been lively too and did a good TT, and no offence to the top 4 in the GC, he currently sits top of the GC favourites with a 25" lead over Landa. He might look to put the pressure on and gain more time ahead of the really tough stages at the end of the third week which will suit Landa more maybe, but it will be hard for him to get away if his attack is anyway as limp as his attack on stage 6. His team-mate Fuglsang still sits in 10th place though and could well try the 1-2 with Nibali again tomorrow and if they watch Nibali then he might be let go. Also, the finish suits Nibali though - he could attack at the top of the Pian Del Fanco and descend like a maniac, gaining time on more nervous rivals, and come to the final climb with 30" or so. He might be hard to pull back then and at 33/1 with Bet365 he's a bit more interesting to me, he's only 14/1 with PP.
Steven Kruijswijk has been riding extremely well for LottoNL, he did a pretty good TT on Sunday too to now sit in 4th place, so actually I was being a bit disrespectful to him earlier when I said Nibali was the top of the GC favourites.. He climbs well and is not afraid to attack, in fact he's one that could go from near the bottom of the final climb, he has a good cruising speed on climbs like this. At bigger prices, Blel Kadri (+15000) and Riccardo Zoidl +15000 are two who could go on the break of the day and could have chances.
It's a very hard stage to predict though and I'm close to making it a 'no bet' day on this first day in the mountains, with the possible effects of the rest day in the legs too. I'm tempted by a Zak attack, but want to try to find out more if he's hurt himself. Valverde may well take the sprint, but the only rider I like, given how terrible the early prices are is Fuglsang for a late attack at +3300, but it's not a day for big stakes I think.
0.5pts each-way on Jacob Fuglsang at +3300 with Paddy Power
0.1pts each-way on Riccardo Zoidl at +15000 with PP
0.1pts each-way on Blel Kadri at +15000 with PP
Visconti to beat Kangert - 2pts at 8/11 with Ladbrokes