There's hardly a flat kilometre of road for the 40.5kms of the route, and we should see some gaps start to open between the main GC contenders, so check our cycling picks!
Radda to Greve in Chianti - Sunday 15th May, 40.5kms
After eight stages of shadow boxing and a lots of funs for the sprinter types, things get real serious now with this long time trial through the hills and vineyards of the Chianti region. There's hardly a flat kilometre of road for the 40.5kms of the route, and we should see some sizeable gaps start to open between the main GC contenders.
A great day today for us with Gianluca Brambilla landing the 28/1 tip for a very nice return indeed, he was fantastic, striking out a long way from home and holding off the chasers by long enough to take the leader's jersey. Two good winning days in a row now with Greipel winning to land us a 1-2 on stage 8 and Brambilla today, hopefully the run continues tomorrow!
The stage starts with 1km downhill, then the hills start - then it drags for 4.7kms at an average of just 2.5% so it's a real power stretch rather than being one for the pure climbers. The road then undulates and rolls along and after 11.6km they pass the first intermediate time check at Castellina in Chianti. The road rolls and rises for another few kilometres before descending for 10kms, passing through the next time check at Madonna di Pietracupa after 22.3kms where the road narrows quite a bit for 4kms.
Next they climb the short hill to Sicella and after a 3km descent they start on the climb to Panzano in Chianti, a 4.9km drag at an average of 3.7%. From the top, where the 3rd time check is, there are just 6.8kms left to go, all of which, bar the last 500m are descending. There's a hair-pin turn with 150m to go and then a straight run to the line.
Contenders and Favourites
This is a tough course that will test all of the riders, some a lot more than others. It requires you to be good in all sorts of disciplines on a TT bike - climbing, descending fast and powering along undulating roads.
The first TT in Holland may have been over only 10kms, but did it tell us anything? Sure it did.. It showed us that an ill Fabian Cancellara was still better than 190 of the guys that started the TT! It looked like he might be getting a bit stronger on stage 3 as he was able to hang in until the final circuit, and then on stage 7 he suddenly appeared at the front in the closing kilometres pulling Nizzolo in to position and looked much better.
It's hard to know what to make of him for tomorrow, I don't think he is anywhere near 100% yet and the course doesn't look like it suits him perfectly either. I think he is a terrible price at 3/1, but he may well have been sandbagging it today and could blast it tomorrow, even when he was at the height of his sickness he beat 190 of the 197 other riders here. But 40kms is far harder than 10kms and I am not sure he'll be in the top 3.
Tom Dumoulin of course did the business in the end of the opening TT, but only just! A winning margin of something like 0.02 seconds was all he won by. He had been riding so well up until today, taking the pink and hanging on to it, but boy did he crack badly today. Before today I'd have said he was a max bet at 5/4, but he had to go deep today and he was being passed by just so many riders. I'm going to hold off on backing him for a while, the weather is for thunderstorms and it could be tricky late on for Dumoulin. If it looks like he might get a clear run I might back him.
Andrey Amador - he gave me a nice surprise with his 3rd place in the TT, it was a sensational ride from the Movistar man that shot him in to 3rd place. He rode very well today to finish in 14th with the Valverde group. He has only ever finished in the top 6 of an ITT 4 times in his career though, so I think I'll leave him tomorrow.
Bob Jungels suffered today but still managed 20th, finishing with Ulissi and Fuglsang, but tomorrow is much more up his street - he will like the terrain and the distance and will be able to get the power down. But he's had a tough first week for a young guy, could it have an effect on him tomorrow? Possibly.. but he's so strong, he could well be up there, but I'm reluctant to back him at just 9/1.
Stefan Kung I like a lot though - looking at the results, it didn't look like a great opening TT for him, finishing in 30th place, but of course he had smashed in to the barriers along the way, when he had posted something like the 5th fastest intermediate time. The U23 World's TT he won was over 27kms of a lumpy course in Nyon and he showed on stage 7 with his attack that the legs are good, it took the peloton a long time to pull him back in. He opened at 14s with PP and I took that, he is still 11/1 with them and I think that's still a good e/w bet.
There's a second battle going on here in this TT.. To see who loses the least amount of time to their rivals over this tough 40km course. Nibali should go well, he'll like the parcours and is looking strong. Valverede is also looking good, but I am not sure he'll be hitting a podium spot here tomorrow. Ilnur Zakarin is another I like, I think he may not win tomorrow, but he could do enough to be in pink tomorrow night, a bet that is 5/6 with Paddy Power.
Rigo Uran would have been one of the favourites for this a few years ago, and has indeed won a TT like this in the Giro before. He is also looking strong too and he could be a good outsider here, but his performance in the first TT was a bit disappointing to me, but he will have his supporters at 30/1 with William Hill. An outsider at a big price? How about Brambilla - he has pink on his shoulders and will be last man off, he might be inspired, but the overwhelming emotions of today might get the better of him.
I will probably end up backing Dumoulin in play, or if he hits around 2/1 on cycling odds, but I like Kung and Zakarin each-way, I'm going against Cancellara and may even lay him for a top 3 placing.
1pt each-way on Stefan Kung at +1100 with Paddy Power
0.5pts each-way on Ilnur Zakarin at +1800 with Paddy Power
2pts on Zakarin to be in pink tomorrow night at -120 with Paddy Power
Amador to beat Kangert - 2pts at -120 with Bet365
Svitsov to beat Hesjedal - 3pts at -137.50 with Bet365