Today's stage features two Cat 1 & two Cat 2 climbs. The opening climbs will soften them up, the final two come in quick succession inside the last 40kms & will provide an exciting climax.
Giro d'Italia St 13- Palmonava to C. Del Fruili, 170kms
After a completely flat stage we have the polar opposite today with a stage that features two Cat 1 and two Cat 2 climbs. The opening two climbs will soften them up, the final two climbs come in quick succession inside the last 40kms and will provide an exciting climax to the stage.
A challenging route today for teams to try to control the race on. They start in Palmonova and head north for 29kms where they pass on the outskirts of Cividale al Fruli, not far from where the finish line is, and shortly after enter the twisting figure-of-eight circuit that takes them north-east first before looping around back past the finish line again after 111kms. They now head north-west for another loop of 60kms that take in the final two climbs of the day.
Shortly after the sprint point with 49kms gone they start on the first climb of the day, the Cat 1 Montemaggiore, a nasty start to the day at nearly 9kms at 9%, with the last 6.5kms averaging 10.5%. We are sure to see the first big stripping down of the bunch here and the autobus formed.
The twisty 15kms descent is interrupted along the way by an uncategorised climb for 4kms at the Passo San Martino (7.6% for 2.3kms), but once they are at the bottom with 72kms gone they immediately start back on to the climb to Crai. This Cat 2 climb comes in two waves, the first 4kms of the climb average 9.7%, hitting a max of 16% near the top, then they descend for a km or so before the next 4km stretch which is an easy 3.6%.
Once over the top it's a 20km descent to Scrutto, then 30kms along flat roads before they reach the first of the final two climbs with 40kms to go. The Cima Porzus averages nearly 9% for 7kms, with a pretty steady gradient all the way up. 11kms of a very twisty and dangerous descent follow and the final climb to Valle starts with just over 20kms to go, and we could see some riders start with a small advantage if they descended better/braver than others.
The climb to Valle is another twisty and tricky affair with close on 15 hair-pin bends along the way. It averages a steady 8.5% for the last 5kms, and peaks out with just 13.9kms left, of which 6.6kms are descending and 7.3kms of a flattish run in to Cividale del Fruli.
Contenders and Favorites
I think this could be one of the most exciting and dramatic stages of the race. It's not that long at 170kms so a strong early break could make it, but if some teams sense weakness in their rivals over the first two climbs it could be all out war over the final two climbs.
Vincenzo Nibali looks like one who will like this stage - the late climb to Valle with a tricky descent off of it should suit him to a tee. Will he look to make a move this early though, or wait until later in to the third week? He has to start pegging some time back soon though, he currently sits 45" off a very confident and comfortable looking Andrey Amador.
Nibali could try a late attack on the Valle climb, descend like a maniac and maybe join up with Fuglsang for the last 7kms charge to the line. He has to be considered as a strong option for this stage though on that basis, but he will need to escape away from his big rivals though as he won't win a sprint against most of them.
He certainly won't win a sprint against Alejandro Valverde though, and Valverde has to be considered a strong favorite for this stage too given the finish is at the end of an 8km flat run to the line. He does look to be in a great position to win the stage, he should have little problems getting over the final climbs at the front and he has a really strong team with him to deliver him to the line, from where he should beat most of those likely to be in the leading group.
Of the other GC favorites, you'd think that Ilnur Zakarin has his eyes on the TT the next day and might look to save his legs and follow wheels for now. But of course, if the opportunity presents itself he could well go on the attack, but I think with that flat run-in it will not be in his favor and he might just bide his time for the TT and the final week. Esteban Chaves likewise, he might attack, but I think it would be foolish unless he thinks he can put a minute in to the others going over the top.
Another rider who could have a go late on in the stage would be Jacob Fuglsang, especially if Nibali is looking to save his legs for the TT. He has attacked on similar climbs before, like when he attacked with Dan Martin in the Tour de France in stage 9 to Bagnéres de Begore in 2013, they attacked near the top, descended really fast and held off the pack in the 20kms descent to the line. I wouldn't be surprised to see him pull off a similar trick, and at 3'39" down, he's not a major threat, but could pull himself back in to the top 10. At +4000 I thought he was worth a go.
And then of course you've the breakaway candidates - lots and lots of them. Damiano Cunego will probably be after the KOM points on a day like this, so expect him to be in the break. I don't expect him to win it, but he should be trying if you think he can pull it off. Alessandro De Marchi was fancied before the race for the KOM competition but he has been pretty anonymous so far, maybe he has been waiting for later in the race where the big points are, he tends to go better later in races too.
Ryder Hesjedal is on the border of being considered a GC threat or not, and may try a break, but again, he might be waiting for next week to go all in. Nicolas Roche is one who could fancy this stage, the climbs aren't too vicious and now with Landa gone he could have a free card to do what he wants. +2500 is a bit skinny, but I think he will be keen to try a break soon and this looks a good stage to try it.
And then you have all the Italians - Pirazzi, Ciccone etc - they are sure to be interested in a stage like this, but hard to pick which ones are likely to go - Giovanni Visconti could be sent up the road again though in Movistar's tactic, either to see if the break of the day makes it, where he would have a chance, or to help a late attack by Amador or Valverde. He is not a great price at +1800 with most bookies but there is +2300 available on Betfair and that's worth a bet, to trade in running possibly too.
Darwin Atapuma has shown good legs and an attacking instinct, finishing well to take 3rd in stage 10 behind Ciccone and Rovny, he could well get in the break again and could be worth a small interest at +4000 cycling odds.
As for my cycling pick I think it's a really hard stage to call - I will dabble a little with a few breakaway candidates and have Fuglsang for a late attack. I'm tempted by Ulissi, but I think it will be too hard for him. Valverde and Nibali could well light it up and I wouldn't be surprised to see Amador try a move again on the final climb, would be great to see him take 30" or more again on his rivals, he could be 5/1 tomorrow night if he does. I'd love to see the likes of Zakarin and Majka go on the attack to liven things up but I think the TT will be at the back of their mind.
0.5pts each-way on Jacob Fuglsang at +4000 with Paddy Power
0.5pts win on Giovanni Visconti at +2900 on Betfair
0.3pts each-way on Darwin Atapuma at +4000 with Paddy Power
0.3pts each-way on Nicolas Roche at +2500 with Bet365
Roche to beat Montaguti - 2pts at 8/11 with Paddy Power