The riders now tackle the Queen stage on what is a tough day in the saddle. Six categorised climbs & an uphill finish to boot, this could finally be the day that the GC men really come out to play.
Giro d'Italia St 14 - Alpago to Corvara, 210kms
After a tough day on the mountains on Friday, the riders now tackle the Queen stage on what is a brutally tough day in the saddle. 210kms long, with six categorised climbs and an uphill finish to boot in the Dolomites mountains, this could finally be the day that the GC men really come out to play.
This stage starts brutally hard with more or less a 70km climb to the first KOM points of the day at the Passo Pordoi, and with six KOM peaks along the way this will be a big day for the KOM jersey competition.
The first 23kms or so are flat, but after that there's barely a flat metre of road for the rest of the stage. They head north-west out of Alpago and once they pass Mas after 23kms they start climbing. The road climbs for the next 71kms, but the official climb of the Passo Pordoi is 9.3kms at a very steady 6.9%.
Over the next 40kms they crest three more climbs, two Cat 2s and a Cat 3. After 159kms they start on the hardest part of the stage with first the climb of the Passo Giau, followed soon after by the Passo Valparolo. The Passo Giau is a real nasty climb that doesn't dip below 8% for the nearly 10kms of the climb.
The Passo Valparola is longer at 11.5kms but easier, with the first 2.7kms averaging 6.9%, then 2kms at 1.9%, before the last 7kms rise at a much steadier gradient of 6.8%, kicking up to a max of 14% in the last 500m. From the top there are less than 20kms to go, so a strong attack on this climb could see someone go all the way to the finish.
This is going to be a brutal stage, a day after the tough day in the mountains on stage 13 and a day before what could be a pivotal individual time trial on Sunday.
The break has a real chance of making it today as it will be very hard to control the race over this terrain and I don't think there will be many riders left at the front of the race by the time they hit the last two climbs, particularly the Passo Valparola - the Passo Giau will have thinned out the remaining stragglers to leave only the strongest climbers at the front.
The GC men might have a chance - if, the race really explodes - and by that I mean if someone like Nibali, Amador, Zakarin, Majka etc attack early, gets a gap, gets assistance from team-mates that were originally in the break and suddenly the favourites have to ride their socks off to reel in the danger. If that is the case, and say Nibali for example attacks away over the top of the Giau and flys down the descent, then he could start the final climb with 30"+ and will be going full gas, followed by Movistar and the rest of the GC men, also going full gas. If that is the case then the break should be doomed.
Picking the break candidates isn't easy though with probably 50+ guys potentially going to try to go up the road. And it might not just be one break either, an early break could go, then a second break could go on one of the next climbs and try to bridge to the leaders. And then you have to try to figure out who will be sent up the road by the GC teams in case their team leaders need them later in the stage if they go on the attack!
The usual suspects - Damiano Cunego, Alessandro De Marchi, Tim Wellens, Stefano Pirazzi, Guillaume Bonafond, Matteo Montaguti, Manuel Bongiorno, Giulio Ciccone, Darwin Atapuma, Riccardo Zoidl, Ruben Plaza, Prem Niemiec, Georg Preidler - loads of guys that could be in the break
Nico Roche could try again, he was going ok today and up with the front group when he suddenly slipped backwards, looking at his bike like he had a mechanical or something, and never got back on again. Likewise we could see Mikel Nieve, David Lopez or Phil Deignan join him in the break.
Valverde has sucked wheels mostly up to now, Nibali's attacks have been average, Chaves has been good but still not exploding away, Zakarin has been dropped a few times today, Amador was dropped a few times today, Kruijswijk and Majka have been looking really good without doing very much, they could still be dark horses to me. But as for tomorrow? Valverde and Nibali are way too short. But one I like is our friend Gianluca Brambilla who might be able to hang in there tomorrow, he did very well today and finished in 23rd, just behind Jungels after dragging him for most of the last 6kms and ahead of Hesjedal.
Valverde could win, but I actually think Nibali might have a better chance given the descent to the finish. But at those prices I'm not interested, if I change my mind mid-race I think I'll still get him at close to the price he is now. I think I'll give Roche another go even though he's pretty short, and maybe Carlos Betancur will have a go tomorrow too, he saved his legs today, coming in 25 minutes down.
0.5pts each-way on Gianluca Brambillat at +3300 with Paddy Power
0.25pts each-way on Carlos Betancur at +15000 with Betfair Sportsbook
0.3pts each-way on Nicolas Roche at +2500 with Ladbrokes
Kruijswijk to beat Uran & Scarpone to beat Jungels - 3pts at 11/8 with Paddy Power
Brambilla to beat Siutsou - 3pts 4/5 with Bet365