After a day for the climbers, the remaining sprinters in the race finally get a chance to have some fun again. Let's review the betting market and find the best side to back for our free picks.
Giro d'Italia St 17 - Molveno to Cassano d'Adda, 196kms
After a day for the climbers, the remaining sprinters in the race finally get a chance to have some fun again. The opening 40kms are a little lumpy, including crossing a Cat 4 bump with 100kms gone, but from then on it's a flat run to the finish in Cassano d'Adda.
With nearly 100kms of a flat run to the finish it should probably be a bunch sprint, but that’s not certain. Riders are getting tired, this is the 17th stage and after that war today and with two brutal stages to come on Friday and Saturday there may be a truce called between the GC men. That could mean a strong break could make it all the way and with so few sprinters left in the race, who's going to do the chasing?
The opening 15kms out of Molveno descends rapidly, then they climb over the little lump at Bondo after 38kms. The road then descends for more or less 55kms more and then they climb the only categorised climb of the day, the Cat 4 Passo Sant'Eusebio. Once over the top there's 96kms to go to the finish, with almost all of it more or less on flat roads.
The route gets a bit tricky inside the last 3kms though, with a sharp left with 2500m to go, then a sharp right around a roundabout with 1700m to go sees the road rise a little as they get over the Ponte Adda bridge. There's one last sharp right with 600m to go but the finish is nice and wide and flat, if indeed we do see a bunch sprint, they'll have plenty of room to weave all over the road.
So what's it going to be? Sprint or break? Hard to say, but as I mentioned already, the big factor weighing against the sprinters left in the race is that there are so few of them left! Who’s going to do the chasing?
There really looks like only being one of two winners here in Nizzolo and Modolo, and as you'd expect they are the top two in the betting odds, with Modolo at +300 and Nizzolo at +250. Will we finally see Sacha Modolo turn the tables on Nizzolo? Ever since the opening sprint, when Modolo got up to take 3rd, Nizzolo has finished ahead of him. He has looked to be the fastest sprinter of the two of them up to now, especially when it's a bit tricky at the finish, which is unusal as Modolo is usually the master at the tricky finish.
Rather significantly though, Trek have lost three very valuable riders for Giacomo Nizzolo on a stage like this - Cancellara, Boy Van Poppel and Ryder. Trek are shorn of firepower for out on the road and at the finish to set Nizzolo up, it's a worry and may mean he will be sprinting for the second or third step of the podium this time. With Ulissi creeping up on him for the points competition though (he's only 8pts behind him!) he will need a good result here to stretch away from him again and to land the bets for us from before the race started.
Sacha Modolo still has Mohoric, Ferrari, Koshevoy and Ulissi to drag him in to position at the finish, and that firepower might just be enough to see him take the stage win.
A sprint isn’t certain of course, as the early climbs and rolling countryside will allow a strong break to go, and with so few teams willing to take up the chase, if some of the sprinters teams get men up the road in the break, then it could be curtains for the sprinters chances.
Of the remaining sprinters that are left, Rick Zabel has been coming close, with with a 7th and two 9th places. BMC have had a pretty poor Giro by their standard though, with De Marchi flopping so far and Atapuma coming close but not quite taking the top spot of the podium. Maybe De Marchi, Rosskopf and Atapuma are waiting for this weekend, but for now they should ride for Zabel to see if they can get him a podium spot. At +6600 with Bet365 he's worth a small interest, he's only +3300 with some others.
Alexander Porsev has been coming close too, with two 5ths, a 6th and a 7th. The last sprint in Bibione saw him finish '3rd' behind Nizzolo and Modolo and in stage 3 only Nizzolo beat him of the riders left in the race. Katusha might be Trek's biggest ally - if Porsev can come to the finish near the front he has a big chance of at least moving on to the podium. At +1200 he's tempting for the each-way bet, I think he should run Nizzodolo closest.
Kristian Sbaragli, Manuel Belletti, Ivan Savitskiy, Sonny Colbrelli - they could all be knocking at the door as well, but one other outsiders that I want to have a nibble at is Heinrich Haussler. With the formal announcement Monday that IAM will not be continuing with their sponsorship of the team in 2017, all of the IAM riders are now in the shop window and have to start producing results to attract interested teams. With such a weak lineup of sprinters left in the race, Haussler won't get many better opportunities to win a stage in the Giro. They may send riders in the break to cover that angle, but if not, they could be one of the teams pushing hard to impress and try to set up Haussler. At +5000, he can maybe take advantage if any of the top guys in the betting slip up.
As for my Free Picks, I am going to plump for Modolo finally getting the better of Nizzolo though, but I think there are a few other guys at big prices we can scatter some small bets on in case it does get really messy and we get a surprise winner. Even if Porsev lands a podium at +1200 it will be a nice return. Zabel winning at +6600 would be even nicer!
2pts win on Sacha Modolo at +300 with Paddy Power
0.5pts each-way on Alexander Porsev at +1200 with Bet365
0.25pts each-way on Rick Zabel at +6600 with Bet365
0.25pts each-way on Heinrich Haussler at +5000 with Bet365
Ulissi to beat Visconti and Porsev to beat Sbaragli - 2pts at +150 with Paddy Power
Zabel to beat Sbaragli - 1.5pts at +110 with Paddy Power
Sbaragli to beat Belletti - 10pts at -125 with Ladbrokes