An opening flat 175kms followed by a lumpy finish with the climb of the Pramartino and a tricky hill in the finishing town that is almost imperceptible on the profile.
Giro d'Italia St 18 - Muggio to Pinerolo, 240kms
The fourth last day sees them tackle the longest stage of the race at 240kms and it's almost a mirror image of stage 17 with an opening flat 175kms followed by a lumpy finish with the climb of the Pramartino and a tricky hill in the finishing town that is almost imperceptible on the profile.
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The route starts to get a bit interesting with 175kms to go when they go over a little lump at the Colletta Di Cumiana, but it probably won't have much impact, bar maybe shaking out a few weaker hands. With 28kms to go they enter the finishing town of Pinerolo, go through the finishing line and start off on a loop to the north of the town.
The climb of the San Maurizio starts easy enough for the first 100m, but as they take the sharp left at the bottom of the climb it suddenly kicks up hard to 12%, then 20%! 300m at an average of 16.4% are followed by a final 200m at 12.6%..
They head out of the town on the loop and with 25kms to go they hit the Cat 2 climb of the Pramartino. It's not a very long climb at just 4.6kms, but it averages 10.5%. From the top there is only 20kms left to go, 10kms of which are descending back in to the town.
With 2,500m to go they hit that junction at the bottom of the San Maurizio climb again from the left side, and tackle the wall once more. This time, there's just 2kms to go once over the top so it will be full gas in to the last left and right hand bend before they start the climb. There's a couple of twisty bends on the very steep descent, but once they hit the 1km to go mark the road flattens out and the road is straight, bar one sharp right-angle bend with 400m to go that takes them on to the finishing straight.
Diego Ulissi is favourite for the stage at just +700, but you can see why - the finish will suit him, he has been climbing so well that he should have no trouble getting over the climbs at the end of the stage and he is chasing the points jersey. He has been superb in this race, with two stage wins and 4th on Tuesday in the wild stage to Brixen-Andalo. Lampre should have 2 or 3 guys like Mohoric, Koshevoy, Petilli and maybe Modolo to put him in the right position starting the final climb, and if he is near the front he can explode away on the climb and possibly on to victory. He has since been cut to 11/2 with PP but he is available now at 7/1 with Bet365.
Second favourite is Alejandro Valverde and of course he has a big chance on this stage - he is in top form now and in great spirits after his stage win on Tuesday. He seems to be climbing very well and is looking very confident. The finale should suit him perfectly and is sure to be right at the front coming in to and over the top of the San Maurizio. He's +1200 with Skybet but only 9/1 with PP. It may be though that he doesn't want to over-stretch himself with the big two days to come.
Betancur and Visconti could have chances in their own right, Betancur finished dead last on Tuesday's stage, almost missing the time limit, but was he saving himself for this stage? Betancur of old would have loved this finish, the sharp climb for 500m would have seen him flying off the front. But I wanted double the +4000 he was available at with Paddy Power, and sure enough, Bet365 are double that at +8000. I might have a tiny bet just in case he has been saving himself for this and surprises on the final climb while they all watch Valverde and Visconti. Visconti also could possibly attack on the penulltimate climb in an effort to shake things up and make the others do the chasing, if he gets a gap and the rest look at each other, he might just stay away. He's too short at just +1600 betting odds though.
I gave Tim Wellens a go on Tuesday, he was never given a chance given how the stage panned out, but I think this finish is too tough for him and is a no bet at just +1800. Also at +1800 is Gianluca Brambilla and he has been quieter since his stage win on stage 8. I think if he's to win he has to go early, either in the break and hope it makes it, or to attack on the Pramartino and solo to the finish or go with a small group he can outsprint. Matteo Busato could also be involved, but he's just +3300 now, he should be 5000+ I think.
Nico Roche is too short also at 18/1 I think, he doesn't usually like the really steep slopes, but he did well on stage 2 of the Vuelta last year to Caminito Del Rey when he finished 4th behind Chaves and Dumoulin. Sonny Colbrelli has a good chance I think though on this finish, he is very punchy and can sprint well against a small group. He should be able to just hang in there over the Pramartino and should be able to cope with the steep gradients for 450m, and at 22/1 he could be one to consider for sure. You may even get bigger from some of the other bookies when they open. .
Esteban Chaves we know likes the steeper slopes, he absolutely flies up them. When the road got really steep on stage 16 we saw him eat in to the deficit to the Zakarin group, but drop back again when they were able to keep constant high power on the slightly easier slopes. In stage 2 of the Vuelta last year he exploded away from the bunch on the 15% slopes of the climb to Caminito Del Rey on stage 2. He has a stage win to his name, but will be very disappointed with the time loss on stage 16, this might be an opportunity for him to steal back 20-30" and the win time bonus. Once over the top it's just 2kms to the finish, only 1km of which is on the flat, he could hold off most guys over that distance, especially as we have seen he is descending really well. At +5000 he's worth keeping onside in case.
Stefano Pirazzi has been very quiet in this race, unlike him, so maybe he could try something on this finish? Davide Formolo likewise, big things were expected of him in this race, but he has really disappointed, maybe he could have a go while they are all watching Uran and Dombrowski (Uran hasn't a chance, by the way, with the way he's riding). Damiano Cunego, Mikel Nieve, David Lopez, they could all have a chance on this finish, but I'm not sure they'll be winning.
Of course the break too has a chance. It will be hard with such a long flat run in, the teams of guys who will fancy this finish will keep the pace honest and with a tough run in like this for the last 30kms, the break will be pretty tired after the longest day in the saddle. Of the breakaway guys, probably better to look at really strong puncheurs who would be strong enough at the finish to negotiate those tricky hills. Guys like Adam Hansen (just +4000 though), Stefan Kung, Pim Ligthart, Pieter Serry, Simon Clarke, Rein Taaramae, Stefan Denifl, Matteo Montaguti, Daniel Oss (could he try again??), Lars Bak (strong attacks late today) or Manuele Boaro.
I think though that the break has a slim chance of making it and we will see a scene rather like the Flech-Wallone where they crest the Mur on a dry run before coming back again to tackle it at the finish. It will have the same late attacks in the run to it by the likes of Wellens, and we'll see about 50 guys trying to squeeze in to that left hand turn at the bottom of the climb. Movistar should be mob-handed at the front and could have 3-4 guys who could take a flyer here. Sky could have several riders near the front too and Lampre and Cannondale, so it will be a real dog-fight up the final hill. It's not a day to go mad with the stakes though, anything could happen today so place wisely your Sport Picks on this stage.
1pt win on Sonny Colbrelli at 22/1 with Skybet
0.3pts each-way on Carlos Betancur at 80/1 with Bet365
0.4pts each-way on Esteban Chaves at 50/1 with Bet365