It's a bumpy route 4 that takes cyclists up along the coast with occasional dips inland to take in some categorized climbs but is likely again to finish in a bunch finish.
Following the rest-day transfer back to Italian soil, the race starts again on the most southern part of Italy with a stage that breaks the run of flat stages. It's a bumpy route that takes them up along the coast with occassional dips inland to take in some categorised climbs but is likely again to finish in a bunch finish.
I say likely to end in a bunch finish, but there are quite a number of hills in the last 80kms that could shake things up, two of which are Cat 3 and a number of uncategorised lumps, one of which comes just 7.5kms from the finish line.
The first 120 km are uncomplicated, but the last 80kms of the 200 are quite wavy and bumpy with plenty of opportunities to attack and try to steal the leader's jersey. There's one key climb to get over, an uncategorised climb that comes with just 10.5kms to go and just 8.5kms to go from the top of the hill. The hill is just 1.8kms long, but averages 7%, with parts at 18% at the bottom and near the top and averages 9% for quite a lot of it.
Contenders And Favourites
I think that the climbers/puncheurs will come to the front and push on really hard on this climb just outside Praia a Mare, and I think that we could see some of the sprinters really struggle. Those parts at 18% is very steep right from the bottom and the climb is long enough to cause real damage behind. Astana, Movistar, Sky and maybe Trek will really push it hard to get rid of the sprinters and to keep their GC men safe. I think Kittel will struggle to make it if they really go hard at the front, and Ewan, Greipel, Viviani, Pelucchi, Rufoni and Sbaragli might struggle also. This is interesting because the bookies have priced it up like they will make it over safely, Kittel is the 7/1 favourite across most sportsbooks.
But I think we will have a situation where we either get a group of punchy attackers get away on the hill and manage to hold off the pack and fight it out, or we get a reduced peloton of maybe 50-60 riders come to the finish, with some of the stronger sprinters who have managed to hang in there.
Giacomo Nizzolo might make it - it will be a stretch for him, but he is pretty good at getting over hills like this and would have a great chance of taking his first stage win if he is still in there at the finish. Arnaud Démare might be able to hang in there, he won MSR after all, but is 15/1 worth taking? I'm not sure. Moreno Hofland would be similar to Nizzolo and Démare, he might be able to hang in there and will be looked after by the LottoNL-Jumbo boys.
Sonny Colbrelli is also one that could hang in there, he's had a good season so far, including '3rd' in the sprint behind first three in Brabantse Pijl, and 3rd in Amstel Gold.
I think though that this could be more of a finish to take a chance on some of the punchy attacker types - I think Movistar, Etixx, IAM and Lotto-Soudal will have an interest in attacking this climb hard from the bottom - the road is so narrow that if they can string it out and they attack away off the front on the steeper parts then there will be gaps created. I think the likes of Giovanni Visconti, Gianluca Brambilla, Matteo Trentin, Tim Wellens, Nik Arndt, Tanel Kangert, Heinrich Haussler and Leigh Howard are the sorts of guys who will like this opportunity to attack away.
Leigh Howard won in the Classica Almeria earlier in the season, just after finishing 2nd in the hilly Cadel Evans road race, he will like this sort of finish, as will his team-mate Heinrich Haussler. We may even see Alejandro Valverde attack with them and if so would be a big danger in a reduced sprint, but I think his team-mate Giovanni Visconti will like this finish too. Moreno Moser is a former winner of Strade Bianchi, and he is just 12" off the race lead - he could be given a chance to try to go and win the stage and maybe take the race leader's jersey. He was a massive 300/1 with PP, but is now 150/1, I still think that is a great outside bet, he's just 66/1 with Bet365.
This is a very hard stage to call - it's the first day after a rest day, after a transfer from the excitement and stresses of Holland. It's 50/50 whether some of the sprinters get over the climb, but I'm going to take a chance on some attackers who might get away and stay away. Not a day for big stakes though, scattering small e/w bets at biggish cycling odds. I might add one more sprinter type Monday night, but this is it for now!
0.25pts each-way on Gianluca Brambilla at 80/1 with Paddy Power
0.4pts each-way on Giovanni Visconti at 66/1 with Pinnacle
0.2pts each-way on Moreno Moser at 80/1 with Paddy Power (150/1 now gone)
0.5pts each-way on Giacomo Nizzolo at 18/1 with Bet365
Nizzolo to beat Modolo and Haussler to beat Mezgec - 2pts on the double at 6/5 with Paddy Power
Visconti to beat Betancur - 3pts at 10/11 with Bet365