Things start to get a bit interesting now with a challenging stage that is the 2nd longest of the Giro at 233kms. The cycling odds don't seem too sure about Kittel's chances here. More inside.
Things start to get interesting now with a challenging stage that is the second longest of the Giro at 233kms (stage 18 is 11kms longer). The stage looks like one maybe for the breakaway with a 35km climb right from the start and an undulating course that ends with an uphill pull to the line for the last kilometre.
After leaving Praia a Mare they head inland in a north-westerly direction, climbing for the first 35kms, peaking out at the top of the climb at Fortino, a Cat 3 climb that gets steeper near the top. After the top they roll along on a plateau for 50kms to Polla before descending down in to the valley, and then the road starts to roll for the next 90kms or so over four climbs, none of which are categorised.
With just over 180kms gone they go down a steep descent for 10kms and for the next 35kms after that the road descends a bit more gently until 7.6kms to go where it enters a final circuit which takes them up the hill over the finishing line. The final circuit is quite twisty and tricky through the small streets of Benevento, and with just over 1km to go the road arcs left then turns sharply left for the last 1100m.
The last kilometre is uphill at an average of 3.4% and on what is described as 'Pavé' on the roadbook, but these are not the Pavé of northern France and Belgium, but flat paving stones that are almost no obstacle at all, unless the road is very wet where they can become a bit slippy.
Tomorrow we could see the first real serious attempts at a breakaway making it, but it's also more likely that we will get another sprint finish in Benevento. Marcel Kittel has been unbeatable in the sprints plus he is a strong cycling pick, and has been winning by so far he should almost be given a time gap on the rest. And it doesn't even look like he has got in to top gear yet, that's the scariest thing about it for the others.
He can sprint uphill - the sprint finish in Dublin a few years ago in the Giro was a prime example of that, he passed us in about 6th place with 125m to go and won it incredibly on the line. That uphill pull to the finish was around 3%. And with strong leadout men like Jungels, Trentin and Sabatini (who has been his superb last man) then he might just get dragged in to position to launch his sprint again with 150m to go. His sheer power over that distance should see him win again. Forget about today, he never had a chance and the pre-race interview with Brambilla was telling, he said that he was ready to cover attacks over the top if Kittel faltered and that's exactly what he did. Kittel tried, but was never going to get to the finish with that lead group, so conserved energy and rolled in 8 mins down.
Behind there will be a queue of guys again - Elia Viviani came closest on Sunday and looks like he was the fastest of the rest, just was no match for Kittel. He too can sprint uphill, we saw the great battle between him and Greipel up to Piccadilly in the Tour of Britain final stage last year, that hill rises at around 3% as well. He also managed 3rd place in that tough uphill sprint in Tirreno-Adriatico behind Gaviria and Ewan earlier in the year. He will love this first sprint opportunity on the streets of Italy and will be surfing the wheels of Kittel and Etixx as they enter the last kilometre.
André Greipel seems to be getting in to it too, and as I warned for the first sprint, he can sometimes take a few stages to get going. He just needs a slightly better leadout that can maybe get him the jump on Kittel, but although he came close, in 4th, he really was nowhere near Kittel, it will take a big effort for him to win here. He was the one that ran Viviani closest on that uphill sprint in the TOB in London, but was struggling so beat him so took to trying to push him in to the barriers! Greipel also fared better than Viviani and Kittel today, finishing only 4' down.
When it comes to uphill sprints, Giacomo Nizzolo has to be considered of course, it's not really been his territory in stages 2 and 3, but he still notched a 10th and a 3rd, and the hills of stage 4 proved too hard. He still finished the first of the sprinters (besides Colbrelli in the front group), just beating Modolo in their matchbet. A hillier stage like this is much more up his street and an uphill 3% pull to the line will suit him too. In stage 3 he was in the ideal position on Kittel's wheel with 200m to go, then Porsev came up on his right hand side and he got squeezed up between him and Viviani.. it took him a little while to get going again but still got out and finished really fast to nab Greipel for 3rd. If he can finish that fast he has a big chance here, he seems to have the beating of Greipel.
Sacha Modolo disappointed on stage 3 when we were on, after doing well on stage 2 to finish in 3rd. He said that Ferrari dropped him in perfectly on to Kittel's wheel with 500m to go, you could see him arrive there in a great position, then in the fight for his wheel he suddenly got boxed in and went backwards, and said he realised his sprint was over. He looked one of the fastest on stage 2 and I think they will be doubly determined to get that wheel of Kittel again and try to make amends.
The sportsbooks don't seem too sure about Kittel's chances and after he being -187.50 for the last sprint, he's +400 for tomorrow on the cycling odds! I think that's a great price and has to be taken. I think Giacomo Nizzolo has looked one of the fastest and seeme to have good legs based on how close he was to hanging in there today, and the +1400 with Boyles paying 4 places is worth a bet.
3pts win on Marcel Kittel at +400 with Ladbrokes, lay 8pts at +300 on Betfair for a 2pt bet to win 16pts
0.75pts each-way on Giacomo Nizzolo at +1400 with Boyles paying 4 places
Sbaragli to beat Arndt (-225)
Kittel to beat Ewan (-300) - 3pts on the double at -111 with at Bet365