By David Hunter
Stage 19 Recap
As expected, Nairo Quintana won the TT, but he was pushed all the way by Fabio Aru. The young Italian delivered a brilliant performance, to put a little bit of extra pressure on Uran. It was a bad day for Majka, Evans and Kelderman as the GC had one last shake-up. Rolland did well, but still lost his podium place to Aru. At one stage it looked like Aru would take an unlikely win, but Quintana had left some in the tank for the final kilometre. There is no doubting who the best rider in the race is!
Stage 20 Maniago – Monte Zoncolan 167km
The penultimate stage has arrived, and what a stage.
It’s the iconic Monte Zoncolan. One of the hardest climbs these riders will do in their whole careers. Win here and your name goes down in the history of cycling.
The intermediate sprint has 8 points on offer and this might tempt Nizzolo or Bouhanni into the morning break. Once that’s out of the way, the climbing begins.
The Passo del Pura is 11.25km at 7.7%, but has 4km at 9.3%. This is difficult and we should see a lot of riders, dropping out of the peloton, at this stage.
After a short descent the riders then face Sella di Razo. It’s long and has 13.5km at 5.7%. It has almost 5km at 9.1%. After the climb we have a long descent to the foot of the Zoncolan.
10.1km at an average of 11.9%, with a maximum of 22%! This brutal climb will see the riders arriving home in single file. The last time we were here, Igor Anton, took a famous win. He’s back but will be helping Quintana.
My initial thought about the stage was that with such a difficult and important climb, it will be a day for Quintana. Looking back into the history books, Nibali won the penultimate stage in 2013, but in 2010, 2011 and 2012, the penultimate stage was won by the break.
In the 2013 Vuelta, when Horner and Nibali were fighting for the GC, Kenny Elissonde took victory on the Angliru. I think the stage is in the balance, the personnel in the break will be crucial and teams will have to help Movistar, if they want to keep a lid on the break.
When looking at riders for the break, you have to see who still has form. We have Tim Wellens, Dario Cataldo, Riccardo Zoidl, Edoardo Zardini, Francis Mourey, Alexandre Geniez, Mattia Cattaneo, Francesco Bongiorno and Daniel Moreno.
I also think that Steve Morabito and Przemyslaw Niemiec will be in the break.
There are 78 KOM points on offer, so Arredondo has already claimed the blue jersey. I think he’ll take it easy tomorrow, the KOM jersey and a stage isn’t too bad for your first grand tour!
Cataldo and Wellens are still wanting to finish on the podium and I expect to see them fight it out, in the break. Cataldo has been superb and very unlucky not to win a stage, this is his last chance. Back in 2012, he won a stage in the Vuelta that finished on the Cuitu Negru. It is a monster of a climb with a 25% maximum, so Dario has previous on very difficult climbs.
The climb means a lot to the Italians and in particular Bongiorno. This is the climb he dreams of winning! He’s not had a great Giro, but victory on Zoncolan would change all that.
It seems that the only battle left on GC is between Uran and Aru, for 2nd place. After such an incredible ITT it will be interesting to see how the young Italian recovers. Uran is a determined rider and I expect him to battle until the bitter end. I think Uran will hold on to 2nd place.
Pierre Rolland has to attack, but he won’t be able to make up the time to reach the podium.
If the break makes it, I say Cataldo. If not, it has to be King Quintana!
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