By David Hunter
Stage 7 Recap
Another perfect prediction from me! As expected, all the sprinters made it over the climb and the peloton set a ferocious pace in the final 40km to catch the break. It set-up a very fast sprint finish. I mentioned that Giant – Shimano have the best lead-out and they controlled the run for home. This put Mezgec into a great position and he launched the sprint from 200 metres. The bad news was that Nacer Bouhanni was on his wheel! Mezgec left a little space on the boards and the brave Bouhanni stole up the inside, but had to check his speed for a moment. This meant that Nizzolo, attacking on the other side, took a small lead, but Bouhanni demonstrated his speed by surging past him, on the line, with Mezgec claiming 3rd. A 2nd win for Bouhanni and he now leads the red jersey by 16 points from Nizzolo and 25 to Viviani.
Pink – Matthews, Red – Bouhanni, Blue – Matthews, White – Matthews
Stage 8 Foligno – Montecopiolo 179km
Time for Matthews to say goodbye to his 3 jerseys!
The riders head North and face the first mountaintop finish of the race.
This is a difficult stage! The 3 climbs are all hard and as the old saying goes, we will see who won’t win the Giro today.
This opening climb has an average gradient of nearly 10% and it’s over 7.5km in length. The 14% section early in the climb will seriously test out the legs of the climbers and I think we’ll see many riders out the back door.
The final climb is split into two, with a 9.3km cat 2 climb, a short descent, before the final climb of 6.35km. The cat 2 climb has a gradient of 6.3%, with the cat 1 climb at 6.5%. The very end of the final climb has a 13% ramp, so it keeps the stage very interesting till the end.
The final climb is one of those climbs that go up in steps. The gradient is constantly changing and there are many short, downhill sections, that is why the average gradient of 6.5% doesn’t do it justice.
This is only the 1st mountain stage of many in the race and won’t be decisive for the overall. In 2013, the favourites looked at each other as Uran went up the road, and he didn’t come back. This is the type of thing that does happen in these stages. It also happened in the Vuelta, when Konig won his stage. To get away you either have to be the second rider in a team or a rider further down on GC.
Who are the contenders?
We have to start with the big 2: Evans and Quintana.
Cadel is bang in form and looking thirsty for glory. I’m not sure if he can hold his form till week 3, but he’s certainly the man to beat tomorrow. His team are looking strong and we should see Morabito and Sanchez stay with him for most of the stage.
Quintana is looking slightly short of form. Now it’s a 3 week race and the final week is awful, so I think the little Colombian is holding himself back just now. He is 1:47 back from Evans, so it will be interesting to see if he tries to take back time here or wait till later in the race.
The other main riders will all be in the mix: Uran, Majka, Aru, Basso, Kelderman, Arredondo, Bongiorno, Pozzovivo, Kiserlovski, Scarponi, Roche, Cataldo, Cunego, Rolland, Niemiec, Rosa, Pellizotti and Duarte.
The crash in stage 6 hurt some of these riders and we won’t know the full extent of their injuries until the climbing really starts.
You can forget about Ulissi, he’s not here for stages like this.
As I mentioned the second rider in a team could have a chance in this stage. That means Aru, Arrendondo, Roche, Rosa and Cunego could have their day in the sun.
Most people will be expecting me to go for Evans or Quintana but I’m not. As I said, the opening mountain stage can be a chance for a smaller rider to shine. I mentioned him in my overall preview as a dark horse and I like what I’ve seen from him so far, I’m going for Pierre Rolland. Remember, he’s won 2 stages in the Tour and finished 10th and 8th in the race. He also loves to attack, he did so on stage 5, so will give it a shot tomorrow. For him to win, the favourites need to look at each other and play tactics.
Related: Giro 2014 general preview:https://bicis.frangandara.net/giro-ditalia-2014-general-preview/
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