By David Hunter
Benevento – San Giorgio del Sannio 215km
It’s the day before the rest day and after some very difficult stages, it can’t come fast enough. The stage screams breakaway, but we don’t always get what we expect, particularly in this race!
The stage features three classified climbs:-
It might only be cat 2 but the Terminio is a monster. How many 20km, cat 2 climbs, do you know?
After a 25km descent comes the Colle Molella, 9.5km at 6.3%. This is a cat 1 climb and is very difficult, thanks to the 3km section at 9.4%. This part of the climb is sure to see some big fireworks, maybe even some GC action!
After the climb, the road becomes undulating, with two unclassified climbs. Then comes the final climb of the stage, the Passo Serra. It’s 3.6km at 8%, with a maximum of 13%. It has a 2km section at 9%. If that wasn’t enough, the road kicks up as it approaches the finishing line.
2km at 5% and then the final 500m is at 3%, but the finishing line is much steeper than that. This stage is very demanding.
As I’ve mentioned, this would normally be a day for the break but things haven’t really been going to plan, this year. The tactics of Astana and Tinkoff, will determine the outcome of this race. Tinkoff might just sense the chance to offload the pink jersey, to give their team a bit of a rest. Astana won’t want this to happen. To stop it from working, they have to get Cataldo, or Landa, in the break, or work to keep the break at a reasonable gap. Getting Cataldo, or Landa, in the break is going to be hard!
If wanting to give the jersey away, they might even make a few calls tonight. It’s not unusual for this to happen. Phone a rival team and tell them if a certain rider makes the break, they won’t chase. Due to the time gaps, it needs to be a rider under 5 minutes down, but not perceived as a massive GC threat. That would be Maxime Monfort, Amael Moinard or Alexandre Geniez. It wouldn’t surprise me to see one of these riders make the break.
The success of the break also depends on BMC and Orica. If they make the break, that’s two teams who won’t chase and I doubt the break comes back. Orica are looking tired but could turn to Simon Clarke. He’s been riding very well and loves this type of stage. BMC have Moinard, Gilbert and Dillier. Gilbert is one of the favourites for the stage, but waiting for a sprint is very dangerous. He could try and join the morning break.
Movistar are another team with plenty of options. They have Visconti, Herrada, Amador, Anton and Izagirre. Quite the line up, but Visconti will need a sprint finish, as he’s close on GC.
The cat 2 and cat 1 climbs will interest KOM chasers. We should see Pirazzi or Zardini go on the attack. Bardiani will make the break and will hope that it’s one of their star riders.
The problem with making the break is that all the peloton will have the same ambition. It should take around 50km for the break to form and could take many, many attempts. Not only do you need to be strong, but you need a lot of luck. Going for the first break is not advisable, but you could get lucky. In these circumstances, teams sometimes get their plan D, in the break. Getting in the break, is like winning the lottery.
Whoever makes it, needs to be a strong climber, thanks to the steep slopes on all the climbs. The list of breakaway contenders is huge!
Montaguti, Nocentini, Bandiera, Paterski, Bole, Boonen, Vakoc, Chavanel, Ulissi, Anton, Hansen, Bak, Chaves, Monsalve, Slagter, Villella, Geschke, Paolini, Tiralongo, Puccio, Boaro and Felline.
If the break doesn’t make it, then we’ll certainly see some GC action. After this stage, the GC riders can rest until Friday and the ITT. If Contador really is injured(and I doubt it), then Astana need to attack today. The cat 1 climb and the last climb, give them two opportunities to try and break him. It would not surprise me to see Astana have another go at King Contador. If this happens, a very small peloton will arrive together and a rider like Aru, could sprint to a win.
If it was a small sprint, then Visconti, Felline, Gerrans, Ulissi and Gilbert would be the fastest.
Yet another stage where I’m left thinking that anything could happen!
1. A “low key” break wins with ease.
2. Tinkoff let a GC rider get away and hand over the pink jersey.
3. Astana race like dogs to put Contador under pressure and we get another GC battle.
4. A combination of BMC, Trek, Movistar and Orica ride to keep the race together and we get a small sprint.
Take your pick people!
Given how the first 8 stages have gone, I’ll go with option 3! During stage 3, Astana managed to reduce the bunch to around 25 riders and I think they could go even better here. If that happens, the final climb will be war. This time, no one will stop Fabio Aru from taking his win. He needs to land a blow or he’ll start doubting himself.
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