By David Hunter
Penne – Gualdo Tadino 239km
The second week of racing kicks off with a long day in the saddle.
At 239km, this is the longest stage of the race, the riders won’t be very happy that it comes after a rest day. As you can see, the profile shows a lot of hills. The bunch will climb 4161m, that is a huge amount of climbing for the sprinters. More bad news for the quicks is that opening climb comes from the gun.
This cat 2 climb is 15.7km at 5.8%, that will be a horrible way to start the stage. The hill will mean a fast start and it’s possible to see a large group go clear. Not long off the descent, the peloton face the next climb which is 5.8km at 5.4%. Despite lots more climbing, we only have one more categorised climb. This cat 4 effort comes with 30km remaining and is 1km at 7%.
This stage has breakaway written all over it. Over 4000m of climbing is too difficult for most of the sprinters. Even those that think they could survive will find it too difficult for their domestiques, meaning no one left to chase. I think we’ll see the GC riders using this as a second rest day. Everyone will be happy to see a large group fight out for the victory.
Cloudy with a chance of rain. Some reports even think that there might be a hailstorm!
The final kilometre is very technical, but I just can’t see a sprint finish.
Tim Wellens – didn’t enjoy the best of breakaway days on Sunday, but today is another day. The Lotto man already has a stage win to his name, but he’s now hunting for another. This stage is great for him, especially the first climb. He can use his huge engine to snap the elastic of the peloton and make the morning move. If there, he has a good tactical brain and a developing sprint finish. Wellens won’t be scared going to the line with a small group of rivals.
Matteo Montaguti – was impressive in Saturday’s break, but just didn’t have enough at the end. The Italian is a solid climber, but packs a fast sprint. He’s not a rider with many career wins, but he does seem to save his best for this race.
Davide Ballerini – the Androni man has already been very active in this race. He is one of the interesting riders that seems to climb well and also has a fast sprint. He hasn’t managed his first pro win, what a fairytale it would be to take it in the Giro.
Luis Leon Sanchez – I hope to see Astana free him from his domestique role. They have a very strong team, with a number of options for this stage, but the Spaniard would be my man. A great climber and fast finisher, he will be a dangerous man if he makes the break.
Zdenek Stybar – I have to include a QuickStep rider in this section. Looking at their squad, the Czech star seems the obvious choice for this stage. I don’t see them riding all day for Viviani, they will want representation in the morning move. He’s already won stages in the Tour and Vuelta, he would be very happy to complete the set.
Tony Martin – very active in the first week, this breakaway stage is one for him.
Enrico Battaglin – has one win already to his name, if the race somehow comes back together for a reduced sprint, the Italian would be one of the favourites. There is a small chance of this happening, which means we could see him trying to make the morning move. Clearly, his form is very good just now.
Jarlinson Pantano – one of the breakaway experts. The Colombian is fantastic at making the right moves and finishing them off. Trek haven’t enjoyed a great race, the team will be delighted if Pantano does make the morning move.
Valerio Conti – UAE have two clear options in Conti and Ulissi, both of whom would be big favourites from the break. Conti was unlucky back on stage 4, just getting caught near the end. He is a hugely entertaining cyclist and one that is due to take his first Giro win. Will it be in Gualdo Tadino?
Matej Mohoric – looked very strong on Saturday, but he attacked too much at the start of the final climb. Mohoric enjoyed a brilliant 2017 and started 2018 in fine form. He seems ready to take the next step in his career and that would include taking his first Giro win.
This is a tough one. Okay, so I think the break makes it. Looking through my list of contenders, I’ll go with Luis Leon Sanchez. He has the right mix of experience and form to take the win.
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