We are back in Italy for a mountain top finish on Etna. It is the first mountain top finish in this race, which means the breakaway has a good chance of taking a win. There are 3655 climbing meters.
Etna, Rif. Sapienza
Mount Etna from the west side. A steady climb with a few hundred steep meters halfway up. It flattens out at the top. It has not been used before in any major race.
What is it similar to?
The closest I can find this year is Jebel Jais in terms of length and gradients. A harder version, but I doubt we will see big GC gaps. It is more likely to see an uphill sprint in the final kilometer or so.
The riders will have crosswinds for most of the stage. There is a very, very small chance of echelons. On Etna, it will get colder the further they climb (down to 8 degrees C) and they will have a headwind of 1-2 m/s. Etna is a forested mountain which will make it less significant. There is a chance of rain too.
Echelons on Sicily?
As the riders head north towards Etna, they go through vineyards and fields. From 60.5 km left -> 44 km left, there is a chance of winds above 5 m/s according to some weather forecasts. It is on the edge of being enough, it will depend on what different teams are up to and I would assume it is not enough, but it could create tension in the peloton.
It is either the breakaway or the GC riders. In the last 7/9 first mountain stages in the last nine Grand Tours, the breakaway has won the first battle. With potential crosswinds, which I highly doubt, it could well be a day for the GC too. I doubt MvdP has any chance at keeping the jersey and I doubt any team GC rider wants the jersey yet. As Etna Rif Sapienza is not that difficult, the GC riders will most likely look at each other.
Lenard Kämna – has already proved he still has the same legs we saw in Tour of the Alps. He has in a few years become a very strong breakaway rider with wins in Grand Tours and the week-long World Tour races. I think the climb tomorrow suits him well, it is not too steep which means he can use his diesel to slowly drop his competitors in the breakaway. The main problem is, will the GC teams allow him to get in the morning breakaway or are they too afraid to let him borrow the jersey? I doubt they are.
Rein Taaramäe showed last year at La Vuelta a Espana he still has the skill set to win a Grand Tour stage. He climbed well in the last time trial in Tour de Romandie and he often seeks out the first mountain top finish to join the breakaway and borrow the prestigious leader’s jersey for a few days. From the intermediate checkpoint to the finish on the Villars TT, he only climbed 27 seconds slower than Vlasov and 11 seconds slower than Caruso. His legs are very good just now.
Attila Valter had a good run in Tour of the Alps. He had the youth classification jersey last May at the Giro d’Italia and he is in a good position to do so again. I do really doubt the GC teams are too afraid of him in the long run, which means he will likely be allowed up the road.
Lorenzo Fortunato is another man in stellar form. It would mean a big deal for EOLO-Kometa if he could take another big win on a famous Italian climb. In Vuelta Asturias Julio Alvarez Mendo, he finished second overall, climbing very well on the Queen stage. Some may argue he “poses a threat in the GC”, but he has already lost two minutes which gives him a buffer. My big concern is, will he make the morning break since it will likely form on the flat.
Nans Peters is another breakaway specialist who has had many results to back it up this year. He tried to build up form in Tour de Romandie, joining the morning break once. He only wins big as his two only pro wins are from Grand Tours. It is difficult to say how good he is right now as his results have not been very good as of late.
Jonathan Caicedo won on Etna the last time they rode it in the Giro d’Italia on a rainy day in 2020. He may have team orders to protect Hugh Carthy which is a bit of a problem. If he makes the morning break, he will be tough to beat when they near 2000 altitude meters on Etna.
David de la Cruz proved in Tour of the Alps he has good legs. I think he poses a small threat to the GC but I would not be worried if he makes the morning break. With the potential of rain on Etna, he stands a good chance. He also sits nearly 2 minutes behind MvdP but just as Caicedo, he might have to protect Lopez.
Joao Almeida – GC sprint contender #1
Pello Bilbao – GC sprint contender #2
Who will win?
I doubt we will see echelons, which means a win for the breakaway. I will take Rein Taaramäe to take the win on Etna.