Stage 7. It is a day for the climbers, and I must insist, the descenders too. There are 4600 meters of climbing, the most so far in this Giro d’Italia.
Starting near the coast and heading north all day.
The first and only cat-1 climb. Highly irregular and where the breakaway will hope to get a big gap.
Montagna Grande de Viggiano
The hardest climb of the day. How the GC teams approach this climb will likely determine if the stage is won by the breakaway or the GC. From the top, there is still 61 km left. That is quite long.
It does not look very technical, but it is. I could imagine Bahrain-Victorious might want to attack here, hopefully, to drop a GC contender.
Bottom of Viggiano descend and the next two climbs and descends.
Not the steepest gradients, but some technical descends. With 13 km left, it is primarily flat until they reach the finish line.
Uphill kick at the end, in case it ends up in a small sprint.
A day with almost no wind at all and temperatures around 20 degrees C. No rain on the forecast either.
Breakaway or GC? I think the main argument for the breakaway is the main climb is a long way from home. The descent mentioned is just very difficult. I do really doubt any team has ridden the climb or the descent but they will know about the difficulties of both. The main argument for the GC is that the teams will pace the climb very hard in order to test the other GC riders who might have a bad day. On the other side of the coin, it is still a long way to go. With 4700 meters of climbing, it surely will be interesting to see.
The next question is Trek-Segafredo. I doubt they want to control the stage but they do not want to give the jersey away either. A paradox. I think they will make sure to defend the jersey, which means no one close in the GC is allowed in the morning break. If they can’t control it, they will let Mollema up the road.
I personally think it will be another day for the breakaway and the GC riders will be happy to save a bit more energy for Blockhaus. I simply do not think the GC will ride full gas from the bottom of Viggiano to the finish. The terrain is not suited for big GC gaps.
On the last note, it is important to be a strong climber. 4700 climbing meters and Viggiano, which is 6 km at 9.9%. It is not likely the main attack will happen there, it is too far out for a big solo I think. It will happen on the rolling terrain afterward or on the technical descends. To win tomorrow, climbing, descending and an engine to ride almost 200 km is also somewhat important.
Davide Formolo – tried or marked moves on the Etna stage. It tells me he has somewhat of a free role. He is a good breakaway rider, but there is a chance he will be on GC duties. He rarely wins, but when he does, he wins big.
Mauro Schmid is my man for Quick-Step tomorrow. I think 4600 climbing meters is a lot, and probably too much, but if he managed to survive the main climb, he will be hard to drop and he is very fast in a sprint.
Attila Valter – had a good run in Tour of the Alps. He has used the last few days helping Demare, now he has some freedom to chase his own glory. It also means he might have used more energy than most others. I think he has a good skillset, he is climbing well and has an engine.
David de la Cruz – the amount of descending worries me, but he is climbing very well and has a big engine for a solo attack.
Bauke Mollema – Skjelmose has said that the Dutchman has good legs. He has lost some time now and it could be a good card for Trek to drop, so they do not need to chase all day. He has a nose for winning and attacking at the right moment.
Wout Poels – has lost an awful lot of time the last two stages. Either he has good a green light to attack tomorrow or he is feeling ill. Nonetheless, I think it is a good stage for him.
Pello Bilbao – GC contender #1. If Bahrain decide to attack, he will not miss the split.
Richard Carapaz – GC contender #2. INEOS will be on the watch for moves and they rarely miss them.
Joao Almeida – GC contender #3. He could be alone tomorrow, but he has a good sprint.
Who will win?
It is either get it right or get it wrong tomorrow. I will go for Bauke Mollema – it is what my gut has told me for the past week. The trump card of Trek-Segafredo.