The first big mountain stage for the GC. With a change in the route, will it be a bummer?
As you all know, we do not get to the top of Salita del gran san Bernardo. Instead, they the last part in a tunnel before the descent.
Another day going north.
We start with a long flat section of 62.5 km. Not ideal for the breakaway. Salita del gran san Bernardo is the first climb. It is the length that makes it difficult, not the gradients of it.
Once over the top, we are in Switzerland. You know it, nice wide roads. A long descend on nice tarmac.
It leads straight to the bottom of the hardest climb of the race so far. By a landslide. It has never been used before in a professional bike race. A lot of hairpins in the first half before. Here, they move through villages high up. What I can tell you, is with 4.1 km to the top, the move onto a smaller road. The Google Van has not been there. That will make the last 4.1 km at 10.3% more difficult than it looks.
What I can see on the descent looks to be a very bad road. It looks like gravel the first half of the descent, surely. I found this quote. ‘This narrow tarmac was a gravel road until less than ten years ago, when it was paved for the Tour des Stations,’ says Rumpf. ‘So this could be a very unpredictable part of the Giro stage, with tactical moves and suicidal attacks. A skilled descender could make a big difference.’
It looks fantastic but the road surface look damn awful.
So – back at looking at the route. Long valley of 22 km until the foot of the last climb. A 13.4 km climb at 7.1% is still a test for some. This is roughly and hour after the top of La Croix de Couer, so the riders would have had time to eat, drink and potentially get a few helpers back. The first two thirds are the toughest.
Not windy at all, freezing at the top of the Salita del gran san Bernardo and La Croix de Couer. Regarding the wind, you never know at a mountain top. Sometimes it looks like 2-3 m/s are small hurricanes up there.
And well, I kid you not. It will rain a lot in the opening 110 km. That is where the crest of Salita del gran san Bernardo is. A lot. Windy reports, as the stage will progress, they will head into rain on La Croix de Couer and on the descent. There will fall 1.2 cm of snow on La Croix de Couer the next 24 hours.
Mywindsock agrees on the wind but not the rain. Therefore, let’s see what the locals say. And here, we use MétéoSuisse and IlMeteo. They say rain in Italy (first 110 km). Then it keeps raining but less in Switzerland. It may be dry in the last 30 km.
Conclusion: Bloody cold, loads of rain the first 110 km. It will be hard to stay warm. Once in Switzerland, it will rain too. Mostly, it means the descent from La Croix de Couer will be extremely slippery. 200 km, close to 5000 climbing meters and 6 hours on the bike. Tomorrow is difficult.
How will the stage unfold?
So, we have a flat start. That makes it hard for the climbers to get in the breakaway. It will rain, which means rain jackets and that leads to riders more easily can sneak in the breakaway. I am happy I’m not Puccio or Swift tomorrow. The easy way for INEOS to battle this is simply having Arensman or De Plus going in the morning break. That should sort it. INEOS is down to six riders. It is all about the GC.
Moving on, it is difficult to say when the breakaway will form. It can take 1-2 hours. It can also take 10 minutes. What I what to take about is the finale 4.1 km of La Croix de Couer and the descent. We are 2200 meters above sea level it’s as cold as winter bathing and you have a descent where I don’t know if it is gravel or tarmac.
These 12 km are extremely important. I can’t tell you the surface. It looks like compact gravel/bad asphalt. gpx.studio even has unpaved as a category. I can’t give you the answer. This is the profile.
Then, we have the valley. It can have to functions. a: teams have used satellites to launch and attack over the top or b: all the favorites are isolated and wait for helpers. One of them suits the GC to fight for the win, the second the breakaway.
The last climb is not too difficult. But it depends on that 10 km section I’ve put in. Who fancies it? Bahrain-Victorious have already attacked once downhill. We have Roglic and Thomas who both crashed the other day, and I would argue, are a bit prone to crashes downhill – usually in larger groups. The descent will be wet, meaning you have to take chances.
Conclusion: I have really been rambling but not given any answers. Here are a few things;
1; we are down to 136 riders.
2; INEOS are down to 6 riders. They will control be letting De Plus and Arensman follow moves.
3; Bahrain and JV have 8 riders, while UAE has 7 and EF have 5 left. That should mean sending satellite riders up the road. Look for Buitrago, Kuss, Bouwman, McNulty, Vine, Healy.
4; just 15 riders are inside 5 minutes. The rest of them should have a free pass.
5; flat start – not ideal for the breakaway.
So will the GC men risk it all? I doubt it. Can they drop each other with a perfectly placed satellite rider placed up front – doing a WvA performance? Doubtful – a hand full can do that. Will INEOS send riders up front? Only if they must.
Thomas – the first big test for him and the team tomorrow. So far, they have looked good. Losing Tao was not ideal at all, it would have been a very good stage to have an equally strong teammate. I think he is in luck because the riders he has left are amazing. De Plus is reborn, Arensman are riding in to some good for and Sivakov unfortunately had a crash and is bruised. It is a tough day to control, I think they will be happy with the breakaway taking it and the bonus seconds. The cold is good news for a Welshman.
Roglic – let’s see what you got. I think they should try to bring a rider in the breakaway, just someone who can do a good 20 km turn after La Croix de Couer. Ah, seems to unrealistic. I think he is happy sitting behind Thomas. He will have to respond to attacks that Thomas must respond to as well. They don’t have the team to set it all up, he will hope for a GC sprint. He is the one that could blow it all a part. I just doubt he will do it.
Almeida – a big test. It is tomorrow where my head can get on the chopping block as I usually have low expectations for him. He is not often going well in bad weather conditions to my knowledge, it makes sense, he is from Portugal. They have one of the strongest teams at his disposal. If we see a few of the bigger guns go on La Croix de Couer, he will hope to get back on. The last climb is quite good for him, and he packs a good sprint for bonus seconds.
Caruso – This stage suits him. A lot. He has the diesel and he usually goes well in the rain. They have showed they are ready to play. With Haig and Buitrago, he could have a great set of helpers. Thyon 2000 was the sign I needed to see, and after people leaving, he has a good shot at the podium once more. I think Bahrain is the team who are willing to attack on the descent to see what damage they can do, however, it requires Buitrago and Haig to be with the best over the top.
Kämna – first test as a GC man. He had some illness just before the opening days, so he has been a bit quiet. He tried to follow the move of Roglic on stage 8 and that cost him some time. He should know better, he fits more into the category of Caruso. Set a tempo, grind to the top. I hope he can follow, or is not to distanced, over La Croix de Couer.
Dunbar – the move away from INEOS looks to bear fruit. He is fantastic pure climber and I think Jayco have been one of the more visible teams this Giro d’Italia. I think he will finish very close to the best GC riders tomorrow. After visiting Ireland, I can conclude, he will not be bothered with the rain.
Carthy – time for a big nine stages. He lost a lot of time against the clock, which hopefully means he spend his time prior to the race practicing going uphill! He will only get better as the race goes by. Tomorrow is where he needs to follow the best over the top of La Croix de Couer and stay with them to the line – then we are in store for a big third week by Hugh.
Vine – breakaway hope #1. Best climber that is not a threat. Does he have to help Almeida?
Pinot – breakaway hope #2. A big day for the KOM jersey. Sits just four minutes down just on the edge of being allowed.
Verona – breakaway hope #2. His only win in his career came from a tough day in Dauphiné.
⭐⭐⭐ Roglic, Thomas
⭐⭐ Caruso, Almeida, Vine
⭐ Dunbar, Kämna, Verona, Carthy,
Who will win?
It is a coin toss for me tomorrow. You need to be a very good climber to win. I will take a win for Pinot. The reason why is he is both allowed in the morning break and he can attack late in the finale, if we are down to just favorites. He is no threat and he has not used too much energy so far.