The peloton will have enjoyed/endured a day roadtripping across Europe, from Holland to Italy, so stage 4 will be the first of this year’s Giro on home soil. And we start right down at the toe of the boot-shaped nation, in the Calabria region.
The riders will leave the region capital Catanzaro and head for the coast along the Tryyhenian sea. After 35km they reach Marinella, and, dependng on which way the wind is blowing, the following 90km towards the first major climb of the day could provide some nervy racing for the G.C. men.
At around 110km, the race then turns inland in order for the riders to tackle the Bonifati, a category 3 climb (6.55km, 5.8%, max. 9%), before returning to the coast. They then coming back inland again to take on the 2nd cat 3 of the day, the San Pietro (5.3km, 6.8%, max. 11%). These two climbs should be the scenes of attacks, either from riders in the break (likely to include Maarten Tjallingii and Omar Fraile fighting it out for KOM points) wanting to push on for a chance at glory, or from breakaway specialist riders looking to drop the sprinters in the peloton (think De Marchi, Bobridge, Wellens). There will be plenty of people, too, looking to drop the dominant Marcel Kittel ahead of the stage finale.
After 172km come a series of short climbs, making this stage resemble a Milan-Sanremo style profile. And, with 10km to the finish comes the Via del Fortino climb (1.7km, 7.7%, max 18%). Short but very sharp, so a great Poggio-type attack could be in store. Looking at those who went well in Milano-Sanremo suggests that this could be one for Arnaud Démare, Jurgen Roelandts, Heinrich Haussler, Sonny Colbrelli, and even Alejandro Valverde or Vincenzo Nibali. If splits come, then the G.C. men will be after bonus seconds. If Kittel does hold on over the climbs, then this stage is likely his for the taking, but if he has to work to keep the pace then look to Arnaud Démare here, followed by Giacomo Nizzolo and Sacha Modolo.
This will be a hard day in the saddle: its up hill from the gun, rolling terrain until the last 40km, and one of the longest stages in the year’s Giro, resembling the length of a one-day classic rather than a stage race.
The riders are climbing for the first 35km, which climax with the Cat 3 climb to Fortino (3.5km, 5.0%, max. 8%). The next 50km are a rollercoaster of ups and downs, nothing to scare the sprinters too much but plenty of opportunities for attacks and heroic breakaway attempts. At 180km, the route decends for 10km, which will see the sprinters’ teams fighting to control any breakaway riders’ time gaps.
This is the final stage for the sprinters, so expect the main teams to be controlling the race into Benevento. It’s not a simple circuit, and they tackle first a 2.9% climb, the descent, a tricky tight turn sharp just before the flamme rouge and on to some Italian cobbles. From here it’s an uphill sprint at a gradient of 3.4%. So Kittel won’t necessarily have it his own way, but he will still be the favourite given his unsurpassable form at the moment. We’re reminded of Caleb Ewans’ uphill win in the Vuelta last year, and riders like Démare and Nizzolo will also like the slight uphill finish.
We’re still only in the first week, and we have the first big summit finish of this year’s Giro, and the first likely shake-up of the G.C. placings. The final climb isn’t the toughest that the riders will face, so the gaps shouldn’t be huge, but they will offer an early advantage to anyone who can reach out for bonus seconds.
It’s a short stage at only 157km, and it’s a flat and easy first 10km for the riders in Ponte before the road starts to head upwards. They’ll reach the first summit of the day, Bocca di Selva (18km, 5.6%, max. 10%) after 42km. It’s a long and steady climb, with no really sharp gradients of which to speak.
After this they will then descend for 20km and then ride along an undulating 50km section, which includes some energy sapping climbs (but no KOM points here).
With 20km to go, the riders race through Castel di Sangre, which is the site of the approach to the climb up to the finish. The climb itself isn’t hugely difficult (16.8km, 4.8%, max. 12%), and it will take some powerful attacks to make any gaps stick as the steep sections are at the base of the climbs. A flat section mid-climb will likely allow riders to pull any escapees back before the road goes uphill again for the final 5km. As there is a slight descent with 2kms before the line (a rise which maxes out at 8.4%), this looks likely to be an uphill sprint to the line out of a reduced bunch. At the moment you can’t really look past Valverde for a stage finish like this. Nibali too should be up there. We’d also look at Diego Ulissi and Ilnur Zakarin to be leading the sprint to the line, followed by the remaining G.C. hopefuls
A stage for either a plucky group of breakaway riders or large bunch sprint is on the cards today. It’s another undulating day in the saddle, and, with a Cat 2 climb after 9km (9km, 5.5%, max. 10%), we should see any KOM-hunting escpaees get into the morning break. This climb is the toughest test of the day, and it’s out the way early on. The riders will then roll merrily along to Rocca do Corno, where the road drops down and continues to undulate before another drop at Marmore. After this the riders will begin the ascent to the Cat 4 Volico della Somma (6.7km, 4.9%, max. 8%), which is followed by a 10km descent before the remaining 20km. It will then be a race to line that will either see the breakaway scooped up by the sprint-team led peloton, or a gallant few making it to the line before the frustrated sprinters. It is, though, hard to see the sprint teams let a good opportunity go. Kittel, Viviani, Démare, Greipel, Nizzolo, and Modolo should be the ones fighting it out for the podium places, but at this stage we could see the likes of Arndt, Zabel, Hofland, Ewan and
Mareczko (DNF Stage 5) sneak a top 3 place.
We are now in the heart of Italy, and this is a stage that is all about the final 30km. We haven’t seen gravel roads in the Giro since 2011, when Pieter Weening rode solo into the Maglia Rosa, and gravel debuted in the race in 2010 when rainbow jersey-wearing and rain-soaked Cadel Evans took the win. With the ever-growing success and popularity of Strade Bianche, it’s no surprise that we see them return.
The first real test of the day comes at around 105km as the riders tackle the steep climb to Anghiari followed by the Cat 3 Scheggia climb (6km, 3.9%, max. 10%). They will then go over the finish line at 154km to begin the 31km circuit that takes in the Cat 2 Alpe di Poti climb (8.6km, 6.5%, max. 14%), which features 6.4km of gravel roads. The start is brutal, but after the gravel starts the road flattens out for a stretch, and the final gradiants are less severe.
After reaching the summit, the road then goes into a fast descent into the finish at Arezzo, which has a slight uphill drag to the line that peaks at 11%, and averages out at 5% over the last kilometre. Again, on a paper this looks suited to a Valverde/Nibali/Ulissi/Zakarin type finish, but other riders like McCarthy, Fuglsang, Brambilla or Jungels could go very well here.
The day before the second rest day brings the second time trial of this year’s Giro, and, unlike the opening stage, this one will offer us significant time gaps between the G.C. contenders.
This is not a course for the out and out TT specialists, as its rolling nature and tricky descents will bring into play the climbers and the technically gifted bike handlers. As we are now in the Chianti region, the TV pictures should be beautiful, with a backdrop of rolling vineyards framing the action.
The road to the first time check in Castellina In Chianti is rolling and slightly uphill, with winding roads giving little chance for riders to lay big power down early on. After this, the road continues uphill for another 3km before starting a 9km decent, which also undualtes at points, down to the second time check at Maddona Di Pietracupa. There is then a climb up to Sicelle, but the real test, and what will decide the stage and probably the current G.C. postions, is the climb up to the third and final time check at Panzano In Chianti before a straightforward descent to the finish.
G.C. riders like Uran, Nibali, and Valverde will look to gain an advantage here, whereas riders like Jungles, Brambilla, Ulissi and Geniez will be aiming for top 10s. The two big TT men, Dumoulin and Cancellara, may struggle to dominate here, with the Dutchman arguably better suited than the Swiss to the uphill sections of the course. It will be interesting to see how Dumoulin fares in the G.C. rankings in the run up to this stage, and then on the day itself.