Well. That’s was unexpected. From km 2 to the finish, Polanc absolutely smashed it. Unbelievable effort, but also good to see Zakarin get back some time and Jungels to get pink. My prediction in Pozzovivo didn’t fair too well, but that’s all part of the game. The stage into Messina is a little easier in terms of predictions and a lot easier in terms of difficulty, so let’s jump right into it!
The riders start in Pedara, on the Eastern seaboard of Sicily. The stage features a 3.1km neutral zone out of Pedara, with the riders heading out from the south side of town before turning around at around Mascalucia and heading towards the one categorised climb of the day. Travelling along the base of Etna, the climb into Fornazzo is a GPM4 climb, and is categorised as 2 kilometers long at an average of 4%. If this climb was yesterday, it wouldn’t have been categorised at all, and it just seems like it was chucked in for whoever is leading the Mountains Classification to target.
After Fornazzo, the race travels a little bit more inland, where the riders head up undulating roads into Castiglone di Sicilia, turning around and dropping back towards the coastal town of Taormina for the first sprint point of the day. And the one thing that baffles me is that the Fornazzo climb doesn’t have a profile, but the Taormina sprint point does?! The 3.2km into Taomina averages 4.9% – which makes it a harder climb than Fornazzo. No idea what RCS was thinking, but I digress.
From Taormina, it’s dead flat. The riders quickly descend into Letojanni and follow the flat coast all the way up to Messina. There is another sprint point (which is actually on a flat!) in Roccalumera, but the points will be swallowed up by the remains of the break as the teams fight for position heading into the Messina circuit, as well as fighting the echelons that will more than likely blow on the day. The riders enter the circuit with 11km to go and do two laps of a 6.3km circuit around the town (the math doesn’t add up, but the riders enter the circuit halfway in). Heading into the finish line in Messina, there is a hairpin turn with 1.6km to go which could disrupt the sprint trains like we saw on the first stage, while there is a slight right hand bend with around 400m to go just for an extra degree of difficulty, but you can understand why this was rated a 1-star difficulty stage. It’s mostly downhill, with a net negative altitude gain, and the finish is as flat as the Netherlands. Truly a sprinter’s stage, a rarity in this Giro.
The weather tomorrow looks fabulous for a cycling race. It’s going to be a wonderful 19 degrees the whole day from start to finish, a bit warmer than the slopes of Etna the day before. While the winds will be unfavourable at the start, the riders should have cross-tail wind the whole way into Messina. This means that tomorrows stage will be super fast, but also means there is a high chance of echelons in the peloton. This is only exaggerated along the coast, with a 13kmh tail wind expected in Roccalumera. However, once the riders hit Messina, the wind turns nasty, with an expected 20kmh headwind into the finishing straight. So, while we should have a lightening fast stage, it’ll be interesting to see how late the sprint starts as riders try avoid putting themselves out in the wind too early.
The GC Situation
Even with a crash with less than 20km to go, Zakarin was able to take back time he lost earlier on in the race. All the big favourites finished in a pack up Etna, but Geraint Thomas picked up some crucial bonus seconds. Kruijswijk crashed, Landa had a mechanical, and Dennis abandoned after his Stage 3 crash as well. However, because Jungels finished in that main pack, that crucial break in Stage 3 helps him secure Pink for at least the next couple of days during the flatter stages. I can’t see much change in GC from this stage, considering how flat it is, but it’s the Giro after all and anything can happen.
Top 10 GC:
- Bob Jungels – 19:41:56
- Geraint Thomas – 6″
- Adam Yates – 10″
- Vincenzo Nibali – 10″
- Domenico Pozzovivo – 10″
- Nairo Quintana – 10″
- Tom Dumoulin – 10″
- Bauke Mollema – 10″
- Mikel Landa – 10″
- Thibaut Pinot – 10″
Teklepolkadot in the break, again. Zhupa in the break, again. Brutt in the break, again. They make it to Fornazzo, Teklehaimanot takes the points, while they slowly get reeled in along the Sicilian coast echelons. The stage will be fast, insanely fast with that tailwind – I’m expecting a stage a smidge over 3 hours (so a 4:30pm local finish). Headwind sprints are always fun to watch too, it’s all about holding your nerve until the last 100m and then doing a short, explosive effort while trying to avoid the wind as much as possible. I see Caleb Ewan‘s small stature and strong leadout train in Edmondson and Mezgec being able to dodge the wind and take the wind (as much as he likes prematurely throwing away stages he has been handed). Andre Greipel will use his raw power to get into second, while Matteo Pelucchi will actually get a chance to sprint without his lead out man going solo and take the final step of the podium. No changes in GC today, unless a huge crash happens or someone spikes Jungels’ bidon.
The stage starts at 1:15pm local time, and like I said I expect it to finish at around 4:30pm. I’ll be tuning in just hoping to see Caleb on the podium! For now, I’m out.
~The Cycling Raven.