The Giro reaches the Alps but this is a day for the breakaway more than the first big showdown among the overall candidates.
Stage 11 Review: the breakaway didn’t need much more than five minutes to form as the race pedalled up the riviera with the bunch content with a cocktail of one part Eolo, Cofidis, Bardiani, Intermarché and two parts Corratec. It looked like it was going to be a long, boring stage with an inevitable sprint conclusion and in many ways it was… until a crash on the descent of the Colla di Boasi took down several GC contenders including Geraint Thomas, Primož Roglič, Pavel Sivakov and Tao Geoghegan Hart. The race was over for “TGH” as he was taken away in an ambulance, leaving everyone wondering what could have been given the form he’d shown. The diagnosis later was a fractured hip. On the same descent Oscar Rodriguez overlapped his front wheel by accident with a Trek rider and crashed hard, also out.
In the end we got a good sprint with Mads Pedersen launching from far, as he does. Mark Cavendish seemed to bet on this and hoped to come around but Pascal Ackerman was on the Brit’s wheel and came past him. Jonathan Milan started from further back and was close to passing them all had the finish line been a metre later but Ackermann won the photo finish.
What was supposed to be a benign sprint stage on paper has reshaped the GC with Geoghegan leaving the race and Sivakov losing time, Ineos will now line up behind Thomas which partly makes things simpler for the support riders he can count on, but it also makes him a simpler target for Roglič. All this and the race has yet to reach the Alps…
The Route: 179km with 2,300m of climbing to the Turin suburbs. It’s uphill out of Bra – no jokes about support from the locals – and into the Roero hills, birthplace of the Slow Food movement and among vineyards, passing places like Barolo and Alba that make the route read like a wine menu. However riders will be reaching for carbo drinks and gels and they’ll hardly have time to savour an energy bar as they try to get in the day’s breakaway. Then it’s across the plains and cereal fields towards Rivoli, the stage finish and where the race will cross the finish line with 56km to go and head out for the first encounter with the Alps.
The Colle Braida is a gymnasium for local cyclists as a proper Alpine climb, the first mountain to poke out of the plains. It’s well-engineered and at times cut into the cliffs and here are few hairpin bends. This is a regular road with few ambush points but as the profile shows the final 4km are at a selective 8% which suits the climbers. The descent has more hairpins but no surprises, it’s a regular road down and back to the plains but there’s twist with 13km to go, literally with a small unmarked climb and some hairpins on the way towards the village of Villarbasse, nothing fierce but if there’s still a group left and someone doesn’t fancy a sprint they could try here.
The Finish: the race will pass through Rivoli with 56km to go so the finish gets ridden once in advance which helps as it’s got some corners and clims. However it’s a run through the suburbs rather than via a medieval town and all on regular roads. There’s a dip after the flamme rouge and then curving bend leading into a short climb but this is up a wide and straight road. Then it levels out onto an even wider road.
The Contenders: a good day for the breakaway, the hilly start helps and the big climb is too much for the sprinters… so much so that in between this preview going up and you reading it some might have decided to go home already. Likely picks are Ben Healy (EF Education-Easypost) who is now clearly a marked man but good luck trying to follow on the climbs. Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Samuele Battistella (Astana), Carlos Verona (Movistar) and Brandon McNulty (UAE) fit the bill too but if they all arrived together none are great finishers but that’s why they’ll go clear.
A stage for the GC riders? Even if Primoz Roglič did attack, he’d have to hold off Ineos on the flat run back to Rivoli so it’s risky to put it mildly, especially with tomorrow’s big stage coming, he could try but if he takes 10 seconds over the top it’s still hard to commit to the remaining 28km TT. Today’s stage is reminiscent of Stage 12 in 2019 with the Montoso climb where Miguel Angel Lopez and Mikel Landa attacked on the climb and kept going to take some time, it could be that those a bit further back on GC have a go but again they’ll have to have the horsepower for 28km so while Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain) has the climbing form, can he power along the flat?
Mollema, Vine, Battistella, Van Wilder
Weather: more rain and 13°C, this has to be the wettest Giro since 2013 when the race had an official song blasting out every morning in the start village called Mezza Estate by Cesare Cremoni, “midsummer”… only it rained and it poured.
TV: KM0 is at 12.45 and the approach to the Colle Braida is about 4.00pm with the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST.