It’s only the fourth stage and Tuesday but here’s a mountain stage with a tough final climb to make today one for the GC riders.
Matthews strikes in Melfi: just up the road from the finish in Melfi is the Fiat Chrysler factory where briefly workers went on strike to protest at the signing of footballer Cristiano Ronaldo by Juventus, both the factory and the football club share the same ownership and workers were disgruntled by the millions spent on a footballer. Yesterday’s arrival of the Giro could have had trade unionists on edge given the millionaire sports stars arriving in town for a day but they’d surely recognise the work involved as Jayco-Al Ula were among several teams toiling in the stage to control things, in the Giro there can be no goal hangers. Sure enough Monte Vulture was enough to eject some sprinters and blunt the legs of others who were able to hang on and in the finish Michael Matthews took a flyer on the finishing straight to hold off Mads Pedersen.
The Route: 184km inland via a passo, a valico , a sella and a colle, all synonyms for mountain passes. First through some unmarked climbs, they’re not steep but launchpads for big ring attacks early in the stage.
The Passo delle Crocelle isn’t steep either, a big ring climb as well, likewise Monte Caruozzo, often 4-5%. But each are 20km long and feel like they go on forever.
The Finish: how hard is the final climb? Past winners here are classics contender and sideburn supremo Roger De Vlaeminck, grand tour rider Alex Zülle and the rickety-kneed Domenico Pozzovivo and the synthesis of these wins is that it’s a sustained climb but a fast one, the peloton can fly up here and riders can benefit from drafting a lot here. It’s got a steep section in the middle but it suits a peloton well. Once at the pass there’s three kilometres to go, and all on a wide flat road.
The Contenders: Remco Evenepoel has all but deployed a megaphone to tell the breakaway he’d be delighted if they stay away for the day and help him out of the maglia rosa. Yet he can’t make a break stay clear for the day and he’s even got a chance here to extend his lead with a stage win. Similarly Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) could deploy his team to ride and keep Evenepoel in pink, and then give their leader the shot at the stage win. Ditto Ineos for Tao Geoghegan Hart.
If a breakaway can stay clear it’s a lottery to pick the likely members. They’ll need to cope with the final climb and be able to handle the flat finish. Andrea Vendrame (Ag2r Citroën), Samuele Battistella (Astana), Andreas Leknessund (DSM) and Simon Clarke (Israel) come to mind but take your pick among others.
Geoghegan Hart, Roglič
Vendrame, Evenepoel, Battistella
Weather: wet, the sun might come out mid-stage but it’ll be damp and no more than a chilly 17°C.
TV: tune in to catch the final climb with 30 minutes to go, the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST.