A breakaway or a sprint finish? One thing’s certain, it’ll be another wet and cold day.
Fuga Full Gas: a flurry of action in the first two hours as riders fought to get in the breakaway with wave after wave of moves, and several riders were in danger of being dropped including some Quicksteppers which isn’t a good sign, perhaps they just hadn’t warmed up? One rider regularly visible on the front was DSM’s Andreas Leknessund and he made the break of seven that went clear. The stage caught fire again on the final climb as the breakaway was reduced by attacks with Leknessund the most aggressive, motivated by the possibility of taking the overall lead and pulling all sorts of faces because of the effort. A cooler Aurélien Paret-Peintre just got across to him before the top of the climb and the pair sped to the finish with the lanky Frenchman taking the stage, and the maglia rosa for the Norwegian. It’s the first time an early breakaway has stayed away to contest the win in the World Tour since Rigo Uran’s Vuelta stage win last September.
It wasn’t two races for the price of one as there were no attacks among the GC contenders as Ineos drove the pace up the last climb. Still, the surprise was all the Quicksteppers were dropped to leave Evenepoel alone by the final climb and on what was only a mid-mountain stage, albeit one ridden very hard, in tough conditions, and where his team were busy. Evenepoel is now released from media duties having passed on both the pink and white jerseys to Leknessund but the Norwegian’s spell in pink might not last beyond Friday and the summit finish at the Gran Sasso d’Italia.
The Route: 171km and 2,400m of vertical gain. This is the most southern stage of the race and after today the race starts its trek north. It’s uphill almost from the start and the Passo Serra is 5km at 6% but with a solid 10-12% section midway to help a breakaway go clear. The climb to Oliveto Citra is the last hurdle for the sprinters and almost 3km at 8%. Then it’s flat all the way to the Salerno, there’s no time to stop in Eboli especially as the wind will be up to make the final parts more risky.
The Finish: a long flat finish straight alongside the coast, it’s exposed to the sea breeze.
The Contenders: a sprint stage? Probably but the sprinters’ teams will need a Goldilocks ride, fast enough to chase down the breakaway, slow enough so as not to put their sprinters into the red. This alone makes it a harder pick for heavyset riders like Jonathan Milan (Bahrain) even if he can turn on the power. Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck) is a big rider but climbs well and Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) is a fast finisher although he’d like an uphill finish.
For breakaway picks, someone who can handle the flat finish but it’s not obvious, subtract the teams with GC ambitions and those with sprinters and there are few squads left and among them not many names jump out.
Gaviria, Ackermann, Dainese, Milan, Cavendish
Weather: damp and 17°C on the coast for the finish but cooler inland, 14°C at times. One thing to watch for is the breeze coming in off the sea for the final 20km, it’s nothing savage but alters the space available on the road.
TV: KM0 is at 12.55pm and the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST.