A time trial stage and in the absence of Filippo Ganna it feels like the big question is Remco Evenepoel’s winning margin; the other is the order of the other GC contenders and the gaps between them.
Evenepoel is the obvious pick but this stage will show us what health he’s in after his crashes this week. It’s the high point for him on paper as after today he’ll be racing on terrain where his rivals will feel they have the advantage, especially after yesterday’s finish in Fossombrone.
Big Ben: a win for Ben Healy and a great stage that had action from start to finish, even if the suspense for the day’s winner was over with an hour to go. Healy joined the early breakaway and for 90 minutes they struggled to get 25 seconds as the counter-attacks raged behind but eventually they were joined by a second move and the peloton let them go. The effort by Healy ought to have left him rinsed but he took off solo on the first climb of I Cappucini above Fossombrone and was solo with 50km to go. It looked brave bordering on foolhardy in the moment but also made sense as the remaining roads didn’t give a group much aerodynamic advantage with its climbs, twisting descents and above all the politics as the chasers kept looking at each other. While he looked to be suffering with his head and shoulders contorted, the legs were spinning smoothly and with a performance like this he can aim for more in this Giro too.
It had been hectic for the bunch for much of the stage, TV images showed them riding in long line even when the break was well clear but with two of the three climbs done and plenty of riders ejected things seemed to go into a lull in what was left of the peloton. Primož Roglič even stopped for a pee, and rode back by himself, a sign things weren’t hectic. However it turns out he was saving weight and soon after getting back to the peloton, he launched on the Cappucini climb. He only took out a few metres with Andreas Leknessund of all the riders leading the pursuit for a while but the gap was enough, there was daylight and Evenepoel couldn’t reel him in, he cracked and the Ineos tandem of Geoghegan Hart and Thomas rode past him and across the Roglič. The trio gained 14 seconds by the finish but crucially a morale boost being being able to ride away from Evenepoel and the rest on a climb.
The Route: a 35km time trial and as flat as a piadina, the local snack, a course where the climb today is the bridge over the autostrada. There are corners though at the start and finish so riders will touch the brakes and work the derailleur today but only just. The section through Cesena visits the old town, complete with flagstone paving. The finish is outside the HQ of Technogym, a maker of fitness equipment, race sponsor today and once a title sponsor of a team in the 1990s.
The Contenders: Remco Evenepoel smoked the field a week ago and with Filippo Ganna out of the race, he is the obvious pick. He did lose ground on the final climb yesterday which suggests he could be sore from his crashes this week but he’s had an extra day’s recovery now and even if he’s not at 100% he could still win. Easy? Hardly, but if he makes it look simple remember today is the point in the race when he ought to have the maximum advantage on everyone and from next week onwards he can expect to face attacks as others try to chip into his lead. He needs to win here, and not just by a few seconds.
Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ) could provide the upset. “Only” fifth on Stage 1, he still did well and the flat course suits. Crucially it’ll be wet and he can take a few risks as it’s today or bust for him compared to the other GC riders who can’t afford this. He’s 41st overall so won’t get radically different weather conditions to the big names. Will Barta (Movistar) is 21st overall and good in time trials but would prefer a hillier course. Edoardo Affini (Jumbo-Visma) will be among the earlier starters and should like the course but didn’t sparkle on Stage 1.
João Almeida (UAE), Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), Geraint Thomas and Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos), and could win but it would be a surprise result.
João Almeida, TGH, Thomas, Affini
Weather: cold and wet with rain showers, 12°C and a northerly wind turning west during the course of the day.
TV: the first rider is off at 1.15pm and the last rider is due in around 5.10pm CEST.