After the sprinter’s two-stage intermezzo across Emilia Romagna, with Fernando Gaviria again taking on the role of lead tenor in Tortona, the fight for the maglia rosa returns to centre stage on Saturday with the climb to the Santuario di Oropa.
The stage is short at just 131km and crosses the flat rice fields of Piemonte before the 11.8km climb to the finish. It is not a big day in the mountains; it will be a crescendo ending. Like a much-expected firework, the race could explode like on the Blockhaus or like Mount Etna, it could turn out to be another dud.
In theory Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) and any other pretenders for the pink jersey need to light up the race and attack Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb). Dumoulin leads Quintana by 2:23, with Mollema third at 2:38, Pinot fourth at 2:40 and Nibali fifth at 2:47. They all probably need to gain a further two minutes on the Butterfly of Maastricht if they want to hold him off in the final stage time trial to Milan.
In reality, Oropa is unlikely to produce any major time gaps because it is simply not hard enough and is just one climb after a flat stage. Dumoulin is widely expected to wear the pink jersey until Monday’s third rest day in Bergamo.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen. We’ll see….” Nibali told Cyclingnews on Friday, perhaps bluffing but perhaps also resigned to the fact that the climb to Oropa plays into Dumoulin’s large Dutch hands rather than suit his Italian climbing legs and liking for audacious attacks.
Nibali knows that the climb to Oropa is 11.8km long but that the opening five kilometres climbs at just 4.3%. An 8.5% middle section of one kilometre will hurt, but the remaining five kilometres include several steps to help recover from the 7.6% gradient. There are few hairpins to attack and lots of protection from any wind.
Coppi, Castellania, Oropa and Pantani
- Giro d’Italia: Will Dumoulin keep the climbers at bay? – Podcast
- Dumoulin: ‘Rivals will attack me early and from all sides’
- Giro d’Italia: Nibali and Quintana can be allies of circumstance against Dumoulin
- Mollema: Final week of Giro d’Italia will be different
- Giro d’Italia: Pinot reassured after cameo in the Apennines
- Quintana loses Giro d’Italia lead in worse-than-expected time trial defeat
You can read more at Cyclingnews.com