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Giro d'Italia: The Upcoming Weekend

With the maglia rosa off the shoulders of a "contender" (depending on whom you ask), the race may settle down for a few days of racing that leaves overall contention out of the plan. Each of the next three stages (I'll lump Monday in too) looks difficult, but not necessarily hard enough to shake off the sprinters and their escorts. There will no doubt be scads of attacks, and the stage hunters may bag their quarry each time, but if Milram (presumably) is determined to set up a sprint, it wouldn't shock me to see them succeed.

Saturday: Spoleto - Scarperia

The longest stage of the Giro, at 254km, looks like it's set up for the sprinters. Winding through Tuscany to the northern outskirts of Florence, the race tops out on the Valico Croce a Mori, at 955 meters. It's the Giro, there must be climbing. But considering the race finishes at the Autodromo del Mugello, a Formula 1 race track, it's hard to imagine the riders straggling home one by one. Best chance this weekend of a breakaway succeeding, but still, a probable bunch finish.

  • Entertainment value: 4
  • Race value: 3 (points only)
  • Winner: Petacchi

Sunday: Barberino di Mugello - Fiorano Modenese

No rest on Sunday... the peloton departs Mugello straight upward over the Passo della Futa, hits a few more risers, then tops out at Sestola (1020 meters)... before a long descent and 80km of flat racing. This is as sure as any stage remaining to finish in a bunch sprint (well, except Monday)... and like Saturday, the organizers have prepared accordingly. Once the race reaches Maranello, there's a 30km loop, over another car track, circling through some villages, and back to Maranello before the finale in Fiorano Modenese.

  • Entertainment value: 2
  • Race value: 5 (points and mountains)
  • Winner: Forster

Monday: Reggio Emilia - Lido di Camaiore

Having circled north to Emilia (outside Parma), the race turns back south and west, hitting the Ligurian coast at La Spezia, and back down to Tuscany for the beachside finish at Lido di Camaiore. This is another solid workout for a while, but given the thigh-melting planimetra looming Tuesday, the riders get plenty of time to work the lactic acid out of their legs from 70km of on-and-off climbing up to the Passo del Cerreto (1250 m) with a long descent and some 80km of dead-flat racing. Should be another postcard stage... and another sprint.

  • Entertainment value: 4
  • Race value: 5 (points and mountains)
  • Winner: Petacchi