It's hard to see much from this map of tomorrow's ride to Contursi Terme. It looks like a fairly typical Giro stage... enough climbing to kill an ordinary human being but little to stop the peloton from another mass dash to the line. But those last 3km... what's up there?
Here's what's up: a 3km climb to the line at 5.9% average, ending at 9%. A little Ardennes replay for anyone who missed them last month... like, say, Riccardo Riccò, or il Killer DiLuca. The description of the stage finish, according to La Gazzetta, is known as "alla Bettini," which I believe means that it favors the rider with the most garish outfit. TuttoBici is already speculating (with some help from overall leader Franco Pellizotti) that DiLuca is plotting a coup on the maglia rosa tomorrow, presumably so he can wear it into Abruzzi, his home region, for the third time in four years.
DiLuca's ambitions and other preemptive reverse-sandbags aside, the proliferation of the "alla Bettini" stages is about to become the story of the race. Check out the upcoming stages which feature noticeable little rises at the end:
- Stage 6: final 800 meters are uphill, and comes after two circuits over the Bosco della Risega
- Stage 7: final 2.5km rise at some unspecified grade
- Stage 8: this time, after another undulating stage, it's a 4km climb to the line
- Stage 10: OK, the time trial is a power ride, but just to continue the trend the organizers have found a few hundred meters of rise to locate the finish line.
Last year, recall, DiLuca made a living off of the smaller climbs. After earning a small cushion in the opening TTT (e.g., 30" over Andy Schleck and CSC), DiLuca won stage 4 which earned him another 5-15", nabbed another 9-30" over various rivals in stage 10, and hung on for dear life from then on. Those climbs were far longer (9-17km) than the stage-enders this year, but the gaps available aren't dissimilar. An enterprising rider might be looking at these stages and be tempted to think, this is the way forward.
It isn't. Stage wins are always nice, if they can be gained without burning too many matches, but anyone who thinks they can peak early and hang on in week three as DiLuca did last year is certifiably insane. Honestly, I doubt any of the riders themselves is actually so deluded; more likely it will be the press that thinks aloud in this manner... until the Alpe di Pampeago, when gaps in the 2-8 minute range quickly open up. So, enjoy the next few days of exciting stages... but try not to make too much of it.