Sunday's stage 8 of the Giro d'Italia runs from Sulmona in a nearly straight line south to Lago Laceno. It's another bumpy one, and the race organizers bill the stage as middle mountains. We're far from the mountain passes of the Dolomiti, but the sprinters won't find much to like about the terrain here. I think I see maybe 20 kilometers of flat road on the profile. Maybe.
The stage almost has an uphill finish, but not quite. The final climb of the day, the Colle Mollela, summits with five kilometers left to race. The Colle Mollela is more difficult than Saturday's Rocco di Cambio and includes four kilometers with an average gradient of 9.4%. There's also a short section that hits 12%. Not-so-pedalabile, then, this one. It's about twice as steep in its most difficult section as the Rocco di Cambio.
Still, there may not be significant time gaps at the finish, because from the summit of the final climb to the finish is still five kilometers of flat racing. Expect a gruppo ristretto at the finish. A cheeky move like the one Michele Scarponi pulled on Saturday is totally possible on this stage, so the general classification favorites need to be vigilant. No sleeping on this final climb.
In the typical style of the Giro d'Italia, there are only two categorized climbs on the profile - the finishing climb and the category 4 Valico di Macarone, which summits at kilometer 65. Really, what's a mountain got to do to get a category there in Italy? It's a good day to go early on the breakaway, but with a flat stage coming up next, there's no reason to think the Garmin-Barracuda team of Maglia Rosa Ryder Hesjedal won't work to keep the race in check.
Favorites? Michele Scarponi, Roman Kreuziger, Maglia Rosa Ryder Hesjedal - the climbers. The top general classification riders should crowd the top ten at the finish of this one.