It's such a tease, this Giro d'Italia. After three days of hard climbing stages, the Giro returns to the flats and gives the sprinters a chance to play. Stage 9 runs from San Giorgio del Sannio to Frosinone and does not have a single categorized climb. Not even one! It's as flat as my tire on yesterday's ride, which my friends, was totally flat. Bam! Sssssss.
Though not the real mountains of the Giro, these past three stages in the Appenini have given us a nice hint about the bike racing to come. Ryder Hesjedal sits at the top of the general classification thanks to the Garmin-Barracuda victory in the team time trial, and solid riding in these early climbs.
Garmin-Barracuda has certainly shown up to race at this Giro. So too has Liquigas-Cannondale who drove the field hard over the final climbs during Friday's stage. Ivan Basso sits sixth at 40 seconds, while his young team-mate Damiano Caruso, a past junior World Champion, is seventh and wears the White Jersey of Best Young Rider.
Roman Kreuziger, defending champion Michele Scarponi, Joaquín Rodríguez, and Fränk Schleck have also all shown over the past few days that they have good climbing form. Rodríguez trails Hesjedal by just 9 seconds. The mountain stages should be good times, should the gaps stay close.
On Monday, the general classification riders can relax, to the degree that anyone ever relaxes during a grand tour. The stage is a dead-flat run, and it's on the sprinters' teams to reel in the break. Garmin-Barracuda as the team of the race leader can't slack entirely, but they'll no doubt have help from Team Sky and Orica-GreenEdge. World Champion Mark Cavendish currently trails Matt Goss by 10 points in the Red Jersey comp. A win tomorrow would put Cavendish in Red. It should be fast and furious all around.