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Giro d'Italia Stage 11 Preview: Flat with a surprise ending

Giro-main_medium Che bello, this Giro! I'm still feeling swoony after today's finish in Assisi. Oh Italia, I die for your walled cities! The bike race wasn't especially suspenseful, though that was a nice piece of riding from Slagter. Too bad he only succeeded in leading out Joaquín Rodríguez, right? Oopsy. Rodríguez now leads the overall followed by Hesjedal and Tiralongo.

Tomorrow, the Giro continues its northward journey. We all know what happens in the north. Mountains! Yes, the Giro is racing inexorably toward the mountains, where the real Giro begins. Those stages will decide the race. But first, we must allow the sprinters more time to play.

Wednesday's stage 11 runs from Assisi to Montecatini Terme. At first glance it looks flat, as inevitably a day for Cavendish as Tuesday's stage was for Rodríguez. Not so fast. The stage includes two categorized climbs. The first, the Poggio alla Croce, summits after 154 kilometers of racing. I hear you muttering over there. But Gaaavvvv, why should we care about a category 3 climb midway through the stage? Well, maybe you shouldn't.

But you should care about the launchpad of a climb that comes inside the final 15 kilometers of racing. This is a classic Giro pattern: the stage that looks flat, but includes a nasty suprise close to the finish. The climb in Vico runs 3 kilometers and summits with 12 kilometers left to race.

Will it ruin the chances of the sprinters? Really, it's hard to say. Certainly, it adds an element of uncertainty to the proceedings. A feisty rider from the early breakaway could use this climb to escape for a stage victory. A team riding hard could dislodge a sprinter like Mark Cavendish. This kind of stage is what the Giro does best. Unpredictable, just the way I like it.

Here is your current general classification.