Somehow, I managed to miss showing up to preview Thursday's stage with its postcard perfect finish in Sestri Levante. That was some good bike racing right there. It had all the right ingredients: Perfectly placed climbs, fast, technical descents, and an aggressive breakaway. Lars Bak made a crafty move in the finale to win the stage, while Sandy Casar suffered a heartbreaker by falling short of the Maglia Rosa by less than 20 seconds. Questo è il Giro!
Of course, instead of previewing that lovely romp around coastal Italy, I show up just in time for another flat stage. Friday's stage 13 runs from Savona to Cervere over mostly flat roads. Mark Cavendish is smiling.
The stage profile has a few bumps early on, including a category 4 climb to Montezemolo. Inside 10 kilometers to race, there's a sharp uphill ramp. The Giro couldn't be bothered to give that thing a category, but we all know by now to beware the uncategorized climbs in this Giro.
There is no descent from this final climb. Instead, the course climbs to a plateau and runs flat to the finish. That's bad news for the sprinters, because it means they can't slack on the climb and chase back on the descent. They'll have to put some muscle into this one, if they want to make it to the finish with the main field.
At just 121 kilometers, this stage is short, which will make it difficult for a breakaway to make much progress. They'll get out there just in time for the sprinters' teams to reel them back in. That stealthy uncategorized climb near the finish could offer a shot for someone feeling feisty to foil the sprinters. But it's a long-shot move, really. This one's for Cavendish, if Ferrari doesn't again spoil his party.
Here is the current general classification. Ryder Hesjedal of Garmin-Barracuda sits just 17 seconds behind Maglia Rosa Jaoquín Rodríguez of Katusha. After his long day out in the breakaway on Thursday, Sandy Casar of Français des Jeux-BigMat now sits third at 26 seconds.
Barring some bizarre hijinx on Friday, those standings are likely to remain unchanged until Saturday's high mountain stage that finishes on the Col de Joux. Ivan Basso, who sits eighth and 57 seconds behind Rodríguez will be smiling on Saturday. But that, my friends, is a story for another day.