With a short but challenging course in the mountainous Trentino region of northern Italy this is the perfect place to get race ready. For the Italians it's more than that of course, it's a solid win in itself ,but to the many forign GC contenders lining up it is primarily a way to gauge your form and try yourself against some of the opposition you will be facing in a month. Last year saw Cadel Evans putting in an impressive performance that perhaps was indicating a slightly early arrived form as he was later to fade in the second half of the Giro d'Italia. Pozzovivo and Aru were the Trentino riders who would do best in the Giro later, Pozzo turning a 2nd in Trentino into a 5th and Aru transforming a solid 7th into a breakthrough 3rd place in the Giro.
This years Trentino sees a number of the biggest projected favorites for the Giro on the startlist. Richie Porte, Domenico Pozzovivo and Leopold König are all here (Aru was supposed to but has had stomach trouble and is passing it up). That means the ones missing are basically Betancur (God help us, we're still thinking he can be a contender), Uran, Contador and the Three Amigos of Movistar (Anton, Intxausti & Izaguirre) of the major names talked about for the Giro. Some of them we might see at Romandie but Contador isn't actually racing any more until the Giro. This is all part of his masterplan of coming undercooked to the Giro, save the win in the last week and then have enough zipp left in the legs to go toe to toe with Froome in July. I can see any number of ways this plan goes to hell in a handbasket but odds are if it does it's more likely to happen in July than in May. But that is all a later concern.
Four days is a neat little format, at least if you don't even have to pretend that you want to offer anything up to the sprinters. Here it is all about the GC riders and it's all about Giro prep. And on that note........
Stage 1 is a Team Timetrial, just as in the Giro d'Italia.This is a short nip, only 13 km. A good way for teams to gel a bit and also to make some gaps and force some riders onto the offensive to try and make up lost time on stage 2.
Stage 2 offers some serious serious climbing with a HC climb in the form of Monte Velo and an uphill finish. Not as brutal as we'll see in the Giro but tough enough to cause trouble here for sure. The HC climb is 12,5 kms and a nasty one with very little respite.
The finishing climb is easier but with with the damage of the big climb done we should see plenty of fireworks at the finish.
Stage 3 also comes with an uphill finish and before that the nasty little Passo del Redebus that featured in last years Giro d'Italia. Just as stage 2 the climbs aren't outrageous but tough in the way that they favor some tactical and attacking racing if the riders are willing to take the race to their opponents.
Stage 4 is the tricky one. The climbing comes early and the finish is more for the puncheurs or could even be sprinters, if there were any in the race. I imagine the GC is pretty much settled at this point and this will only about keeping vigilant for the riders who have opponents close behind them. There's timebonuses of 10-6-4 seconds on all but the first stage so those could very well come into play as well.
What can we expect to see?
First of all I think there will be some strong showings from (Aru I thought) and Pozzovivo. The home riders will want to show some muscles and maybe send a statement Sky's way. Porte will be coming in full of confidence and really won't be looking to prove much at this point. For him this period is more about avoiding last years pre-Giro debacle and maybe to work up a report with some of the riders that will work for him in May. For König this might be more of an opportunity. We know by now that Sky don't really work with plan B's so it will be interesting to see how the balance of power is supposed to work between König and Porte here since they are said to both be going to the Giro with protected status. With the massive TT in the Giro though König will really have to show something on the climbs if he is going to be a factor. It will be interesting to see if we get an indication on how the team dynamics are going to work in May here.
Astana seem to have brought pretty much all their top domestiques here and it's likely we'll see guys like Kangert and Landa go for glory here even if Aru isn't riding, perhaps even more so now that they are freed up. They, along with some of the lesser known climbers on the smaller teams like Zardini, Pirazzi and others will probably provide the spice here and I'd be surprised if one of those teams don't take one of the mountaintop finishes.
Sadly the Giro del Trentino won't be live transmitted this year, only highlghts in the evening on RAI so we won't get to see much of the action. Instead we will be regaled with the thrilling clash of the Continental teams in the Tour of Croatia and what a thrilling battle it promises to be. Can we at least get pretty images or it will be a total loss?