Stage 6: Ponte -- Roccaraso, 157km
The day the sprinters start thinking about contacting the team travel director...
What's It About?
Out of the Greek and into the Roman. Mostly it's one mountain pass out of Campania, and a long valley run by places like Isernia and Campobasso. The finale is in some Roman playgrounds, namely the ski resort of Roccaraso, a/k/a SkiPass Alto Sangro (high blood), a pretty predictable jumping off point for an uphill stage.
The Province of Molise is the main course, with the race going via the Parco Regionale del Matese, home to the Samnite people who were conquered by and absorbed into Rome a couple centuries before the real action. Isernia, nee Aesernia, is an ancient hilltop village that will get lots of camera action, serving as it does as the regional capital above the valley. The race may actually run right through the town, and if it does that should be the highlight of the stage before the final action. The local temple, the Cattedrale di San Pietro Apostolo, dates back to 300 B.C. Here's what counts for a road there:
Finally we end up at Roccaraso, the ski resort, entering the main thrust of the Appennines as well as Abruzzo. The finish is above the village of Roccaraso, at the resort, neither of which is interesting enough to distract from what should be a good stage battle.
Actual mountains! National parks! MTFs! But don't get too wound up just yet.
Here's the profile:
The final KM is indicative of what doesn't really show up well on the map -- that the race uses a secondary highway nearly all the way from the first descent to the final uphill, but then turns onto the ski road for some real action.
The real story, tactics aside, is the Bocca della Selva, which Will rated as the eighth-toughest climb of the Giro, covering 18km at 5.8% and reaching a height of nearly 1400 meters. Topping out 100km from the line, it will certainly invite some separation, including bidding ciao to the sprinters and to an ambitious breakaway as well. But the GC favorites shouldn't pay it much mind.
From there, they climb up to Castel di Sangro (Blood Castle, and home to a soccer team featured in a very charming book), but on a highway, so don't expect much action from that. Really, all the way to Roccaraso they'll just be tapping out a rhythm, waiting for the last kilometer. At 7.1%, that will definitely set the stage for a skirmish.
Riders to Watch
By process of elimination, let's say no sprinters, for sure, or lowland domestiques. No Belgian classics guys. Probably none of the top GC contenders, because 1km at 7% isn't going to create any separation, so why expend the effort? I do think you could see some secondary GC favorites in the mix, maybe Domenico Pozzovivo, Rafal Majka, Jhon/Esteban Chaves, Ryder Hesjedal, Davide Formolo or Tom Dumoulin fighting it out for the stage. There is something to be said for gaining time where you can, if you're someone who yearns for pink and knows he'll need some luck. Roccaraso will be an OK place to make your own luck. But you'll also need to contend with the puncheurs like obvious favorite Diego Ulissi, as well as Stefano Pirazzi, Sonny Colbrelli, and Giovanni Visconti. Oh, and if they all stand around looking at each other, put the stage and bonus (if any) in Valverde's column.
AmyBC's Food and Wine Pairings
Wine: Rabsaco Cancellil 2013 -- Natural wine. The 3.5 hectare estate of Iole Rabasco is located in the village of Pianella, province of Pescara, in the heart of Abruzzo.
Food: Pasta time: Rustichella d'Abruzzo, one of Italy's most famous pasta makers.
Pick to Win
Ulissi. He's got the early form. Pozzovivo is tempting, and way more fun to predict, but I'll stick with my head over my heart.