I’ve got some bad news for everyone. You-know-who is still going to be starting the Giro after pocketing some of that sweet Israeli money and presumably paying off the UCI with that money. You know what that means- Sky is going to make the Giro GC competition as boring as the Tour. I guess it will be “fun” to watch Doom try to hang onto the back of the Sky train up the Zoncolan. But I think we expect more than that from the Giro.
However, RCS isn’t really trying to help with the course design this year. You know how it’s become common knowledge to race organizers that ending a race or stage not on a climb but on a descent or flat finish livens up the race? (So long Ans’ Pizza Hut, smell your stuffed crust later). Well, RCS says fuck all that noise. As I count them there will be 8 stages that end on a mountain climb (6, 8, 9, 14, 15, 18, 19, and 20) and 3 other stages that end on an uphill finish (4, 5, and 11). There are no downhill finishes. I’m sure that’s not because Mauro Vegni decided to be a wee bit spiteful after having to cancel the downhill competition last year over the public outcry of it being irresponsible. Anyway, good luck trying to survive these climbs, Tommy D.
If I was going to pick the most decisive stages, you’d have to go with the Stage 18, 19, and 20 block of mountains and the longer time trial. But those stages might not be the most interesting to tune into. That mountain block is so difficult that the racing is likely to get pretty conservative because good luck to the riders that blow up trying to attack on stages 18 or 19. And the time trial is a time trial. I’m not going to take Andrew’s bait and write about those three mountain stages or bore anyone as much as watching a time trial by having you read about a time trial. .
Andrew thinks that Etna is going to be one of the best stages. Luckily he has last year as an example of the explosive eruptions and pyroclastic flows that are going to decimate the GC contenders on Etna. Oh, wait. The main contenders finished in a bunch of 20+ riders and this year they’ll have the skybots to set pace up the very regular climb? Yeah, this volcano is looking more like one of those grade school baking soda and vinegar science experiment volcanoes.
The Zoncolan stage is of course a good pick. As to the patron saint of pasta, my northern New Jersey Italian upbringing has so skewed my pasta knowledge, that unless it’s the San Gavadeel or the Santo Manigoot, I’m lost. I’m thinking the Zoncolan stage might be too brutal, though, so everyone will probably be waiting for the last few kms to make a move. You’d probably be safe watching the last 20 minutes of that stage.
For my picks for the top 3 stages, I’m going to pick the stages that I think will provide the most interesting racing, whether or not they will affect the ultimate GC standings. I’m talking the stages that might come the closest to approximating the excitement of one day races. Of course, that rules out both time trials. As it does the myriad of sprint stages (I count a potential of 8 sprint stages).
T3rd - Stage 4 - Catania to Caltagirone (198 km) and Stage 5 - Argrigento to Santa Ninfa (153 km)
For my third place most interesting Giro stage, I’ll break the rules and go with a tie with Stage 4 and Stage 5. Stage 4 has a profile that suggests a hilly one day race and it finishes on a nice little 1 kilometer ramp that averages 8.5% but maxes out at 13%.
Stage 5 starts out relatively flat but then gets interesting in the last 75 kilometers where there are 3 small categorized climbs, an uncategorized climb and then a descent and a small rise before a flattish last kilometer. Oh, and it’s only about 150 kilometers in total so it should encourage some attacking, even if not from the heavy GC hitters.
2nd - Stage 11 - Assisi to Osimo
For my second place most interesting Giro stage, I’ll go with Stage 11 - Assisi to Osimo. This pick is all about the last 5 kilometers-- specifically a half kilometer section that ends 4.5 kilometers from the finish where the profile suggests there is a 13.6% section on pavé.
And, that profile is not lying- we are going to be getting some Giro cobbles:
There is then a 2 kilometer descent on some nice tight and scenic Italian roads and then a leg busting 12.4% kicker which leads to a drag up to the finish which passes through a gate and into the old walled city of Osimo, which looks like it even contains some secret cobbles in the finishing straight.
I could see either Senechal or Stybar having a Pavlovian response to the cobbles and going for a win.
1st - Stage 15 - Tolmezzo to Sappada (176 km)
For my pick for most interesting stage of the Giro, I’ll forego selecting Stage 9 which sends the riders climbing up to the finish on “The Great Pebble of Italy,” and go with Stage 15 from Tolmezzo to Sappada.
This is the closest stage that we get in terms of a finishing descent. Also, it climbs the Pass of Three Jim Croci (the plural of Jim Croce) where hopefully, Bad, Bad, Nathan Brown will try to make a move. The climb into Sappada is relatively sedate with a flat finish, so I think we’ll get to see some action on one of the two categorized climbs that are both within 30 kilometers of the finish. With a rest day the next day and then the time trial, I’ll hope to see lots of attacking by those less adept at TTing in an attempt to put Froome and Doom under pressure.
So there you have it- the 3 (nay 4) stages that I think could be as exciting as a one day race. If Skybots killing cycling, Elia Viviani and Quick Step picking up 8 more victories, and skin suits is more your thing, you have many other stages to choose from.