For a few sprinters in the field, and some breakaway specialists, Friday offers an opportunity. For the rest of the field, it is a final distraction before Saturday’s fireworks.
What’s It About?
It’s about 180km long.
That’s not totally fair, but there isn’t much to this stage. It is an uncomplicated move north to the edges of the Alps, and finishes a stage-distance away from Zoncolan. The final weekday transition stage of a four-day romp north. Surely, this time, we’ll have a quiet day?
Venice to one side, Padova to the north, the field are passing through the Veneto and aiming for a slightly uphill finish in Nervesa Della Bataglia. There’s something of a slope into Montello 20km or so from the end, and if the field comes back together it is theoretically a launch pad for a late attack, but this one will be a sprint if the relevant teams can corral the break.
Did You Know?
The field are moving through the rich flat farmlands of the Veneto for much of Friday. In doing so, they’ll cross the Po, the Adige and the Brenta rivers. Carry on any further north (as they’ll find out on Saturday) and things get hilly quickly.
Here, though, the soil is rich, the land is flat, the population is large… and, as a result, the food is bloody marvellous. I have never eaten better on a holiday than I did in the Veneto (and only the Peloponese and Croatia matched it).
However, if you’re thinking of olive oil, pasta and light dishes, you’re in the wrong bit of Italy. This is butter, seafood, offal and rice… oh, the rice. My first reaction to this stage wasn’t a cycling one at all, it was a Proustian recollection of Risi e Bisi. If you haven’t had the pleasure before, get on with it.
Whom Does the Stage Favor?
This is the last time we can say that with any confidence until the Rome criterium. Of course, we said the same yesterday.
The final week is hills, mountains and time trials, so expect to see the sprinting teams motivated to bring back any attacks. I’m sure there will be a serious break up the road and I’m sure they’ll make an effort, but I think we’ll see Quick Step reeling it in. They’ve brought a strong squad and they’ve been working hard for Viviani. With just 22 points separating him from Bennett, look for a concerted bid to get a larger gap over his main sprint rival and over the riders who have a chance to pick up points in the mountain stages.
AmyBC’s Wine of the Day
The wine: Casa Coste Piane Valdobbiadene Prosecco
From the importer: Loris Follador is from a long line of farmers in Valdobbiadene. His family had vines on the steep hillsides when the flat areas of the valley were still pastureland and turnip fields and the main local industry was the nearby pottery and tile factories. Now those flatlands are full of vines, and commercial prosecco with a capital “ P” -that insipid, slightly cloying, and frankly disgusting wine- is the main economy of the region.
Thanks to his father and grandfather, Loris and his two sons have never had to plant a vine. This is a good thing because their vineyards are absurdly steep and the soil is very shallow, hitting solid limestone or sandstone rock in a few centimeters. As a result, they have only 60 years or older vines, planted in high pergola on steep hillsides. In high season, the vineyards give the impression of a primaeval vine forest. The Folladors are well aware of this fortunate legacy and treat it with the reverence and respect it deserves. No herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers are used.
Pick to Win
Elia Viviani. Because he’s the best sprinter here with the best sprint-train here. He’s also going to have a strong incentive to put Sam Bennett back in his box.