Our first Wednesday of Grand Tour racing for 2018. Oh, come on, that’s totally something to be excited about!
What’s It About?
After an excursion to Israel, a rest day, and a slightly nervy and long first stage back in Italy, this feels like the Giro beginning to get into a rhythm. Wednesday brings us a shorter, hilly stage as the centre of our Sicilian trio.
The stage leaves ancient Agrigento, on the southern coast of Sicily (and a decent distance from Catania, where stage 4 ended; don’t believe that Giro transfers are over just because they’ve got back to Italy and are holding three stages on a relatively compact island) and heads westward along the coast, before heading north and inland to the finish in Santa Ninfa. The second half of the stage is where the action will happen, but none of it is GC-defining stuff, especially with Etna on the horizon. That’s only metaphorically true, obviously, because there’s another transfer back to the east of the island for the sixth stage.
Did You Know?
Oh, yes. I’d forgotten this bit. However, I feel unusually prepared to talk about this stage. I’ve been to Agrigento. It is spectacular. As an undergrad I never quite got used to the idea that southern Italy in general, and Sicily in particular, are as Greek as they are Roman, in terms of surviving ruins. Agrigento, Akragas as was, is chock-full of massive Greek temples, mostly Doric and some in good repair. It is noteworthy, too, because it is a city founded by residents of the Sicilian city of Gela, itself a colony of Rhodes (part of “Greece proper” rather than Magna Graecia). Expect plenty of heli shots showing the start if the peloton aren’t making things interesting when live coverage begins, especially of the Temple of Concordia.
Whom Does the Stage Favor?
The profile of the final few klicks is instructive here.
Uphill, but not stupidly so. Ramps of 12% will see off all but the hardiest of the fast men, and the road doesn’t level out until deep in the final kilometre. Once it does, there are two pretty nasty bends as the riders get an impromptu tour of Santa Ninfa’s delights that, one suspects, they would cheerfully leave until after the stage ends.
So, this looks to me like a stage that will go to a classics-style climber with a good finish, and that it probably won’t prove decisive for the GC. However, the finish is tricky enough, both in terms of climbing and turning, that the bigs will need to be attentive and it wouldn’t be a shock to see someone lose time on a stage that looks innocuous at first blush.
AmyBC’s Wine of the Day
Wine: P Il Censo Bianco 2014
Orange wine alert and it is worth seeking out!
From the importer:
Il Censo itself encompasses 65 hectares, but it is a polyculture of grapevines, olive trees (both new and 100-year-old plantings), wheat(a fascinating and robustly flavored ancient strain called Timilia),and pasture land for grazing animals. The vines themselves—only nine hectares worth—are planted on a volcanic outcropping at a formidable 600 meters above sea level. Gaetano farms everything organically, and the dramatic diurnal temperature shifts (up to 95 degrees in daytime and down to 50 degrees at night) during the growing season ensure wines of complexity and balance.
Pick to Win
The smart answer is Diego Ulissi, who will doubtless have been eyeing this stage, amongst others, since the route was announced. However, in a bid to be different, I’ll go with Jurgen Roelandts, who just might be able to stick through this approach and, once he’s ensured Rohan Dennis is safe, spring a semi-surprise.