Stage three of this Giro continues the narrative of long stages around the boot of Italy, this one to conclude with a certain sprint. While Pascal Ackermann took first blood in the sprint contest, this is its continuation after two hundred and twenty rolling kilometres from Vinci (the one that launched a ninja turtle) to Orbetello (which launched a Google search).
The course is easier than stage two, with just the one categorised climb to trip up the sprinters. And the altitude is low enough that tripping up might just be the right verb.
(Side note: the categorised climb is two kilometres long at five and a half per cent and that early climb is just as steep but four kilometres longer and lacking in mountain points. I love the Giro).
It’s a long stage at two hundred and twenty kilometres so ordinarily I wouldn’t expect a huge amount of excitement but I will qualify that with one thing — the entire stage is headed due south and there will be a rather strong cross-tailwind from the north-east all stage. It will make peloton riding difficult and nervy, but I don’t expect all-out war on the road tomorrow.
The finish is reasonably kind: a straight final fifteen hundred metres with the exception of one chicane five hundred metres out.
No, the real story is the battle of the sprinters, in which Ackermann has taken quite a lead by his sprint today. I thought he would only win if he got the best leadout and indeed Bora were the best-organised team, but he had an awful lot to do to win that stage and prove his credentials. This stage will be all about dethroning him. There are three candidates to do so: Gaviria, Ewan and Viviani.
I will deal with them in reverse order of likelihood that they will win: Gaviria is out of form, on the evidence of stage two. Ewan starts his sprint a bit early and Gaviria get in his wheel in the manner of a rider who intends to overtake in short order. However, Gaviria could do nothing but follow, dipping back into the saddle towards the end of the sprint. He will either find something or finish fourth again.
Ackermann’s form is clearly there but up to now he has never been an A-list pure sprinter, sacrificing pure watts in favour of an ability to get over climbs, something which stood him in good stead on today’s reasonably hilly ride to Fucecchio but may be less helpful on this easier stage. I just don’t think he quite has the speed but I’m open to being proven wrong, especially given the strength and drive of his Bora team.
Ewan has made a good start, though clearly he jumped too early on stage two. He’ll learn a lesson, though and I’ve always felt he hasn’t lived up to his talent. He may do so here. With a good leadout man in Kluge I think he’s in position to win.
He’ll have to get past Elia Viviani, though. The man with the most pure speed in this Giro, he missed out narrowly in Fucecchio but it should be noted how much lateral movement he needed to make in that crowded sprint, having to crab from the far right of the road to all the way over on the left, abandoning his leadout to wheelsurf dangerously. With a better leadout I think he will be unbeatable.