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Giro Stage 4 Preview - The ‘Burbs of Rome

Getty Images/Tim de Waele

Another day, another sprint as the peloton continues to go South until they head east and to the North for the mountainous second half of the Giro. This stage looks to shuffle the sprinty favorites with an uphill rise to the line.

THE ROUTE

The Giro continues its 2019 tradition of punishing the riders and the tifosi alike by having another long sprint stage-- this time 235 kilometers. The stage has a long-trip-home-after-vacation feel, with the peloton traveling from the seashore to the suburbs of Rome, with the GC riders in the back of the pack constantly asking “are we there yet?”

Here’s the official profile:

And here’s the official profile of the last 5 km:

There won’t be any flat roads for the riders, but there won’t be any real climbs either. You might think otherwise, though, if you were relying upon Pro Cycling Stats for an overview of the stage. Here’s the profile that PCS has:

Looks much more exciting! But don’t be fooled. That big mountain that summits about 63.5 kilometers into the race is 12.8 kilometers at a 3% average gradient— in other words more of a false flat than an actual climb. This year, PCS started having La FlammeRouge provide profiles for their stage overviews, rather than relying upon the official profiles. At least for this stage, that has resulted in a profile that’s not representative of what we’ll be getting. It’s all well and good when you fool some of us DDIFP, but you have to wonder if it won’t also fool some of the riders. Simon Yates was recently on The Cycling Podcast talking about how he doesn’t do recons for any stages besides the time trials and instead relies upon the internet. And he’s one of the overall contenders for the race— not a lowly sprinter. While the route on the road would not suggest anything but a sprint, if those teams are relying upon the same source for their race information, it’ll be interesting to see how they go out tomorrow. Sometimes perception is more important than reality when it comes to cycling.

Nonetheless, I think everything points towards another sprint finish tomorrow. We’ll get an uphill drag to the line, though, which will probably change out the main favorites. While there might be a steep centimeter or two in that last 2 kilometers, it shouldn’t pose a big hurdle for most of the sprinters not named Mareczko— this is a gentle rise going into the center of town.

DID YOU KNOW?

The finishing town of Frascati is renowned for its very particular dessert offering— pupazza frascatana— which looks like it was designed by a teenager who has watched Total Recall one too many times.

Wikipedia

The cookie, made from flour, olive oil, orange, and honey represents the goddess of abundance, but Italian-style— having two breasts for milk and an extra for wine. According to the interwebs:

The legend refers to a midwife, a nurse who was holding in custody the children of women engaged in the harvest. This midwife was able to calm even the most restless and capricious children. Unlike other women, she used her breast with good wine of Frascati to calm them.

If I had only known about the buxom cookie earlier, I would have referred to Movistar’s trident strategy as the pupazza frascatana approach in the race preview— three boobs, instead of three spikes, with Richard Carapaz being the boozy one.

WHO’S GONNA WIN?

It’s Caleb Ewan’s day to shine. That uphill drag to the line was designed for him. He won convincingly on the Hatta Dam stage in this year’s UAE Tour and is fresh off of two stage victories at the Tour of Turkey— against decent competition, including Sam Bennett and Fabio Jakobsen— in finishes that are very similar to tomorrow’s. One of those finishes was on a 2.7 kilometer climb at an average gradient of 4.25%. Tomorrow’s finish is 2.2 kilometers at 4.5%. If Ewan is going to take a GT stage for the first time in two years, this is his opportunity.

Is the climb going to be too hard for Elia Viviani? On paper, Viviani should be good at these types of uphill finishes— but I’m hard pressed to find an example of him winning a stage with this sort of uphill kick. Nonetheless, he’ll be out to avenge his relegation and will have a team that can put him in a good position for the sprint.

If we’re talking about uphill sprints, we’d be remiss not to mention the uphill sprint specialist— Juan Jose Lobato. He can’t compete with the fast men in a normal bunch sprint and has the positioning skill of an arthritic octogenarian in a yoga class, but give him a dam at the end of a stage and he has a damn good chance at victory. Also, though he’s been quiet this year, he did finish 2nd behind Ewan in that similar finish at Turkey this year.

Matteo Moschetti was victim to Viviani getting his swerve on today, but like Ewan, should benefit from the uphill drag finish. He took a surprise second behind Ewan this year on the Hatta Dam.

Pascal Ackermann still might be the fastest rider in this race, but went too early on stage 3, fading after being left out in the wind for so long. He’s probably a bit heavy for the finishing gradients but comported himself well at Nokere Koerse on the Nokereberg this year.

While Fernando Gaviria got a stage win, it wasn’t in the way he wanted yet might be the only way he can this Giro. He just hasn’t looked like his explosive self during the last two stages and it seems that his illness around the time of Roubaix has set him behind in form. Perhaps he improves as the race progresses, but he’s unlikely to be the fastest on this type of finish.