On the stage
For those of you wondering where the moment comes, this is the moment. You know. The moment. The point at which a grand tour turns from a novelty into a routine. Also, the point at which writing a stage preview turns from an exercise in covering all the right aspects of a complex day into just setting the table and hoping someone comes in, sits down, and finds something to talk about.
On the other hand, after the chaotic finale of stage three, and the chaotic finale of stage four that also has some long-term race implications with injuries and time losses, a totally uneventful stage will be extremely welcome for some people.
Here are some of the things we’ve talked about so far this week, and why they won’t matter in Wednesday’s stage (with a bit of actual information thrown in for those of you who like such things):
- Length: nope, we’ve had the long stages. This one is 140km, and whilst we continue to head south, leaving the environs of Rome and finishing in Terracina, a Tyrrhenian Sea port on the coast, almost halfway to Naples. Lovely spot, from what I can see.
- Weather: nope, we’re not expecting wind or thunderstorms or anything else that might cause havoc. There’s a chance of rain, higher in the morning than at the business end of the stage, but nothing to signify.
- Uphill finish: Nope, not remotely. There’s a cat four climb with 53km to go and the last of the climbing is done shortly afterwards. We’re on very flat roads for the finishing 35km.
- Technical finish: Nope. We turn onto the Appian Way (not a tight turn, either) with 1300m to go. That’s one of the first Roman Roads, from Brindisi (to where? C’mon, hotshot. All roads lead to….) and if I learned one thing from my degree in Ancient History, it is that the roads the Romans built were very straight indeed. Yes, I have a degree in Ancient History. No, that isn’t something I learned as part of my degree. Everything I learned was of far less value than that.
So, what are we left with? A shortish, flattish, dryish, calmish, straightforwardish road stage. For the sprinters, another chance in a surprisingly busy Giro. For the GC men, another day to survive without incident or injury and with a minimum of energy expended. For the DDIFP? I dunno… geology? We usually think of something.
Oh, and there’s the question of who wins. The intelligent choice here is Elia Viviani, fast, well-supported, and with his suitcase overflowing with anger after a stage three demotion. The usual suspects (Fernando Gaviria, Caleb Ewan and Arnaud Demare) can’t be discounted, but for my money there’s only one man who can compete with Vivi, and that’s Pascal Ackermann. He may not have a suitcase full of anger but he’s fast, powerful and his team have looked great so far. I also think that the long finishing straight and ample manoeuvring room will suit the big German nicely and I have him winning again.
Is this the right place for an argument?
With all that out of the way, let’s throw something into the mix. Who would you most want to see added to this stage to make it just a little more interesting? A few contenders.
With Sam Bennett behind Ackers in the pecking order despite a Giro hattrick last year and a great start to the 2019 season, he’d have to be loaned to another squad, but let’s say his agent answered a call from Katusha a week ago and he packed his bags and joined them. That’d be fun, wouldn’t it?
Perhaps you like the sound of Dylan Groenewegen, who put in for me the most impressive sprinting performance of the year with his slaloming win at Three Dogs, but who has been cooling his heels since. Wouldn’t it have been entertaining if Roglic’s support was slimmed enough to make room for the flying Dutchman?
Team Ineos had a late vacancy and called up Ivan Sosa, who has thus far failed to look like he’ll be of much use even in the mountains. Perhaps young Kristoffer Halvorsen should have had that space? There’s nothing more pleasing than a new star being born, and nothing quite like a grand tour stage win to given birth to a star.
Maybe you think the wrong teams got the wildcard, and Cofidis should have joined the fray? If you did think that, what could be more fun than throwing Nacer Bouhanni into the sprinter fray? If you’re one of his many admirers, of course, you might want Cofidis to turn up but to ride for Hugo Hofstetter. Having a Hugo in your life is always fun (I assume. I mean, I’m fairly posh, but I don’t know anyone called Hugo.) and he’s another sprinter out there waiting for his first chance in a grand tour?
Or maybe I’ve missed someone? Am I missing the candidate who’d most ignite a tedious stage? Am I missing the ingredient in this race that’ll make it far more exciting than I’ve realised? Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to vote.
Which rider would you add to spice up stage five?
This poll is closed