The Giro’s east coast answer to the west coast’s Milano-Sanremo, the longest stage of this year’s race at 239 kilometers takes the riders up the Adriatic coastline from Tortoreto Lido to Pesaro with a tricky finish reminiscent of the descent off the Poggio onto the Via Roma.
Stage 8 will take the peloton up the north-east coast of Italy on a tour of the beaches in that region, with the beautiful scenery likely to be obscured by predicted rain and thunderstorms. The stage is an allegorical microcosm for what the Giro has felt like so far— a beach vacation where you’re holed up inside your Airbnb the entire time with several bored children due to the constant downpour outside. It’s semi-pleasurable as it’s better than work but damn if you can’t wait until the sun comes out so you can get outside. Luckily, I’ve seen the forecast and the metaphorical (and perhaps actual) sun will come out on Stage 12, but we have a few more days (unless you’re really into time trials) of being stuck indoors with the incessant complaints of “I’m bored.”
The main challenge of this stage will be its length— 239 kilometers and the longest stage of the Giro by 1 kilometer over Stage 6. For 150 kilometers, it’s a flat journey along the Adriatic coast, until it turns inland to go over some modest hills, including the Monte Della Mattera, which climbs for about 10 kilometers but at very gentle gradients. The route then takes the riders back toward the coast but north of the finishing town of Pesaro in a final 25 kilometers that sees them ride through Monte San Bartolo Natural Park on some rolling terrain overlooking the sea, with a final 5 kilometers which will have the riders facing a fairly winding but not steep descent with hairpin turns down into Pesaro with a flat 2 kilometer run-in to the line.
Map of final 5 kilometers:
Did You Know?
The finale of the stage will take the riders into Pesaro, which germanely has been dubbed Citta della Bicicletta or Cycling City. Despite this nickname, it’s only been used as a finishing city by the Giro on four previous occasions, the last time in 1986, which saw Guido Bontempi take the victory. Not content with a single nickname, it’s also known as the City of Music as it was the childhood home of Italian composer Gioacchino Rossini (and, of course, the drummer from Italian goth metal band Lacuna Coil). The city was dubbed the Cycling City, though, not for any famous cyclists or Guido Bontempi victories, but because of an extensive network of bike trails throughout the city— the so-called Bicipolitano. Today there are over 90 kilometers of bike paths, with a goal of 180 kilometers in the future.
Who’s Gonna Win?
Like Milano-Sanremo this is a toss up between the sprinters and the punchier riders who can exploit the bumpier terrain toward the finale and the downhill section into town. As stated above, that final descent feels very much like the descent off the Poggio in Milano-Sanremo, where it’s not super steep but has a number of hairpin turns where a rider that can accelerate well out of the corners can get a gap. It’s the kind of finale where you might make Vincenzo Nibali the favorite except for his GC battle and a very important time trial coming up on Sunday.
Valerio Conti taking the pink jersey has added some much needed chaos into this Giro. The UAE team was not designed to defend the pink jersey, with a team centered around Gaviria who has now gone home, and as seen in today’s stage are simply unable to control a break. It’s hard to see any other team of a GC contender wanting to control the break either. That would likely leave it up to the sprinters’ teams and whether they think they have a chance in that finale. Or more precisely, whether Deceuninck-Quick Step think that Viviani can take this stage as so far Lefevere’s plan to win at least one stage in every race that DQS enters has been thwarted at the Giro.
While it’s probably more likely that a breakaway takes the stage for a third day in a row, as picking a winner from the break is a total crapshoot (and I’m batting 0 for 8 in the predictor game over the last 2 stages) I’ll go with DQS keeping the race together and Viviani taking the sprint victory. There will be two other teams with sprinters who do well at Milano-Sanremo and may think they have a chance in this stage— Groupama-FDJ and Arnaud Demare and Lotto-Soudal and Caleb Ewan— so with that firepower to join DQS, I think we can see a reduced bunch sprint at the end.
If the break makes it, which is a decent possibility, let’s pull two riders’ names out of a hat. Ion Izagirre has had a little of the Astana magic this year, with two stage race victories, including in the Basque Country. He can acquit himself well on descents and is no danger to the GC. Vincenzo Nibali owes part of the credit for his Milano-Sanremo victory to Krists Neilands who escaped first over the Poggio in 2018. The young Latvian looked good in Asturias, so is in good shape, and just may be able to escape from a small bunch on the final descent.
Barring any crashes, this stage should not see any GC action. But like I said, the forecast is looking great for Stage 12 and on— we’ll just have to endure a few more long days before we get to the fireworks factory.