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Giro Stage 17 Preview: König of the North

Commezzadura (Val di Sole) to Anterselva/Antholz (181 km)

Tim de Waele/Getty Images

After the dust has settled and the riders have been defrosted from their battle on the Mortirolo, the Giro gives us only the second summit finish of the race. You’d be forgiven if you thought the Giro crossed the border into Austria, as the race finishes in the largely German-speaking South Tyrol region of Northern Italy. Behold this Italian anthem.

THE COURSE

Both the starting town of Commezzadura and the finishing town of Rasun-Anterselva are making their debut appearances in the Giro. As far as I can tell, the climbs have never been used in the Giro, the Giro del Trentino, or any other professional cycling race. It’s a good day for the break (as has been almost every stage of this Giro— the only top 10 GC contender to take a road stage victory has been Carapaz).

Here’s the profile:

And here’s the profiles of the last 2 climbs before the finishing climb:

The summit of the Terento comes with about 45 kilometers to go and would provide an audacious springboard for any daring rider.

And here’s the profile of the finishing climb:

It looks decently steep, with 4 kilometers above an 8% average gradient. However, it’s a long, straight and steady climb. There are no hairpin turns or switchbacks— riders will be able to see each other from a long distance away. Looking at it on a map, it reminds me a lot of the Alto Colorado climb (without the high altitude) from the Vuelta a San Juan— a climb that can be done in the big ring. Just look at this image from Googlemaps, ostensibly on the steepest part of the climb:

If I didn’t have the corresponding profile, I’d be hard-pressed to call it a climb at all. What I think is going on is just a matter of perspective, with the mountain in the distance creating a true false flat or gravity hill scenario. It’ll be interesting to see how the riders will take to it tomorrow.

WHAT’S GONNA HAPPEN

Conor once said that predicting cycling races is hard. And he’s absolutely right for the most part. However, theorizing what will happen toward the end of a grand tour is often the easiest situation to suss out. After all, we’ve now had 16 prior days of racing— we know who’s riding strong, we know who’s fading, and we know who’s going to be involved in the breaks. Not much is going to change on the 17th day. Ben O’Connor is not going to suddenly look like the rider he did at last year’s Giro. Ivan Sosa is not going to start climbing with the best as his earlier season performances would have suggested. Richard Carapaz is not going to instantly regress to the vds failure that he looked like prior to the Giro. Generally, we should know who the protagonists are and who have been relegated to extras. Usually, and I’m very guilty of this, it’s just ego that leads us not to believe our eyes but to double down on our pre-race conceptions of who the riders are (damn it, Primoz, I picked you in the pre-season and my Giro preview to win, so I’m going to believe that you can be resurrected).

That being said, the riders are who we see that they are... only until they aren’t. Last year, Chris Froome was going to continue with a long line of Sky failures at the Giro, until he pulled a Froomey on the Finestre. In 2016, Nibali was over the hill and in decline, until he became the strongest in the race on Stage 19. What I’m trying to say is that

until they aren’t. The smart money on this stage would be on Carapaz consolidating his lead on a finale that would seem to suit him based upon his two previous stage wins. However, I feel that we are headed for a surprise. It doesn’t feel like this Giro is done throwing curve balls at us. It really doesn’t feel like Movistar is going to be able to continue acting as a cohesive unit- the Carapaz-Landa alliance seems destined for a Jon Snow-Daenerys Targaryen ending. Nor does the other-riders’-not-named-Roglic truce with the Shark seem destined to end any other way than the frog’s fate in the scorpion and the frog fable. It may not be this stage, but I still think there’s a twist in this Giro story.

My prediction is that Roglic takes back time as the allies-against-former-ski-jumpers start fighting each other, but as I said above, that’s probably just my ego getting in the way. The smart money’s still on Carapaz.