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20/05 - Stage 11 - Forlì to Imola - 153 km

The route
This is a short but very demanding stage. Shortly after the start in Forlì, there is an intermediate sprint in Castrocaro Terme e Terra del Sole. The sprinters targeting the red jersey will be eager to fight for the points but we might see the top GC contenders try to snatch a few bonus seconds as well. After 15 km on the bike, the riders start climbing Passo del Trebbio. From this point, the following 65 km are constantly up and down, including five challenging ascents. For some reason, the race organizers have only categorized two of these. You can see a detailed profile of all the five climbs and final circuit by mousing over the area on the profile.

Given the nature of the course, a strong breakaway will have very good chances of succeeding today. It will be difficult for the pure sprinters to survive the climbs and most of the GC riders will welcome another quiet day in the peloton.

After the second intermediate sprint, in Borgo Tossignano, the riders reach a rare part of flat terrain. With about 60 km to go, they start on the Tre Monti circuit in Imola, including a nearly 4 km long ascent with an average gradient of 5 %. However, due to a few flat sections, the actual uphill gradients are more like 7-8 %. The 6.5 km descent is easy and very fast but does include a few counter hills. Upon coming down, the riders enter the Imola racetrack in the Rivazza turn. 850 meters later, they cross the finishing line for the first time, taking on three laps on this undulating 15.4 km long circuit.

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The candidates
As mentioned before, this is a very good day for a break to make it all the way. Therefore, we can’t speak of any top favorites. The first 10 days of this year’s Giro d’Italia have been extremely hard on the peloton. Only the strongest riders will have energy to try to make into the morning breakaway. In order to win this stage, you need to be good on the climbs and still pack a fast sprint at the end of the day.

Riders like Philippe Gilbert, Sylvain Chavanel, Diego Ulissi, Simon Gerrans, Rinaldo Nocentini and Maciej Paterski are no threat to Alberto Contador’s pink jersey. They are all good on this kind of course and very fast on the line.

Other strong breakaway candidates include Adam Hansen, Diego Rosa, Gianfranco Zilioli, Simon Clarke, Davide Villella, Yonathan Monsalve, Stefan Küng, Jan Polanc and Simon Geschke. Not to forget almost the entire Bardiani-CSF team where the moral must be sky high after Nicola Boem’s win on stage 10. Especially strong and opportunistic riders like Stefano Pirazzi and Enrico Barbin will have a good chance today.

In case it all comes back together for a sprint within a reduced peloton, my pick for stage win is Michael Matthews. He’s in great shape at the moment. On stage 9, he proved to be climbing extremely well too, staying in the big group of climbers. In case Orica GreenEdge miss the morning breakaway, they should be working hard in the peloton to set up Matthews for the sprint.

The same goes for Trek. If they don’t manage to put a rider up front, they should focus all their energy on Fabio Felline. He’s probably the only fast rider in the field able to cope with the climbs as well as Matthews. In a sprint, the two riders are a very equal match. Matthews is probably a bit faster in a flat sprint but in Vuelta al Pais Vasco last month, Felline still outsprinted the Australian to win stage 2. Fabio Felline may also try to join the morning breakaway. If he succeeds, and the break makes it all the way, he’ll be very difficult to beat. For other fast riders, look to Juanjo Lobato, Francesco Gavazzi, Grega Bole, Sonny Colbrelli and Enrico Battaglin.

So far, the GC riders have used almost any given opportunity to attack each other. Today, it would make sense for them to save a little energy. However, it case they go hard on the final time up Tre Monti an end up fighting for the stage win, fast riders like Giovanni Visconti, Damiano Caruso and Damiano Cunego will have a golden opportunity to win on the Imola racetrack. Richie Porte lost valuable time on stage 10. It will be interesting to see if he tries to take back time already today.

For live coverage of the stage, go to steephill.tv.

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