C-Cycling - Giro d'Italia 2015 Preview and Favorites

21/05 - Stage 12 - Imola to Vicenza (Monte Berico) - 190 km

The route
This is another very challenging Giro d’Italia stage. As you can see on the profile, the first part of the stage is completely flat. Except for the two intermediate sprints in Rovigo (after 95.5 km) and Galzignano Terme (after 126.1 km), the riders should be able to enjoy a quiet time in the peloton. A headwind will make it hard for a morning breakaway to get too much of a gap.

With 60 km to go, the terrain changes completely. Four ascents await the riders. First up is Castelnuovo (cat 4). The 5.3 km towards the top have an average gradient of 5 %. 25 km later, the peloton starts on the steepest of today’s climbs. The first 2.5 km of the Crosara ascent (cat 3) kick up with over 12 %. With just 27 km to go from the top, we could easily see attacks amongst the GC riders on the steep parts of this climb. The descent is technical, meaning it won’t be easy for dropped riders to regain contact with the peloton before they start on the next climb.

The ascent up to Perarolo is not categorized but that doesn’t mean it isn’t difficult. It’s nearly 3 km long and has an average gradient of 7 %. From the top, a short section of false flat follows before the riders take on a short but difficult descent. The weather forecast predicts rain, which means the riders have to be very careful on the downhill sections today.

Coming down from the climb, the run-in towards Vicenza is flat. However, with 1.2 km to go, the road starts to kick up. The first part is not very steep but as the road bends right on Viale Dante Alighieri, the gradients rise. The last 750 meter have an average gradient of over 7 % with parts of 11 % on the final straight-out stretch towards the finishing line on Viale 10 Giugno.

The favorites
After missing out on stage 11, I’m pretty sure Orica GreenEdge and Michael Matthews will be extremely eager to get it right this time. Matthews has proven to be very good on the climbs. When Contador launched his late attack on Tre Monti, Matthews was one of the first riders respond. He shouldn’t have any problems staying in the peloton on today’s climbs. The final kilometer suits Matthews perfectly. An uphill finish like this is tailor-made for the young Australian. Simon Gerrans didn’t do much work on stage 11, which probably cost Matthews the chance of going for the win. If Gerrans steps up to do the leadout today, it’s hard to see anyone beating Michael Matthews in Vicenza.

The only rider with a real chance is probably Juanjo Lobato. The Spaniard had a difficult start to the Giro, lacking race rhythm. However, Lobato has slowly found his peak condition and he looks very strong now. He finished 2nd in Fiuggi despite starting from a horrible position, far behind Diego Ulissi, and did very well on stage 11. Today’s finish is very similar to the ones he won on in Ruta del Sol earlier this year. If Movistar manages to put Juanjo Lobato in a good position for the final sprint, we should finally get to see the long anticipated fight between him and Matthews.

For other strong riders, with a good uphill sprint, look to Fabio Felline, Philippe Gilbert, Tom-Jelte Slagter, Carlos Betancur, Damiano Cunego and especially Diego Ulissi who has already won a stage in this Giro. This stage is perfect for the Italian too. On his best days, Ulissi is very difficult to beat on a finish like this. However, going up against Matthews and Lobato, he may lack a little speed.

The morning break has made it all the way for the last three days. On paper, this stage won’t be easy to control, due to the last undulating 60 km. Still, the headwind, which will be accompanying the riders all day, makes it difficult for an early breakaway to keep the peloton at bay. Orica GreenEdge and Movistar have a golden opportunity to win another stage. Together with Lampre and BMC, they should be taking responsibility in the peloton.

The GC riders have tested each other almost every day in this year’s Giro d’Italia. The technical descent from Crosara most likely takes place on wet roads. If so, you can be sure both Alberto Contador and Fabio Aru want to start the downhill section in front. Therefore, I expect Tinkoff-Saxo and Astana to set a fast pace on the climb, thinning out the peloton. This is another reason why I doubt a breakaway will make it today. The pace in the peloton is simply too high.

Strong and opportunistic riders like Stefano Pirazzi and Sylvain Chavanel may try to get away on the last climb. However, even with the GC teams taking the front on the descent to slow down the pace, it will be a surprise if this stage doesn’t end in a sprint within a reduced group. For outsiders in such a sprint, look Grega Bole, Enrico Battaglin and Francesco Gavazzi.

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

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