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27/05 - Stage 17 - Tirano to Lugano - 134 km

The route
After Tuesday’s epic stage, the GC riders will now be able to take a breather. This is the shortest regular stage of the race. Just 134 km. On paper, it may look like a stage for the sprinters. However, a morning break has very good chances of making it all the way today.

From the start in Tirano, it doesn’t take long before the riders take on the only categorized climb of the day. The Teglio ascent is 7.4 km long and has an average gradient of 6.5 %. Given this is a good day for a break; we can expect a fast start with multiple attacks within the first 15 km.

After a long descent, the peloton takes on 70 km of mostly flat terrain, heading west towards the Swiss border. Usually, the sprinters’ teams would be working hard in front of the peloton to bring back the breakaway. However, with so few sprinters left in the race, I doubt they will be able to organize a real chase. This is why I think a strong breakaway can keep the peloton at bay today.

After the last intermediate sprint of the day, in Menaggio, the riders start on a short uncategorized climb. The following 2.8 km kick up with 6.4 %. About 20 km later, the Giro d’Italia enters Switzerland for a very tricky finale.

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The finish
Riding in the picturesque landscape alongside Lago di Lugano, the road starts to rise with 6.5 km to go. You can’t really see it on the stage profile, but the 2.3 km towards the top of this ascent have an average gradient of around 5 %. After more than two weeks of hard racing, this may be a place where you can make a different if your legs are good. From the top, there are just about 4 km to go. The descent is fast but does include a couple of hairpin corners with 3 km to go. Only the last 2 km are flat. Soon after passing under la flamme rouge, the riders turn left in a 90° corner. This is followed by a right-hand turn with 750 meters to go before a gentle left-hand bend takes the riders onto the final 250 meters straight-out towards the finishing line. These last two kilometers include a lot of road furniture. It’s important to be very alert. Luckily, the weather forecast predicts a sunny day in the saddle.

The candidates
Lotto-Soudal and Orica GreenEdge would probably have taken responsibility on this stage, had Greipel and Matthews still been in the race. This is not the case. It’s now up to teams like Lampre-Merida and Trek to control the stage if they want to set up their sprinters.It won’t be easy though. The last days in the mountains have been very hard on the riders. If a strong break gets away on the Teglio climb, I doubt the peloton will be able to catch them. Even if they do, the sprinters may get in trouble on the final ascents near Lugano. It would make much more sense for the sprinters’ teams to put a rider in the morning break, leaving it up to the other teams to organize a chase.

This late in a Grand Tour - after such a hard stage on Tuesday - it’s all about who has something left in the tank. Lately, riders like Stefano Pirazzi, Grega Bole, Rinaldo Nocentini and Luis León Sanchez have shown very good legs. The same goes for fast riders like Philippe Gilbert and Fabio Felline. If any of these two riders make it into the breakaway, they will be very difficult to beat in Lugano. Movistar usually put a rider in these kinds of breaks too. The way I see it, Ion Izagirre and Giovanni Visconti are the Spanish team’s two best cards to play today. Sylvain Chavanel must be extremely eager to do well today. On Swiss soil, the IAM team needs to have a rider in the break, should it make it all the way. Surely, Chavanel must have marked this stage in the road book.

If it ends in a bunch sprint after all, we can expect Sacha Modolo, Giacomo Nizzolo, Elia Viviani, Luka Mezgec, Juanjo Lobato, Alexander Porsev, Moreno Hofland and the fast Bardiani-CSF duo of Enrico Battaglin and Sonny Colbrelli to fight for the win. For Alberto Contador, this is almost a celebration stage. The Spaniard lives in Lugano and knows this area very well. He will be happy to show off maglia rosa on his training roads.

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

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