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

11/05 - Stage 3 - Rapallo to Sestri Levante - 136 km

On paper, this stage should end in a sprint. However, compared to Sunday’s stage, the profile is much hillier today.

There is actually just about 25 km from the starting town Rapallo to the finishing line in Sestrie Levante. However, instead of taking the easy route alongside the coast, the riders head east and then north to take on nearly 2300 meters of climbing. A very high amount taking into consideration that the stage is just 136 km long. Only the last 20 km are flat.

In Santa Margherita Ligure the road starts to kick up. The following 6.5 km have an average gradient of 4 %. After a short descent, the riders take on the first of today’s two categorized climbs. The ascent towards the top of Colle Caprile is nearly 12 km and has an average gradient of around 4 %. The following 70 km are constantly up and down, mostly up, on narrow mountain roads.

The descent towards Montebruno has a few technical sections. After passing the intermediate sprint, the riders start on the Barbagelata climb. This is by far the most difficult ascent the riders have tackled in the race so far. The actual climb is 5.7 km long and have an average gradient of 8 %. Remember, you can see a detailed profile of the climb by mousing over the area on the profile. Upon reaching the top of Barbagelata, a few kilometers of false flat follow before the riders take on the 20 km long descent. The first part is rather technical but the last part is not very difficult.

The finish
With a bit less than 7 km to go, the peloton turns left crossing the water. From here, it’s pretty much straight-out for the remaining part of the stage. The road kicks up a little towards the 2-km-to-go banner. Soon after, the riders enter a tunnel of about 500 meters. Most of the tunnel is lit up from the big ‘windows’ towards the seaside. However, there are a few dark parts as well. With the riders going full speed at this point, fighting for positions, we could easily see crashes occur in this tunnel. Hopefully though, it won’t be the case!

The last hurdle of the day is a roundabout with about 850 meters to go. This could stretch out the peloton, meaning it’s very important to be well-placed. The final 800 meters are straight-out and flat towards the finishing line.

The favorites
Given the huge amount of climbing today, I doubt we will see more than a few of the sprinters being able to stay within the peloton and fight for the win in Sestri Levante. It’s true that there is still over 40 km to go from the top of the last climb but I wouldn’t be surprised if many of the sprinters were already dropped before taking on the Barbagelata ascent.

To me, the prime pick is Michael Matthews. Despite popular believe, the young Australian is not a sprinter. He’s indeed very fast but he’s also very strong on the climbs. In a reduced peloton, without the top sprinters, Matthews will be extremely difficult to beat. The climbs won’t tire him out. He’s already leading the race overall. Now, he has a unique opportunity to repeat last year’s performance and win a stage wearing maglia rosa. In Simon Gerrans, he has a perfect leadout man for this kind of finish. Should something happen to Matthews, Gerrans himself would also be a very strong candidate for the win today.

In the preview for stage 2, I already mentioned that I’m very much looking forward to seeing Matthews and Juanjo Lobato going head-to-head in this year’s Giro d’Italia. The two riders share many similarities. Both are good on the climbs and both are very fast on the line. Movistar doesn’t have a top candidate for the general classification. Winning a stage is the most important goal for the Spanish team. In the Giro d’Italia 2006, Joan Horrach won a stage finishing in Sestri Levante. With the pure sprinters gone, Juanjo Lobato has a good chance of giving his team another big triumph here.

Fabio Felline has had a great start to the 2015-season with many top results. Most impressive was his stage win in Vuelta al Pais Vasco when he outsprinted Michael Matthews. In a typical bunch sprint, Felline won’t have many chances. However, in a reduced sprint after a tough day in the saddle, the Italian is definitely amongst the top favorites. Trek’s main rider for the sprints is Giacomo Nizzolo. Personally, I can’t see Nizzolo making it over the climbs today though. Felline should have no problems staying in the peloton and I’m sure this is a stage he has circled in the road book.

The outsiders
Today’s stage is also a very good opportunity for the puncheurs. Philippe Gilbert hasn’t been very lucky this season. He’s still without a win and he must be very eager to change that fact. Earlier this year, right after Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, Gilbert came here to do reconnaissance of stage 3 and 4. He probably thought BMC would do better in the TTT, hoping to use such an advantage to take the pink jersey in one of these stages. The Belgian is not as fast as Matthews and Lobato in a sprint, but he’s never to be counted out. He’s very opportunistic and I wouldn’t be surprised if he tried an attack at the end. The peloton won’t be very big and few teams will be interested in - and capable of - organizing a chase.

Another very strong puncheur with a solid chance of good result today is Diego Ulissi. Unlike his fast team mates Modolo, Ferrari and Richeze, Ulissi will have no problems staying in the peloton on the climbs. Lampre-Merida tried to set him up a few times in Tour de Romandie but he missed out. On his best days, the young Italian is very fast. An uphill finish would have been much better for him, but Diego Ulissi is not without chances in today’s flat sprint.

Gianni Meersman should be able to fight for the win as well. He’s extremely fast and one could argue he should be considered a top favorite. However, Meersman hasn’t exactly excelled the last couple of months. He won the final sprint in Handzame Classic in the end of March but without impressing despite the level of competition. With Tom Boonen taking part in the flat sprints, these days are probably Meersman’s only chances of sprinting for the win. He must be very eager to make it over the last climb and get in the mix in Sestri Levante.

For other fast riders with suiting skills for this kind of stage, look to Tom-Jelte Slagter, Grega Bole, Heinrich Haussler, Oscar Gatto, Sergei Chernetckii and the Bardiani duo of Enrico Battaglin and Sonny Colbrelli.

Last week, Astana went to check out this stage. The Barbagelata climb has a few parts of over 10 %. We might see the Kazakh team try to take a few of the other GC riders by surprise here. They don’t have a top favorite for the stage win but in Luis León Sanchez they have a very dangerous outsider. If he’s given a chance to chase own success today, the other stage candidates can’t afford to let him out of their sight. Paolo Tiralongo might have a go as well, if this stage ends in a sprint. The Italian veteran is surprisingly fast on the line.

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

Accept Cookies?
Provided by OpenGlobal E-commerce