21/05 - Stage 11 - Collecchio to Savona - 249 km

The sprinters had their say in stage 10. Now it’s time for the opportunistic riders to shine. This stage has breakaway written all over it.

The route
Originally, this was set to be the longest stage of the Giro d’Italia this year. However, after the added 10 km on stage 6, this is now the second longest stage of the race. The 249 km take the riders from Collecchio towards the coast, finishing in Savona. The first 66 km are basically uphill. There is a long part of false flats at the beginning before the peloton starts on Passo Cento Croci. This category 2 climb is 13.8 km long and has an average gradient of 4.5 %. Everybody knows this is a stage for a breakaway, meaning the pace will be extremely high at the beginning. We may not see the final breakaway get clear before the riders reach the top of Passo Cento Croci.

After a difficult descent, the following 60 km are very bumpy, with the road constantly going up and down. Then, there is a long stretch of 70 flat km. The GC riders will hope to have as easy a day as possible before the long time trial tomorrow. This means a breakaway should be able to put in a lot of time on the peloton on this part.

With about 38 km to go, the riders reach the last and most difficult obstacle of the day: Naso di Gatto. The first 2 km of the climb aren’t steep. However, the following 7 km have an average gradient of over 8 %. If you aren’t fast on the line, this is where you have to attack. Upon reaching the KOM sprint, the climb actually continues for a while. There are 25 km to go when the riders start on the fast descent towards Savona. Only the last 3 km are flat. In the city center, there are a couple of difficult corners. However, the final kilometer is pretty much straight-out towards the line.

The favorites
As always, there aren’t any real favorites for these kinds of stages. Over 100 riders want to be in the breakaway today - it’s a bit of a lottery who ends up in the front. However, some riders are better at making the final breaks than others.

Given the fact that there are two category 2 climbs on the menu, riders targeting the KOM jersey might be tempted to join the attacks. Stefano Pirazzi had his dreams of a good overall result shattered early in the race. This means, the opportunistic Italian now is back to hunting stage wins. Pirazzi is still suffering a bit from his early crashes but his legs seem to be very strong. The final climb suits him very well and being good downhill also, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Pirazzi solo away on Naso di Gatto and win the stage.

Other strong candidates for this stage are riders like: Mauro Finetto, Moreno Moser, Manuel Bongiorno, Tim Wellens, Emanuele Sella, Miguel Angel Rubiano, Lars Bak and Björn Thurau.

Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing if Edvald Boasson Hagen manages to get into the final breakaway. On his birthday, the strong Norwegian got into the big break on stage 8 and turned out to be very strong both uphill and especially downhill. Boasson Hagen proved this once again on stage 10, when he split up the peloton on the final climb. To me, this stage looks perfect for him. If Eddy The Boss makes the break, this is his stage to lose.

The other scenario
As mentioned, the GC riders will be happy to have a quiet day in the saddle today. Many will fear tomorrow’s time trial and will try to spend as little energy as possible. However, this can be very dangerous. BMC and Cadel Evans have turned out to be extremely strong and aggressive. I think they might try something over the top of the final climb. This means the other GC riders have to pay attention and stay near the front. Samuel Sanchez is one of the best descenders in the world. If he hits the front on the descent, we might see the peloton split up into many groups. In case the time gaps are small, such a move could also kill the breakaway up front. Sanchez is hoping to win a stage in this Giro, joining the club of stage winners in all the three Grand Tours. If BMC goes hard on the climb and on the descent, today might be his day.

If the peloton ends up catching the breakaway and this stage ends in a sprint, we have to look to guys like: Diego Ulissi, Dani Moreno, Enrico Battaglin and Michael Matthews. The young Australian seems to be doing OK after his crash. If he’s in the front group fighting for the win Wednesday afternoon, it’s hard to see who should be able to beat him.

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