22/05 - Stage 12 (ITT) - Barbaresco to Barolo - 41.9 km

This Giro d’Italia will be settled in the mountains. However, despite a very hard final week, today’s time trial will be of huge importance for the general classification.

The route
Starting out in Barbaresco, the first 12.6 km are pretty much uphill all the way towards the top of the category 4 climb in Boscasso. The last 3 km of the climb are the steepest with an average gradient of 5 %. There is a time check on the top of the climb, before a fast but difficult descent starts.  Especially the first couple of kilometers are technical. The following 10 km towards the second time check, in Alba, are where the riders with a big engine will excel. The pure climbers will have to fight hard not to lose too much time on this high-speed part.

After 34 km, the road starts to kick up again. This isn’t a categorized climb but the 3.1 km towards the top still have an average gradient of around 4.5 %.The lower part of the climb is steep. It’s important not lose your rhythm here. There are 4.5 km to go from the top of the climb. The first kilometer is slightly downhill. Then, the riders turn right in a sharp 180° turn onto a very narrow road with a picturesque view over the wineyards. This part of the descent is very difficult with downhill gradients of 12 %. With 1700 meters to go, the riders turn left in a 90° corner onto a bigger road.

The final part of the stage is uphill. Firstly, 700 meters of 2-3 %. Then, with one kilometer to go, the gradients get steeper towards the finishing line. The average gradient of the final kilometer is 5 %. It’s very important still to have something left in the legs for this part.

The favorites
The number one favorite for this stage would have been Adriano Malori. The Italian has been very strong against the clock this season, beating all the best time trialists in the world. However, Malori went down hard on stage 11 and didn’t look too good crossing the line with his shirt ripped off on the right side. It’s difficult to say how he will recover. The uphill parts don’t favor Malori, but nobody will be able to match his speed on the flat parts. If he’s ready, Adriano Malori is the man to beat today. His teammate, Alex Dowsett, won the long time trial in the Giro last year. Dowsett believes Malori will do the same thing this year.

Personally I think Wilco Kelderman will do a great time trial. So far, the young Dutchman has surprised many in the Giro and it seems like he’s only getting started. This course suits Kelderman perfectly. He won’t lose time on the climbs and he knows how to keep a high pace on the flat. Last year, Kelderman finished 14th in the long ITT in the Giro. Today, I would expect him to make Top5 at least. On a good day, he might even win this one. It’s still a bit uncertain how Kelderman will do in the last hard week of the race. The very steep mountains may be too much for the Belkin rider. Therefore, he has to take as much time as possible on his rivals in this time trial.

It would be a strange race if Omega Pharma Quickstep didn’t have a solid contender for the time trial. The Belgian team is constantly working hard on their time trial performances and they never seem to disappoint. Despite not bringing a strong team against the clock, OPQS still managed to finish 2nd in the opening team time trial. One of the main reasons for this was Rigoberto Uran. According to his teammates, the Colombian put in a huge effort, taking some massive turns. Uran is very strong right now and I would be surprised not to see him fight for the win in Barolo.

The outsiders
Many see Cadel Evans as the favorite for this time trial. Not me. Evans hasn’t finished in Top5 in a long time trial since he won the Tour de France in 2011. Since then, his time trial performances haven’t been that great. It’s true that he finished best of this year’s favorites in the long time trial in the Giro last year, but is that enough to make him the favorite today? Evans is clearly in great shape right now, nobody can deny that. He knows he has to gain as much time as possible on the pure climbers. Still, to me, it would be a surprise to see him win this one. To be honest, I think it will be difficult for Evans just to beat Uran.

One rider whom many completely forget is Domenico Pozzovivo. Most people say this will be the day Pozzovivo loses his chances of winning overall.  For some reason, there is a general agreement that Pozzovivo can’t time trial. This isn’t true. Pozzovivo has never been great against the clock, but he’s definitely not bad either - especially taking his 53 kg into consideration. Last year, the Italian climber showed he had worked hard on his time trial bike, finishing second in the long time trail in the Vuelta España. Only Tony Martin and Fabian Cancellara were stronger than Pozzovivo that day. The Ag2r captain didn’t train on this course before the Giro, but says that he expects it to be a lot like the time trial in the Vuelta. Domenico Pozzovivo won’t win this stage but I think he will surprise a lot of people, showing he is a serious candidate for the overall win.

Other good candidates for this time trial are riders like Maxime Monfort, Thomas de Gendt, Michael Rogers, Patrick Gretsch, Tobias Ludvigsson, Ryder Hesjedal, and the strong Team Sky trio Dario Cataldo, Kanstantin Siutsou and Edvald Boasson Hagen.

Don’t forget about Stefano Pirazzi either. Last year, he finished 2nd in the Italian national time trial championship, in front of Adriano Malori. This season, Pirazzi did very well in the time trial in Tour Med, matching the speed of Taylor Phinney on the flat parts. On stage 11, Pirazzi didn’t join the attacks. Instead, he finished in the grupetto over 18 minutes down. Being out of the general classification and without many top specialists, I wouldn’t be surprised if Stefano Pirazzi has targeted this stage. If you’re looking for a super joker, he’s your man.

For live coverage of the stage, go to steephill.tv. To see the starting order for the time trial, click here.