28/05 - Stage 17 - Sarnonico to Vittorio Veneto - 208 km

After a tough day in the mountains, the GC riders will be able to take a breather on Wednesday’s stage 17 of the Giro d’Italia.

The route
At first glance, this might look like another stage for the sprinters. However, the final part is much more difficult than it looks. The first 100 km won’t trouble the riders much. Still, since this is a good day for a breakaway to make it, the pace will be extremely fast until a break gets clear.

After 145 km in the saddle, the riders reach Quero. Here, the terrain starts to get very undulating. The final 60 km include 4-5 small climbs. Only two of these are categorized and especially the last one is very steep. Muro di Ca' del Poggio is only 1.3 km long but has an average gradient of 15 % with parts of 20 %. There are just 20 km to go from the top and only the last 10 km are flat. If you’re strong uphill but not fast on the line, Muro di Ca' del Poggio is where you have to attack. Unfortunately, the bad weather doesn’t seem to leave this Giro d’Italia. The forecast shows a chance of rain of over 50 %, which will make the ascent very difficult. Stage 6 from Tirreno-Adriatico in 2013 is the perfect example.

As always in the Giro d’Italia, the final is very tricky. Instead of placing the finishing line at the end of the 3.5 km straight-out road, the organizers have put in two sharp left hand turns. The last one is placed just 450 meters from the line. The long stretch towards these corners is slightly uphill, while the final couple of hundred meters are downhill. Most likely, the peloton won’t fight for the win today. However, if this ends in a bunch sprint, we might see more crashes if the roads are wet. Let’s hope this won’t be the case.

The contenders
Once again, it’s hard to pick out any top favorites for a stage like this one. I think the morning breakaway will make it. The GC riders will be very happy to get a quiet day on the bike. Movistar knows they will have to work hard on stage 18 and 20. As long as the overall contenders stay in the peloton, the Spanish team won’t have any concerns about the breakaway.

Having to overcome Muro di Ca' del Poggio just 20 km from the finishing line, means the puncheurs have a good chance today.  Therefore, we have to look to strong riders like Dani Moreno, Fabio Felline, Oscar Gatto, Leonardo Duque, Yukiya Arashiro, Simone Ponzi and Simon Geschke. Not to forget Lotto-Belisol’s strong trio Tim Wellens, Adam Hansen and Lars Bak.

Personally, I think this stage suits Enrico Barbin very well. The young Italian has already been in numerous breakaways this Giro. He’s aggressive, strong on these kind of climbs and fast on the line. Exactly the qualities you need on a day like this. The team spirit is sky high at Bardiani after their two recent stage wins. Don’t be surprised if Enrico Barbin makes it three in Vittorio Veneto.

Nathan Haas is another very interesting rider today. After a tough start to the race, Haas now seems to be doing better and better. He launched Ryder Hesjedal in the mountains the other day, showing his climbing legs are strong right now. This Giro has already been a great success for the Australians. However, lately the Colombians have taken over the show. Today, Nathan Haas has a good chance to let people know the Australian riders are still going strong.

In case of a sprint
If the peloton catches caught the breakaway, I’m sure it would mean they have been going very hard on Muro di Ca' del Poggio. If so, I doubt the pure sprinters will be able to make it back to the front in time. Instead, look to fast riders like Enrico Battaglin and Ben Swift. Both have been doing very well lately. Battaglin won on Oropa, while Swifty finished 25th on Tuesday’s big mountain stage. Team Sky is still without a win in this race. If Ben Swift sprints for the stage win today, I think he will win.

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