Yesterday Spokenforks mentioned that Stage 4 could come as a surprise to many riders and even provoke some stirrings amongst the peloton’s general classification contenders; it did exactly that. A large breakaway established itself after much fighting in order to get away from the bunch and subsequently spent the day up the road, gradually disintegrating into smaller groups. Fabio Aru, Richie Porte and Alberto Contador followed one another on the final climb after some aggressive riding from Astana, but Rigoberto Uran was the big loser as he shipped over 40 seconds to his main rivals. The stage itself was taken by an impressive effort from the 22 year old Davide Formolo of Cannondale-Garmin, surely now touted more than ever as Italy’s next big hope for a Giro d’Italia champion.
We see the first summit finish of this year’s Giro d’Italia coming at the end of this 152km journey from yesterday’s finish of La Spezia to today’s finale at Abetone; which sits atop the day’s decisive climb. There is no doubt that the summit conclusion will give the real contenders a chance to open their legs up and lay down the first marker of form against their rivals. Once again the riders will have a relatively short day in the saddle at 152km long, but the consequence of this, thus far in this Giro, has been more intense racing from start to finish. Though this formatting makes for more exciting viewing at home, it certainly means the peloton have a vaguer picture of how the stages will unfold at the moment, ensuring a tactical headache of who to follow and how hard to chase for many teams.
Moving from Liguria into Tuscany will see the peloton tackle a rolling stage profile once again, but one with only two categorised climbs present throughout the day. However, this first is almost attacked from the off and slowly rises to the top after 57km, while the second is the Category 2 climb to Abetone’s summit finish. It will begin heading upwards once the peloton pass through Aulia and Rometta as they make their way towards the Category 3 Foce Carpinelli; a 10.1km climb to open the riders’ accounts for the day. It ticks over at a steady 5% for the most part, but the gradient does tip to 9% in order to keep them on their toes.
A 34km or so descent leads the peloton down the other side of Foce Carpinelli and then hits a small climb at Braga before continuing onwards to the base of the ascent to Abetone. The Category 2 climb is long at 17.3km and an average of 5.4%, but any attacks from the puncheurs are bound to come as the road reaches a tougher 10%. Whoever is leading as they enter the final 100m is left with a 5% drag in order to become the stage winner in Abetone and the contenders to do just that are varied.
It is safe to say that few riders expected the previous day to be quite as fractured as it was, the route littered with various groups and lone riders stranded in no man’s land until the final climb. Many would have circled Stage 5 as the first insight we would gather as to the hierarchy of the general classification hopefuls, but we have already seen Rigoberto Uran drop time after a dig from Fabio Aru; one which dragged Richie Porte, Alberto Contador and Jurgen Van Den Broeck with him. The conclusion does not seem arduous enough to instigate a duel between the afore mentioned challengers, but we have already seen how this cannot be guaranteed during these more intense Giro stages. Once again attention will be on Orica-GreenEDGE as they aim to extend their uninterrupted grasp upon the maglia rosa; their focus being to keep Simon Clarke or Esteban Chaves within touch of the leaders and thus in pink.
In regards to the big names, one rider will already be looking to take back time on a stage which plays to his strengths somewhat; Rigoberto Uran. He surprisingly lost time on the previous stage, but it is easy to view this as a calculated loss upon a stage which did not justify the added effort to stay with Aru, Contador et al. With a peloton lacking the superstar puncheurs of Alejandro Valverde, Dan Martin and Joaquim Rodriguez, the Colombian Uran could fancy his chances to take some time back here.
Team Sky’s Richie Porte used to live in this region and knows the climb to Abetone well, when speaking to the press after Stage 4, Porte stated that he saw this finale as the first real shake up amongst the favourites. The Australian was content to state how good his legs feel so far and this all points to him having at least a dig during the final climb. Whether or not Team Sky want to defend the pink jersey at this point is another question, but on the basis mentioned above, he simply cannot be ruled out from winning here.
Fabio Aru has not hesitated to utilise the strength of his support team so far and could request another high tempo conclusion in order launch himself towards a stage win. Though the terrain is not favourable enough for him to make a move which would drop the likes of Porte and Contador, it certainly is not tough enough for him to come unstuck either; in a lead group of GC riders he will be the fastest finisher after Uran.
One of the former Giro d’Italia champions present this year is Damiano Cunego; now riding for Nippo-Vini Fantini. So far he has looked in solid condition and only finished 1′ 22″ down after an explosively fractious day, he knows his best chance for glory nowadays lies in sneaking a stage win and the summit finish at Abetone will give him hope. As long as fireworks are not lit by the likes of Aru and Porte for example, he should be allowed to attack by the big names in pursuit of a stage win.
Franco Pellizotti is clearly enjoying life at both the Giro and Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec this year, despite now being an elder statesman of the peloton at 37 years old. He has been a protagonist in a couple of breakaways so far and could be in the mix once again if he can find an agreeable blend of escapees to fight against the bunch all day. If he makes it onto the final ascent in the lead, he certainly has the talent to cope with the gradients and would be quite fancied to take a surprise win in that scenario. As mentioned, he has already been quite prominent, so he might equally decide to have a break from baking out in the sun all day.
Flying somewhat under the radar heading into day five is BMC’s Damiano Caruso, a man yet to finish outside the first 25 riders at this year’s Giro d’Italia. His talents have long been utilised in the support of his team leaders and this could be a great chance for him to secure his second ever professional win at the age of 27. It is the finish which particularly clicks with his attributes and he should cope well as long as he has not been dropped by a sudden surge on the steeper mid-sections of the climb to Abetone.
Orica-GreenEDGE will look to Esteban Chaves as their best bet to keep pink and possibly build upon it with another stage win at this year’s Giro. On his day, Chaves can make climbing look effortless, but will need to ensure he makes his move at the right time if he wishes to take the stage in Abetone. Reasonably active already, it is possible to argue he might be tired, but the incentive of pink is known to cure such ailments and the Colombian will be confident if the race to the summit is decided by a sprint.
Speaking of those already happy to participate in the maelstrom, Movistar’s Giovanni Visconti deserves yet another worthy mention ahead of the fifth day. The Spaniard appears to be full of confidence and has no hesitated to join the breakaways in the preceding days, but his best hope might lie with rolling along with the bunch here. If present when it matters on the final ascent, he should be allowed to slip off the front and try his best at winning the uphill race to the line.
So far at this year’s Giro d’Italia we have learnt that stages usually reserved for the breakaway are by no means safe from the general classification rivals. Because of this, the likes of Rigoberto Uran and Fabio Aru have to be considered for this stage, especially with the Colombian’s time loss and the aggressive riding of Astana. Should these two end up duking it out for the win atop Abetone, then many will back Rigoberto Uran to win a possible sprint against the Italian. Away from the big names, both Damiano Cunego and Damiano Caruso look inviting prospects to give it everything on the day’s final climb. The duo are both overdue for a win and should be given permission from their respective managers to fly the team colours as they battle their way up to Abetone.
1st Rigoberto Uran 2nd Fabio Aru 3rd Richie Porte
Outsider: Damiano Caruso or Damiano Cunego