After a hard fought opening week of this year’s Giro d’Italia, the riders earned themselves a valuable rest day after Stage 9, but they shall be back in action once again on Tuesday for another 200km ride. The stage itself should allow the majority to slip easily back into a smooth rhythm, riding along the coast with no anxieties as to mountain passes or time cuts. Regardless, there is always action to be seen at a Grand Tour and Stage 10 should do just that with an exciting finale for the sprinters to take the limelight upon.
Survival was the name of the game for the fast men during the first week’s stages, but having held their own up to now, they should return to the fore once again in order to contest the outcome of Stage 10. Draped lazily along the Adriatic coast is the 200km route for the day; linking Civitanova Marche to Forlì. Lacking any real troublesome terrain and only possessing one recognised climb, the day will feel pancake flat to riders who have spent the last few days clinging on to survival between the broom wagon and peloton. The Category 4 Monte di Gabicce is 4.8km long and will be the only climb of the day which needs summiting, averaging a gradient of 3.5% with a (surprising) maximum of 9% and is succeeded by a brief passage of gently rolling road. Once completed, it is flat all the way to the finish line in Forlì, where a rather technical finale awaits those hoping to emerge victorious in the sprint.
The deciding kilometres feature road furniture which is far from appreciated in these hectic battles for position; roundabouts, traffic islands and even a 1.5km cobbled section are all present. Within the final kilometre the sprinters’ team will have to navigate a safe passage through a narrowing road and late turn with 500m left before they hit the finishing straight itself. Possessing no uphill gradient upon a wide surface would normally set this up as a drag race for the sprinters, but with the preceding kilometres likely to cause chaos, those more apt at following wheels are likely to benefit most here.
As ever, André Greipel will be the favourite for many on a day culminating in a sprint, especially as he has already proven his form at the Giro with a dominant performance to win Stage 6. The German’s biggest challenge will be the tricky final passage which leads to the 500m finishing straight; technical courses not being something the big sprinter is known for succeeding upon. However, he shall remain confident of a great lead out from his Lotto-Soudal team who are now focused on delivering stage wins rather than a general classification performance. They will aim to deliver him safely onto the final straight, where as the fastest man in this race, he can succeed by simply outgunning his rivals from the front.
The stage is seen as a big target for Lampre-Merida, a team who have arrived here with a roster capable of supporting Sacha Modolo extremely well in these technical sprints. With Roberto Ferrari and Maximiliano Richeze as his two key men in the finale, the Italian stands a great chance of securing his first grand tour stage win at the Giro. Given his potent acceleration, Modolo has the ability to emerge from this late corner and open a big enough gap which a poorly placed Greipel simply cannot claw back in such a short period of time.
IAM Cycling were very happy with the performance of Matteo Pelucchi on Stage 2, taking an impressive second place behind the barnstorming sprint of André Greipel. The testing finish will require protection and good positioning from his team, something which Pelucchi will not be too troubled by with a lead out bolstering riders well versed in such finishes. If he exits the final bend high in the order, Pelucchi is a real danger to the hopes of Lotto-Soudal and the Italian sprinters present here.
As has been mentioned several teams already during this opening week, Trek Factory Racing have assembled the most clear cut lead out team in the support of their sprinter Giacomo Nizzolo. Compared to the trains on offer here for the likes of Lotto-Soudal, Lampre-Merida and IAM Cycling, Nizzolo’s team is an incredibly quick outfit which can cause damage when utilised correctly. Thus far, this has not been the case, but if Nizzolo finally gets life to click in these sprints, he could sneak a win in a technical finish which plays into his hands.
Team Sky took the win on the second stage after Elia Viviani fended off André Greipel and a fast finishing Moreno Hofland in the finish to win him the maglia rosso. Stage 10 could see a successful return to the fray for the Italian rider, though he is perhaps the least supported of the obvious favourites on this stage. Whereas some here such as Modolo or Nizzolo are not afraid of surfing the wheels, Viviani has a mixed record with such finishes and though this method delivered him the win on Stage 2, a greater contributing factor was Greipel starting his sprint earlier than expected. Like the German, Viviani is blessed with pace, but he will need a lucky last kilometre to place him in a position where he can execute this to great success.
Those who are likely to challenge for the remaining places in the final top ten include Southeast’s Manuel Belletti (who has been riding exceptionally well thus far), Luka Mezgec, Moreno Hofland and Davide Appollonio.
It seems that the outcome really does hinge upon which rider is found to have the best position exiting the final turn with 500m remaining. All favourites will still need to navigate the preceding hectic kilometres with no errors, but the broad spectrum of teams targeting this stage are bound to jostle for position late on. Should he be placed perfectly once again by his Lotto-Soudal teammates, André Greipel will be the fastest man over 500m, but cannot afford to be tasked with closing a gap to a leading sprinter after the last corner. A greater confidence is likely to be placed in Giacomo Nizzolo and Sacha Modolo by many, both having proved canny riders in finishes which agitate the type of maelstrom exacerbated by these technical finishes. Modolo has the better jump of acceleration and it would come as little surprise to see him attack soon after the final turn in pole position. Matteo Pelucchi has a threatening blend of pace and skill which could leave the more fancied names here licking their wounds by the finish line. His form this year has been good against sprinters who are considered faster than him, and with that in mind, an upset would not be that shocking in the eyes of Spokenforks.
1st André Greipel 2nd Sacha Modolo 3rd Matteo Pelucchi