A huge miscalculation on Stage 10 left the sprinters’ teams bereft of the bunch kick which many had assumed to be a given, instead seeing the win contested by a group of four at the line; Nicola Boem emerging victorious in Forlì. Stage 11 is unlikely to remedy this loss for the pure sprinters, but the testing course could result in a reduced sprint for the strongmen, or even another successful day for the breakaway inclined riders. Another sawtooth profile is bound to find some stragglers once the climbing begins for the first time since the rest day, but some will view this as the perfect stage to get away and stay away.
Once again the order of the day shall consist of sending the riders’ noses pointing up or down hill for the majority of a course which seldom uses flat roads. A total of 153km separates the peloton from their start in Forlì to the concluding circuits in Imola; of which partially includes passages of the historic racetrack. The first week demonstrated how these shorter stages based upon transitional Italian highlands provoke much more aggressive riding than expected, predominantly due to the lesser requirement to eke out the efforts of a team. Though only three categorised climbs are marked on the stage profile, five clear peaks will need beating before they ride onto the first of the three finishing circuits in Imola.
First ascent of the day is the Category 3 Trebbio, 6.3km long with an average gradient of 6.3% that includes a ramp of 11%. Then comes the 4.2km Monte Casale, followed by the La Valletta at 2.7km in length with an eye watering 14% spike in gradient. Monte Albano and the Category 3 Valico del Prugno are next, the latter being 5.6km long with an average gradient of 6.2%, stretching to 9% in places. Once this list of lumps and bumps are ticked off by the riders, they will enter onto the first of the Imola racetrack finishing circuits.
A climb of Tre Monti will be apparent on all three passes from the Imola racetrack to the surrounding area; a 4.4km Catergory 4 climb with an average of 4.1% gradient which sneaks up to 10%. The finale itself is relatively simple and will be contested upon the racetrack’s finishing straight, the last turn being made 650m from the line itself.
Michael Matthews will be seen as the fastest man most likely to cope with the stressful ride to Imola, but will need to rely on the handwork of other teams to ensure the breakaway is reeled back in time. He has already stated that Stage 11 is a target for him and if he survives the intense riding through the hills there is not anyone faster than him after such a testing day. If Matthews is feeling less confident of his chances by the morning, Simon Gerrans will take the reigns on a day tailor made for his skills and attributes. The issue is the amount of climbing demanded of him, if he does manage to stick the pace as part of a select group, his speed on the finale’s finishing straight should be enough to send him clear of most rivals.
Along with Matthews, another sprinter who has displayed just how exceptionally well he is climbing at this year’s Giro d’Italia is Trek Factory Racing’s Fabio Felline. Climbing this sort of terrain seems well within his current limits and he has the option of either hoping his team pull back the break or joining a larger group which gives the peloton the slip. Felline seems the only one likely to stop Michael Matthews if the day does come down to another bunch kick.
BMC might find their hopes best protected by Philippe Gilbert heading into Stage 11 and will hope he manages to make is way into the day’s successful break. The climbing should not be a huge concern for the Belgian and he will benefit from a well driven small group, of which he has a good chance of being a faster finisher than most. As the win will be contested on a pancake flat racetrack, Gilbert would struggle to fend off others with a more potent finish, the former world champion likely to have fancied an uphill drag to the line.
CCC Sprandi Polkowice could turn to Maciej Paterski in an attempt to be represented in the day’s crucial move. He will need another fantastic performance which he seems capable of summoning this season and is a canny rider amongst a race winning break. Weather or not he can cope with attacks from within the group is uncertain, but he shall be worth maintaining an eye upon.
Simon Geschke is currently leading the mountains classification and will be interested to extend his spell in the blue jersey by following any threats up the rode. Finishing third on day nine demonstrated that he is finding some form, now with the jersey on his shoulders, this is bound to build as he aims to defend it. He will need to join the break on a day where competition will be fierce, perhaps a larger group being the best fit for the German rider.
Many others have already stretched their legs in the breaks, but few have managed to succeed in their ambitions so far, meaning some are likely to make a return appearance on Stage 11. Jesús Herrada, Tom Jelte-Slagter and Carlos Betancur were all protagonists in the successful breakaway during Stage 9’s ride to San Giorgio del Sannio. The former suits the finale should he be present, while the other two are certainly capable of managing the day’s demands in the hills and will be looking to reverse their fortunes to snatch a stage win in Imola.
Others to consider are Giovanni Visconti, Yonathan Monsalve, Damiano Caruso, Damiano Cunego, Luca Paolini and Francesco Gavazzi.
A sprint of some sort should decide the race, whether it is a large group or smaller breakaway is difficult to predict, meaning the favourites will alter somewhat. Michael Matthews‘ best hopes lie in a bunch kick, but teammate Simon Gerrans has the option of vanishing off up the road with a breakaway he deems worthwhile. Regardless of who is higher placed at the finish, it seems Orica-GreenEDGE will be represented in some capacity in the day’s finale. Trek Factory Racing will surely see their inability to catch the previous day’s escapees as a huge waste of an opportunity for their sprinters, so Stage 11 will be a goal for Fabio Felline. A diverse rider who can gamble on having a fair shot in the sprint or join the break, his current form at this Giro cannot be ignored and for that reason he remains dangerous. A breakaway has a fantastic chance of staying clear of the bunch here, but in terms of picking a name, it could be a spectrum of riders who join the decisive move.
Sprint: 1st Fabio Felline 2nd Michael Matthews 3rd Philippe Gilbert
Breakaway: Simon Gerrans