After the general classification soap opera of yesterday’s stage, today’s 219km route from Tirano to Canazei should offer a quieter day for the major names, favouring the breakaway riders and their stage winning exploits. Beginning with an almost immediate uphill section, Stage 17 opens proceedings upon the slopes of the Category 2 climb of Aprica, lasting 12.3km and offering a relatively steady 6.3% gradient to be tackled; the steepest sections of which are 11%. The peloton will then drop downhill once again, before beginning the second of the day’s two Category 2 climbs, the Passo Del Tonale. Officially recognised as being 11km in duration, the average gradient here is 5.7% and reaches 10% around the midway point of the climb. A sustained descent then follows, leading onwards through the town of Cles and finishing at the bottom of the Category 3 Giovo climb. This short challenge could inspire some decisive moves by the leading riders, 5.9km of undulating climbing, averaging 6.8% and tilting upwards to 12% at times. Once tackled, it is a constant rise to the day’s finish at Canazei, a simple finale which is unlikely to cause any great stress.
Pierre Rolland chanced his hand alongside a couple of Cannondale – Drapac teammates in the day’s early breakaway yesterday, but ultimately finished well behind the leading group which contained another teammate in the shape of Davide Formolo. Stage 17 is another opportunity for the Frenchman to try and convert his encouraging form into a stage victory at this year’s Giro d’Italia though. Thus far, those days which many have earmarked Rolland to contest have either ended with rises too steep or simply benefitted those who can sprint faster. Today’s finale looks ideal in comparison, though he will need to be on his toes to make sure he is at the front of the race as the break potentially forms on the Aprica climb.
Omar Fraile may have seen his chances of securing the mountains classification take a heavy hit recently, but the Dimension Data rider definitely has an opportunity to double his victories at the Giro d’Italia with a strong performance today. With the day’s mountains unlikely to prove too gruelling for him to stay in contention, the greater issue will instead be ensuring he is present in any move which takes off during the ascent of Aprica after less than 3km of racing. If Fraile does make the cut, then there is a good chance he will either be able to go solo late on in the day or potentially arrive in Canazei as the fastest man within the lead group.
Rui Costa is another rider who has often proven to be animated on days like these, the Portuguese rider eager to collect a win at the race, having now seen his general classification hopes crumble. Given his strong sprinting capabilities, Costa is likely to want any such breakaway to work cohesively and deliver him into the finish relatively fresh. Of course, this is very unlikely, as few riders will fancy their chances against the former world champion and willingly tow him a free ride. If present in the final moments of the race, it will be a tough task to distance him before the finish line beckons.
Luis Leon Sanchez was present in the group of general classification contenders for longer than expected yesterday, once again reminding us of the form which he possesses at this year’s race. With the steep opening and constant rise to the finish after the riders pass Giovo, Sanchez certainly fits the bill of a rider strong enough to make the early selection and then dominate the final kilometres into Canazei. If yesterday’s efforts have not drained him too greatly, then it will be no surprise to see the Spaniard fighting for the day’s win.
Laurens De Plus has been riding well at the race on these mid-mountain stages, marking him out as another rider who could prove strong enough to accelerate away from his rivals en route to the finale. However, this is his first grand tour and it is unclear as to how well he is currently coping with the attritional nature of a three week race.
Giovanni Visconti would have been the pick for many pundits on Stage 17, but with the unexpected ascension of Vincenzo Nibali to maglia rosa contender yesterday, he may now find his movements hampered by responsibilities to his team leader. However, with his blend of climbing prowess and strong sprinting after tough days, his team may utilise him by placing Visconti within the breakaway in order to reduce their commitments to chasing.
Other riders who may feature strongly are Maxime Monfort, Dario Cataldo, Rubén Plaza and Enrico Battaglin.
1st Omar Fraile 2nd Pierre Rolland 3rd Luis Leon Sanchez