Another day which offers little in the way of sustained flat roads, Stage 19’s 191km trek from San Candido / Innichen to the uphill finish of Piancavallo offers further ammunition to alter the general classification before Milano. The riding begins with the immediate uphill challenge of Passo di Monte Croce Comelco/Kreuzbergpass, a Category 3 climb which is 7.9km in length (avg 4.3% max 8%) and will soon find out any rider not blessed with strong legs on Stage 19. Leading downwards for an extended period after the day’s first summit, the next recognised climb does not feature until the rides reach just over 90km worth of racing; Category 2 Sella Chianzutan. The climb has an average gradient of 5.6% and reaches sections of 10% during its 11.7km entirety, after which, all eyes will turn to the stretch of rolling terrain which funnels the riders into the base of the day’s summit finish. The climb to Piancavallo is expected to ignite fireworks amongst the general classification riders, lasting 15.4km and averaging 7.3%, though the steeper sections are a tough 14%. The gradients are easier nearer the summit, while a series of technical challenges are apparent before the day’s frontrunners are able to sprint for the line.
Thibaut Pinot is likely to want a good showing on Stage 19 in order to cement his prospects of a podium finish once the race concludes in Milano. He appeared strong yesterday, pacing himself well and utilising the strength of teammate Sébastien Reichenbach to stay amongst the likes of Tom Dumoulin and Nairo Quintana before kicking on for a third place finish. Assuming that the majority of top ten GC riders are present during the final kilometres, the Frenchman is certainly one most likely to attack upon this final climb of the day.
Mikel Landa saw another potential stage victory slip through his fingers once again yesterday, but could challenge once again, with a slight alteration to his tactics. Thus far, the talented climber has been seeking to strike victory from long range attacks, but his current form suggests he could instead stick the pace of the favourites and attack from within their ranks instead. He is of no real danger to the maglia rosa, so will be given the freedom to attack late in the day, while few will wish to risk blowing up to simply close down the explosive climber.
Vincenzo Nibali has implied that he will look to make Tom Dumoulin pay for his perceived arrogance, though the likelihood of truly putting the Dutchman to the sword is slim on Stage 19. After an extremely cagey affair during the final climb yesterday, the Italian did little to suggest he is riding in his best form right now, though his cunning nature always makes it risky to disregard the defending Giro d’Italia champion.
Nairo Quintana invested his energy into several small digs yesterday, at one point even managing to distance the bunch of leading maglia rosa contenders. However, the form which we saw earlier in the race has been tougher to glimpse in the previous week and uncertainty now hangs above Quintana and his ambitions to usurp Tom Dumoulin from the maglia rosa with a large enough margin to defend in the final time trial. Regardless, the Colombian has been animated in recent days and seems that he would rather try to succeed than play cat & mouse all the way into the nation’s capital.
Tom Dumoulin toyed with his rivals yesterday and now looks stronger than ever as he attempts to defend his lead upon the maglia rosa. The Dutchman is most likely to ignore the skirmishes from those attempting to secure their respective positions on the general classification, instead preferring to pace his own ride up the climb at a strong tempo. This would allow him to diminish the opportunity to attack for Vincenzo Nibali and Nairo Quintana, aiming to see both of them off with his more powerful sprinting abilities atop the finish.
It will also be worth monitoring Domenico Pozzovivo, Ilnur Zakarin, Adam Yates, Pierre Rolland, Bauke Mollema, Davide Formolo and Winner Anacona.
1st Thibaut Pinot 2nd Nairo Quintana 3rd Tom Dumoulin