Totalling 225km, Stage 9 is the first serious day of racing we can expect to see amongst the general classification riders, given that it finishes atop Gran Sasso d’Italia at the end of the stage. Having left Pesco Sannita earlier on, it is nearly 100km before the peloton reach the first of the day’s three categorised climbs, though it almost immediately then sends them back down to the valley floor. From here they face nearly 50km of constantly rising terrain, anticipated to thin the ranks of the peloton gradually, until the big names are left to fight amongst themselves en route to the summit finish.
Domenico Pozzovivo suits this day particularly well, and given his stunning form in 2018, it is difficult for him to not catch the eye of those seeking to predict the day’s winner. He should feel assured of matching his rivals all the way to the summit finish, though it is his explosive turn of pace at the end of such a day which is likely to secure him the win. Long since styled a nearly man by many, this is an opportunity for the diminutive rider to finally shake that monkey from his back.
Thibaut Pinot appeared ready once again for fireworks amongst the maglia rosa contenders yesterday, but ended the day with having kept his powder dry ahead of today’s rigours. The Frenchman will like the look of this long ascent towards the day’s summit finish, well suited to his talents for sustaining a strong tempo right to the top, before then breaking out for the win with his trademark sprinting capabilities.
Esteban Chaves looked to be the best climber on Mount Etna, even though he had spent nearly the entire day within the stage’s breakaway, justly rewarded for his prowess by his team leader Simon Yates. Stage 9 would normally prove a particularly appealing prospect yet again, however the team dynamic has now changed since taking the leader’s jersey and the Colombian could be kept on a tight leash for the benefit of his British counterpart.
Simon Yates may well have gained even more time upon the Mount Etna finish, had he had the confidence to attack earlier, a tendency for hesitation which has been documented several times throughout his career so far. Regardless, the team and himself will be wanting to defend the pink jersey ahead of the rest day, though his current form suggests he may even be able to extend his lead. With such a strong array of riders at his disposal, it seems unlikely he shall become isolated late in the day, instead he should be confident of finding himself in a position to seize a tighter grip on the general classification.
Miguel Angel Lopez will be aware of the need to make up time as soon as possible, therefore could be tempted into action if the opportunity to do so becomes apparent. Almost unmatchable on his day, it is still not quite clear how great his condition is right now, though no rival will feel certain of being able to match the Colombian’s best on close to his favoured terrain.
Others to consider are George Bennett, Davide Formolo, Ben O’Connor, Giulio Ciccone and Fabio Aru.
1st Thibaut Pinot 2nd Domenico Pozzovivo 3rd Simon Yates