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Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 20 Preview

Course:

The penultimate day of 2017’s centenary Giro d’Italia is one final opportunity for the mountains to cause a change in the order of the current general classification before Milano. Starting in Pordenone, the day’s first summit comes a few kilometres before the 40km marker, the 1.1km Category Muro di ca’ del Poggio is a steep affair which averages 12.7% and has a sharp maximum kick of 18%. The terrain proceeds to roll onwards for a sustained period, eventually striking upon the first of two Category 1 ascents in the shape of the imposing Monte Grappa. The rather irregular nature of the ascent past the midway point can cause problems for riders who prefer to settle into a steady rhythm, making the 24.2km ascent a potential banana skin for those with bad legs on the day. With an average gradient of 5.3% and a maximum of 11%, it may not prove enough to entice the big name maglia rosa contenders to commit much in the way of attacking though. An extended descent lasts for just over 20km and places the riders on a short section of flat roads with around 40km left to race, of which includes the final climb of 2017’s Giro d’Italia; the Category 1 Foza. These 14km of uphill racing are the last opportunity for those pursuing the maglia rosa to utilise the slopes to drive open gaps amongst the frontrunners and place themselves in an encouraging position with only Milano’s individual time trial remaining. The average gradient is 6.7% and offers a steepest increase of 11% for potential attackers to make their move; knowing that the final descending kilometres into Asiago offer little in the way of opportunities to attack before they complete Stage 20’s 190km.

Giro d'Italia 2017 Stage 20 Preview

Contenders:

Thibaut Pinot lived up to expectations during the final ascent of yesterday’s stage, proving to be the strongest and most animated of the main general classification favourites. This final week has seen the Frenchman improve his form considerably, and having now moved into touching distance of a final podium position, Pinot will surely view Foza as an ideal springboard to victory. With a downhill run into the finish, it is possible that the FDJ captain could arrive into the finish with rivals alongside him, from where the expectation would be for Pinot to win a sprint.

Mikel Landa has finally collected a stage victory at this year’s Giro d’Italia after having seen two previous day’s slip through his fingers in the final metres. However, the Team Sky rider is unlikely to believe his hunger for victory has been satisfied after yesterday’s win, especially when enjoying such a rich vein of form. As stated previously, he offers little in the way of danger to the general classification and should once again be allowed a great deal of freedom to contest stage honours on the penultimate day. Expected to attack from long range, Landa has shown to be hard to match on the climbs in the last week, making him an obvious pick here.

Ilnur Zakarin was one of the few general classification riders to attempt several moves upon Stage 19’s final climb, walking away with a small time gain over the podium favourites, but was unable to ditch his nearest man on the GC Domenico Pozzovivo. Similar to Pinot, the Russian has ridden himself into his best form during this decisive concluding week of the Giro d’Italia and certainly looks dangerous on this terrain ahead of the following day’s individual time trial. A good performance here, combined with another in the race against the clock in Milano, could secure him fifth place on the general classification and potentially even challenge for fourth.

Domenico Pozzovivo sees himself caught up in this battle for places 4th – 6th in the concluding stages of the race, showing a consistent tenacity to follow the moves which matter to him most. He has managed to avoid investing too much energy in recent stages, focusing on staying buoyant amongst the general classification and ensuring he does not suffer from as a result of a costly swashbuckling attack. However, this really is the final chance he will have to make a difference (if he wishes to improve his placing that is) and could take advantage of his lack of importance to the podium places in order to steal stage honours in Asiago.

Vincenzo Nibali attempted a handful of attacking moves on yesterday’s concluding climb, yet did not truly show the level of cutting endeavour which we have previously become accustomed to from The Shark of Messina. He will probably produce a couple of efforts on the day’s final climb, but given the current stalemate with Nairo Quintana, it would be no surprise to see the Italian prove risk averse yet again.

Nairo Quintana seems unlikely to win the stage today, though possesses a great chance of winning the maglia rosa regardless. Life is looking particularly tough for Tom Dumoulin right now, with Quintana knowing that even a sub-par performance compared to his own standards, could still obtain a margin of around a minute back to the current pink jersey holder. If the Dutchman looks to be on the rocks late in the day, then Quintana will pounce to take full advantage, regardless of potentially towing other riders to the summit in the process.

Those who may take the day’s win, from either a breakaway or late move, include; Pierre RollandRui Costa and Adam Yates.

Outcome:

1st Thibaut Pinot 2nd Domenico Pozzovivo 3rd Ilnur Zakarin

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Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 19 Preview

Course:

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.

giro-ditalia-2017-stage-19-preview

Contenders:

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 PozzovivoIlnur Zakarin, Adam YatesPierre RollandBauke MollemaDavide Formolo and Winner Anacona.

Outcome:

1st Thibaut Pinot 2nd Nairo Quintana 3rd Tom Dumoulin

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Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 17 Preview

Course:

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.

Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 17 Preview

Contenders:

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 MonfortDario CataldoRubén Plaza and Enrico Battaglin.

Outcome:

1st Omar Fraile 2nd Pierre Rolland 3rd Luis Leon Sanchez

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Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 16 Preview

Course:

After a day’s rest at this year’s Giro d’Italia, the riders are thrown back into the deep end upon Stage 16, potentially the most foreboding day in the saddle for much of the peloton. This is an occasion for the purest of climbers to take full advantage of and shall be the greatest test thus far of Tom Dumoulin’s ability to stay in the maglia rosa. A 222km long route from Rovetta to Bormio is only made longer by a triptych of ascents intended to carve great divides amongst those gunning for the general classification podium in Milano. The first leg breaking challenge is the Passo del Mortirolo, possessing a notoriety for its gruelling slopes, this ascent is in fact somewhat easier due to being ridden from its less intense side. The average gradient of the 12.8km climb is 7.6%, while the steeper sections hover between 9% – 10%, potentially proving a quiet affair with so much more climbing to follow throughout the day. The subsequent sharp descent soon leads back onto rising roads, reaching the foot of the first of two contrasting climbs up the famous Stelvio. The 21.7km rise is the highest point of this year’s race, earning the title of Cima Coppi, averaging 7.1% from bottom to top. From here a long descent begins, taking the riders down to the base of the second ascent of the Stelvio, the 13.4km Umbrail Pass. This is to be tackled at an average gradient of 8.4%, though much of the difference shall be made by the slopes which kick upwards to 12%. Having reached the summit, the frontrunners will thunder down the resulting descent, a tricky affair which leads onto an equally technical finale in Bormio.

Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 16 Preview

Contenders:

Nairo Quintana should view Stage 16 as an ideal opportunity to inflict maximum damage upon Tom Dumoulin and other rivals in the general classification. He usually relishes these ascents, especially when part of long attritional stages like today, allowing him to maximise any advantage which he is able to open up on the maglia rosa. We are yet to see the best from the Colombian rider, yet given his plan to peak in the final week of this year’s Giro d’Italia, this might be the day we see the Movistar captain attack with all guns blazing.

Ilnur Zakarin appears to be peaking in the third week of a grand tour once again, the Russian climber now a real candidate to pick up stage honours during this barrage of difficult stages. As one of the purest climbers amongst the general classification names, Zakarin has often showed himself to be unmatchable on these longer and steeper ascents, possessing the ruthless tactical nous required to win when part of an elite group deciding the outcome.

Thibaut Pinot will find the day’s three main climbs to his liking, allowing him to set a strong tempo for the majority of the ascent and attempt to stick the pace of main rival Nairo Quintana. Rivals may try to expose his apparent weakness for descending by upping the pace on the final descent, something which might motivate the Frenchman to launch a preemptive attack on the last climb and open up a gap before they can target him. Whatever the plan, Pinot is one of the few capable of matching Quintana for the most part on Stage 16 and will prove an interesting watch during the final kilometres.

Pierre Rolland is still hunting for an elusive stage win at 2017’s Giro d’Italia, proving to be one of the most active provocateurs during the opening skirmishes and has previous form when it comes to emerging victorious upon these big days in the mountains. He fits the terrain well on Stage 16, an ideal platform for the Frenchman to settle into a strong rhythm and aim to sail off into the distance to victory.

Others to consider are Vincenzo NibaliOmar FraileMikel Landa and Domenico Pozzovivo.

Outcome:

1st Pierre Rolland 2nd Mikel Landa 3rd Ilnur Zakarin

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Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 14 Preview

Course:

Spokenforks collected another correct prediction as a result of the immense sprinting prowess of Fernando Gaviria, demonstrating one of the best sprints we have witnessed in recent history. Regardless, Stage 14 shall certainly not be a day for the sprinters, the day structured to build to an almighty crescendo which may lure the best out of the general classification contenders once again. Starting in Castellania, the course is an incredibly flat affair as it makes its way to the uphill battle atop Oropa, clocking a total of 131km along the way. The short stage should ensure we witness fireworks amongst the big name favourites, while the summit finish could prove a springboard for an outsider to steal the glory and sneak a win from beneath the nose of the maglia rosa hopefuls.

Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 14 Preview

Contenders:

Nairo Quintana was never expected to contest the previous time trial victory, but to lose as much time as he did was a surprise for many. The Movistar rider shall not have expected to be so far off the leader’s jersey at this point of the race, making today’s climatic finish a golden opportunity to begin chipping away at the deficit. The ascent of Blockhaus provided blunt realisation to his rivals, the Colombian already riding in imperious form, despite expectations for him to peak later in the race. This short ascent is not ideal, but with the steeper sections and irregular nature in parts, there is little doubt that he will attempt something in order to gain time here.

Tom Dumoulin will need to keep a close eye on his strongest rival Nairo Quintana, yet this relatively short finale to the day, should mean that the Dutchman does not need to dig too deep in order to keep his healthy advantage. With no other climbs en route to the finale, there is little doubt that Team Sunweb will have everyone at their disposal to protect their captain’s lead. Dumoulin does lack the explosive attack required to match the anticipated moves on this stage, but with such a considerable margin already, it would be of no surprise should he choose to concede time here in order to stay fresh later in the race.

Thibaut Pinot is certainly not renowned for his prowess against the clock, yet many were disappointed in his performance in comparison to recent results, meaning he will have to start attacking days like these as soon as possible to keep his podium chances alive. Though he was easily distanced by Quintana upon the slopes of Blockhaus, today’s shorter ascent could allow the Frenchman to utilise his explosive attacking nature to better effect. If stage honours are of a greater focus on Stage 14, then Pinot will need only to stick close to the front of the pack, seeking to sprint hard for the finish line in an attempt to take the victory.

Vincenzo Nibali has shown a glimpse of the form which previously secured grand tour titles, making it an obvious risk to rule him out of contention on Stage 14. With little to worry about throughout the day, Nibali can focus entirely upon the summit finish, a climb which should see the Italian produce some of his best racing. The ideal situation which he will be hoping to orchestra is one of a late move, keeping pace with the likes of Dumoulin and Quintana, before investing everything in a last gasp effort to take the stage honours late in the day.

Pierre Rolland shall be on the hunt once again for a stage victory, the Frenchman rightly confident in his form at this year’s Giro d’Italia. With such a large part of the day’s racing to be contested upon flat rides, it is not ideal for him to make a success of the breakaway, but he will be a face to watch for if everything comes together in the final kilometres of Stage 14.

Others who will have eyes upon gaining time on the maglia rosa or a stage victory are Ilnur ZakarinBauke MollemaDomenico PozzovivoMikel Landa and Hugh Carthy.

Outcome:

1st Nairo Quintana 2nd Thibaut Pinot 3rd Vincenzo Nibali

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Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 11 Preview

Course:

Stage 11 promises to be a day for the breakaway to lay claim upon stage honours, after yesterday’s individual time trial was dominated by Tom Dumoulin in monstrous fashion, as he sailed into a potentially race deciding time gap over Nairo Quintana. Starting in Firenze, the day just about delivers 15km of flat riding before the roads tilt skywards for the majority of Stage 11, beginning with the Category 2 Passo della Consuma which lasts 15.9 km (avg 6.1% max 10%) before dropping down to the foot of the Category 3 Passo della Calla (16km avg 5.3% max 9%).  A long downhill section then follows, before sending the riders up the 11.4km Category 3 Passo del Carnale (avg 4.5% max 11%) and the longer 23.1km Monte Fumaiole, averaging a tame 3.7% average with maximum gradients of 12%. The road then rapidly falls away, leaving the frontrunners to hurtle into the finale at Bagno di Romagna after 161km of racing. The shorter overall distance and high probability of a breakaway surviving the day is bound to make the opening hour of racing frenzied, making the first couple of ascents even tougher than they look on paper.

Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 11 Preview

Contenders:

Omar Fraile has yet to truly cash in on the form which we saw from him during this year’s Tour of Yorkshire and could choose today as a good opportunity to do so, if able to make the cut on the opening climb. Though this is not a perfect fit for Fraile, it cannot be forgotten that he won the mountains classification at last year’s La Vuelta a España, so is talented when it comes to hunting the right move to join on a day built for the break. He has the strength to succeed on Stage 11, but the biggest question mark hangs above his ability to make it into the right attack.

Mikel Landa shall be another of Team Sky’s options to salvage their appearance at the Giro d’Italia in the wake of their general classification ambitions taking a heavy blow. The Spaniard loves a long range attack, so may well be allowed off the leash to try his luck once again in the breakaway, hopefully chalking up the team’s first win at the race. The testing start will play into his hands, even if the rest of the day is not ideal, while he will need to attack solo over the final summit if he is to take the win; Landa not known for his sprinting abilities after all.

Pierre Rolland is likely to have glanced over the day’s profile as a chance for stage honours, with the length of the climbs hopefully dispatching the quicker rivals who may finish alongside him. The Frenchman has already been combative, but was not able to help deliver Cannondale – Drapac their first WorldTour victory since 2015’s Giro d’Italia. He will want to go it alone in the latter stages, but the climb to Monte Fumaiole might not prove tough enough to allow that.

Rui Costa may have once held ambitions of producing a convincing general classification campaign at 2017’s Giro d’Italia, yet will now realise that his best bet for glory is to try and join the day’s breakaway on stages like today. The terrain should not prove too difficult for Costa, while his descending abilities will allow him to conserve a degree of energy, if able to bridge back to more talented climbers during some of the climbs. He will hope for a sprint finish at the end, as few others likely to work alongside him all day, possess an acceleration able to match the former world champion rider.

Adam Yates could still be focused upon climbing his way up the general classification, but if the race is close to coming back together on the final climb, he has all the skills required to attack over the summit and rapidly descend his way to a stage victory. A fast finishing rider too, if an unexpectedly strong group of general classification contenders end up deciding the day’s outcome, it is also likely that Yates will be the fastest present from that scenario.

Valerio Conti was struck by misfortune when crashing within the final kilometre of Stage 8, having produced a brilliant display of strength as part of the day’s main breakaway. The incident is bound to have stoked the fires of the Italian rider, eager to overturn his bad luck and aim to conjure up another brilliant effort to be in with a chance of victory in Bagno di Romagna. 

Luis Leon Sanchez is an interesting prospect who could be motived by either the mountains classification points on offer here, or the prospect of a group making it all the way to the finish, from which he is almost guaranteed to be the fastest sprinter present. He will no doubt be curious to see who may join the moves, potentially forcing him into action, assuming that Sanchez realises he now has a chance of collecting a jersey in Milano.

The mix of riders who have a chance here is broad and essentially a lottery, keep an eye upon the likes of Alberto LosadaMatej MohoricDaniel TeklehaimanotKenny ElissondeTom-Jelte SlagterJosé Gonçalves and Hugh Carthy.

Outcome:

1st Omar Fraile 2nd Pierre Rolland 3rd José Gonçalves

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Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 4 Preview

Course:

Skipping from one island to the next has left the centenary edition of the Giro d’Italia to play out the first exchanges between the general classification contenders upon the Sicilian slopes of Mount Etna. An extremely tough summit finish for the race’s fourth stage will come as a shock to the system for many, charging headlong into a 181km trip from Cefalú to Etna, built entirely around the ascent of Portella Femmina Morta and the volcanic finale itself. The peloton are afforded almost 60km to get their legs back into motion after the preceding rest day, and they shall need it once they ride onto the opening slopes of the Category 2 Portella Femmina Morta. Lasting a soul destroying 32.8 km would be enough for many to simply climb off their bike upon its average gradient of 4.5% (max. 8%), but combined with the subsequent rise to Etna, this is one of the worst stages for anyone to experience a bad day in the saddle. The Category 1 climb to Etna’s summit lasts 17.9km and averages 6.6%, but the constant fluctuation of gradients is what will make it so hard for the riders to find a rhythm more than anything else, while the steepest slopes max out around 12%. With the GC riders keeping close tabs on one another, it might be the chance for the breakaway to take the glory, but the prestige of winning this stage in the 100th edition of the Giro d’Italia may prove an irresistible honour for some of the race’s biggest names.

Giro d'Italia 2017 Stage 4 Preview

Contenders:

Vincenzo Nibali has long been gifted the moniker of The Shark of Messina, his hometown being placed just over an hour away from today’s summit finish and a rare chance for Nibali to take the maglia rosa on his native island of Sicily. Though it may not prove a wise tactical move in regards to the entire three week contest, riders share a great love for winning races or stages close to home and it is that which marks Nibali out as a threat today. With weather forecasts predicting relatively strong winds once again, it could prove tough for the Italian rider to break free of his GC rivals, let alone the fact he has shown little to inspire beyond his Tour of Croatia win so far this year. Regardless, this is a huge opportunity for Nibali to take glory on his doorstep and a strong headwind compacting the peloton may just allow his prowess with decisive last gasp attacks to secure Stage 4.

Thibaut Pinot enjoyed a successful time at the recent Giro del Trentino and has convincing form when it comes to winning major climbing stages such as this. His greatest weapon on Stage 4, where the wind may negate attacks for the most part of the day, is his surprisingly strong sprinting ability compared to those expected to finish alongside him. Though he has improved a great deal in time trials, there is no doubt he shall be fearing the loss of time in the two mid to long distance TTs which feature in this year’s race, making the chance to gain an early advantage here clearly appealing if possible.

Ilnur Zakarin had to endure his dose of bad luck during the opening three days of the race and will now hope nothing but good fortune remains between himself and the last day in Milano. Having already conceded 20 seconds, the Russian rider will be allowed a greater degree of freedom than had been originally anticipated on Stage 4, offering him the chance to regain lost time and take the maglia rosa. His explosive approach to racing stages like this looks ideal, able to open up gaps rapidly with his strong acceleration and also one of the fastest sprinters likely to be present in a lead group on Etna.

Geraint Thomas is fully aware that he needs to capture time over his rival Nairo Quintana at every opportunity possible in order to head into the two crucial time trials able to put time into the Colombian, rather than having to recoup it himself. The Welshman’s showing at the Giro del Trentino looks to be a firm foundation to be entering this grand tour upon and he is not afraid of attacking late in a stage to secure crucial seconds if able to. He should not be dropped by his rivals on the day’s climbs, but whether he is able to distance them is much harder to forecast, especially given the complex team tactics within Sky’s incredibly strong rosta of climbers at the race.

Nairo Quintana seeks to tackle the Giro – Tour double in 2017, so will be wanting to keep his powder dry for as long as possible during these early stages of the race, hoping to deal his damage in the final week to Milano. The Colombian will be entering the contest with the intention of riding himself into his best condition, making attacks as early as Stage 4 seem unlikely, though it will certainly be a tough ask to dislodge him in order to gain time from the pre-race favourite.

Other riders who all show potential for taking the win from either the day’s breakaway or a late solo move are Adam YatesOmar FraileMikel LandaPierre RollandHugh Carthy and Kenny Elissonde.

Outcome:

1st Ilnur Zakarin 2nd Geraint Thomas 3rd Thibaut Pinot

Outsider: Omar Fraile