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 4 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.
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 Rolland, Rui Costa and Adam Yates.
1st Thibaut Pinot 2nd Domenico Pozzovivo 3rd Ilnur Zakarin