What’s the stage like?
A 34km time trial that, overall, will suit the purists. Not that it’s completely straightforward. After 7km, riders face the Muro di Ca’ del Poggio, a Category 4 ascent which has some ramps reaching gradients of 19% in places.
After that inconvenience, though, with the exception of a few undulations, the smooth roads through the prosecco region of Italy should favour the power merchants
Who are the favourites?
Given his dominance on the Stage 1 time trail – and his supremacy in the discipline throughout the season for that matter – it’s hard to envisage a scenario where Filippo Ganna (2/51.42) will not win this.
It’s easy to search for some doubts. Perhaps that early climb will disturb his rhythm. Perhaps his legs will be suffering given his inexperience of three-week stage races. Perhaps some calamity will befall him. Well, perhaps, but by my reckoning he will be up to a minute better than any other rider over the course, so he has a significant margin of error to play with.
Tipping 2/51.42-shots might not be especially creative, but those odds look on the generous side.
Who are the most likely outsiders?
Joao Almeida (15/116.00) and Mikkel Bjerg (13/114.00) showed their time trialling form on Stage 1 and will also like the route, but more likely to challenge Ganna are Rohan Dennis (6/17.00) and Victor Campenaerts (13/114.00).
Dennis has twice been World Time Trial champion, is a previous holder of the hour record, and still holds the record for the fastest average speed maintained for a stage at the Tour de France. Campenaerts, meanwhile, is the current hour-record holder and is a consistent podium finisher in time trials.
If wanting a speculative interest at bigger odds, though, the best choice may be Alex Dowsett (49/150.00). His Stage 8 win shows he is in excellent form and, whilst his time trialling form in recent years hasn’t matched that of his early career, he’s still capable.
What effect will it have on the overall market?
Of the main contenders for the Maglia Rosa, only Joao Almeida must be particularly confident going into this stage. Having tightened his grip on the General Classification by picking up bonus seconds on Stage 13, he is likely to extend his lead further here. Using a straight reckoning that extrapolates out from Stage 1, it’s not ridiculous to think Almeida could find himself a further two minutes ahead by the end of the day.
And whilst the likes of Kelderman, Bilbao, Pozzovivo and Nibali will relish attacking the young Almeida in the high mountains to come in the third week, they might have their work cut out.
*Odds correct at the time of writing