What’s the stage like?
The longest of the race, at 231km, Stage 18 looks incongruous sandwiched between the mountainous affairs of this last week. It has some hills: some unclassified lumps and bumps in the last quarter, including a Category Four climb 23km out from the finish.
However, none of those ascents are long and the steepest it gets is around 4%, so the sprint teams should be able to hold it together for a bunch finish. Expect some interest from the puncheurs, though, and it’s worth remembering that no stage guarantees a sprint win when it comes at the end of a three-week Grand Tour.
Who are the favourites?
The market is certainly favouring the puncheurs, with Peter Sagan (8.007/1) and Diego Ulissi (14.0013/1) heading affairs. I’ve promoted Ulissi a couple of times on this Giro to my cost, and can certainly see him winning the stage, but it’s worth remembering that he’s been active in lots of breakaway attempts without success, including on Stage 17. Of the pair, then, Sagan is preferred. He is more versatile than Ulissi when it comes to a flat-out sprint and will be motivated to secure his position at the head of the Points Classification by winning here.
Who are the most likely outsiders?
The woes of Fernando Gaviria (18.0017/1) in recent seasons are well documented, but he does seem to be regaining some of the form that saw him take four stages at the Giro in 2017. Most notably, on the difficult but flat Stage 10, where Sagan’s Bora-Hansgrohe set a searching pace that burnt off all the other fast men, Gaviria was the one remaining that was able to contest the sprint. If Sagan attempts similar tactics here, Gaviria is value to go one better.
What effect will it have on the overall markets?
Points Classification aside, probably little.
Expect lots of speculation about the health or otherwise of Egan Bernal in the General Classification. Accepted pundit wisdom is that the losses he incurred on Stage 17 are evidence of a recurrence of his back problems. This – perhaps unsurprisingly – has not been confirmed by Ineos Grenadiers, and it’s probably unwise to assume that Bernal’s decline is inexorable: he’s just as likely to bounce back on Stage 19.
*Odds correct at the time of writing