Hard to bet against Bernal

What’s the stage like?

There are days with more climbing on this year’s Giro, but when it comes to expected spectacle, this was the day that most cycling fans circled as unmissable when the route was announced.

140km in to the 205km stage, riders tackle the Forcella Monte Rest, a Category Two climb of around 10km with an average gradient of around 6%. This will soften them up for the highlight of the day: the summit finish up Monte Zoncolan.

The Zoncolan is not the longest alpine climb, nor the highest, and its bare statistics – 14km averaging 8.5% – promise a tough, but not out-of-the-ordinary ascent. For many, though, it is one of the hardest climbs in professional cycling as, after 11km of hard ascent, the road ramps up in the final 3km, with sections where the gradient reaches 22%, 25% and then, in the last kilometre, 27%.

The Zoncolan has appeared six times in previous Giros, with the day’s winner going on to claim the overall Pink Jersey on half of those occasions. A final week of challenges awaits the peloton, but Stage 14 is likely to be pivotal.

Who are the favourites?

Based on known form in the last week, it’s hard to envisage scenarios where Egan Bernal (3.505/2) doesn’t win this stage. We are yet to see him on a long Alpine climb like this in this Giro, but we know he excels the longer and harder it gets, and he’s shown so much explosive power on the steeps in this Giro that he should relish the last few kilometres of the Zoncolan.

There is the possibility that a breakaway will win, but given how difficult the final climb is, they would need a gargantuan time gap to make it happen: if Ineos Grenadiers are on the front, they could easily bring back minutes in a matter of kilometres.

A bigger risk to punters supporting a Bernal win is a late break from someone far enough down the General Classification to be let go. That risk is more than accounted for in the odds, though. Bernal is the bet.

Who are the most likely outsiders?

It’s hard to see how the main contenders for GC honours can overturn Bernal’s recent form. Simon Yates (11.0010/1) has looked below his best, and whilst Hugh Carthy (13.0012/1) should fair better now the climbs are longer, it’s unlikely he will be advantaged enough to take the win.

Those wanting bigger odds would be better to bet on a climber, who is down on the General Classification, who might be allowed off on that late break. Pello Bilbao (60.0059/1) has shown decent form on the Zoncolan before, and it’s worth remembering that Vincenzo Niabli (100.0099/1) – who showed a resurgence of form on Stage 12 – finished third here in 2011.

What effect will it have on the overall markets?

There will be huge time gaps in the General Classification on this stage and, by the day’s end, we will know which Pink Jersey hopefuls have a realistic chance of competing in the final week. If that leaves us with any more than a small handful of riders, I’d be surprised.

With two other categorised climbs early on the parcours, expect Geoffrey Bouchard to be in a break as he attempts to solidify his position in the Mountains Classification. The challenge for Bouchard, though, will be whether the smaller points he gains on these preliminary stage climbs are enough to keep at bay the General Classification wannabees, who will naturally pick up Mountains Classification points atop summit finishes.

*Odds correct at the time of writing