What’s the stage like?
It’s a long day in the Italian and Swiss Alps, but not quite as beastly as it first seems. Covering 164km and featuring three, Category One climbs, riders face their first and hardest challenge ascending the beautiful Passo San Bernardino, which is around 24km of climbing averaging 6.2% gradient.
Remaining at altitude, riders then tackle the Splugenpass (to give it its Swiss name), which is 9km at 7.3%, before they hit the summit finish at Alpe Motta, having climbed for another 7km at 7.6%.
All that sounds tough. However, perhaps crucially for the General Classification contenders, there is nothing that is especially steep on any of those climbs, reducing the opportunities for dramatic attacks.
Who are the favourites?
Simon Yates (4.003/1) is evidently in the best form in this final week, demonstrating on Stage 17 and Stage 19 that he can take time from his rivals. Now just 20 seconds between Damiano Caruso (30.0029/1) in second place in the General Classification, Yates is sure to attack if able and, given that his rivals seem to be crumbling with fatigue at the end of three weeks of racing, it’s hard to make a case against him winning the stage, especially as his team, Bike Exchange, showed no willingness to let a breakaway build a big lead on Stage 19. Yates will want the stage victory and the bonus seconds that come with that.
Of Yates’ rivals, Joao Almeida (6.005/1) is the biggest danger for the win, but Almeida always seems vulnerable in the final kilometres of these climbs, lacking the explosivity to convert his excellent climbing into a stage victory: his record on mountain stages is consistent, but he’s yet to win anything in his career.
Who are the most likely outsiders?
The evidence from Stage 19 is that Egan Bernal (9.008/1) is suffering to some extent, although whether that is from exhaustion, a recurrence of his back problems, or some other factor, is not entirely clear. It also seems, though, as if his struggles are not going to be terminal. On that last stage he rode defensively, losing little time to Yates in the process, and we can likely expect a similar approach here.
If looking for an outsider, then, the best bet might be Romain Bardet (60.0059/1). He’s been prominent on Stage 9 and Stage 16, but has otherwise had a quiet Giro. This day in the high mountains will suit him, as evidenced by his three Tour de France stage wins, which have all come on parcours like this.
What effect will it have on the overall markets?
Given what happened on the infamous Stage 19 in 2018, when Chris Froome went on an audacious attack with 80km to ride to take the stage win and Maglia Rosa, there’s a suggestion in some quarters that Simon Yates – the victim on that day in 2018 – will exorcise his own demons and attack Bernal with a similar fearlessness here.
He might, especially if Bernal looks to be struggling early, but it’s more likely that Yates will focus his attention on Caruso in that second-place spot, especially as there are none of the super-steep sections on these climbs where large time gaps can emerge.
Expect excitement, then, but nothing explosive. Bernal is still the rightful, short-odds General Classification favourite.
*Odds correct at the time of writing