Mollema and Ulissi offer value hedge



What’s the stage like?

The Giro turns inland again to tackle some more of the Apennines on this 170km mountain stage. It’s not an especially difficult day, though, with only two categorised climbs, the most significant being the ascent to Bocca Della Selva just after halfway. This Category Two affair is long – around 20km – but the gradient averages less than 5%, with very few sections ramping up much beyond that.

Of most interest might be the 40km descent from that climb, which is quickly followed by the punchy climb to the line at Guardia Sanframondi: a short 11km that ramps up in the last 3km to over 11% in places.

Who are the favourites?

It’s hard to talk about favourites on this most open of stages, but Alberto Bettiol (18.0017/1) and Ruben Guerreiro (18.0017/1) will be prominent in most lists. Bettiol has a strong record in one-day races, has been prominent in the Giro so far, but does not necessarily have the best record with punchy finish climbs. Anyone backing him is betting on him being in a successful-but-diminished breakaway. Likewise, Guerreiro; however, his win on Stage 9 in the Giro last year means his credentials are stronger than Bettiol’s.

Who are the most likely outsiders?

The market seems to be betting on a breakaway winning this, and any number of the usual culprits can be identified: Matej Mohoric (25.0024/1), Gianluca Brambilla (25.0024/1), Alessandro De Marchi (28.0027/1), Thomas de Gendt (40.0039/1) and Bauke Mollema (30.0029/1). Mollema rode well on Stage 6 and is the most attractive of what could be a never-ending list breakaway hopefuls.

Given how easy the centrepiece climb is, though, I’m not entirely convinced that a break will be able to stay away. No doubt smarting from his ill luck on Stage 7, Peter Sagan (70.0069/1) could decide that he is capable of staying in touch until that final climb, where he would be deadly. But the preference is for Diego Ulissi (20.0019/1), who is a better out-and-out climber than Sagan and can sometimes out-punch him on steep finishes, too.

What effect will it have on the overall markets?

The General Classification contenders have already been more aggressive than expected on the minor climbs we’ve seen so far, so it’s reasonable to expect they’ll be active again on the steep ramps in the closing stages here. Time gaps will likely be minimal, although there’s the possibility of disaster striking anyone on that long descent.

*Odds correct at the time of writing