What’s the stage like?
A northerly saunter up the hilly Adriatic coast, this 200km stage is pan flat for the first half, before it hits the Category Two climb up the Monte Sant’Angelo, a 10km ascent averaging 6.7% gradient.
After a gradual descent, there is little chance for riders to get into a rhythm: although only one categorised climb comes thereafter, the stage contains a continuous stream of small ascents. Some of those climbs have fierce gradients, including the Via Saragat, which riders tackle twice in the final loop around Vieste.
This stage will be too difficult for the sprint teams to control; a puncheur or breakaway baroudeur should take the spoils.
Who are the favourites?
Whilst it feels like Arnaud Demare ([6.00]) – the winner on Stage 4, Stage 6 and Stage 7 – could achieve anything at the moment, those ramps in the final stages surely put this out of his reach.
A much stronger favourite is Peter Sagan ([6.00]) who has more versatility on these hillier stages and who would be having a wonderful Giro if Demare had stayed home in France.
Sagan will presumably yet again ask his Bora Hansgrohe team to make this stage as tough as possible, so expect to see them riding on the front in its second half. If Sagan can save some in his team until the later kilometres, so that he doesn’t have to close late breakaways on his own, he will be hard to beat.
Who are the most likely outsiders?
Winner of Stage 2, Diego Ulissi ([10.00]) will be suited to the challenge here. His problem may be tactical. He doesn’t have the out-and-out speed to compete with Sagan on what is a flat finish, so any winning move will have to be committed to early. That makes him vulnerable.
Meanwhile, perennial candidate on these hillier stages, Michael Matthews ([11.00]), will no doubt be prominent. He has seemed to be a bit behind the likes of Sagan and Ulissi on the Giro so far, though, and, given those doubts, those odds are not juicy enough to encourage a bet.
Those looking for bigger prices might think about giving Stage 1 and Stage 5 winner Filippo Ganna ([60.00]) a chance. His breakaway effort on the roads to Camigliatello Silano showed that he is game for any challenge, and that his team are prepared to support audacious bids for glory now that Geraint Thomas – with his General Classification ambitions – has abandoned.
What effect will it have on the overall market?
It should be another quiet day for the Maglia Rosa contenders, but another chance for Sagan and Demare to lock horns in the Points Classification.
As things stand, there is still little shape to the Mountains Classification, with its leaders in place by virtue of their other achievements, rather than by any concerted effort by them to target the Blue Jersey. We should know more after Sunday’s mountainous stage.
*Odds correct at the time of writing