Giro d'Italia Stage 9 Preview
In a day where it was expected a big breakaway we saw the sprinters taking the spotlight. A small early break was in front for most of the day, later caught and a group of Ciccone, Bidard and Vervaeke caused some stress in the peloton but they were chased down before the final descent, where the rain didn't mark it's expected presence. In the end it was a classic sprint leadout that we've seen, Bora lead things into the last corner and Ackermann was the one who launched early but Caleb Ewan managed to go around him and take an important win, in front of Viviani and the German.
Positive: Ewan took his first win in the race, he's been close plenty of times but this win will come as a relief to him and for the team, who brought a very focused team for him.
Negative: Viviani is yet to (officially) take a stage win, he doesn't have many opportunities left and he is still missing the win, it's being far from a good race for him. Surprisingly Diego Ulissi dropped 2:33 minutes today, may have been on purpose but don't see why he would do so in a stage where he wouldn't have trouble keeping up specially with the time-trial tomorrow.
Stage 9 presents the first majour challenge for the overall standings. The 34.8 kilometer time-trial is far from flat but is where the specialists will try to take as much advantage as possible.
The first 22Km are flat, from there on the scenario changes completely. The first climb has 6.2% for 5.6Km and then there's a short bump of over a kilometer at 6.4% which will precede a short descent before the final climb to San Marino with 2.6Km at 6.2%. It's a fairly hard time-trial, the climbs aren't very constant which will suit the climbers better, the specialists and strong stage-racers will obviously be the best suited for the stage, the gaps that can be made will be a matter of who's got the legs in the day.
Well rain, rain and more rain. Not the usual conditions for a time-trial, but it also doesn't seem as if anyone will be favoured by their departure. The riders' luck is that there's very little descending, still there are some corners that can become dangerous with the wet roads, specially in the early part of the time-trial.
We can start by the pure time-trialists. Unfortunately for them the time-trial has a lot of climbing. But riders like Victor Campenaerts didn't come here just to travel around, he has been saving himself throughout the race which is something the GC riders can't afford to do, he can climb decently but it's in the flat section and in the risks that he can gain over the likes of Roglic. In that category there are riders like Luke Durbridge and Jos van Emden, but they haven't exactly been saving themselves, they're on protection duty of their leaders.
Chad Haga, Josef Cerny, Tobias Ludvigsson are also on the list of time-trialists, they had the freedom to focus on this day and will certainly risk their way for a strong result aswell so they're noteworthy. Ion Izagirre isn't exactly a specialist but he's a very good time-trialist, climber and likes to ride in the rain more than the average rider. Also, he's out of the GC contention.
The elephant in the room Primoz Roglic is the outstanding favourite obviously. His time-trialing prowess has been almost unbeatable this year, and the mountainous nature of the time-trial will give him a big advantage over the pure specialists. With Tom Dumoulin out of the picture he is essentially in a sole spot on top of the bookies' ranks.
Of the GC contenders, Bob Jungels and Tao Geoghegan Hart should fancy the stage being very good riders, Jungels seems in an up of form and Hart has looked good since day one (despite his crash).
In modern cycling very few riders have a real problem in the time-trials, Simon Yates and Vincenzo Nibali are two that will be on the backfoot on Roglic but in a good position in relation to almost everyone else, should like the climbing and will do their best to be in as best overall position as possible. Miguel Angel Lopez's ability in a long time-trial is yet to be proven, but he looked very strong on the opening stage and will like the climbing, so he's set to be an outsider in the Top10 perhaps.
Riders then like Mollema, Sivakov and Kangert are others that can benefit from the day if they have good legs.
As for the main GC riders, here's how I see it may be in terms of gaps:
1:15 - Yates, Jungels
1:30 - Nibali, Hart
2:20 - Formolo, Kangert, De la Parte, Carthy
2:30 - Sivakov, Mollema, Gallopin
2:45 - MA.Lopez, Majka, Bilbao, Conti, Carapaz
3:00 - Oomen, Chaves, Zakarin, O'Connor, Landa
⭐ S.Yates, Nibali, I.Izagirre, Hart, Durbridge, Cerny, MA.Lopez
But in his current form and way he's been racing it's hard to look past Roglic. He's got countless wins already this season and several came in time-trials. This one suits him perfectly, and I smell another Slovenian win.
Make sure to let us in on your opinion, and of course follow us on twitter for the latest updates!