On paper this should be a sprint stage but don’t be surprised if a breakaway makes it all the way to the line. It’s the longest stage of this year’s Giro d’Italia - 254 km - and in this moment the weather forecast shows another rainy day in the saddle.
Mark Cavendish got his win number 100 on Stage 12 and even though the morale now is sky high at Quickstep, Cavendish can relax a little bit. The first 190 km of this stage is more or less flat but the last 65 are up and down all the way to the line. The category three climb, Tre Cuni, starts with about 50 km to go and despite an average gradient of just 4%, it does stretch over 10 km and that will make it hard for the pure sprinters to stay up front. There are 37 km to go from the top of Tre Cuni and after a 15 km descent, the road kicks up again with a short uncategorized climb with gradients of 4-5%. From here on the riders head down a fast descent towards the final uphill section of the day.
The climb to Narzole is uncategorized too and even though it’s only 3 km long, it does have a couple of steep hair pin turns towards the top. There are only 6 km to go from the top and the road is very narrow through the old city in the beginning. The last 4 km are straight out without a single turn and they start slightly downhill. This means a fast sprint if the peloton is still together and it will also makes it difficult for a single rider to stay away despite getting a little gap over the top.
GreenEdge and Matt Goss had this stage red-circled in the race book before the Giro started but Goss is on antibiotics now and another wet day surely won’t be in his favor. Quickstep will probably try to keep it together but this isn’t really a good finish for Cavendish. Instead, riders like Francisco Ventoso and Enrico Battaglin should be named among the favorites. Ventoso hasn’t had much luck so far in the race and he must be eager to finally show off his Spanish Champion jersey up front. Battaglin has been very strong so far - wining Stage 4 and taking 2nd place on Stage 7 - and unless Bardiani have a rider in the break, I think they will try to give Battaglin an excellent opportunity for another stage win in a reduced group.
The way I see it, a breakaway has a good chance of making it today. Especially if the sprinters are not sure about the climbs and since the GC contenders want to save as much energy as possible for the two big mountain stages in the weekend. It’s close to impossible to pick out a favorite for a stage like this one but there sure are many jokers!
Androni have been in almost every single break of the Giro so far and I would be surprised not see them represented in a break on this stage too. Riders like Miguel Rubiano and Diego Rosa look strong right now and both are good uphill and semi-fast on the line. Another rider this stage is good for is José Herrada. The Spaniard is getting better and better as the race progresses and I’m sure he will make it into a winning break before this race is over. This stage reminds me of the stage to Falzes last year, where a break - with Herrada in it - made it all the way to the line. Teammate Eros Capecchi is also one of the contenders for this stage. He’s fast, good uphill and he seems to be very strong right now after he suffered from allergies in the beginning of the race. Other good picks for a break are Oscar Gatto and Lars Bak. Gatto is very fast and strong on these kind of climbs,while Lars Bak is a breakaway specialist. The Dane has this stage marked and he's eager to repeat his stage win from last year. The downhill part towards the line serves as a great place for Bak to set in his final attack.
Should it come down to another bunch sprint, I think Enrico Battaglin is best suited for the climbs and therefore he is my favorite. Also, the stage ends near the headquarters of Bardiani and CSF I'm sure the team will do everything they can in order to get the win.
Favorite: Enrico Battaglin
Top3 Pick: Francisco Ventoso
Jokers: José Herrada / Lars Bak
I promised you something extra for the Giro previews this year and here it is. In collaboration with GCN, you’ll find a short video preview of each stage of the race. Here is Stage 13:
For live coverage of the stage check out steephill.tv