Sagan would usually be favourite on a stage like this, writes Jack Houghton, but there are worries over his preparation for the Giro
"Early in the Giro, with a fresh-legged peloton, it's unlikely that a breakaway will be successful. This is a day for the punchy one-day racers…"
What's the stage like?
Stage 2, whilst perhaps not as predictable as Stage 1, nonetheless has a shape to it that suggests only a few riders are in with a realistic chance of winning it.
A relatively short stage - certainly by the standards of this Giro - at only 149km, riders tackle an undulating route along the south-west coast of Sicily which takes in two Category 4 climbs. The second of those comes at the finish in Agrigento: a 5km ascent with an average gradient of 5%, but with some sections hitting 9%.
Early in the Giro, with a fresh-legged peloton, it's unlikely that a breakaway will be successful. This is a day for the punchy one-day racers.
Who are the favourites?
Michael Matthews tops most lists at around 3.002/1 and has a strong chance on a route that will suit him. He has shown solid form since the resumption of racing, winning the Bretagne Classic, and his team have been flying in recent weeks. Those odds look on the short side, however.
It's surprising to see Peter Sagan (7.6013/2) so generously priced on a stage that would usually see him as favourite. There are doubts about Sagan's participation here, though, with his interviews giving a sense that the Giro is an afterthought: an ill-planned attempt to atone for his Tour de France miseries. It's worth remembering, though, that for all that the outcome in France wasn't what he hoped for, he showed decent form, and in a less-competitive field, assuming his legs have recovered from three weeks of racing, he will be hard to beat on this stage.
Who are the most likely outsiders?
Diego Ulissi (8.007/1) has had a strong post-lockdown season in one-day races with similar profiles to this stage, including a second-place finish in Gran Piemonte. Possessing the perfect mix of climbing ability and sprinting, it will be no surprise to see him prominent in the final stages, but whether he has the punch to compete with Matthews and Sagan on that final climb is questionable.
A better outside bet might be Joao Almeida (15.0014/1). The winner of the under-23 Liege-Baston-Liege one-day race in 2018, he will be motivated to be at the front end as, currently lying second in the General Classification, a prominent stage finish will likely see him take the Maglia Rosa.
What effect will it have on the overall market?
Maglia Rosa contenders will be vying to be at the front on the final climb, but it's unlikely any will want to go too deep with Mount Etna awaiting them on Stage 3. Having said that, with some already facing significant deficits after the opening time trial, maybe they will need to attack Geraint Thomas at every opportunity they get - Vincenzo Nibali has certainly used stages like this in the past to spring surprise moves.
Otherwise, we'll start to get more of a view as to who may be interested in the Mountains Classification, but of most interest will be the intermediate sprints and final climb, giving us an indication of whether Sagan is a viable candidate for the Points Classification.
*Odds correct at the time of writing
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Back Peter Sagan @ 7.6013/2