A difficult stage to read with an incongruous climb at its midpoint, writes Jack Houghton, but the sprinters should take it
"It's probably a day for the sprinters, so expect Peter Sagan (5/16.00), Arnaud Demare (5/16.00), and Fernando Gaviria (5/16.00) to broadly share co-favouritism..."
What's the stage like?
Odd. It says a lot about the mindset of race planners when they categorise a stage as "hilly" when it includes a 1,100m+ climb slap-bang in the middle of it.
Having said that, whilst the ascent is long - it has around 20km of climbing - the gradient is consistent and averages only around 4%.
So, the stage offers possibilities for both the breakaway hopefuls and the sprinters. If going for an early move, riders will have the tantalising prospect of a long downhill stretch where they can maintain any advantage. On the other hand, by the end of that long descent, sprint teams will know they have over 40km to push the pace and reel-in the breakaway.
Who are the favourites?
On balance, it's probably a day for the sprinters, so expect Peter Sagan (5/16.00), Arnaud Demare (5/16.00), and Fernando Gaviria (5/16.00) to broadly share co-favouritism.
Of those riders, Sagan has already shown his form with an excellent performance on Stage 2, and given that he will cope with the demands of that Category 3 climb mid-stage better than most of the other fastmen, it will be no surprise to see him prominent again.
Demare has been the best sprinter in the world since the resumption of racing in late-July and is likely to be undisputed favourite when the stages here are flatter. He has had an unimpressive record with the Giro in the past, however, only winning his first stage in last year's race. That has perhaps had as much to do with priorities as ability, though, and his performances in hilly one-day races suggests this stage will hold few fears for him.
Although marginally behind Demare on form, there is little between him and Gaviria, with the Italian getting the better of things on Stage 2 of the Vuelta a Burgos earlier in the season.
A valid case can be made for any of the trio, but the very marginal call is to support Demare.
Who are the most likely outsiders?
Elia Viviani (19/120.00) has the talent to win here and will be motivated riding on home soil, but he had a disappointing Tour de France and will need to turn around his form to be competitive against a better sprinting field than he faced there.
Given the disastrous Stage 3 that Geraint Thomas had, his teammate Ben Swift (29/130.00) might now be released from domestique duties and encouraged to target stage wins. Speculatively, he is worth a punt to small stakes.
What effect will it have on the overall market?
Given the unexpectedly explosive spectacular of Stage 3, I'm nervous to say that any stage will be insignificant in the race for the Maglia Rosa, but there should be little to do on this stage for General Classification contenders other than survive it.
*Odds correct at the time of writing
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Back Arnaud Demare @ 5/16.00
Back Ben Swift @ 29/130.00