A breakaway is a possibility, writes Jack Houghton, but he thinks the Maglia Rosa hopefuls will be forced to make this stage count
"Expect the General Classification to explode on this stage..."
What's the stage like?
On many other Grand Tours, it would be the Queen Stage: the most testing and prestigious of the three weeks. On this Giro, though, there is still tougher to come. Good job there is a rest day on Monday for riders to recover from this stage and ready themselves for what comes next.
At 209km, it's not only long, but brutal. After an innocuous first 60km, the ascending begins. A Category One climb is followed by two Category Two climbs. The stage climaxes with another Category One: the 10km ascent to the summit finish of Roccaraso, which contains steep ramps and is likely to blow apart the General Classification.
After having an unofficial rest day on Stage 8 - by allowing the breakaway a huge lead - the peloton will be geared up for an explosive day that will shape the General Classification competition for the rest of the Giro.
Who are the favourites?
The markets suggest that this will be a day for another breakaway success, with the likes of Thomas de Gendt (9/110.00), Jack Haig (11/112.00), Diego Ulissi (15/116.00) and Giovanni Visconti (15/116.00) most prominent in the betting.
Whilst a breakaway win is possible, though, it doesn't seem the most likely outcome here. The race for the Maglia Rosa has an interesting shape to it, as all the riders in the top ten - except for current leader, Joao Almeida - are mediocre time triallists at best. Including this stage, there are five mountainous days remaining that offer the opportunity to put serious time into rivals. If these contenders pass up too many opportunities, they run the risk of being ridden out of contention for Giro honours on the two remaining time trials.
So, whilst a breakaway win wouldn't be a huge surprise, I expect the big guns to keep any breakaway on a short rein.
Who are the most likely outsiders?
A valid case could be made for any of Pello Bilbao (49/150.00), Wilco Kelderman (19/120.00), Harm Vanhoucke (89/190.00), Jakob Fuglsang (23/124.00), Steven Kruijswijk (99/1100.00) and Pascal Konrad (39/140.00). And if it wasn't for the injury he is carrying, Domenico Pozzovivo (59/160.00) could be added to that list.
The best value, though, must be Vincenzo Nibali (29/130.00). Opening time trail aside, he has looked comfortable throughout this Giro, riding a typically quiet race. He retains his explosivity in the mountains, however, and is experienced enough to realise that the chances to take time out his rivals are limited, and that attacking before a rest day is a wise move.
What effect will it have on the overall market?
Expect the General Classification to explode on this stage. The pretenders will fall away and we'll be left with the handful of riders who can have a realistic expectation of perhaps wearing the Maglia Rosa in Milan.
*Odds correct at the time of writing
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Back Vincenzo Nibali @ 29/130.00