After the excitement of recent days the GC guys will likely ease off, writes Jack Houghton, although nothing is guaranteed in this Giro
"It's hard to assess whether Bernal's aggression represents the misjudged impetuosity of youth, or just a supreme confidence in known ability... either way, you can't discount him on any stage..."
What's the stage like?
This stage is triply tough. First, it's the longest stage of the Giro so far, at 212km. Second, it has four categorised climbs. Third, whilst none of those climbs are chart toppers, they each contain steep sections that will see the peloton decimated.
After the dramas of Stage 11, it's possible that the General Classification contenders will seek a quieter day, so this might turn into another breakaway affair, increasing the difficulty of finding the most likely winner. What's certain is that it will be a brutal day in the saddle for the sprinters, all of whom are trying to hang on for the flat Stage 13.
Who are the favourites?
Ruben Guerreiro (12.0011/1) has been one of the most aggressive breakaway riders in this year's Giro but keeps being frustrated in his search for a stage win. Expect to see him active again, but those odds don't look especially attractive.
Gino Mader (15.0014/1) attacked late on Stage 6 to take the win and Pink Jersey and, given the course similarities between that stage and what riders face here, he is a more attractive bet at bigger odds than Guerreiro. There is likely better value to be found, though.
Egan Bernal (14.0013/1), who yet again lit up the race on Stage 11, can't be discounted. It's hard to assess whether his aggression represents the misjudged impetuosity of youth, or just a supreme confidence in known ability (given he rides for Ineos Grenadiers, I expect it's the latter), but either way, you can't discount him on any stage. I'm going assume that he'll take this as a well-deserved day off, though, which might be foolish of me.
Who are the most likely outsiders?
There are a host of riders who have shown their willingness to mix it in breakaways and have the climbing prowess to excel on this stage. Among a long list, three are interesting. Bauke Mollema (26.0025/1) and George Bennett (30.0029/1) had both hoped to be further up the General Classification and will be targeting days like this one to salvage some glory from the Giro, but for a speculative punt, I'm recommending a small interest in Koen Bouwman (24.0023/1)
Bouwman won a stage not dissimilar to this at the Dauphine in 2017 and has shown he has good legs in recent days. It's been a quiet Giro for Team Jumbo Visma and he'll receive the support he needs to target this.
What effect will it have on the overall markets?
Bernal and Ineos Grenadiers are making good on their promise and riding with more derring-do in recent seasons, so it's possible that they will yet again seek to ignite the race. On balance, though, it's probably more likely that they'll ride this defensively, setting a strong tempo up front to minimise attacks, but not overly exerting themselves. I don't expect huge General Classification gaps.
Of more interest will likely be the competition for the Mountains Classification. This day has the joint-most categorised climbs of any Giro stage this year, so it will be interesting to see if the likes of Geoffrey Bouchard will work to retain his place in that competition and keep wearing the Maglia Azzurra.
*Odds correct at the time of writing
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