The stage is designed for Peter Sagan, writes Jack Houghton, and his Bora-Hansgrohe team know how to deliver the victory
"What Sagan demonstrated on Stage 10 was that being marked matters little if you ride everyone off your wheel..."
What's the stage like?
It's an homage to the recent rise of Slovenian cycling, with a looped, 147km course seeing the peloton border hop and tackle the Category Four Gornje Cerovo three times. It's a day that will suit the punchier, one-day specialists, with an uncategorised climb 3km out - which has gradients of up to 14% in places - likely to be a launch pad for a stage-winning move.
It's a day that might favour the breakaway, but given how sparse opportunities are on this year's Giro for the puncheurs - the explosive riders who are most at home on short, steep finishes - I imagine their teams are going to be picky about who is allowed to get in such a break. So the break might go, but expect it to be under-resourced and given a very short leash.
Who are the favourites?
Peter Sagan (3.505/2) already has a blueprint for winning this, because his Bora-Hansgrohe team executed exactly what will be needed on Stage 10: get on the front early, make it hard for all the fast men, and then let Sagan loose to finish it off on that final climb. Sagan will be keen to gain as many points as possible here in the Points Classification before the race heads back into the high mountains, and looks value for the win. The risk - as always with Sagan - is that he is heavily marked. What he demonstrated on Stage 10, though, was that being marked matters little if you ride everyone off your wheel.
Who are the most likely outsiders?
Diego Ulissi (25.0024/1) has won eight stages at the Giro in his career to date, and most of them like this one. Expect him to make his move on one of the last two climbs, knowing that he will need to drop Sagan before the closing stages to have a chance of victory. If that 3km rise had the finish line at its top, I would fancy him here, but the flat run-in means he will need to make a move of spectacular daring to engineer a win. He managed that on Stage 13 at the Giro last year, but if Sagan has the legs here, he won't allow him that chance this time around.
What effect will it have on the overall markets?
Given the early aggression that has been shown by the likes of Egan Bernal in the first fortnight of the Giro, it's hard to discount any stage as a likely "quiet" General Classification day, but after the Zoncolan dramas of Stage 14, and the height-topping peaks to come on Stage 16, it's likely that those with designs on the Pink Jersey will opt to ride defensively.
Geoffrey Bouchard has been quiet in recent days, with signs that Bauke Mollema might have plans to target the Mountains Classification. It's still a very difficult to call, though, and certainly not one to get involved with: with big points available at summit finishes, it's entirely possible that a General Classification contender will win the King of the Mountains by default.
*Odds correct at the time of writing
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