The Giro has reached an interesting point, writes Jack Houghton, where it seems like Ineos Grenadiers' choices will dictate the stage winner
"This new-style Ineos team has promised a more swashbuckling approach to racing, wanting to rid themselves of an old image that saw them characterised as data-led automatons who eschewed the passion and lore of this heroic sport..."
What's the stage like?
Fascinating. After the dramas of a shortened Stage 16, we have another day that will likely pivot around a drag race up the final climb.
Riders face 193km. The first two-thirds are largely downhill, save for a brief Category Three climb around 55km in. The action will be all back-ended, then, with the peloton tackling two, Category One climbs in the last 50km. The first of those, the Passo Di San Valentino, is 15km of ascent at around 8% gradient, which will thin out the field. This is followed by the summit finish to Sega Di Ala, a brutal looking 11km of climbing at around 10% gradient, with some sections ramping up in the final parts of that climb to over 17%.
At the time of writing, the weather is forecast to be dry, but in the mountains this is never guaranteed.
Who are the favourites?
Given how dominant he has been so far, it feels as if an Egan Bernal (6.005/1) stage win has more to do with whether Ineos Grenadiers choose it as a desired tactic, rather than whether he can deliver the victory. There are several reasons they may decide to ride more defensively: the day after a rest day is notoriously hard to perform on; there are two more big days in the mountains still to come, so why risk the exertion; and he has already built so much of a cushion for the final-day time trial that there really is no point going after more time now.
However, this new-style team has promised a more swashbuckling approach to racing, wanting to rid themselves of an old image that saw them characterised as data-led automatons who eschewed the passion and lore of this heroic sport. Bernal is at the vanguard of that rebranding: a rider who seems to relish a more aggressive approach.
Odds of 6.005/1 look big enough to take the risk. Bernal is again the bet.
Who are the most likely outsiders?
A stage like this might suit Dan Martin (22.0021/1), but he would need to show more convincing form to warrant supporting on one of these stages. Better options are Romain Bardet (60.0059/1) and Damiano Caruso (60.0059/1), who - outside of Bernal - have showed themselves in far better form than the rest in the mountains.
What effect will it have on the overall markets?
Although it's unlikely to be as significant as on Stage 16, there will be more movement in the General Classification, especially as those in and around the top ten jostle to secure and improve their position.
An interesting side story will be Geoffrey Bouchard's efforts to target the Mountains Classification. Going into the stage, he holds a 29-point lead over Bernal. Whether that lead remains intact will largely depend on the tactical decisions Bernal makes, as Bouchard's lead would soon disappear if Bernal posted another stage win here. I would be a layer of Bouchard at 1.705/7.
*Odds correct at the time of writing
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