Another rainy stage where it's hard to know whether the breakaway will be allowed the win, writes Jack Houghton, who recommends the ever-willing Mollema
"Bauke Mollema (50.0049/1) has been relentless in his efforts to win a stage on this Giro but has yet to convert..."
What's the stage like?
176km with three categorised climbs. The first ascent to Mottarone is a long, 16km drag, averaging around 7% gradient, with ramps on route that reach 14%. The next climb, the Category Three Passo Della Colma, is not especially challenging, but might provide a platform for an audacious attack from a General Classification contender who wants to go from a long way out.
However, it's most likely that the action will centre around the final climb to the summit finish of Alpe Di Mera: 10km at over 9%, with some brutal ramps in the last 6km.
Whether it's the breakaway or peloton who wins will largely depend - as so often in this Giro of the breakaway - on the appetite of the main contenders for a stage victory. What's clearer is the forecast for rain. If that transpires, expect carnage on some tricky descents.
Who are the favourites?
If the breakaway fails, then Simon Yates (5.509/2) is the obvious choice. He looked imperious on Stage 17, having recovered from the difficulties he has mysteriously alluded to suffering from in the first week. Whether those odds are value or not depend entirely on the form of Egan Bernal (7.006/1), whose capitulation on the same stage was as dramatic as it was sudden. If Bernal used the uneventful Stage 18 for much needed recovery and is back to his best, then Yates is under-priced. If Bernal's woes were part of a more general decline, though, Yates would be hard to oppose here.
The sensible approach in terms of the top of the market is probably to sit this one out.
Who are the most likely outsiders?
Dan Martin (10.009/1) and Joao Almeida (7.006/1) fought it out for the win on Stage 17, and it would be no surprise to see them prominent again, especially as both now have complete freedom for team duties. Their odds don't represent much in the way of value, though.
For that, it's better to look down the list. Bauke Mollema (50.0049/1) has been relentless in his efforts to win a stage on this Giro but has yet to convert. He came closest on the Zoncolan on Stage 14 and faces a similar test here. At big odds, he's the bet.
What effect will it have on the overall markets?
Looking at the road book for this Giro, it's easy to assume that the final two days are where the General Classification will be decided. The reality is, though, that unless his rivals are able to do damage to Egan Bernal here, they will likely not have enough road left to change things thereafter.
*Odds correct at the time of writing
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