It's hard to know what form the fast men are bringing into the Giro, writes Jack Houghton, who fancies a nearly-man to cause a minor shock
"If looking for a big-priced outsider to cause an upset, Matteo Moschetti (50.0049/1) might be the call..."
What's the stage like?
Given the backdrop of the Alps, it seems somewhat perverse that this stage is almost entirely flat, with only a single Category 4 climb that will decide the first wearer of the Mountains Classification jersey.
It's short, too, at only 179km, with a straightforward finish. The only likely complication for the sprinters - and it will, almost inevitably, be a sprinter who wins this - is a nasty right-hander just over 1km out from the finish.
Who are the favourites?
Caleb Ewan (3.259/4), the winner of two stages at last year's Tour de France, has been one of the most consistent sprinters of recent years, and it's no surprise to see him heading the market here. He's had a tendency to always find one or two competitors too good this season, though, with his sole win coming on Stage 7 of the UAE Tour. He's probably the most likely winner, but his odds don't represent much value.
Dylan Groenewegen (4.507/2) has served a hellish nine-month suspension after causing Fabio Jakobsen to crash at the Tour of Poland in 2020, and makes his reappearance here at the Giro. It's hard to know what kind of form he brings into the race, or what shenanigans might be dished up by his rivals to settle scores (he certainly won't be gifted anything), so it's probably wise to ignore him for now, despite his talent.
A less familiar name to many will be Tim Merlier (5.004/1), who has tended to ply his trade in lower-level races for much of his career. He posted three wins in the sprinters' one-day classics in March, though, and his cyclo-cross ruggedness will mean a bunch sprint in a Grand Tour will hold few fears for him. A doubt is his form at Tirreno-Adriatico, and whether he has the raw speed to mix it with the very best is questionable.
Who are the most likely outsiders?
Peter Sagan (14.0013/1) has been a bit grumpy in interviews of late, after his team boss suggested he was coming to the end of his career. And the grumpiness seems fair enough: after all, he's posted two wins already this season and has been in the mix on plenty of other occasions. He would likely prefer the finish to be a bit stiffer here, but he can't be discounted at big odds.
Fernando Gaviria (16.0015/1) seemed like he would become the dominant sprinter of his generation when taking four stages at the 2017 Giro, but whilst he's gone on to win at the top level again - most notably twice at the Tour de France in 2018 - he tends to fill peripheral placings when racing the best, getting close but usually not being good enough to take the win.
Giacomo Nizzolo (20.0019/1) seems to mostly play a similar role to Gaviria. His European Championship win in 2020 aside, he has a habit of finding someone to beat him. Despite this reservation, though, he arguably brings the most consistent form into the race and is probably the best value for a speculative punt before we know more about the relative form of the fast men.
If looking for a big-priced outsider to cause an upset, Matteo Moschetti (50.0049/1) might be the call. He won a minor one-day race in March and, at only 24, presumably has the scope to improve.
What effect will it have on the overall markets?
Probably very little: this is a rare day in this Giro for the sprinters. The first week of any Grand Tour is tense, and there is always an increased risk of crashes, so the General Classification contenders will be interested in staying out of trouble and little else.
*Odds correct at the time of writing
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