A sprinters stage that is not really for sprinters, writes Jack Houghton, who expects it will be the more versatile puncheurs who will take the honours...
"Whenever punch is required, Peter Sagan (6.005/1) will make the shortlist, and he will be especially suited by the ambiguities of the final kilometres here..."
What's the stage like?
At 190km, with three, small, categorised climbs, this is a stage that is hard to classify. On paper it looks like one for the sprinters, but with plenty of other lumps and bumps outside of those categorised climbs, including two in the last 15km, the out-and-out speedsters might not be close enough to contest the slightly descending sprint to the line.
The most interesting point in the stage may well come on a short hill in the town of Occhetti, around 5km from the finish. Short it may be, but with gradients of around 12%, the punchier riders in the peloton could easily leave the sprint teams languishing and unable to recover. Helping any late breakaway effort will be several sharp turns inside the last 3km, breaking the rhythm of any pursuing pack.
Who are the favourites?
Whenever punch is required, Peter Sagan (6.005/1) will make the shortlist, and he will be especially suited by the ambiguities of the final kilometres here. He's been on good form in this Giro so far, acquitting himself well in the time trial and being close in the intermediate and final sprints on Stage 2. His disadvantage, as always, will be his marked status: the days when Sagan could catch the peloton by surprise are a decade past.
Winner of Stage 2 - nudging out Giacomo Nizzolo, our 20.0019/1 recommendation - Tim Merlier (8.007/1) looks to be the sprinter in form, and his run in the one-day classics earlier in the year suggest that a few steep ramps near the finish will hold few fears for him.
The early markets have Caleb Ewan (9.008/1) and Giacomo Nizzolo (15.0014/1) prominent, but I would want bigger odds to find out if they will have the versatility to cope with this unusual parcours.
Who are the most likely outsiders?
Diego Ulissi (30.0029/1) won two stages at last year's Giro, including Stage 13, which is similar to the test the riders face here. He has got off to a slow start this season, but began to show form in the Tour de Romandie where he finished close to Sagan on a couple of stages. Given the odds, and the likelihood that he will have tried to peak for his home race, he looks an attractive prospect at big odds.
If looking for a punt at really big odds, then David Dekker (40.0039/1) and Matej Mohoric (50.0049/1) might cause a surprise. Dekker turned some heads when winning the points competition at the UAE Tour, finishing second on two stages, and looks in decent form at the Giro, whilst Mohoric has previously won stages at the Vuelta and Giro and was close up earlier this season on Stage 7 of the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya.
What effect will it have on the overall markets?
It will be another day for the General Classification contenders to avoid trouble, rather than being called on for any Pink Jersey heroics, although given there are five hills of note in the second half of the stage, it would be no surprise if one of them finds trouble and loses some time.
In the Mountains Classification, expect Vincenzo Albanese to try and to be in the breakaway, to bring more attention to his sponsors, and expect Sagan to be high up for the intermediate sprints as he tries to win the Points Classification that he missed out on last year.
*Odds correct at the time of writing
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