Giro d'Italia Stage 9 Tips: Bernal and Cepeda offer best of both approaches

Simon Yates at Giro d'Italia
Simon Yates - so close to winning the Giro in 2018 - has looked wobbly this year

Recently, it's become more difficult to know whether a breakaway will be allowed the win, writes Jack Houghton, who recommends a hedging approach to Stage 9

"A hedging strategy, picking one of the General Classification guys and a breakaway hopeful, is probably the smart move..."

What's the stage like?

Brutal, and the first stage of the Giro that might point us towards the eventual winner. In 158km, riders tackle six ascents of note, four of them classified. The stage has a particularly cruel back end that sees them climb the Category Two Ovindoli, before a plateau takes them on to the devilish summit finish at Campo Felice, with the last mile a gravel track, with the gradient rising to 14% in places.

It's hard to be sure whether the General Classification guys will fight out the win here. Although the closing third looks terrifying, the first two-thirds of the stage would be within the reach of a breakaway containing some climbing talent. Increasingly these days, the top teams are willing to let the stage win go to the buccaneering sorts, whilst they ride a tempo that will maximise their overall race position.

Who are the favourites?

Perhaps, then, we should look to those buccaneers as the favourites.

Ruben Guerreiro (12.0011/1) has been aggressive in this Giro so far, and tried desperately to get into the breakaway on Stage 8. Expect him to try again here, but given the innate lottery aspect of picking which breakaway hopeful might pop up on any day, I'm not sure those odds offer enough juice.

Gino Mader (12.0011/1) is also prominent in the early betting, but given how close-up he is in the General Classification, it's not certain that the peloton would let the previous Pink Jersey holder have enough rope to take the stage win.

Instead of entering the lottery, then, the wise call is probably to side with the General Classification lot. Of them, Egan Bernal (16.0015/1) has so far looked the most impressive, and sooner or later he will need to start building a cushion to take into that final time trial. With an easier stage following this one, and a rest day after that, Bernal might be tempted to give this a go, especially as he is so at home on the gravel, as witnessed in this year's Strade Bianche.

Bernal might also be motivated to find out more about the form his rivals bring to the race. Given how long he was out of the sport before this Giro, Remco Evenepoel (25.0024/1) has looked ominously comfortable, riding defensively as he feels his way into racing again. Whether any weaknesses are exposed on this stage remains to be seen, but we can be fairly sure Evenepoel's defensive approach will continue, making him a bad bet for stage honours.

Of the other Pink Jersey contenders, Simon Yates (30.0029/1) and Hugh Carthy (30.0029/1) have shown the odd weakness. They might simply be doing what Team Sky/Ineos riders have done so well in recent years: ridden conservatively in the first fortnight of a Grand Tour whilst they peak for the decisive third week. In what might be an ironic role reversal, then, expect Team Ineos to try and exploit the sluggishness of the British pair whilst they still can. It's hard to fancy Yates and Carthy here.

Who are the most likely outsiders?

Any number of other breakaway sorts. Chief among these are Bauke Mollema (18.0017/1), Joao Almeida (40.0039/1), and Thomas de Gendt (80.0079/1), although whether de Gendt is quite suited to anything this difficult is debatable.

Exactly when Jefferson Cepeda - winner of the Young Rider Classification at the Tour of the Alps - will attempt to take a stage victory remains to be seen. What's clear is that this terrain will suit him, and odds of around 50.0049/1 look tempting.

A hedging strategy, picking one of the General Classification guys and a breakaway hopeful, is probably the smart move.

What effect will it have on the overall markets?

Expect to see the Mountains Classification contenders to be out in force again: as we move into the race's second week we should start to understand more about who the likely winners of this are.

But really, this is all about the General Classification. Sit back and enjoy watching significant time gaps and hard-luck stories as the peloton is torn apart on that final 6.6km gravel climb to Campo Felice.

*Odds correct at the time of writing

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