- After two punishing days in the mountains Stage 19 of the Giro (Friday, October 23) is flat
- Sprinters who survived the major climbs should have a major edge on Friday
- If Arnaud Démare can be beaten, Stage 19 could provide a juicy price
The Giro d’Italia was turned on its head Thursday.
With Saturday’s mountain stage re-worked because of COVID-19 restrictions in France, Stage 18 promised to decide the race. While Wilco Kelderman hasn’t clinched the pink jersey, long-time race leader João Almeida was all but eliminated, and Team Sunweb seized control.
Friday’s sprint stage is not particularly challenging and so long as Arnaud Démare’s legs have survived the climbs he is a deserving favorite. That said, sprints can go a lot of different ways. Let’s look at the odds and consider some top contenders.
Giro d’Italia Stage 19 Odds
|Thomas De Gendnt||+5000|
Odds taken Oct. 22nd
Day after day after day Almeida survived climbs and made gains on other stages. With the race in the balance on Thursday his chief rivals finally got him to crack. The Giro’s top climbers Jai Hindley and Tao Geoghegan Hart battled it out for daily honors with Hindley winning. The climbers were so strong that they are now right in the overall mix. Kelderman finished fifth on Stage 18, 2:18 behind Hindley and Hart, and 2:33 ahead of Almeida, who was seventh on the day, which considering the pressure he was put under with little team support is actually pretty solid.
Kelderman leads the race by 12 seconds over his teammate Hindley. Hart is three ticks behind Hindley in third place. Pello Bilbao is in fourth place, 1:19 back of the leader. Almeida is 2:16 off the pace in fifth.
Friday’s flat stage, Saturday’s modified mountain test, and Sunday’s individual time trial are all that remain. Kelderman should be very thankful the major climbing has been trimmed on Saturday, but that will still be an opportunity for Hindley and Hart to make a move.
Stage 20 is the longest of this year’s event. There is nothing overly challenging on the 251 flat kilometres between Morbegno and Asti. The only question is what sprinters still have legs to cowboy up and take the day.
Regardless of who wins this year’s Giro d’Italia, Arnaud Demare has a serious claim to have been the top rider in the event. He has won all four flat stages and going a perfect five-for-five would be absolute dominance.
The reason to bet on Demare is simple, at every turn he has won stages like this in 2020. There are several good arguments to stay away. His odds are not friendly, it is hard to know how he is feeling after the mountains, and sprint finishes are often unpredictable. The fractions of a second they are often won by can be skill, but luck plays a role too.
Veterans Elia Viviani and Peter Sagan are two of the 100 riders who have won stages on each of the grand tours. Viviani has won five stages in the Giro and took the points title in 2018.
Viviani had a really strong 2019, but has not been nearly as active or strong this year.
Sagan had a disappointing Tour de France in 2020 and had been frustrated that Demare kept beating him out at this year’s Giro. He took the initiative and soloed to victory on Stage 10.
Though sprints used to be Sagan’s domain, recently he has had to be more crafty and win stages that included some nuance. That said, you don’t win 12 separate days at the Tour De France and the points classification seven times without being able to win sprints.
There is something to be said for young legs. In a race where a lot of the sprinters have many miles on them, 24-year-old Álvaro José Hodeg might be stronger at this point.
It is unclear how Hodeg feels at this stage while riding in his first grand tour, but last year he won stages on the Adriatica Ionica Race, Tour Colombia, Tour of Norway, and BinckBank Tour.
Diego Ulissi held off Sagan when they sprinted to an uphill finish on Stage 2 this year.
Ulissi earned his second stage victory this year, and eighth overall at the Giro when he added Stage 13 to his resume. He probably prefers something more tactical than a flat stage, but can win regardless.
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