Seven stages tip the 200km mark, this is one of them. At 233km in length it is almost the queen stage of the 2016 Giro d’Italia as well. But most significantly of all, this stage is one that has us scratching our heads as we think to ourselves, ‘this stage suits somebody. Who?’
Stage 5: Praia a Mare – Benevento. 233km
Continuing in its northern trajectory, the fifth stage of the Giro is a monstrous and very unpredictable 233km that takes on the biggest climb of the race so far up the Fortino. The trick is here that the climb features at the very beginning of the stage. Go through the neutral zone and the road heads up . . . and up . . . and up. For the first 36km there is almost no let up whatsoever; not good if you’re a sprinter who hasn’t won yet and is looking for something to shout about.
From there though the race evens out somewhat giving early stragglers a chance to regain touch with the race before shortly after the 100km mark where the road begins to rise and fall progressively for the next 70km before finally and gradually descending its way to the finish line in Benevento.
A rider such as Alejandro Valverde could fare very well on a stage like this, especially if his Movistar team – which is not lacking in strength – takes the bull by the horns and drags the peloton, kicking and screaming, to the finish line. It was a tactic successfully employed by Peter Sagan when back with Cannondale – in the 2013 Tour de France – in which his Cannondale team set such a strong pace over stage 3 of the race that it killed all hope of the pure sprinters being able to contest the win. That didn’t stop Simon Gerrans pipping him on the line but you see my point.
This stage is one for the punchy riders, and Alejandro Valverde is certainly one of them. It might also be one where the die hard breakaway crew truly fancy their chances.