The Inner Ring | Giro Stage 10 Preview

    The Giro swings north. Today has a short mountain stage in the Matese hills with a summit finish. A chance for the breakaway or does Pogačar eat their lunch again?

    The Route: flat as the race skirts around the menacing Mount Vesuvius with 50km on the plains. It’s awkward terrain for the climbers who want to win, they’ll have a roll a big gear to get in the breakaway, ideally they have a team mate to help. The first sprint at Arpaia looks like an unmarked climb and it is a mountain pass – the Forche Caudine – but it’s just a gentle drag up the valley for the race today.

    The Camposauro climb is harder, first a gentle slope through some villages and then steeper once on the flanks of Monte Taburno. The descent is longer and riskier, a small road that is not used very often. The intermediate sprint comes after a long drag up through the olive groves.

    The Finish: a 20km long climb? This includes the descent out of Cusano. It goes up in three parts, separated by small descents and recovery sections. 14%? The inside line on a long bend perhaps but the road is regular and wide. Some 8% sections towards the top make it harder though.

    The Contenders: a breakaway? Every team except UAE has an interest in one going clear because if there’s a summit finish sprint among the contenders Pogačar is very likely to take the spoils. So all the other squads will want a rider up front for two reasons: to get an option on the stage and to make life harder for UAE. Will UAE chase today? Possibly because the course suits and there’s no nailed-on Pogačar day until Sunday’s mountain road to Livigno but at the same time keeping a maxi breakaway at two minutes is asking a lot of the team. Would letting a move stay away help the politics and tactics? Possibly too but there will only be one stage winner, everyone else will try just as hard in the mountain stages to come; the benefit comes from saving riders.

    The Bocca della Selva isn’t a pure climber’s first choice, a little bit of punch can help here too, someone who can take time early on the climb might find the flat sections allow them to defend it. Michael Storer (Tudor) seems in good form but he’s 11th overall which means if he gets time he’ll worry others after a high GC finish, likewise Filippo Zana (Jayco) who is 11th and the same for Romain Bardet (DSM Firmenich-PostNL) at 14th. Georg Steinhauser (EF) was a neo-pro to watch here after he won a stage of the U23 Giro Valle d’Aosta up a long climb that was never too steep but a Giro win would be a breakthrough, team mate Esteban Chaves is going well too. Einer Rubio (Movistar) is a pure climber who has been in the breakaways already.

    Storer, Rubio, Bardet
    Vansevenant, Zana, Steinhauser, Chaves, Rubio

    Weather: sunshine and 23°C.

    TV: KM0 is at 1.15pm CEST and the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST. Tune in from 4.20 to see the final climb from Cusano Mutri.

    Postcard from Pompeii
    Famous for its archaeology, Pompeii is the southernmost point of this year’s Giro d’Italia. While no grand tour can ever visit the whole country in one edition and some areas are visited more often than others, the Giro’s course is arguably a mirror of Italy’s economy with its skew to the north. This is also true for Italian cycling as whole. The further south you go the fewer races there are. Likewise with the distribution of pro cyclists.

    The map above shows the birthplaces of the Italian riders who started the 2024 Giro. It’s an illustration of the distribution of Italian cycling. Why is this so? The south today is poorer than the north which is still a factor: a racing bike is expensive, a local club is not as well-funded, a bike race can’t attract sponsors so easily. But there are wider factors like the greater mechanisation and industrialisation of the North which saw workers pedal to their workplaces a century ago and once they got a bike and a taste of commuting, some went riding more at the weekends and in turn cycling’s popularity grew, try Pedalare! Pedalare! for more. However what is true for cycling is also the case for other sports: football, basketball and more all have more presence in the north.

    It’s a self-reinforcing problem. Vincenzo Nibali (Palermo) tells how he would travel with his father for hours in the car on the eve of an amateur race and sometimes they’d even sleep overnight in the car. Domenico Pozzovivo (Policoro) has similar stories. If they made it, others did not, perhaps they were too tired on race day or just unable to justify the fuel and autostrada tolls for long journeys. Both Nibali and Pozzovivo would migrate north to amateur teams as a stepping stone to turning pro.

    Ideally the Giro could step in here with some more stages to the south. The terrain is suitable but easier said than done. The accommodation options more sparse and host towns ready to bid harder to find. And if the Giro shows up for a day it’s nice but this can’t resolve a structural problem. However as you will probably see today there are plenty of glorious roads to enjoy.

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