By Colin O’Brien
Stage 7, Marino di San Salvo – Pescara. 177km.
After a day for the sprinters, the Giro returns to the slopes of Italy’s mountains, specifically the Appennine range that runs the spine of the country from Liguria to Calabria. Early in the day it’s mostly quick and rolling, but after the feedzone at Guardiagrele the gradient increases considerably with a long climb. This is a hard stage to call, because there are several short but grueling ramps throughout, including several above 15 percent and one that touches 19 percent, at Chieti-Tricalle. A final climb seven kilometers from the finish is followed by a technical, hairpinned descent and a flat finishing stretch.
Stage 8, Gabicce Mare – Saltara. 54.8km. (ITT)
The individual time trial is upon us. This is where we should find out what chance Bradley Wiggins has of really contending for the Maglia Rosa. The course is technical and bumpy with very little in the way of straight, flat road. The final 400m are steep—up to 13 percent—so the riders will need to keep an explosive burst for the finish. It’s unconventional to have the ITT at this point in the race—last year’s was held in Milan on the final day—so the results should be interesting. A good day’s work against the clock could catapult someone into pink, boost their confidence ahead of the big mountains and conversely do some damage to their opponent’s resolve. Nothing will be certain until the final few days in the Dolomites, but this is where the race for this year’s GC gets serious.
Stage 9, Sansepolcro – Firenze. 170km.
Italy’s grand old race heads for a famous old city. Florence, the birthplace of the renaissance … and of Gino Bartali. Stage 9 has four mountain prizes on offer so it’s one for the climbers, and the early challenge of the Passo della Consuma could see attacks right from the off. Several riders are based around here too, so there could be the added incentive of a "home" win driving a break. But whoever wins, this looks like it will be a real treat for the viewer.