The sprinters take centre stage for one last time at the Giro d’Italia on Friday, before the fight for overall victory and the maglia rosa begin in earnest at the weekend with the 59.4km time trial, and the mountain finish at Madonna di Campiglio.
With most of the sprinters not expected to make it through the mountain stages of the final week, the finish in Jesolo is the last chance to use their speed and bike skills to fight for success. Venice airport is tantalisingly close to the finish and so many of the sprinters and their lead out men are expected to head home on Saturday, rather than suffer on in the race.
Stage 13 is the second shortest stage of this year’s Giro d’Italia but it is definitely the flattest and seems perfect for a sprint finish. The start in Montecchio Maggiore near Vicenza is 50m above sea level, and the finish on the Jesolo peninsular on the edge of the Adriatic, north of Venice.
Gazzetta dello Sport has described the stage as flat as a billiard table. The stage heads west to east across northern Veneto and reaches Jesolo via Mestre and San Dona di Piave - home to former world champion and Ardennes Classics winner Moreno Argentin. The final 20km twist and turn in the exposed lanes, and wind could be a factor and spark echelons if it blows strongly enough. Rain is again forecast adding an extra factor to the finale packed with roundabout and speed bumps.
Tuscan sprinter, and early Mario Cipollini nemesis, Alessio di Basco was the winner in Jesolo back in 1988, with Robbie McEwen winning the sprint in San Dona di Piave in 2003 after avoiding a crash on the last rain-soaked corner only 150m from the finish, that saw Mario Cipollini go down hard.
Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) leads the list of favourites, followed by Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida), Luka Mezgec (Giant-Alpecin), Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Factory Racing), Moreno Hofland (LottoNL-Jumbo) and local rider Elia Viviani (Team Sky), who has one last chance to ride for himself and take a second stage win before working for Richie Porte.
Greipel won the sprint in Castiglione della Pescaia after a perfect lead out from his teammates. They are hoping and will be working for a second success in Jesolo.
“Every sprint at the Giro d’Italia is important. There weren’t many opportunities this year and so of course you have to make them count. We’re going to try to make things right in Jesolo,” Greipel told Cyclingnews.
Breakaways have often managed to outfox the sprinters’ teams in this year’s Giro d’Italia due to a lack of co-operation between the sprinters’ teams. Orica-GreenEdge, Trek Factory Racing, LottoNL-Jumbo, Lampre-Merida and Giant-Alpecin all have fast men but have preferred to let Lotto Soudal do most of the chasing.
Greipel is too much of a gentleman sprinter to name names but was clearly unhappy that other teams tried to take advantage of Lotto Soudal’s hard work on the front of the peloton.
“We tried it two days ago but it didn’t work out. I hope that what happened in Forli convinces other teams who have a sprinter and want to fight for stage wins that they should also help with the work. Otherwise there’s no point in bringing a sprinter to the Giro,” he said.
“I don’t think we made any mistakes on Tuesday. We used all the riders we could to ensure the stage finished in a sprint. They are others are fast sprinters and I’m a human being. Hopefully the other teams will think were not unbeatable and do some work with us before Jesolo.”
Greipel will also be Lotto Soudal’s protected sprinter at the Tour de France and is widely expected to head home after the stage in Jesolo. However he refused to confirm any plans to quit the Giro d’Italia, careful not to upset the race organisers.
“It’s been a tough Giro so far so we’ll see...,” he said diplomatically. “We’re going to try to set up a sprint in Jesolo and then we’ll see.”
A second stage victory would arguably justify any decision to fly home rather than suffering in the mountains.