Logic and consensus all point to Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) sealing the Tirreno-Adriatico victory in Tuesday's 10km time trial but the history books will provide his chief rival Damiano Caruso (BMC Racing) with more than a shred of hope.
The Team Sky rider will set off last in the San Benedetto time trial, rolling down the start ramp at 15:48 CET, two minutes after Caruso. The Pole holds a slim three-second lead over his BMC Racing rival, with Mikel Landa, Geraint Thomas, and Rigoberto Uran set to fight it out for the final step on the podium.
To illustrate just how close the battle between Caruso and Kwiatkowski could be, the Team Sky rider attempted to pinch a two-second time bonus on stage 6. He was shut down by two BMC riders in Greg Van Avermaet and Patrick Bevin. Every second counts.
Caruso, who has raced Tirreno-Adriatico in a relaxed manner throughout, played down his chance of an overall victory on Monday morning. Having come into the race as the team's substitute leader after Richie Porte was ruled out through illness, the Italian isn't under any undue pressure. A place on the podium would have been seen as a significant success a week ago.
"I know that it's going to be really hard tomorrow but it's not impossible," he told Cyclingnews as he came down the BMC bus steps.
"The gap is only three seconds and I'll try to do my best. Kwiatkowski is really strong but it's only three seconds. I want to at least keep my podium."
No two time trials on the road are ever the same but BMC Racing have brought Marco Pinotti – their time trial coaching expert – back to the race ahead of Tuesday's stage. He will undoubtedly sit down with Caruso this evening and remind him that he has beaten Kwiatkowski in the last two final time trials at Tirreno, in 2016 and 2017. On both of those occasions, neither rider was competing for the win but the battle could be closer than many think.
"It's no discussion," Caruso flatly said. "He's stronger than me but I want to just stay focused on my race.
"I've done a lot of training on my TT bike. We have a really fast bike and I'm just going to play my cards without any stress. I've nothing to lose. Tomorrow we'll do recon in the morning and then we'll see.
"For me, a podium would give me a huge satisfaction. It would be a big result for the team. Richie is not here and he was our leader. Now it's me and I think I've done a really good race so far."
In hindsight, it was no surprise to see Kwiatkowski deny that he would chase bonus seconds on stage 6. The fact that he did, however, should not be ignored. Taking another two seconds on Caruso would have sent a message of intent but the fact that BMC sent Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet and Patrick Bevin to spoil the party showed that BMC are not going to roll over in the face of Team Sky's might.
"Whether I'm leading or not, I'd still go 100 per cent," Kwiatkowski told Cyclingnews before the sign on this morning.
"It's going to be about 10 or eleven minutes and it's going to be difficult but having the jersey on my chest is going to be super motivating.
"Caruso is a threat, of course. He's a great time trialist and he's racing in his home country so he'll be super motivated. When you're out there and it's so close in the GC then it gives you that extra kick. At the end of the day, I'm happy with the position I'm in. I'll ride after him so I'll get the split times."
Thomas also has an outside chance of making inroads into the GC. He should have too much for Landa, who has a six seconds buffer and sits in third, while Caruso might just be out of reach for the Welshman. Team Sky would like nothing more than a 1-2 on GC after the negative press they have gone through in recent weeks, and Thomas has a point to prove after losing the race lead on the queen stage.
"If I know Geraint well then he's so good in these efforts. He's motivated too but at the end of the day you just need go out there and give it 100 per cent."
Pinotti, always the typical voice of reason and experience, gave Kwiatkowski the nod but provided his fellow Italian Caruso with just enough hope to upset the odds.
"Damiano will ride a good TT but he doesn't have the pressure of being the favourite. Of course, you'd prefer to be in Kwiatkowski's position and have the time but of course, the pressure is on him.
"Damiano's advantage is the unpredictability of the race. We saw that today. Logic would say that Kwiatkowski is the favourite but Caruso hasn't been bad in the time trials. I'm not saying it's like we're at the end of a Grand Tour but we've had a hard week of racing and I think that the expected margins could be smaller.
"It's against all odds but It's not over until the fat lady sings, as they say."
Stage 7 Start Times
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Start Time|
|1||Liam Bertazzo (Ita) Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia||13:15:00|
|2||Filippo Ganna (Ita) UAE Team Emirates||13:16:00|
|3||Igor Boev (Rus) Gazprom-Rusvelo||13:17:00|
|4||Guy Sagiv (Isr) Israel Cycling Academy||13:18:00|
|5||Artem Nych (Rus) Gazprom-Rusvelo||13:19:00|
|6||Taylor Phinney (USA) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale||13:20:00|
|7||Marco Coledan (Ita) Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia||13:21:00|
|8||Maarten Wynants (Bel) LottoNL-Jumbo||13:22:00|
|9||Jakub Mareczko (Ita) Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia||13:23:00|
|10||Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe||13:24:00|
|11||Marc Sarreau (Fra) Groupama-FDJ||13:25:00|
|12||Chad Haga (USA) Team Sunweb||13:26:00|
|13||Ryan Mullen (Irl) Trek-Segafredo||13:27:00|
|14||Rick Zabel (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin||13:28:00|
|15||Dennis van Winden (Ned) Israel Cycling Academy||13:29:00|
|16||Sho Hatsuyama (Jpn) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Europa Ovini||13:30:00|
|17||Marcel Kittel (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin||13:31:00|
|18||Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) Israel Cycling Academy||13:32:00|
|19||Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo||13:33:00|
|20||Damiano Cunego (Ita) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Europa Ovini||13:34:00|
|21||Nikias Arndt (Ger) Team Sunweb||13:35:00|
|22||Jasha Sütterlin (Ger) Movistar Team||13:36:00|
|23||Jacopo Mosca (Ita) Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia||13:37:00|
|24||Stepan Kuriyanov (Rus) Gazprom-Rusvelo||13:38:00|
|25||Simone Consonni (Ita) UAE Team Emirates||13:39:00|
|26||Alex Dowsett (GBr) Katusha-Alpecin||13:40:00|
|27||Eduard Grosu (Rom) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Europa Ovini||13:41:00|
|28||Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale||13:42:00|
|29||Matthias Brändle (Aut) Trek-Segafredo||13:43:00|
|30||Stefan Küng (Swi) BMC Racing Team||13:44:00|
|31||Benoit Vaugrenard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ||13:45:00|
|32||Danny van Poppel (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo||13:46:00|
|33||Julien Duval (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||13:47:00|
|34||Patrick Bevin (NZl) BMC Racing Team||13:48:00|
|35||Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia||13:49:00|
|36||August Jensen (Nor) Israel Cycling Academy||13:50:00|
|37||Lennard Kämna (Ger) Team Sunweb||13:51:00|
|38||Nicola Bagioli (Ita) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Europa Ovini||13:52:00|
|39||Alexander Foliforov (Rus) Gazprom-Rusvelo||13:53:00|
|40||Guillaume Boivin (Can) Israel Cycling Academy||13:54:00|
|41||Sacha Modolo (Ita) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale||13:55:00|
|42||Krists Neilands (Lat) Israel Cycling Academy||13:56:00|
|43||Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) Quick-Step Floors||13:57:00|
|44||Luka Mezgec (Slo) Mitchelton-Scott||13:58:00|
|45||Iljo Keisse (Bel) Quick-Step Floors||13:59:00|
|46||Daniel Hoelgaard (Nor) Groupama-FDJ||14:00:00|
|47||Fernando Gaviria (Col) Quick-Step Floors||14:01:00|
|48||Alexandre Geniez (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||14:02:00|
|49||Alberto Bettiol (Ita) BMC Racing Team||14:03:00|
|50||Daniele Bennati (Ita) Movistar Team||14:04:00|
|51||Aleksandr Riabushenko (Blr) UAE Team Emirates||14:05:00|
|52||Alexis Gougeard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||14:06:00|
|53||Boy van Poppel (Ned) Trek-Segafredo||14:07:00|
|54||Clement Venturini (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||14:08:00|
|55||Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC Racing Team||14:09:00|
|56||Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto Soudal||14:10:00|
|57||Jonathan Castroviejo (Spa) Team Sky||14:11:00|
|58||Victor Campenaerts (Bel) Lotto Soudal||14:12:00|
|59||Salvatore Puccio (Ita) Team Sky||14:13:00|
|60||Nikolas Maes (Bel) Lotto Soudal||14:14:00|
|61||Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida||14:15:00|
|62||Niki Terpstra (Ned) Quick-Step Floors||14:16:00|
|63||Marco Marcato (Ita) UAE Team Emirates||14:17:00|
|64||Gijs Van Hoecke (Bel) LottoNL-Jumbo||14:18:00|
|65||Tomasz Marczynski (Pol) Lotto Soudal||14:19:00|
|66||Oscar Gatto (Ita) Astana Pro Team||14:20:00|
|67||Nikolai Cherkasov (Rus) Gazprom-Rusvelo||14:21:00|
|68||Marcus Burghardt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe||14:22:00|
|69||Jos van Emden (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo||14:23:00|
|70||Michael Hepburn (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott||14:24:00|
|71||Dario Cataldo (Ita) Astana Pro Team||14:25:00|
|72||Matteo Busato (Ita) Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia||14:26:00|
|73||Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale||14:27:00|
|74||Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Gazprom-Rusvelo||14:28:00|
|75||Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Lotto Soudal||14:29:00|
|76||Jorge Arcas (Spa) Movistar Team||14:30:00|
|77||Marco Canola (Ita) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Europa Ovini||14:31:00|
|78||Antoine Duchesne (Can) Groupama-FDJ||14:32:00|
|79||Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data||14:33:00|
|80||Andrey Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team||14:34:00|
|81||Michael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing Team||14:35:00|
|82||Kristijan Koren (Slo) Bahrain-Merida||14:36:00|
|83||Davide Cimolai (Ita) Groupama-FDJ||14:37:00|
|84||Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Bahrain-Merida||14:38:00|
|85||Scott Thwaites (GBr) Dimension Data||14:39:00|
|86||Gianni Moscon (Ita) Team Sky||14:40:00|
|87||Simone Ponzi (Ita) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Europa Ovini||14:41:00|
|88||Nelson Oliveira (Por) Movistar Team||14:42:00|
|89||Daniel Oss (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe||14:43:00|
|90||Jack Bauer (NZl) Mitchelton-Scott||14:44:00|
|91||Nathan Haas (Aus) Katusha-Alpecin||14:45:00|
|92||Vasil Kiryienka (Blr) Team Sky||14:46:00|
|93||Luke Durbridge (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott||14:47:00|
|94||Tony Martin (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin||14:48:00|
|95||Daryl Impey (RSA) Mitchelton-Scott||14:49:00|
|96||Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo||14:50:00|
|97||Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe||14:51:00|
|98||Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) Groupama-FDJ||14:52:00|
|99||Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Quick-Step Floors||14:53:00|
|100||Tosh Van Der Sande (Bel) Lotto Soudal||14:54:00|
|101||Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar Team||14:55:00|
|102||Julien Vermote (Bel) Dimension Data||14:56:00|
|103||Mathias Frank (Swi) AG2R La Mondiale||14:57:00|
|104||Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe||14:58:00|
|105||Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky||14:59:00|
|106||Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana Pro Team||15:00:00|
|107||Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek-Segafredo||15:01:00|
|108||Simon Clarke (Aus) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale||15:02:00|
|109||Davide Villella (Ita) Astana Pro Team||15:03:00|
|110||Primoz Roglic (Slo) LottoNL-Jumbo||15:04:00|
|111||Steve Morabito (Swi) Groupama-FDJ||15:05:00|
|112||José Gonçalves (Por) Katusha-Alpecin||15:06:00|
|113||Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors||15:07:00|
|114||Sergey Firsanov (Rus) Gazprom-Rusvelo||15:08:00|
|115||Edoardo Zardini (Ita) Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia||15:09:00|
|116||Simon Spilak (Slo) Katusha-Alpecin||15:10:00|
|117||Kanstantsin Siutsou (Blr) Bahrain-Merida||15:11:00|
|118||Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates||15:12:00|
|119||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team||15:13:00|
|120||Jan Polanc (Slo) UAE Team Emirates||15:14:00|
|121||Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors||15:15:00|
|122||Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro Team||15:16:00|
|123||Ivan Santaromita (Ita) Nippo-Vini Fantini-Europa Ovini||15:17:00|
|124||Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana Pro Team||15:18:00|
|125||Louis Meintjes (RSA) Dimension Data||15:20:00|
|126||Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||15:22:00|
|127||Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Bahrain-Merida||15:24:00|
|128||Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida||15:26:00|
|129||Fabio Aru (Ita) UAE Team Emirates||15:28:00|
|130||Jaime Roson (Spa) Movistar Team||15:30:00|
|131||George Bennett (NZl) LottoNL-Jumbo||15:32:00|
|132||Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal||15:34:00|
|133||Davide Formolo (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe||15:36:00|
|134||Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott||15:38:00|
|135||Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale||15:40:00|
|136||Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky||15:42:00|
|137||Mikel Landa (Spa) Movistar Team||15:44:00|
|138||Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC Racing Team||15:46:00|
|139||Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky||15:48:00|