The stage 16 individual time trial from Trento to Rovereto is set to be a pivotal moment in this year's Giro d'Italia, with the flat, fast, and unidirectional 34.2km course the arena for the battle for pink between Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb). Every second gained or lost will count in deciding who wears the iconic race leader's jersey going into the final mountain stages. Every second gained or lost will either be a massive psychological boost, or a significant blow.
Yates will start last from the centre of Trento, rolling down the ramp at 4:30pm local time. Dumoulin will start three minutes earlier, with podium contenders Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida) and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) off three and six minutes, respectively, before the Dutchman.
In the overall standings, Yates leads Dumoulin by 2:11, with Pozzovivo at 2:28 and Pinot at 2:37. Chris Froome (Team Sky) is seventh at 4:52 after losing time at Sappada, but will no doubt hope to move past Astana's Miguel Angel Lopez (fifth at 4:27) and Movistar's Richard Carapaz (sixth at 4:47).
Dumoulin and Yates have been locked in a battle for every second since the Giro started with a 9.7km time trial in Jerusalem. Dumoulin gained 20 seconds that day but Yates, not a natural time triallist, impressed by finishing seventh and has since confirmed he is a true overall contender by winning three stages in the maglia rosa and gaining precious seconds on every major mountain finish. However, now Yates could lose all of his accumulated gains in the space of 34.2km as Dumoulin gets to play to his strengths as time trial world champion.
The million-dollar question is if Dumoulin can gain 2:11 on Yates and so take the pink jersey, or if Yates can do enough to hold on. It is widely expected that the Dutchman will be able to pull back in the region of three seconds per kilometre, which would amount to a total gain of 1:43.
Either way, it will be an intense battle of nerves and speed.
Which way will the wind blow?
Some of the overall contenders rode the Trento to Rovereto time trial course during Monday's rest day and got a chance to ride it one final time on closed roads on Tuesday morning.
In any case, a local told us the chance of rain will likely mean the wind will be very light.
Throwing the kitchen sink
Within the Mitchelton-Scott team, confidence is growing that Yates could hang onto the maglia rosa in the time trial. But even if he doesn't, they are ready to go on the attack in the final mountain stages to get it back before the final parade stage in Rome on Sunday.
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