Sunday's ascent to the Blockhaus, the 2017 Giro d'Italia's second set-piece GC battle, is slowly but surely approaching, and Movistar sports director José Luis Arrieta believes that, after days of relative calm, the GC storm will surely break there.
On the volcanic slopes of Mount Etna on Tuesday's stage 4, amongst the overall contenders the sparks did anything but fly. However, as Arrieta sees it, that was only logical.
"Given the point that stage came in the race, and the circumstances, it was not so eventful, the big names all finished together," Arrieta told Cyclingnews earlier this week.
"But the Blockhaus will be another story. It's going to be a short, nervous stage, and it'll be very fast for sure and on the climb the GC contenders will be at the head of affairs."
As yet, Nairo Quintana has been showing steady rather than spectacular climbing form, but that is perhaps only to be expected, too. The Movistar rider said after the Etna he was still riding into top form, given his lengthy spell away from racing during the spring. And, as Arrieta has pointed out before, the final leg of the Giro d'Italia is the point in the race where the Colombian, on past form, shines his brightest.
"There are these tough first stages and a hard time trial," Arrieta says. "But Nairo always has a great third week in Grand Tours so we'll have to see how he gets on then."
Overall and up until the end of stage 7, Movistar have mostly had a thankfully straightforward opening first week. The team's worst crash affected Australian Rory Sutherland, who injured his elbow on stage 5. "He'll need a few days to get over that. It's the typical kind of incident that happens on these early stages," Arrieta remarks, "when, there's a lot of tension in the bunch."
There was, he said, nothing but media speculation in the report early this week in one Italian newspaper that Vincenzo Nibali's relationship with Quintana was not as straightforward as it might be, pointing out that "I think Vincenzo himself denied there was anything in that." Nor was there any issue on Nairo's side, he added - "nothing at all."
Although the transfers and logistical elements had all run smoothly, "Riders in all the teams are beginning to feel something of the wear and tear of a week of racing, it's logical that they start to be tired."
But on the Blockhaus stage, that will not prevent the GC contenders from coming to the fore. Or as Arrieta puts it: "The big names won't just ride up it looking at each other."
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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