The Giro d'Italia continues to roll north on Thursday, crossing the plains of the Po delta into the Veneto region via Ferrara and Rovigo. The mountains will be seen from afar but stage 12 is yet another day for the Classics riders and those hoping for a moment of glory in a breakaway. The climbs in the final 60km of the 190km stage and the one-kilometre ramp up to the finish line at the Monte Berico sanctuary means the sprinters will have to wait for Friday's flat stage to Jesolo for their shot at victory.
The Giro d'Italia last visited Vicenza –the home to Italian component maker Campagnolo- in 2013, with Giovanni Visconti winning after a lone attack. The former Italian national champion described the win – his second in four days after also winning alone on the slopes of the Col de la Galibier, as liberating, putting his abandonment of the 2012 Giro d'Italia due to an alleged panic attack and four-month ban for links to Dr. Michele Ferrari, behind him.
The finale of Thursday's stage is different to that of 2013 but it appears to be equally hard and could also favour Philippe Gilbert (BMC), Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge), Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida), and possibly even overall contender Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), Fabio Aru (Astana) and Richie Porte (Team Sky) as they chase every second in the fight for the pink jersey. The Astana and Tinkoff-Saxo teams are again likely to fight for domination in support of their team leaders.
The climbs begin after 130km, with the Castelnuovo climb south-west of Padua in the Colli Euganei hills. It climbs at 5% but is 5.4km long. A rolling descent takes the riders back to the plain before the Crosara climb with 30km to go. It is only 3.7km long but much if it climbs at 12%, with one section indicated at 17%. The descent is considered difficult and so could spark further time gaps. It is followed immediately after by the Perarolo climb (2.8km at 7%), with a flat but twisting run-in to Vicenza. Positioning will be vital in the final kilometres for the long curve right that launches the riders onto the 7% ramp up to the Monte Berico sanctuary.
Local riders from the Vicenza area include Imerio Massignan, 1972 world champion Marino Basso, Giovanni Battaglin – the first winner of the Giro d'Italia from the Veneto region, and current rider Filippo Pozzato. All would no doubt fancy their chances on the finish where they in this year's Giro d'Italia peloton.
Visconti has not won a race since his 2013 success in Vicenza but appears back on form this season. He is again part of the over-aggressive Movistar team.
"It's a different finish this year. When I won we covered a circuit and finished in the city centre. This year there are some late climbs and then the finish on a strappo –a short climb, up to the finish. It's a good finish, for me and for the team," he told Cyclingnews.
"We've also got Lobato in our team, who handled the hills on the road to Imola pretty well and so could be up there in Vicenza too. We hope to do well together. If the race is hard and there's selection, we've also got Jon Izagirre and Beñat Intxausti."
I don't think the break will stay away all the way to Vicenza and so think there'll be a select group, perhaps even a select group caused by attacks from the overall contenders. I hope to be up there and I'd love to win a stage."
Responding to Bettini's criticism
Visconti has fought to stay in the overall classification in the first half of the Giro d'Italia, perhaps hoping for a spell in the pink jersey. However the battle between Contador and Aru has left him in no-man's land, sixth overall at 2:12 and so without the freedom to go into breaks.
Paolo Bettini, Visconti's former mentor and now columnist in Gazzetta dello Sport, questioned his strategy but Visconti dismissed any criticism, just as he did in 2013 when quizzed about his links to Dr. Ferrari.
"People can say what they want about me but they rarely know what our real hopes and ambitions are," he said bluntly.
"I've decided to try to stay in the classifica up until Saturday's time trial. I think I can do better on really hard stages rather on the stages where you need to be explosive and super aggressive. I think my climbing has improved a lot."
"I know after the time trial that I'll be five minutes down and that's when I'll try something in a serious mountain stage. We've seen that Tinkoff-Saxo and Astana are fighting with each other and so we think they will let riders like me get away and again go for stage victories just like when I won on the Galibier."