Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) said in his recent Cyclingnews blog that he is targeting Saturday's stage to Montalcino and predicts the long dirt road section near the finish could cause some problems for some of the overall contenders at the Giro d'Italia.
The Italian national champion is one of the few classics specialists at this year's Giro and also has lots of experience or racing on similar dirt roads that are used in the Strade Bianche event. Pozzato finished fourth in this year's race and has always been in the thick of the action on the dirt, thanks to cyclo-cross skills he learnt as a schoolboy.
"I'm feeling good. I tried to do some today and hoped to drag the bunch up to the break by sending riders up the road but it didn’t work," he told Cyclingnews.
"It was a pity because it was a chance to win but I'm going to give it a go on the dirt roads, too. I cut my knee near the end of the stage to Utrecht but it's not a problem and I feel good."
"I've asked some people about the dirt sections and they've told me it's not exactly like the dirt roads in the Strade Bianche race," he continued. "The gravel section in the finale is longer, something like 12km, with about 4km on a climb.
"That will mean it's dangerous for the overall contenders, especially if it rains, and so they'll want to stay out of trouble and stay near the front. That in turn will make it a lot harder for everyone and mean a break might not stay away."
Pozzato predicts that the dirt roads could change the overall standings of the stage. He suggested that riders like Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Doimo) and Carlos Sastre (Cervelo TestTeam) could struggle.
"Whoever hasn't got much experience of riding on the dirt roads will be in for a shock," he predicted.
"Riding on the dirt roads is not as hard as riding on the cobbles but it's not easy. If it splits and someone is left behind in a chase group, they'll lose a lot of time.
"Evans used to ride a mountain bike and so knows how to ride off road. But someone like Sastre or Basso, could really struggle. They've both got strong teams to help them but it depends on how much they want to risk it on the descent.
"The whole finale is going to be a lottery, anything could happen. It'll be a nightmare to ride but it should make it a spectacular stage to watch."
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