The Giro d'Italia heads to mainland Italy on Wednesday with a short but complicated uphill finish at Terme Luigiane that could well see a breakaway go clear from the gun.
"It's definitely not one for the bunch sprinters," said Katusha-Alpecin directeur sportif Dimitri Konyshev, winner on the same finale in 1993 with a lone attack, noting that "if he were here, it'd be perfect for a guy like Diego Ulissi."
"We don't have anybody here who can do something on it, this year is all about Ilnur Zakarin," Konyshev said, before adding with a grin, "so maybe he'll have a go."
On paper, at least, the finish of Thursday's lengthy 217km stage from Reggio Calabria to Terme Luigiane along the northern Calabria coastline looks very tricky, to the point where the bunch sprinters' teams will not be willing to help the GC squads control the race. The likelihood of a break going clear, then, is high.
Although most of the stage is fairly flat, a short, steep climb of Fuscaldo 24 kilometres from the line acts as a curtain-raiser for the complicated finale. There's a fast run-in along the coast, and then suddenly, after a sharp-right hand bend inland, the last eight kilometres consist of constantly twisting, roller coaster roads. The road book warns that one section of descent includes a series of hairpin bends, potentially stretching out the peloton even further - and it could see an attack go clear.
The final climb, though with few changes of direction, is steadily rising and some two kilometres long, averaging five percent but with a ten percent ramp 500 metres from the line. Although not so twisty or narrow as some of the previous roads, after such a long stage, it could well see some splits in the peloton.
"It's a good little climb," Konyshev says, "I got away on one of the descents before and basta, I got there. Thursday is the same finish, but there's a longer, harder circuit beforehand, a climb and then a descent and then up again."
Konyshev refuses to call the finish difficult, arguing - with another smile - that "when you win, nothing is complicated." Certainly amongst the GC contenders, the differences will likely be minimal, although they will have to be sure they are on the right side of last-minute splits in the bucnch.
But for uphill finishers like Luís León Sánchez (Astana Pro Team), Ben Hermans (BMC Racing Team) and Enrico Battaglin (Team LottoNL-Jumbo), Terme Luigiane could be an opportunity that is too good to miss - win or lose.
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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