Blazin' Saddles

What to expect from the next six Giro d’Italia stages

Blazin' Saddles

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Australian veteran Cadel Evans and his comely barrel chest fills out the famous maglia rosa as the riders take a second well earned rest from road-rashing their limbs on the slick roads of Italy.

But will the 2011 Tour de France winner still be top of the deck one week later for the third and final rest day? Our cycling blogger Blazin' Saddles takes a look ahead at the next vital phase of the race...

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Tuesday 20 May - Stage 10 - 173km - Modena-Salsomaggiore Terme

The pizza-flat stage takes the riders on a loop out of Modena, the balsamic vinegar capital of Italy, before passing right through the city of Parma. There's a slight rise at the end but it won't be enough to produce any ham-fisted attempts at thwarting a bunch sprint.

En route, an unlikely break containing Lampre-Merida pair Damiano Cunego and Manuele Mori, Marco Bandiera (Androni) and Simone Ponzi (Neri Sottoli) will form before getting cold feet on spotting the road sign to nearby Mantova.

Slovenia's Luka Mezgec will finally pick up a win for Giant-Shimano to deny Nacer Bouhanni of FDJ a hat-trick, with Elia Viviani (Cannondale) out-paced for third.

Winner: Luka Mezgec (Giant-Shimano)
Maglia rosa: Cadel Evans (BMC)

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Wednesday 21 May - Stage 11 - 249km - Collecchio-Savona

This long and lumpy stage has 'breakaway' written all over it and should prove to be a hit with spectators thanks to two Cat.2 climbs and a fast downhill ride to the finish. It's like a slightly shorter Milan-San Remo, with the race starting inland before finishing on the coast after no doubt 6hrs+ in the saddle. Unlike 'La Classicissima' the final climb of Naso di Gatto is steep enough to shed all the sprinters - although by now a break should have firmly established.

A rider like Adam Hansen (Lotto Belisol) will be motivated by the parcours, as will double stage winner Diego Ulissi (Lampre) and, perhaps, Dutch national champion Johnny Hoogerland (Androni). Throw in the usual suspects vying for the intermediate sprint classification - Marco Bandiera (Androni) and Andrea Fedi (Neri Sottoli) - and you have a good idea of what to expect. With the ITT coming up, a rider like Stefano Pirazzi may also see today's stage as a chance to pick up some important mountain points before the Alps.

Winner: Adam Hansen (Lotto Belisol)
Maglia rosa: Cadel Evans (BMC)

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Thursday 22 May - Stage 12 - 41.9km ITT - Barbaresco-Barolo

The rolling hills of the Langhe and the green corduroy of their famous vineyards play host to the opening individual time trial of the race - and the first major GC summit for those vying for the pink jersey. It's the kind of day that could well remind us that Domenico Pozzovivo's not as bad at time trialling as he used to be - nor is Cadel Evans as good as he once was.

Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEdge), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky), Adriano Malori (Movistar), Wilco Kelderman (Belkin), Robert Kiserlovski (Trek) and Mick Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo) may well roll well - but don't expect much from the bruised buttocked Nairo Quintana (Movistar), although his Colombian compatriot Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) has it within him to ride into the pink.

Winner: Adriano Malori (Movistar)
Pink jersey: Cadel Evans (BMC) - but only just.

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Friday 23 May - Stage 13 - 157km - Fossano-Rivarolo Canavese

Seeing that this marks the last chance for the sprinters to have a slice of action ahead of the Alps, you can be fairly certain that any break will not be given too much leeway. But you never know - sometimes it's on these unassuming transitional stages where the unexpected action happens. All it takes is a mass-spill, an ill-timed puncture or some strong winds, and suddenly the race may take on a whole new dynamic.

Indeed, BMC's throwing down off the hammer on stage six to Montecassino - after the peloton was decimated by a monster crash that Cadel Evans and his lieutenants failed to spot in their rear-view mirrors - will still be as raw in the mind as the grazed limbs of those who hit the deck. And cycling has a way of seeing riders get their comeuppance...

Winner: Elia Viviani (Cannondale)
Pink jersey: Cadel Evans (BMC), unless...

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Saturday 24 May - Stage 14 - 164km - Aglie-Oropa

Coupled with the ITT two days previously, this is the second major rendez-vous for the GC favourites and will be a real test of Cadel Evans' stamina. The attacks will come thick and fast - firstly with a break and then, on one of the three categorised final climbs, from the main protagonists as the gradient hits double digits on the Alpe di Noveis.

Expect a who's who of climbers and fallen GC men to jostle their way into a break today - and with the stage finishing at the Marco Pantani shrine of Oropa you can bet your house on multiple Italians being in the mood. Matteo Rabottini, Stefano Pirazzi and Marco Bandiera are three predictable names - but Damiano Cunego, Michele Scarponi, Przemyslaw Niemiec, Luca Paolini, Franco Pellizotti and Nicolas Roche are ones to watch, while Sky pair Kanstanstin Siutsou and Dario Cataldo need to do something - anything! - for their beleaguered team.

This is the day we discover if Nairo Quintana really is injured or if he's managed to shake off that butt-knock from the opening week of the race in time to cause a splash on GC. Remember - on last year's Tour, Quintana crashed on numerous occasions in the opening week, and it wasn't until team-mate Alejandro Valverde had that crosswind-assisted mechanical that he became Chris Froome's biggest rival.

Domenico Pozzovivo will attack from the main favourites, with Rigoberto Uran, Rafal Majka and Quintana all following. But Evans will falter and lose the race lead.

Winner: Michele Scarponi (Astana)
Pink jersey: Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick Step)

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Sunday 25 May - Stage 15 - 225km - Valdengo-Plan di Montecampione

The final stage before the third rest day is much like the Mont Ventoux stage from the Tour last year, with 200+ kilometres of flat riding followed by one ding-dong Cat.1 climb to the finish. As in the Tour's visit to Ventoux, Quintana will make his move today - although whether anyone will be able to reel him in and scupper his bid, à la Froome, remains to be seen.

We'll see a large break form early on, packed out not necessarily with climbers, but more so with a mixture of sprinters (after the intermediate sprint points) and rouleurs hoping that their cushion will be big enough as they arrive at the foot of the Plan di Montecampione that they will hold on to contest the stage win. Expect any of the names from yesterday's predicted break to be a part - especially if they didn't manage to play a significant role the day before. Plus that man Julian Arredondo of Trek - a real livewire.

Winner: Franco Pelizotti (Androni) or Fabio Aru (Astana)
Pink jersey: Rigoberto Uran (OPQS) but with Nairo Quintana (Movistar) closing the gap.

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Is any of this likely to happen? Is Blazin' Saddles too harsh on Cadel Evans and too optimistic for the Colombians? Have your say on the next six days of action below...

Felix Lowe | Follow on Twitter @saddleblaze