What happened on Stage 3
Race leader Michael Matthews has capitalised on a perfect team ride by Orica-GreenEdge, edging Fabio Felline and Philippe Gilbert, to win the third stage of the Giro d’Italia in the pink jersey and nab his fifth victory in a Grand Tour. If the 2010 U23 world champion had a perfect day, the same can’t be said of AG2R’s Domenico Pozzovivo. The pocket climber crashed hard on the last descent of the stage to Sestri Levante, sliding out on a right-hander, and was forced to abandon. Fortunately, after being taken to the hospital, the team’s officials confirmed that the Italian is doing well and has no broken bones.
What comes now
The riders will line-up in Chiavari for a short – 150 kilometers – but very technical and intricate stage that ends in La Spezia. It features an unceasing series of climbs, descents and winding roads among the mountains, on mainly narrow roads. After the first few kilometres on level terrain, the route takes in the Colla di Velva ascent, enters Val di Vara and tackles the Passo del Bracco climb. A few technical stretches then lead to the Cinque Terre. The route rolls past Levanto, and then climbs up Passo del Termine (6,1 kilometers, 8,8% average gradient); after Riomaggiore, the “Biassa” tunnel (over 1 kilometer in length) leads to the Gulf of La Spezia. Here, after passing the finish line, the route takes a lap on a 17,1 km-long circuit.
The final circuit, rolling partly on city roads, is very challenging and intricate. The first part (around 4 kilometers) runs through the urban area, and is marked by straight roads and 90-degree turns (watch out for a slight uphill sector on cobbles, stretching about 1 kilometer in length). The following Biassa ascent (third category) rises with a 5% gradient over 3,5 kilometers, and with ramps always exceeding 10% over the last kilometer, with peaks topping out at 14%. A long, panoramic descent begins 10 kilometers before the finish, and ends with 3 kilometers to go. The final kilometres run on straight and level roads, with the home straight being a 700-m long one.
Orica-GreenEdge can make it three victories in four days, after winning the team time trial in Sanremo and the bunch sprint in Sestri Levante. This time, Orica’s man to watch out for is Simon Gerrans, the first pink jersey holder at the 2015 edition, although Michael Matthews said before the race that he’s capable of being at the finish to fight for the win. After missing on the victory on Monday, Fabio Felline and Philippe Gilbert will try to make up for this disappointment, with the mention that former world champion has to attack in order to dispatch the likes of Gerrans and Matthews.
Third in last month’s Giro dell’Appennino, Damiano Cunego (who did a recon here last week) is an interesting rider for this stage, the most likely scenario being to see “Il Piccolo Principe” trying to force a selection on the Biassa climb. His fellow countryman Giovanni Visconti can also go on to the attack, while the likes of Enrico Battaglin, Francesco Gavazzi, Grega Bole and even Ilnur Zakarin can wait for a sprint from a reduced peloton, that is if a breakaway doesn’t make it all the way to the end.
1989 is the year of the previous stage finish in La Spezia (the birth town of Alessandro Petacchi, one of the best sprinters in history, with 48 wins in Grand Tours). Back then, the stage was 220 km-long and saw Laurent Fignon take a memorable victory, his only one at that edition, ahead of Maurizio Fondriest and Phil Andersonn. Two days later, the Frenchman won the Corsa Rosa, his last triumph in a three-week stage race.