CIVITAVECCHIA, Italy (VN) – Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) safely negotiated Monday’s crash-marred finale to carry a slender nine-second grip on the pink jersey into Tuesday’s explosive hilltop finale at Assisi.
Nipping at his heels is powerful Spanish climber Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha), who is emerging not only as an immediate threat to Hesjedal’s pink jersey, but as a major challenger to the Italians in the fight for the overall GC.
Tuesday’s hilltop finale at Assisi is ideal for his explosive, attacking style and Rodríguez knows he has a chance to win a stage and claim the maglia rosa if he can deliver the goods.
“I feel better than I expected right now,” Rodríguez told journalists. “I have gotten through the first part of the Giro in good shape. I know there is a good chance to try to gain the pink jersey. That’s what we are aiming for.”
The final 4km of Tuesday’s 186km 10th stage should be ideal terrain for Rodríguez, who has made a career of winning on just these types of finales.
The course stair-steps up to Assisi over a 1.6km wall, with ramps as steep as 15 percent, followed by a short, technical descent, before the final 1.2km climb to the line.
With finish-line bonuses waiting for the top three (20, 12 and 8 seconds, respectively), Rodríguez can snatch away pink if he’s first or second and ahead of Hesjedal.
“I am satisfied with how things are shaping up so far,” he said. “I have been trying to save my energy because everything will be decided in the final week.”
Rodríguez knows he has a chance to double on Tuesday and will at least give it a run.
Rodríguez is one of the peloton’s best puncheurs, winning Flèche Wallonne this year after taking a stage at Tirreno-Adriatico up Montelupeone and a stage at the 2010 Tour de France at Mende. Each of those short, steep finishes are similar to tomorrow’s finale.
Hesjedal, however, is no slouch on these types of finishes. He was second in the 2010 Amstel Gold Race and rode into the top 10 at Liège-Bastogne-Liège in April.
With the pink jersey on the line, the Canadian is sure to give everything he has in the tank to try to defend the maglia rosa.
Garmin would be more than happy to see a non-threatening breakaway ride clear to contest for the stage victory and the finish-line time bonuses, so it will be up to Katusha to lead the chase.
If Hesjedal does defend the maglia rosa, he could very well carry pink all the way into the mountains this weekend.
Wednesday’s and Friday’s stages are well-suited for the sprinters while Thursday’s hilly course along the Italian Riviera will prove hard to control, but Garmin should see collaboration among the top GC teams to not allow a breakaway to get too much rope.
This weekend’s pair of climbing stages – Saturday at Cervinia and Sunday at Plan dei Resinelli – will prove a challenge no matter who has the pink jersey.