By Jonny Long
Two more flat (read: boring) stages after the rest day...
Many people have bemoaned the lack of excitement in the first week of the Giro d'Italia 2019, with Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) telling fans to be patient and Sunweb's Chad Haga adding "the excitement will come!"
The weather certainly hasn't helped an opening week that didn't feature the usual summit finish to spark the GC action into life, and the various wars of words have at times provided more entertainment than the action on the tarmac. After the rest day, we'll have to endure two more flat stages on Tuesday and Wednesday before the road starts to head uphill.
Stage 10 passes through the Po Valley where an earthquake killed seven people in 2012, with stage 11 also having a grisly tale attached to it, as it finishes close to the home of Fausto Coppi, where he lived with Giulia Occhini who tragically died in a car crash in 1993 near their home.
Italian champion Elia Viviani (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) is still without a stage win after being relegated on stage two with Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) being handed the victory. With Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) picking up two stages and Caleb Ewan clinching his first Grand Tour stage victory for new team Lotto-Soudal. Viviani will be hoping to take the pressure off with a win before going into survival mode in the mountains.
...but then we hit the mountains
Finally, we're going uphill! We've had to wait for over 1,800km but now we'll maybe start to see which of the GC contenders will have the legs to pull on the pink jersey when we get to Verona on June 2.
Stage 12 offers up a double passage of the Principi di Acaia wall, which has a maximum gradient of 20 per cent, and then presents the peloton with the Montoso, which will be the first category one climb of the 2019 Giro.
Then we have ourselves the first big mountain day of the race on Friday's stage 13, when the riders will tackle three major tests as they make their way to Ceresole Reale, finishing atop the Nivolet Pass, which has gradients of 15 per cent.
Organisers have benevolently included 3,000 metres of altitude gain on Saturday, when you'll be able to watch the whole race from your sofa, and stage 15, whilst not having any massive climbs, features a lot of the Il Lombardia route as the peloton make their way from Ivrea to Como.
Forget the riders, spectators will need the second rest day to recover.
Primož Roglič back in pink
After his second successive dominant performance in a Giro 2019 time trial on stage nine, Primož Roglič sits only 1-50 back from Valerio Conti (UAE Team Emirates) after ceding the overall lead to the Italian on stage six, not wanting the added annoyances that come from being the race leader so early in the race.
However, with the race heading into the mountains and a reasonable lead over his GC rivals, it's likely we'll see the Slovenian back in pink before the second rest day.
Of course, you'd rather have time on your opponents than them having time on you, Roglič said that much himself. However, having extra race leader duties to contend with at the end of each exhausting mountain stage, as well as having the pressure of pace-setting without key lieutenant Laurens De Plus, it will be a tough test of whether the 29-year-old and his relatively inexperienced Jumbo-Visma team have what it takes to bring home a Grand Tour victory.
Simon Yates to make up for lost time
It wasn't only spectators who were surprised at Simon Yates' poor performance in the stage nine trial, where he lost 2-06 to Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and 3-11 to Primož Roglič, Mitchelton-Scott team boss Matt White said he had "no explanation at all" as to why Yates rode so poorly in the race against the clock before the first rest day.
The Brit will have to put this disappointing performance behind him, though, and turn his attention towards how he's going to claw back the time needed to win his second Grand Tour after his Vuelta a España win in 2018.
Yates has a strong team around him, with Mikel Nieve and Esteban Chaves the sort of riders you want to have with you in the mountains, and the 26-year-old will have to attack to turn the odds to his favour. Let's hope he doesn't wait until the third week to play his cards.
Ciccone trying to keep his hands on blue
Before Bauke Mollema's impressive time trial performance on stage nine where, Roglič aside, the Dutchman finished the best out of the rest of the GC contenders, Trek-Segafredo's best chance of taking something from the Giro was Giulio Ciccone in the king of the mountains classification.
Throughout the opening week, the Italian and his team have made it abundantly clear they want the blue jersey sewn up by the time the race gets to Verona for the final stage, with Ciccone taking every available chance to quickly leap out of the peloton on the approach to minor climbs to sweep up king of the mountains points.
Ciccone now has a 10-point lead over Roglič and a 14-point lead over Fausto Masnada (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermic) and will surely be given the licence to get himself in breakaways or do whatever he has to do to consolidate the blue jersey, which has sat on the 24-year-old's shoulders since the opening stage one time trial, when he ascended the San Luca climb quickest.
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