Mount Etna, the famous volcano that rises above Sicily and finish of Giro d’Italia stage four, will be an early demonstration of who will be unable to win the 2018 race overall when the peloton climbs it at the end of stage six.
The 15-kilometre climb stands out not just because it wraps up an active volcano but also because it is the Giro’s first of eight summit finishes.
“On Etna, you won’t get a picture of who will win the Giro, but of who won’t be able to win,” Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec general manager, Gianni Savio told Cycling Weekly.
“If one of the favourites is dropped then it shows that they don’t have the strength to do something in this race. For the rest, it’s too early to tell.”
“On Etna, we’ll see an important shake up in the GC,” added Italian rider Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida). “We won’t see who will win the Giro, but if you are not on form, you’re going to lose a lot. Anyway, it’s a hard and selective finish, more so than the other years.”
“It depends on the teams’ plans,” Trek-Segafredo general manager Luca Guercilena said. “Sometimes the riders plan to go all in in the first week and try to keep their position in the second and third week, but others try to progress. I believe that someone will go deep on Etna and try to make a good gap on the other contenders.”
Watch: Giro d’Italia 2018 key stages
For 2018, the race climbs up the west side for the first time. The roads are narrower and the wind usually from blows from behind, perhaps encouraging more attacks than usual after last year’s ascent by a different route proved a damp squib due to a ferocious headwind.
“It all depends on the wind,” Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) explained. “If the wind is tail, then there can be some gaps, but if it’s a headwind we won’t see much of a show. I’m not sure what the new road is like, but yeah, smaller roads mean less wind.”
“On this side, the wind will have less influence,” Pozzovivo added. “When I’ve done it in training, often, it’s more of a tailwind than a headwind.”
“It’s going to be a pretty serious stage, unlike the other side, this side doesn’t have much wind, it’s more sheltered so you don’t get that headwind like they had last year,” said George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo). “It’s a super smooth road, pretty consistent, and you go from 0 to 1800 metres, so I’m sure we’ll see some differences.
“A headwind makes a very defensive race, good for the bigger guys like Chris Froome or Tom Dumoulin, it’s more about power to weight, absolute power. The tailwind definitely encourages aggressive and more exciting racing.”
“They changed the climb from last year, this side is harder and I think that the main GC leaders will try to gain time on each other,” Salvatore Puccio (Team Sky) said.
Asked if Chris Froome could try to make up his deficit already, Salvatore answered, “I don’t know if he’ll want to attack, but we’ll see on that day.”
“It’s a smaller side, a different side from last year when it was a big road going up in one direction with head-winds,” Team Sunweb sports director, Marc Reef added.
“What you see in most grand tours is that they take it a bit easier in the first days. With Sky, you never know, and most of the time, they try to go on the first mountain and take time and bring it home to the end. Sunweb will be on guard? Yes!”