Roger Kluge didn’t sprint

2016 Giro, stage 17Previewing stage 17, I did ask whether there were any sprinters left in the race. There are a handful, but flatter stages no longer see a significant number of teams hammering away at the front of the bunch in the closing kilometres, trying to set things up. Shorn of their fastest finishers, a lot are just dithering along trying to get to the finish without crashing.

What this means is that chasing down the break becomes harder work for the few teams who do still want a sprint finish. Yesterday the break was caught with 2km to go and at that point those who’d chased it down were spent. It was at this moment that the highly Italian Pippo Pozzato decided to attack.

This is usually a pointless exercise because the sprint trains soon swallow you up, but due to everyone’s tiredness, he almost made it. More significantly, he inspired Roger Kluge to follow him. The German, who perhaps has better pedigree on the track than on the road, had slightly more in the tank than Pozzato and essentially just rode that final kilometre faster than the chasing bunch. It was like a mega-lead-out, only with no-one being led out.

It was easily the biggest win of Kluge’s career. Giacomo Nizzolo, who came second, has now finished second or third on 13 Giro stages down the years without ever once tasting victory.

Stage 18

This looks a good one. The relatively short, steep climbs (one of which, tackled twice, is cobbled) should make for attacking racing. If I had to pick a likely winner, I’d go with Alejandro Valverde – although the riders in the day’s break might have other ideas.

Local specialities include stale bread and chocolate cake; and pannettone filled with crème Chantilly, nougat and chocolate.

2016 Giro, stage 18