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JESI, Italy (VN) – Thwarted by the lumps and bumps on the road into Jesi, where Biniam Girmay and Mathieu van der Poel fought out a thrilling duel, the Giro d’Italia’s pure sprinters, led by double stage-winner Arnaud Démare, and Mark Cavendish, the victor in Balatonfüred on day three, will be aiming to return to center stage when the corsa rosa barrels across the flatlands of Emilia Romagna on Wednesday.
Running north-westwards across the region from Santarcangelo di Romagna to Reggio Emilia, the 203-kilometer stage features a mere 369 meters of vertical gain, with not so much as a hillock to disrupt the peloton’s flow. It looks nailed-on for a bunch sprint, the first since Démare’s final lunge for the line edged the verdict in his favor in a very tight contest with Caleb Ewan, with Mark Cavendish on their wheels in third.
The contest will have an added edge following Girmay’s success in Jesi, which cut Démare’s lead in the points competition. The Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux’s punchy sprinter has finished in the top five in this race’s three previous bunch sprints and is now targeting the ciclamino jersey on the shoulders of the big Frenchman. That’s assuming that he is OK to start the stage following the freak accident on the Jesi victory podium when a champagne cork exploded into his eye.
Sitting on the hood of his Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team car after the stage into Jesi, Cavendish’s team director Davide Bramati explained that the Manxman had ridden the back-end of the stage with the final in Reggio Emilia very much in mind. “I think everyone knows that it will be a sprint there and today [Tuesday] he did a good gruppetto with his teammate James Knox from Recanati with 50km to go. It was perfect,” the Italian told Velonews.
Bramati said it was interesting to note that Démare, winner of the last two bunch sprints, didn’t adopt the same tactic with Wednesday in mind. “We saw today that Démare kept going hard. He was up there until 15km to go and maybe he thought it was possible to get over the final climb,” said Bramati with a smile, and added, “We’ll have a chance I’m sure.”
The sprint in Scalea where the Frenchman edged out Ewan also saw the last sighting of Quick-Step lead-out man Michael Mørkøv, who failed to start the next day due to sickness. Cavendish and his teammates will miss the talismanic Dane, but Bramati believes that his team still has the firepower to get the Briton into position to go for victory in Reggio Emilia.
“We’ll have Davide Ballerini in Mørkøv’s position. Today he went for the sprint himself, but he was dropped 200 meters from the top of the climb, so he didn’t quite make it into the front group. We’ve got Bert Van Lerberghe as well. There’s no doubt that Groupama will have a good train, a good lead-out, and we’ll need to find the right position to pass Démare,” said Bramati.
Wednesday could be the last chance for Ewan to taste success in this race. The Lotto-Soudal rider confirmed on the second rest day that he will leave the Giro early in order to prepare for the Tour de France, specifying that he will keep going until stage 13 if he’s feeling good, but will quit in Reggio Emilia if he isn’t. Victory would likely encourage him to stay in the race until Friday’s stage into Cuneo, the next good chance the sprinters will have of hunting for success.