Etna. Seemingly the organizers’ favorite climb, it has been featured four times in the last six years (including 2022). All stages have been won by the breakaway during this period: in 2017 and 2020 Jan Polanc and Jonathan Caicedo claim the win. In 2018, a rider from the breakaway (Johan Esteban Chavez) also won the stage, but this time with the company of 2022 favorite and his teammate at the time, Simon Yates. Yates attacked from the group of favorites, caught up to his teammate, who had been in the breakaway since the beginning, and let him take the stage win. Yates took hold of the pink jersey that day and would only lose it on the epic stage 19, where he lost more than 30 minutes to stage winner Chris Froome.
Interestingly, Yates isn’t the only 2022 favorite to have claimed the pink jersey atop Mount Etna. João Almeida in 2020 did the same. The Brit kept his jersey for 13 days. The Portuguese did it for 15. So if recent history is any indication, whoever is wearing pink a day from now will keep it for the majority of the Giro, but falter in the end.
This edition of the Giro might have more similarities with the 2017 edition though, when Polanc won the Etna stage and Bob Jungels assumed the maglia rosa. Much like in 2022, the Etna stage also featured on stage 4. And much like in 2022, the Blockhaus also featured on stage 9, which is where Jungels lost the pink jersey.
If I were a betting man, I would put my money on a scenario like 2017 repeating itself in 2022. The riders are still too close together on the general classification (GC). Couple this with the fact that it seems pretty certain that a breakaway will take the day and it’s likely that we’ll get a transitional maglia rosa until the Blockhaus on stage 9.
I have to be honest though and point out that despite the breakaway succeeding in the last three ascent of Mount Etna, they never arrived at the finish with more than a minute lead. 19, 26, and 39. Those were the breakaway leads (in seconds), in ascending chronological order. Now, this seems to make my transitional maglia rosa theory less likely. And it does. All riders are still fresh, especially the favorites who have prepared themselves for a 3-week Grand Tour (GT). This makes it especially hard for a breakaway to accumulate several minutes on a stage like this. Even if they do, the lead is easily clawed back in the final ascent by the fresh favorites and their teams.
However, I put more weight in the fact that the breakaway has won 3/3 times, than in the fact that it has arrived at the finish with short leads. The favorites know that the Etna never makes significant differences in the GC and haven’t even prepared themselves to reach their fitness peak until the second half of the Giro. The 100th placed rider (Rui Costa) is a mere 3 minutes and 4 seconds behind Mathieu Van Der Poel, the pink jersey. Plenty of riders are within a successful breakaway’s reach of the race lead. It might be a bit of a crazy idea, but it’d be great seeing Van Der Poel insert himself in the breakaway to try and keep his pink jersey for a few days longer.
With the different scenarios postulated, who are the men that can possibly claim victory atop this beautiful climb? First of all, it’s important to point out I’m not playing it safe and betting a favorite. Not much point in betting on Carapaz, have him hypothetically place 8th tomorrow and then claim I wasn’t THAT wrong. Boom or bust for me.
Lennard Kamna, Alessandro De Marchi, Jan Hirt. I could list more potential winners because in all honesty, the field for tomorrow is wide open but I’ll leave these three riders. All are skilled climbers, and all are predicted to have the liberty to search for some results for themselves. De Marchi and Hirt do not have any GC leader to protect. Kamna has too many which is why he likely won’t be needed to work for the team yet. If any of Bora’s leaders (Kelderman, Hindley, or Buchmann) falter during tomorrow’s stage, not even God would be able to help them. Let alone Kamna.