Stage 3 of the 2024 Giro d’Italia presents the peloton with a relatively flat 166 km ride from Novara to Fossano. Ideal for the sprinters, this stage marks the first significant opportunity for the fast men to showcase their prowess in a bunch sprint. The route takes the riders through the scenic Po Valley, known for its expansive rice fields and culinary richness, particularly the rice varieties essential for making classic Italian risotto.

Terrain and Key Challenges

The stage is mostly flat but includes minor undulations and a few key challenges in the central part. The roads are straight and wide, typical of the region, but riders will need to navigate common urban obstacles. A subtle ascent to Lu and another climb towards Cherasco spice up the otherwise flat profile, culminating in a short final climb leading into Fossano that could disrupt the sprinters’ rhythm.

Final Kilometres

The final 3 km are crucial, featuring a sharp bend 1,300 m from the finish and an ascent that could act as a springboard for late attacks. The last stretch ascends at approximately 5% over 4.5 km to 3 km from the line, then levels off, providing a platform for a thrilling sprint on a 9 m wide tarmac straight.

Sprint Contenders

  • Tim Merlier (Soudal–Quick-Step): With two Grand Tour stage wins under his belt, Merlier’s knack for timing his sprint perfectly makes him a top contender.
  • Olav Kooij (Visma-Lease a Bike): Despite a crash in Stage 2, Kooij’s debut at the Giro brings fresh energy and potential for a surprise.
  • Jonathan Milan (Lidl-Trek): Last year’s points classification winner, Milan combines raw power with a strong team setup, making him a formidable opponent in a straight sprint.
  • Fabio Jakobsen, Caleb Ewan, and Kaden Groves: All experienced sprinters with varying form this season, each looking to assert dominance in the early flat stages.
Tim Merlier Giro d'Italia 2021
Tim Merlier winning a Giro stage in 2021

Strategy Insights

Teams with sprinters who can handle slight inclines will aim to set a hard pace on the final climb, potentially giving their sprinter a tactical advantage. This stage might not eliminate any sprinter due to the climb’s moderate difficulty, but positioning and energy conservation will be crucial for the final push.

Cultural and Scenic Highlights

As the race weaves through Piedmont, riders and spectators alike can enjoy views of iconic landscapes and culinary stops featuring local specialities like Gorgonzola and Fassona beef, paired with wines from Langhe and Roero. The historical and architectural richness of the region, including the medieval ambience of Fossano’s historic centre, adds cultural depth to the racing spectacle.

Prediction

Given his recent form and proven ability to navigate the chaotic final kilometres of Grand Tour sprints, Tim Merlier is poised to claim victory in Fossano, capturing the first bunch sprint of this edition of the Giro d’Italia.

This stage promises not just a test of speed but also of tactical acumen, as the sprinters’ teams vie to position their leaders optimally for the final dash to the line, making it a must-watch for cycling enthusiasts.

Main photo credit: LaPresse