There is only chance to overturn the verdicts handed down by the Stelvio, and that is today. 3800 metres of elevation gain are more than enough to explain the severity of this stage: without the shadow of a doubt, the 176 km Possagno-Pian del Cansiglio represents the queen stage of the Giro Next Gen 2023.
The peloton will hit the road just outside the Temple of Canova, in the town of Possagno, and will immediately be faced with a series climbs, sometimes steep sometimes pedalable, sometimes short and sometimes rather long. After crossing the entire Prosecco area, from Valdobbiadene to Combai and Refrontolo, and after Vittorio Veneto, another sequence of climbs will begin: San Lorenzo (4.5 km at 6.6%), Passo San Boldo (6.3 km at 6.8%), with its famous tunnel hairpin bends, Valmorel (1.4 km at 6.7%), Nevegal (7 km at 8.2%), with the central kilometres all exceeding 10%, Malga Cate in Alpago (7.5 km at 7.4%), again largely with double-digit gradients, and finally Pian del Cansiglio, tackled from Farra (10.1 km at 6.8%), with the first 4 km all at 12/13%.
The toughness of this stage is there for everyone to see. Fireworks and abysmal gaps between the various contenders are to be expected, especially if the tussle should flare up early enough. Johannes Staune-Mittet (Jumbo-Visma DT) will once again be the man to watch, and the support of team-mates Tijmen Graat and Menno Huising will be crucial. It will be interesting to see whether Alexy Faure Prost (Circus-ReUz-Technord) and Darren Rafferty (Hagens berman Axeon) will be able to repeat their Stelvio performances, while Alessio Martinelli (Green Project-Bardiani CSF-Faizanè) and Santiago Umba (GW Shimano-Sidermec) will try to chase the podium. But woe betide anyone who forgets William Junior Lecerf (Soudal-QuickStep DT), Hannes Wilksch (Tudor U23) and Nahom Zerai (Q36.5).