Giro d'Italia 2024 stage three preview - first chance for the sprinters

The riders head into the Po Valley for the first chance at a bunch sprint of this year's edition

Date: Monday May 6, 2024
Distance: 166km
Start location: Novara
Finish location: Fossano
Start time: 13:10 CET
Finish time (approx): 17:12 CET

In pictures of the Basilica of San Gaudenzio, the 19th century church that dominates the skyline of Novara, you can see the snow-capped peaks of the Alps to the north. But when the riders set off from Novara on stage three of the Giro d'Italia, they’ll be heading in the other direction, beginning a long lap of the country that won’t see them return to the mountain range for another two weeks.

Instead, stage three takes place exclusively in the flat terrain of the Po Valley, passing through the plains of the Piedmont rice fields. The rice grown here is famous throughout the world, as the source of Carnaroli and Arborio long grain varieties used for Risotto; to sample a local dish, try Novara’s speciality Paniscia, a risotto with beans, cabbage and salami preserved in fat. This area is also known for its vineyards, notably for the Nebbiolo variety of grape, but the hills where they are grown have been overlooked for today’s route.  

This will therefore be a stage for the sprinters, the first of approximately eight in the race. Last year’s sprints were characterised by variety, with no single rider dominating in the manner that Jasper Philipsen did at the Tour de France; in fact, all seven bunch sprints were won by seven different riders. That was on one hand reflective of how many quality sprinters were present, and how evenly matched they were; Jonathan Milan may have won the maglia ciclamino, but that was more down to consistency than dominance. But it was also partly due to how much these sprinters' stages varied, with some featuring enough hills to give an edge to more all-round riders like Michael Matthews, and others much more straightforward parcours to favour purer sprinters like Mark Cavendish. 

Today’s stage might look straightforward enough, with only one small categorised climb interrupting a blissfully flat-looking parcours, but upon close inspection includes a spanner in the works in the final kilometres to complicate matters. As they approach the finish in Fossano, the riders will have to climb about 1.5km at 5.3%, before the road flattens out again for the final 3m to the line. That’s unlikely to be steep enough to actually drop any sprinters out of the peloton, but it will require energy they would prefer to reserve for the final dash to the line. Teams with sprinters more capable of climbing uphill would be wise to set a fierce pace on this short rise, and potentially give their man a small edge that might be enough to swing the stage victor in their favour. 

Stage profile sourced via the Giro d'Italia website


It's been a punishing start to this edition of the Giro d'Italia for the sprinters, but they now get their reward for their perseverance with three consecutive stages that could end in bunch sprints.

There's a wealth of sprinters at this Giro and that means the final kilometre of Monday's stage could get extremely messy. One man who has consistently proven his ability to navigate this chaos and emerge successful is Tim Merlier (Soudal–Quick-Step), a two-time Grand Tour stage winner who has been in superb form so far this season. He perhaps isn't the fastest in a flat-out sprint when compared to some of the other names here, but has a canniness to launch his effort at the right time that has served him well so far.

Another rider in sumptuous form is Olav Kooij (Visma-Lease a Bike), who is on Grand Tour debut at the Giro. It's unclear how a crash on stage two has affected him, but the Dutchman will be a real contender to claim victory on stage three despite it being his first-ever Grand Tour sprint.

The 2023 points classification winner Jonathan Milan showed last year how his raw power has often rescued him from poor positioning, but that positioning was perhaps the reason he missed out on taking more than just a single stage win. He'll benefit from a strong and organised Lidl-Trek team to help deliver him the right position this year, and in a straight drag to the line there's few that will be able to match him.

The likes of Fabio Jakobsen (DSM-Firmenich-PostNL), Caleb Ewan (Jayco-Alula), and Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck), all multiple Grand Tour stage winners, have shown themselves to be more than capable of competing with the power of a rider like Milan, but their mixed form so far this year suggests they may all be finding their feet a little, and could do with a good result here to get the ball rolling.

Juan Sebastian Molano (UAE Team Emirates) will be afforded the opportunity to go for the sprints despite his team all pulling for Tadej Pogačar's GC bid, but the Colombian could perhaps do with a slightly more difficult finish to reduce the size of the bunch. The same could be said for Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty) and Ethan Vernon (Israel-Premier Tech), who, while boasting fast finishes, may struggle against the purer, high-power sprinters.

Elsewhere, Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain Victorious) will be hoping to do enough to claim a long-awaited first Grand Tour stage win, while former stage winner Alberto Dainese (Tudor Pro Cycling) will also be hoping to recapture some form in his home race.


With experience and form on his side, we think Tim Merlier will win the first bunch sprint of the 2024 Giro d'Italia.

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