By David Hunter
Foligno – Arezzo 186km
Strade Bianche style!
This has to be the stage I am looking forward to the most.
The stage is very easy, apart from the from the last 25km. Feast your eyes on the section of white that appears on the climb, Alpe di Poti. This is the famous white roads of Tuscany, seen in Strade Bianche. It turns a difficult climb into a brutal climb!
Officially, it is 8.6km at 6.5%. That is hard but does include two flat sections. The most challenging part is after just 3km of the climb, with 2km at over 10%. This will destroy the peloton and leave a small group together at the front of the race. The battle will begin around 15km before the climb, as teams fight for position. The climb is very narrow, so everyone will want to be on the front. That usually means crashes.
Once over the climb we descend to Arezzo, before kicking up towards the finishing line.
We have already have seen the finish in the 2014 and 2015 editions of Tirreno Adriatico, with Sagan and Van Avermaet winning. It is a final kilometre that suits puncheurs, but how many of them will actually be left?
Due to the ease of the stage, the teams don’t have to think much about it. You need to deliver your GC rider to the front, just before the climb, and pray that a couple of teammates can survive and help them on towards the finish. Teams will be very nervous, they won’t want to lose time.
Alejandro Valverde – will start as the favourite, same as Tuesday. That day, Movistar were not keen on chasing and Ulissi took the win. After losing Javier Moreno, their attitude towards chasing will not have improved. If they get a little help they’ll be pleased. The climb and uphill finish are great for Valverde, problem is, everyone knows it!
Diego Ulissi – a wonderful win on Tuesday, he really does love this race. Will he wait and try to outsprint Valverde? It will be hard to beat the Spaniard, so we might see Ulissi attacking on the climb. He’s 41 seconds down on Dumoulin, the Dutchman will not want to give Ulissi too much freedom.
Vincenzo Nibali – he’ll fancy that descent!
Bob Jungels – strong as a bull just now. Could take advantage of the GC riders marking each other, but is only 35 seconds behind Dumoulin.
Gianluca Brambila – amazing in Strade Bianche. He is far enough down to get some freedom. Worked hard for Jungels on Thursday, might get some payback here.
Tom Dumoulin – seems to follow the old mantra, attack is the best form of defence. With so many riders close on GC, he’ll have to be very careful. It’s great news that we only have one real climb. He should have some teammates to help with chasing.
Fabian Cancellara – seemed to be better today. Was wonderful in winning Strade Bianche, but I’m not sure if Hesjedal will require help. If Cancellara is allowed off the lead, the others had better watch out.
Jakob Fuglsang – he’s just bloody strong at the minute. Brilliant on different types of stages, the Dane will look to benefit from the others marking Nibali.
Moreno Moser – another former winner of Strade Binache, who is in good form. Not a GC threat, he might be allowed to get away.
The climb is too close to the end for the quick riders, except Sonny Colbrelli. He is climbing very well just now, but will hope that the GC riders don’t go crazy at the bottom of the hill. He’s the only rider capable of beating Valverde in the uphill sprint. Can he survive the climb?
The long descent is great for riders like Nibali. Once into Arezzo, things get awfully tight. Poor positioning spells disaster for anyone wanting to win the stage.
We have a good chance of rain in the afternoon. That will only add to the spectacle!
It’s a funny old stage. The route is not good news for the break, but with the GC teams playing poker, a large group could escape in the morning. Riders like Cunego, Wellens, Plaza, Betancur, Txurruka, Pozzato, Busato, Hansen, Mohoric, Berlato, Oss, De Marchi and Boem will all be liking the look of the finish. It promises to be a very fast start to the stage.
It is impossible to predict the attitude of the peloton. Giant will be happy to let the break go, Movistar don’t like chasing and Lampre are rubbish at chasing. Some teams will hope that Nippo miss the break again!
Tough to call! Not sure how he’ll actually win it, but I like Moreno Moser. He could go long, or wait for the climb.
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