By David Hunter
Olbia – Tortoli 221km
It might only be the second stage, but we are already racing over 220km!
This is a very difficult day for the sprinters, with very little flat kilometres. We have two categorised climbs, the cat 3 climb is 10.6km at 3.9%. This will certainly get the sprinters crying! The crucial point of the race is the cat 2 climb to Genna Salana, 26.6km at 3.3%. That sounds far too long for the vast majority of the sprinters to get over. That means chaos on the descent!
The descent itself is not technical, the straight roads make it very easy for the peloton to control any late attack. The problem will be the size of the bunch and which teams want to take control.
With lots of teams arriving with fast finishers, I would still imagine we get a sprint. The big questions is whether any of the real sprinters can make it to the finish. Being so early in a grand tour, you would expect some of them to be good enough to make it, but it will be hard.
Once the climb is done, we have the usual difficulties of trying to control a reduced bunch. Sprinter teams will lack numbers, but they should be helped out by the GC boys. It is in the best interest of most for a few teams to control the final 20km and set up a sprint.
The closing kilometres are very easy, but which team will take control?
Another nice day for the bunch. The wind is coming from the south for most of the day, making it a headwind. The strength of the wind is to be around 18km/h, it shouldn’t really cause a problem for the riders.
Fernando Gaviria – of all the top sprinters, I think the Colombian has the best chance of surviving. He wasn’t at his best today, but he is the best climber of the top sprinters in the race. I would be surprised to see him dropped on the climb.
Matteo Montaguti – the Italian is a strong sprinter from a reduced bunch. He will hope that the climb is selective, but don’t expect AG2R to control the closing kilometres. They will try to arrive late and steal the win. Montaguti has good form, he won a sprint finish in the Tour of the Alps.
Kristian Sbaragli – not really considered one of the top line sprinters, but he is fast. The Italian is a fine climber and he’ll hope to survive the final hill. If he does, he stands a great chance of finishing on the podium.
Nathan Haas – if Sbaragli fails to survive the climb, the Aussie will step forward as Dimension Data’s chosen rider. He packs a very fast sprint and 2017 has been the best year of his career. Haas will not be dropped on the climb and will have a chance of taking his first grand tour win.
Enrico Battaglin – the Jumbo rider will be looking to add to his two Giro wins. Despite the team being focused on supporting Kruijswijk, they will also help their Italian to try and take the stage. Like most of the puncheurs, he needs all the sprinters to be dropped on the climb.
Simon Geschke – fast finisher, has a chance of sneaking onto the podium.
Jasper Stuyven – Trek have a real chance of taking the win. Stuyven is clearly the fastest of the non-sprinters, he would love to add to his Vuelta win in 2015. That win really signalled a step forward in his career and I think he is ready to push on again. Stuyven was very impressive in the Spring classics and has already made considerable progress in 2017. A Giro win would be the icing on the cake!
Sacha Modolo – given his impressive performace in the Spring classics, Modolo has a real chance in this race. Riding on home soil always seems to get the best out of the sprinter and if he survives the climb, he has a great chance of success.
Greipel & Ewan – The long climb is not brilliantly suited to either of these riders, but they cannot be discounted. Coming early in the race, they will have hopes of making it over with the bunch.
The Battle for Pink
After his suprise win today, Postlberger has a chance of staying in pink after this stage. For this to happen, he needs both Ewan and Greipel to not collect bonus seconds, but it’s not just as easy as that. If a rider who finished high today manages to take the stage win, the Austrian would have to better there result from today. If Jasper Stuyven wins the stage, he is likely to take the pink jersey too.
The climb is sure to slow down the legs of some of the sprinters, but not all. Given his climbing ability, I think that Fernando Gaviria will take the stage. He was poorly positioned today, but this stage looks great for him.
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