By David Hunter
Haifa – Tel Aviv 167km
Time for the sprinters to shine.
Nothing to get excited about. This stage is all about the sprint finish.
This is a tricky finish. Inside the final 5km, we have 4 tight corners. This will make for a very nervous bunch, especially the GC teams. As usual, we will see them mixing it with the sprint teams, causing panic! The fight to control the bunch will be intense, the 3km flag is where I would want to come to the front.
At that point, controlling the bunch will take your full team, but it is achievable. No doubt we’ll see some teams hanging back, looking to time their attack to perfection. The final corner comes with 800m to go, being in the first 20 wheels will be important. Lead out men will be very vital.
It’s a grand tour, that means I get to bore you with sprint train analysis!
QuickStep – Stybar, Mørkøv and Sabatini. Not the usual sprint train for Viviani, but he has worked closely with Mørkøv and Sabatini this season. They also possess plenty of horsepower to control the closing stages. Watch out for big pulls from Cavagna and Schachmann, they might be young, but they are strong.
Bora – Schillinger, Pfingsten and Selig. Not as good as last year, but still very strong.
EF Drapac – Scully, Van Asbroeck and Docker. This looks solid to me. The team decided to drop Brendan Canty and replace him with Tom Scully, in order to bolster the sprint train. They believe that Modolo can win a stage.
Jumbo – Bouwman, Van Emden and Van Hoecke. The Dutch boys have worked a short train well this season, for both Van Poppel and Groenewegen. They will not attempt to hit the front until the final 3km.
Lotto – Bak, Hansen and Van Der Sande. Lots of experience! They might lack a little speed, but the Lotto boys know how to work a sprint.
Sunny, with the wind coming from the sea. It doesn’t look strong enough to split the bunch, but you just never know.
Elia Viviani – already with five stage wins this season. The Italian has the strongest train and will be full of confidence. Despite a good career, he has only one Giro win to his name, that was back in 2015. Given the way he has started the season, he has to start the stage as the big favourite.
Sam Bennett – the Irishman was very close to taking a Giro win in 2017, finishing on the podium on four occasions. He hasn’t managed to take a win yet in 2018, illness disrupted much of his spring. Bora have a strong train, particularly Rudi Selig. Having a man like this means that Bennett will be put in a great position for the sprint.
Sacha Modolo – starts the race as the sprinter with the most Giro wins, but it’s only two! He took an early win in Andalucía, but hasn’t registered another since. He performed well in the classics, finishing 11th in Flanders, but this is the race he would dearly like to perform well in. His train is good, but not good enough to put him into the best position.
Danny Van Poppel – the dark horse for the stage. Like Modolo, he started the season with an early win, but nothing since. Despite having a short train, they do have a lot of power. They are one of the teams capable of hanging back and then grabbing control of the bunch in the final turns. If they do, Van Poppel has the speed to finish off the job.
Jens Debusschere – will do well to make the podium, I can’t see him winning.
Jakub Mareczko – right, can he eventually deliver on the big stage? 35 pro wins, but all in small races. Still just 24, I think the time is right for him to take the next step in his career. One problem is his sprint train, it certainly lacks speed and depth. Last year, he managed two second places, can he take a big win this year?
Niccolo Bonifazio – not my favourite sprinter. Often a dangerous rider, he struggles to understand the right thing to do. He is a rider that was well thought of at the start of his career, but hasn’t followed through on that early promise. He’ll probably get too excited and start his sprint from too far out.
QuickStep to start the race as they mean to continue, it’s got to be a win for Elia Viviani.
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