By David Hunter
Carpi – Novi Ligure 221.2km
Another big day for the sprinters, the last chance for a few who’ll head home after the stage.
Nice and flat, a rerun of stage 10.
Another sunny day with a light wind coming from the south, making it a cross/headwind sprint.
There is a slight rise to the finishing line, but it’s really just a false flat.
The easiest sprint finish of the race. One big turn with 3km to go, then it’s full gas for the finish. Weirdly, this finish will cause more problems than the technical ones. As we approach the turn, the road gets quite narrow, which is a potential crash point.
Although straight, the final 3km is full of street furniture and there is a roundabout inside the final kilometre. These finishes are very difficult for sprint trains to get right; it’s all about timing the move to the front to perfection. If you go too early, you’ll get swamped. If you wait too long, you’ll get boxed in. This is a day for experience.
Pascal Ackermann – went down hard today. At this point, even he won’t know how he’ll feel tomorrow. He’ll be riding with a lot of bandages on, he’ll have endured a poor night’s sleep, he’ll be sore on his bike, this doesn’t sound good. Bora will give him every opportunity, but he won’t be very happy to see a stage of 220km. I wouldn’t write him off, but this stage won’t be fun for the big German.
Elia Viviani – dear Elia, please let your lead out hit the front and follow their wheels. I’m fed up with his tactic of trying to follow a rival sprinter’s wheel. Fabio Sabatini is one of the best lead out men in the world, he deserves to be trusted. Viviani’s confidence will now be at rock bottom, can he strike back to silence his critics?
Arnaud Démare – delivered a huge win today, his lead out train deserved it. I have mentioned on many occasions, my love for their team approach to sprinting. They back their man 100%, never showing any doubt. Going into the closing stages of today, they still had Sinkeldam, Ludvigsson and Guarnieri to help in the final 2km, that gave them a huge advantage over the others. Moving into this stage, their long train is great news for the untechnical finish; it allows them to take a good early position and then hold it. Démare will now also be sprinting with confidence, that will add a few extra watts to his kick. He also has the chance of moving into the points jersey, this has been a big objective for him since the start of the race.
Caleb Ewan – made a small error today, but it cost him another win. Lotto Soudal did some great work in the closing kilometres, bossing the front of the peloton from around 25km to go. In the closing kilometre, they were jumped by FDJ, simply because they were coming at a higher speed. Instead of jumping onto Démare when he launched, Ewan followed the wheel of his lead out man, and that ended his hopes of a win. This stage will be Ewan’s last in the race, you can bet he’s super motivated to leave with another victory. The train is good, he has the speed, he’ll like the distance, he just needs a little bit of luck.
Giacomo Nizzolo – 5th today, I can’t see him doing better in this stage, the same goes for the rest of the quick men.
A little bit of a stat for you… today was the first time in this race a sprint was won by the rider launching from the front. The wind in the finish is good news for someone coming from a little deeper, which will suit a certain Italian champion. A long overdue win for Elia Viviani.
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