By David Hunter
Vinci – Orbetello 220km
Time for a proper sprint stage.
Nothing in the route to worry the sprinters, but the distance might. 220km is a long day in the saddle and it will test the endurance of the quick men, not all of them will sprint as fast as usual after six hours in the saddle. You cannot underestimate the impact of the distance, something the sprinters will just have to get used to as this Giro is a long one, with many stages over 220km.
The riders should dodge the rain, but there is no hiding from the wind. It is coming from the north-east and will gust up to 37mph. That means a cross/tailwind for the majority of the day, which will again strike fear into the hearts of the GC riders. Will we see any echelons?
The good news for some is that the majority of the route is protected by trees, but there are a couple of sections of exposed roads, which will cause a lot of panic. We’ll have to wait and see if any of the teams want to have some fun.
QuickStep – Not their top train to support Viviani, but still good enough to dominate the final kilometre. The Belgians will rely upon Sénéchal and Sabatini, which is a short train, but very in keeping with current trends.
UAE – Gaviria also has a short train, with Molano and Consonni the riders to guide him into position, but Bohli and Marcato can also do a good job in the final 5km. This makes the train a little longer and UAE will be confident of claiming good position early in the finale of the sprint stages.
Bora – the Germans will be looking towards McCarthy, Schwarzmann and Selig to support Ackermann in the closing stages. Not very long, but Ackermann is a fan of getting dropped off at the head of the race and then staying at the front in the final 5km. He knows that Selig is always sitting close to him and can rescue him if things go wrong.
FDJ – when the French boys arrive with Démare, they fully commit to him, something that I really admire. They have the TT power of Ludvigsson and Scotson to line out the bunch, then the experience of Guarnieri and Sinkeldam to deliver their sprinter to the very front of the race.
Lotto Soudal – another team who have committed to their sprinter. The Belgians arrive with Kluge, Van Der Sande and De Buyst to help Caleb Ewan in the finale. After tinkering with the order, it seems that they now have the correct structure to help their fast man. Not as long a train as FDJ, but faster than the French squad. I think the Belgians have the best train in the race.
Flat as a pancake.
With the predicted wind, I got a little excited when I saw the long stretch along the coast, but this road is well protected by trees.With 5km to go, the bunch then start to head towards the finishing line. These roads are quite wide and there shouldn’t be any issues, but all of that changes in the final kilometre.
The riders cross over the sea in the final kilometre, but the problem is the double turn that needs to be negotiated just after the 500m point; this is crazy. Do I need to tell you about the importance of positioning? With such a short finishing straight, I would want to be third wheel heading into the corner. There should also be a strong headwind for the final kilometre, making it a tough finish for the riders.
Pascal Ackermann – the big German took a magnificent win today, what a message he sent out to his rivals. He actually was a little bit out of position, but his speed got him out of a hole. Bora did a good job setting up the sprint and they’ll hope to do something similar in this stage, but Ackermann needs to be better positioned, as this finish is much more technical. If he wins two consecutive stages in his first grand tour, it would be a magnificent achievement.
Elia Viviani – decided to follow the wheel of Gaviria today, that turned out to be a mistake. He nearly managed to save the situation, but had to settle with second place behind Ackermann. This stage is much more suited to the Italian, but he doesn’t always respond well to long stages. Viviani is a rider who can lose position in the closing stages, he cannot afford to let that happen in this stage; a lot will depend on Fabio Sabatini.
Fernando Gaviria – the Colombian looked totally out of energy in today’s sprint. Maybe that wasn’t such a huge surprise as he hasn’t raced since the Tour of Flanders. His lead out was working well, which is certainly a big positive to take away from the day. I think Gaviria will be much better having this stage in his legs and he should grow in form the deeper we go into the race, but this stage might be too soon for him?
Arnaud Démare – was a little out of position when the sprint launched, leaving him with too much ground to make up. This is a stage where he should be able to use his long sprint train, something the other teams can’t, but I’m not sure he has the speed required to punch out of that final corner.
Caleb Ewan – so close to a big win today, he didn’t do anything wrong. Lotto Soudal were great in preparing the sprint, but the little Aussie was beaten by a faster rider. Moving into this stage, the finish is almost perfect for Ewan, a rider who grow up in criterium racing. The double corner requires good bike handling skills and no fear, he has both of these. If the train can do a similar job to today, he has a great chance of winning the stage.
With positioning very important, I can see Ewan in prime position for the final corner. The only problem is the headwind means it’s actually better to come from a little deeper, so I think Elia Viviani will take the win.
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