By David Hunter
Riccione – San Marino 34.7km ITT
A huge day in the battle for the pink jersey.
A route of two halves. The opening 22km is basically flat, that is followed by a tough climb.
5.2km at 6.5% is a big effort on the TT bike. Riders will have to carefully manage the flat section of the route, as a lot of energy will be required for this hill.
The next 4km is on undulating roads, before the final 2.2km which averages 7.8%. This is a time trial which will interest the specialists, but the climbers will also think they can limit their losses.
The wind is coming from the west, which means a headwind on the flat section. This wind isn’t particularly strong, especially for the later starters. The problem is the rain, which is predicted to arrive in the early afternoon. It will only be a shower, but wet roads would be a huge disadvantage for some.
Primož Roglič – the Slovenian starts as the overwhelming favourite to take another TT win. He’ll obviously be keen on winning, but his main concern will actually be the time gap to the climbers. With a huge amount of climbing coming in the second and third weeks, Roglič will be hoping to gain around two minutes on the mountain goats, this route gives him the chance to do so. Not only is he brilliant on the flat, but the climb also suits him well. If he does manage to put big time into his rivals, it will be a huge psychological blow and a great boost for his team.
Victor Campenaerts – the climb isn’t great for him, but the Belgian has been able to “rest” during the opening 8 stages. While the GC riders have been involved in the usual day to day stress, Campenaerts has been rolling around on a tourist ride! He can actual handle a demanding TT route, remember he was 3rd in the World Championships last year. He’ll be hoping to challenge for the win.
Ion Izagirre – will he go full gas? Now that he sits way down on GC, we’ll have to see if the team ask him to save energy for the stages to come. If he is allowed to race properly, he would have a good chance of challenging for the podium.
Vincenzo Nibali – 3rd in the opening TT, Nibali usually saves his best TT performances for this race. Like all the climbers, he’ll be concerned about Roglič and hope to limit his losses to around one minute. That would take one hell of a ride, can he do it?
Bob Jungels – I’ve mentioned before that Jungels has been a little disappointing on his TT bike in recent years. When he first broke through in pro cycling, he was viewed as a TT specialist, but as he has developed into a GC rider, his TT results have been on the slide. Saying that, he does still perform well in grand tours. He was 6th in the 2018 Tour de France TT and 3rd in the 2017 Giro TT. A good result will set him up nicely for a crack at the top 10 on GC.
Simon Yates – a huge moment in his battle for the pink jersey. I think a realistic target for him is to finish within one minute of Roglič, if he manages it, that would put him in a good position as we head to the mountains. After spending time working on his TT bike, he won the ITT in Paris-Nice and finished 2nd in the opening stage of this race. The climb is good news for him, but 22km of flat isn’t ideal, especially with a headwind.
Miguel Ángel López – another climber who’ll be praying for a good result. He does have a good history with tough TTs, but he’ll need the performance of his life to stay close to Roglič.
Pello Bilbao – already with a stage win, the Basque rider will see this as a huge chance to move into a strong position on GC. The team are all behind López, but having Bilbao high on GC will give them a tactical advantage as we head into the mountains. Bilbao has always been strong on his TT bike and I would expect a good performance by him.
Tao Geoghegan Hart – a strong climber, but also a rider who does well on his TT bike. As long as he’s recovered from his crashes, he should be able to post a competitive time. A top 10 is a realistic target, top 5 on a great day.
Not so much who wins, but how much does he win by? Of course, this is a day where Primož Roglič will take the stage, but can he gain big time on his rivals?
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