By David Hunter
Pomarance – Foligno 226.9km
Time for a long sprint stage.
Nothing much to say, this is one for the sprinters.
You could call it a typical Italian sprint finish. We have multiple issues in the final 2.5km, I make it just the 7 corners. This technical finish makes positioning incredibly important, having a good sprint train will be vital. Not only will the sprinters be pushing to the front, but the dangerous finish means the GC teams will also be there. With narrow roads, there is every chance we get a big crash.
Sunny and hardly any wind. I bet the riders in France wish they were here!
Elia Viviani – the Italian arrives with Stybar, Lampaert, Mørkøv and Richeze to help in the sprint, that looks strong to me. He won a stage in the Tour Down Under, then he took the win in the Cadel Evans race, before picking up a stage in the UAE Tour. 2019 has started in the same vein as 2018, but I’m interested to see how Viviani gels with Richeze. These two aren’t often paired together, but both are superb riders, so there shouldn’t be any problem. The Italian will be riding in his Italian tricolour, the first time he has done so on home soil, I sense some extra motivation.
Fernando Gaviria – two wins in San Juan and one in the UAE Tour, the Colombian will be happy with his start to the season. His lead out isn’t as strong as QuickStep, but Consonni did a great job for him in Argentina. Beating Viviani on home soil won’t be easy, but he’ll be hopeful of disappointing the home fans.
Peter Sagan – been ill recently, he won’t be challenging for the win.
Sacha Modolo – with Bettiol and Vanmarcke to help prepare the sprint, the Italian should be in a good position in the closing kilometres. His season hasn’t really started yet, he’ll be keen on getting some good results before his main races over the next few weeks. He still has the speed to challenge for the podium, but the win would be a big surprise.
Giacomo Nizzolo – after injury ruined most of 2018, it was great to see him taking a win in the Tour of Oman. The Italian is a very consistent performer, something that will have attracted Dimension Data to signing him. Going into this stage, he won’t have much help, except from Van Rensburg, but that worked well in Oman. Can he surprise Viviani and Gaviria?
Tom Van Asbroeck – now riding for Israel Cycling Academy, he’ll have more opportunities than ever before. He started the season by finishing 3rd in GP La Marseillaise and was solid in Kuurne and Le Samyn. When riding for other teams, we usually see Van Asbroeck getting to sprint in the Vuelta, where he consistently finishes in the top 10. With Cimolai to lead him out, he should be challenging for the top 5.
Paolo Simion – I do love an Italian sprinter! The 26-year-old is a rider I’ve watched carefully over the last few years and I was delighted with the progress he made in 2018. Being trusted as Bardiani’s sprinter for this race is a huge deal and I expect him to be taking a few risks in the closing kilometres. Finishing in the top 5 would be a great result for him.
Luca Pacioni – another minor Italian sprinter, I’m in heaven! Riding for Neri-Sottoli, the sprinter started off the season with a couple of top 5 results in San Juan. This would have been a nice confidence boost for him, especially as 2018 was a year he made significant progress. His time at Androni wasn’t a success, but he’s started to find himself at Neri. I expect a good performance by him in this stage.
Phil Bauhaus – the big German hasn’t taken a win for over a year. Now riding with Bahrain-Merida, he’ll be hoping for a good performance to give the team some faith in him. He performed okay in the Tour Down Under and UAE Tour, but his team will want better than okay. Looking at the form of Viviani and Gaviria, it looks like he’ll be fighting for 3rd.
Got to be Viviani v Gaviria, it’s just like Rocky Balboa v Apollo Creed! Who wins this punch up? It has to the Italian, Elia Viviani to take a popular win on home soil. Adrian will be happy.
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