By David Hunter
La Chaux de Fonds – Moudon 166.9km
After the short prologue, the racing really begins.
We have two sprint stages in Romandie, this being one of them. Sprinters never have an easy time of it in this race, as every stage contains challenging climbs. This stage is no different.
We have 1 cat 2 climb and 3 cat 3 climbs, plus a few uncategorised efforts. As two of the climbs come quite early in the race, it’s the final two that will determine the outcome. Basically, will Kittel be dropped?
For fans of numbers, the final two climbs are 2.9km at 6.7% and 5.3km at 4%, with a maximum of 16%.
If Marcel makes the finish, he is the fastest sprinter by a mile, in fact it’s hard to find a sprinter on most teams. Looking to benefit from him being dropped will by Michael Albasini, Moreno Hofland, Niccolo Bonifazio, Ben Swift, JJ Rojas, Davide Cimolai, Ramunas Navardauskas and Andrea Pasqualon. Hardly the elite of the sprinting world.
Again, this will have an impact on the stage. It’s going to be cold, but doesn’t look like we’ll get too much rain. We will have a strong wind, coming from the south-west. I don’t see any team with the stomach for echelons.
It all depends on Orica. They have the most to gain from making the race hard. They don’t have a GC contender here, so only have two chances of stage glory left. As we all know, Marcel Kittel, can be exposed on the climbs. He comes to this race to prepare for the Giro, but he should be looking to pick up two stage wins.
Team Sky rarely ride for Ben Swift. They will keep the pace high, to protect Froome, if that means sprinters get dropped, all the better. If Albasini is there, it will be hard for Swift to win. Albasini will be able to call upon the help of Impey and Gerrans, an excellent sprint train.
Etixx have a strong team here, with Sabatini, Wisniowski and Martinelli looking like the men tasked with the job of leading Kittel out. They have climbing talent too, important for controlling the race on the hills. Like Orica, they don’t have a hope for the GC. Their race is built around the two sprint stages. Yes, the Giro is the focus, but two stage wins would be nice for the confidence.
Moreno Hofland does have a big chance of taking a stage. The Dutch rider is very fast, although he’s disappointed so far in 2016. He is slower than Kittel, but faster than the rest. His 2nd place in the Tour of Oman is still his only podium of the season. Considering his speed, this is a poor return. It’s time for his team to apply a little pressure to their sprinting star.
Bonifazio took an excellent 2nd place in Paris-Nice, but hasn’t really excelled yet this season. He is fast and can cope well with climbs but I was expecting more from him. If Kittel is dropped, he’s one of the fastest riders left. The big problem is his lead-out train, or lack of it. If he’s going to win, he’ll have to come past a few riders.
Kittel v everyone else. The German was climbing well in De Panne and impressed in Scheldeprijs. Looking at the climbs I think he has a good chance of making it, so I’ll go for big Marcel!
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