By David Hunter
Romont – Romont 161km
After a day for the sprinters, time for another classic Romandie type of stage.
That finish looks tasty to me! We can talk about the whole stage, but I don’t want to, this is all about the final 20km.
This is complicated!
First of all the riders have to negotiate the cat 2 climb which is around 4km at 5%, then comes a rolling 5km section, which includes some steep ramps, but you’ve got to imagine the stage will be settled in the final kilometre.
Once under the flamme rouge, the riders face an average of 7.4%, but that includes 700m at 8%, before the road flattens a little for the finish. This is a hugely demanding finish and one that will interest a number of riders. It looks too hard for most of the sprinters, but some will hope they can surprise. On the other hand, this finish will strike fear into the hearts of some of the GC riders, as they know there’s bound to be gaps on the line. Entering the final kilometre, positioning will be crucial, as you can see there are a number of corners.
The current forecast is for a wet morning, but the sun should be out for the riders. Hopefully this doesn’t change.
Who wants to ride all day on the front? EF were the team to do this on Wednesday, do they have the stomach for another fight. Colbrelli would love to win this stage, but Bahrain simply aren’t strong enough to control the morning break on their own. This is a day where breakaway riders will sniff a chance and look to take it.
Sam Bennett – won an uphill finish in Turkey, but that was much easier than this one. Unfortunately, I think this finish is too hard for him; no shame in that.
Sonny Colbrelli – he’ll have been eyeing up this stage since the route was announced. The Italian likes an uphill kick, but this is right on his limit. His team aren’t particularly strong, which could be a big problem in the closing stages. He was climbing very well in stage 1; I hope he didn’t waste too much energy for no reason. The problem for Colbrelli is the final kilometre, it will take a huge effort to hold on and pass the puncheurs.
Felix Großschartner – was a comfortable second to Bennett in the uphill sprint over in Turkey. The Austrian is enjoying a fine run of form and Bora are a team on fire. With both he and Buchmann as options, they’ll be one of the big teams in this finish. If it ends in a sprint, we’ll have to see if he has the power to take the win.
Michael Albasini – I still doubt his ability to win at this level, considering his age and recent form.
Michael Woods – the man who doesn’t win enough. Considering he’s a big team leader, on a sizeable wage, I’d be wanting more from him. He was in a great position to win stage 1, but seemed to die in the sprint. The final kilometre is ideal for the Canadian, he really should be challenging for the win.
Carlos Betancur – the return of King Carlos! Such a prodigious talent, such a frustrating rider. After a spell in the wilderness, he seems lean and ready to fight for wins. The 2014 version of Betancur would have won this stage with ease, I really hope he’s getting back to that level. He was unlucky in stage 1; can he claim a huge win?
James Knox – boy, he’s having a cracking season. Primarily he’s here to prepare for the Giro, but this is a good finish for him. He was challenging in the uphill sprint in Catalunya and this is a stage where he could surprise some of the bigger names.
David Gaudu – hugely talented French climber, who is certain to be a big star of the future. Second in stage 1, he’s getting closer and closer to his first world tour win and you have to think it won’t be long until he tastes success.
Primož Roglič – can he win another stage? Here to get some racing in his legs for the Giro, don’t be fooled that his good form will see him start to ride for GC. Getting back up to race speed and challenging in the final kilometres is all part of the plan.
Geraint Thomas – started this race with many questions surrounding his form, he answered most of them on Wednesday. You wouldn’t say the final kilometre is ideal for him, but given the strength he displayed when dropping Kruijswijk, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him taking the win.
Thomas De Gendt – standard breakaway pick.
Alexis Gougeard – standard breakaway pick.
I think this is one for the breakaway, but who to pick? Well, there is only one option; Thomas De Gendt.
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