By David Hunter
Unley – Campbelltown 129.2km
Stage 3 didn’t turn out to be as much fun as I’d hoped, but this finish won’t disappoint.
The peloton climb from the gun, which might encourage some teams to make the start tough. The first sprint comes after 28km, which could interest some of the GC teams, but the break will probably have formed by this point. The stage is all about the climb of Corkscrew Road.
The approach to the climb is like a full bunch sprint. Gorge Road is a fast downhill, with many corners. The bunch will go full gas as we have a narrow left turn to start the climb, which is actually a little longer than the official 2.3km at 8.6%.
As the peloton start the climb from a standing start, it means they get to feel the whole effort. In the past, we’ve seen many a GC rider not enjoy this little beauty, I can’t wait to see what the class of 2019 make of it.
The descent is fast, but not technical. It actually has a couple of little rises in it too, making it possible for riders to re-join the front group.
Another roasting hot day with temperatures set to go above 40 degrees. The wind is coming from the North-East, meaning a tailwind on the climb.
No fancy tactics in this stage, it’s really rather simple. All teams will be trying to place their man at the head of the bunch at the start of the climb, of course, not everyone will be successful. If you have a poor starting position, it’s game over.
Once onto the climb, teammates will set a fierce pace and the key attacks will come in the final kilometre of the hill.
After cresting, riders will take a little moment to assess the situation and decide what to do on the descent. Almost inevitably we’ll have a group of no more than 3 riders cresting at the front, but to stay away they need to immediately cooperate. We’ll then see if anyone can make it back to these guys on the descent.
Michael Woods – put in a good attack on stage 4, enough to gap Impey, but Devenyns shut him down. This climb is perfect for him, he’ll certainly be looking to attack and drop as many of his rivals as he can. Going against the Canadian is his descending skills, they are quite limited, but as the descent isn’t technical, he should get away with it. If we get a small sprint, he’s quick enough to beat most others. Has to start the stage as the favourite.
Richie Porte – the best climber in the race. The chill is a little on the short side for Richie, but he’ll still give it a crack. He has the capability to drop everyone and solo to the line, just like Cadel Evans did back in 2014. We all know he can’t sprint to save himself, arriving solo is his only way to win. If he manages to get away in a small group and finish on the podium, he’ll be satisfied with his work, as long as he gains some time on Bevin.
Wout Poels – form is a little unknown, I get the feeling he was suffering a bit in Uraidla. The Sky rider has all the attributes you need to win this stage: he can climb, descend and sprint. Is it simply too early in the season and too damn hot for him?
Daryl Impey – how big does the front group have to be for him to make it? Impey is a very good climber, but sometimes I feel he lacks the explosive kick of a true puncheur. I think he needs the front group to be around 6 big and he’ll make it. If that’s the case, he’ll win the sprint.
Paddy Bevin – you love my bold predictions, don’t you? The climb is too hard for him, he’ll be in the 2nd group and hoping it all comes back together. I don’t care if he holds the Strava record!
Rohan Dennis – the dark horse. Not much has been said about the Aussie, but he does have previous on this climb. His sprint is fast, and he’ll be confident of challenging for the podium.
Luis Leon Sanchez – today’s fast finisher, just losing out to Sagan. He’ll be confident of climbing with the best, but I’m not convinced he’d make the front selection at the crest of the climb. If it comes down to a sprint from 6-10, he’ll be challenging for the win.
Diego Ulissi – has to be licking his lips at this finish. The Italian is a master at winning from a small group, something that has become his trademark over the years. UAE have a number of riders who can help set a fast pace on the climb and Ulissi will hope to go with the attacks. His only real worry would be Impey, but he’s faster than the rest.
George Bennett – this race is a big target for him, and he’ll be hoping for something special in this stage. The Kiwi is a firm favourite with the fans and would be a very popular winner. Imagine if two New Zealanders took wins and the Aussies were left empty handed!
I think we’ll see a small group get a gap and stay away to the end. Picking that front group is tough, but I’d be amazed if Woods wasn’t there. Porte is another who is expected to make the front, but will anyone else be able to follow these two? In the sprint, I think Michael Woods will take the win.
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