By David Hunter
Albufeira – Lagos 182.9km
The race begins with a new sprint stage into Lagos.
The stage begins with a cat 3 climb, ensuring one lucky breakaway rider gets to claim the KOM jersey. The stage is a nailed on sprint and only really begins to get exciting in the closing kilometres.
This graphic makes the finish look easy, it’s not. The road does kick up at 500m to go. After going through the final roundabout, there is a chance of chaos and a real risk of crashes. The road then kicks up again as the riders sprint for the line. I like the look of this finish.
Cannondale – the are riding in support of Wouter Wippert, he was 4th in this stage last year. He arrives without a recognised sprint train and didn’t have any success in Valenciana, 15th was his best finish.
FDJ – they arrive with one goal, stage wins for Arnaud Demare. He started the season in fine form, with two wins in Besseges. His sprint train is also looking very strong, thanks to the winter signing of Jacopo Guarnieri. He complements Delage and Sarreau, making a train the others should fear.
Lotto Soudal – Andre Greipel is here and he brings a strong train with him. Riding in front of him will be Maes, Roelandts and Debusschere. That is a strong train and they’ll be expecting a good start in this race. They’ll want to be bossing the closing kilometres.
Movistar – they don’t have a recognised sprint train, but Carlos Barbero will be a threat in this stage. He already has plenty of racing this season, after doing the TDU, Dubai and Almeria.
QuickStep – I can’t wait to see Gaviria, I’m a massive fan! After starting his season with two impressive wins in San Juan, he returns to Europe. In front of him will be Trentin and Richeze, that is an impressive trio of riders. With the stage finishing with an uphill section, it’s perfect for the Colombian. He starts as the rider they all fear.
Dimension Data – Cavendish is here, after failing to pick up a win in Dubai. He carried some bad luck in that race, mechanical trouble stopped him from challenging Kittel. Scott Thwaites seems to have settled into a role in the sprint train and Edvald Boasson Hagen should be his last man. Cav will want that first win of 2017.
Katusha – Baptiste Planckaert has started the season in good form, but he lacks the required support to challenge for the win in this stage.
Lotto Jumbo – after a successful Dubai, Groenewegen comes here with a slightly altered sprint train. He will have Boom, Wynants, Van Hoecke, Roosen and Leezer to guide him into position. As good as he was in Dubai, he’ll still be keen to pick up a win. Despite the presence of many top sprinters, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Dutch champ taking this stage.
Trek – another team that arrives with a ridiculously strong sprint train. They have Van Poppel, De Kort, Stuyven, Theuns, Pedersen and Rast. That is incredible support for John Degenkolb. I suppose the only problem they have is working out the best order to ride in. The German already took an impressive win in Dubai and will be keen to add to that in Portugal.
Cofidis – the French squad don’t have their full sprint train here, so Bouhanni will have to play a patient game. He wasn’t at his best in Valenciana, but it did take him a little time to find form in 2016. He will not fear the big names and has a good chance of taking the stage.
Such a tough sprint to call, thanks to the standard of the sprinters here. Given the ridiculous strength of his train and the uphill kick, I have to pick John Degenkolb to continue his good start to 2017.
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