By David Hunter
Almodovar – Tavira 203.4km
The sprinters have been quiet for a couple of days, time to get ready for another sprint royale!
At over 200km, it’s quite a long stage for this time of year, but the riders will welcome it. We had a huge battle in stage 1, that was expected as we have an embarrassingly good amount of sprinters here.
As you can see, the final 400m rises at around 3-4%. I love an uphill finish! The stage 1 sprint was revealing in a number of ways:-
- Gaviria and Etixx were out of position, but easily moved through the bunch.
- Greipel did a good job of looking after himself.
- Cavendish seemed to have another mechanical.
- Groenewegen was caught out of position.
- Bouhanni and Cofidis looked good.
- Demare totally lost his way.
- Trek and Degenkolb looked okay. A lot of promise, but disappointed in the end.
Nacer Bouhanni – it was good to see Cofidis back to their best, as they prepared the sprint in the closing kilometre. They really do put a lot of “bigger” teams to shame. Despite having less resources, the French team consistently get it right for their sprinter. In Van Genechten, Soupe and Laporte they have three riders as good as any around. It is no wonder we often see Bouhanni competing for wins. They also seem to have a hunger that you don’t always see in some teams. I like them a lot!
Fernando Gaviria – it was great to see him being patient and sprinting against the others, no silly attacks. With Trentin and Richeze, he will always find himself with riders capable of putting him in the right place. The Colombian seems to have some great form already in 2017, if anything, I think he’s too good too early. It’s a long time till the big races. He has a good chance of taking another win.
Andre Greipel – he got in a great position, but didn’t quite have enough to beat Gaviria. There is no shame in that, especially in February. Lotto will go back to the drawing board and I expect to see them try and lead out the sprint. They will have confidence that Greipel will not be passed by Gaviria.
John Degenkolb – their train seemed to run out of legs. This finish is really good for the German and I would expect to see him much closer to the win. Trek need to get the train right.
Mark Cavendish – in stage 1, picked up a great position, but then pulled out of the line suddenly. It must have been another mechanical for Cav, he really hasn’t had any luck yet this season. The uphill kick isn’t ideal for him.
Arnaud Demare – his outstanding performance in the TT shows the form he currently has. I wasn’t very impressed with his train on Wednesday, I’m not sure they have what it takes against the big sprint teams.
Dylan Groenewegen – I get the feeling that his first win of the season is just around the corner. One problem is his final man, Tom Leezer. I don’t think he’s fast enough for that role.
Cofidis really impressed me on Wednesday, so I’ll go with Nacer Bouhanni. They should have the edge in the final kilometre.
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