By David Hunter
Rincon de la Victoria – Granada 155.4km
It might be the opening stage, but this is going to be crazy! With only two stages for the big climbers, this has to be a difficult day in the saddle.
The riders are faced with lots of climbing, including two cat 1 climbs. The opening climb starts around the 30km mark, it is 11.8km at 5.4%. It is early in the stage, but I expect many riders to get dropped. Movistar will be keen on making it a difficult climb.
The next big effort will be the final climb of the day. This one is 8.2km at 7.5%, but that includes a relatively easy opening section of the climb. It’s more like 6km at 9.7%, including some very difficult kilometres at over 12%, immediately after the easy early slopes. This is where we’ll see some major fireworks. Make no mistake, this could be the day the GC is won.
From the top of the climb, there is 18.9km remaining, including a long descent. It is possible for a rider to solo away and not be caught.
I do favour this scenario, but it’s not the only option. It is possible that the climb doesn’t break the peloton up and a group of 30 riders compete in a sprint finish. It all depends on the riders.
Alejandro Valverde – won in Murcia after a very long solo ride. It’s clear to see that Bala is showing no signs of slowing down! He is the King of this race and will look to attack on this stage and take a crucial lead in the GC. He can go on the climb, the descent, or sprint for stage success. The Spaniard has all the bases covered!
Wout Poels – his best chance of winning this stage is to go solo on the descent. He certainly arrives with a very strong team to help support him, he’ll need a few of them to shut down any Valverde move.
Thibaut Pinot – this stage looks good for the Frenchman. His season started well, but illness ruined any chance in Valenciana. He’s had some time to recover from that and he should be fighting for the stage.
Alberto Contador – Alberto knows all about the qualities of Valverde. If he is to win this stage, he needs to drop his countryman on the climb. That should create a very exciting stage. It’s his first race for his new team, Trek-Segafredo, and I can’t wait to see what he’s got!
Ion Izagirre – can climb, descend, TT and sprint. He really has the lot! Now riding for Bahrain, it will be good to see him matching up against his old Movistar colleagues. He knows that given his strong TT, he simply needs to follow wheels and not lose time. A lack of teammates will make the the last 30km difficult for him.
Dani Navarro – The Cofidis man is a consistent top 10 finisher in Andalucia and he’ll be trying to take advantage of his local knowledge. He’s not a great sprinter, so needs to attack before the very end.
Warren Barguil – this is his first race of 2017, so we’ll have to see what condition he’s in. Barguil does have a fast finish, he’ll be quite happy testing himself in a sprint.
Fabio Felline – fresh from a great win in Laigueglia, the Italian has a strong chance in this race. He clearly has a fast sprint, but his climbing ability seems to improve every year. If the climb is taken at a steady pace, he has every chance of holding on and is the only man capable of beating Valverde in a sprint.
A lovely start to the race, with temperatures nearly hitting 20 degrees. There is very little wind as well, this will be a nice day to be in the peloton.
This is a straight shoot out between Felline and Valverde. It will be up to the Movistar team to drop the Trek rider on the climb and then Valverde should be able to take an easy win.
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