By David Hunter
Torredonjimeno – Alto Pena del Aguila 177.9km
The second stage is the only hilltop finish in the race. It’s a huge day for the GC.
The stage has three climbs in the final 60km, making it a difficult end to the day. In fact, there is a lot of climbing in this stage, but the GC battle won’t begin until the very end. Today showed the riders that are here to win. The climb is 5.4km at 9%, so it’s a shorter effort than today. Expect a very exciting end to the stage.
Alberto Contador – was at his attacking best today, but he just couldn’t shake off Valverde. The finish being at the top of the hill, does make a difference. Alberto will be feeling good after his first real effort of 2017, I expect him to be even stronger in this stage.
Alejandro Valverde – I cannot say anything new about Valverde. Simply one of the best cyclists there has ever been. The shorter climb is good news for him, making it very hard to drop him. If a small group approaches the line together, we know that he’ll be the man to beat.
Ion Izagirre – was very impressive today. It certainly was fun watching him chase down his old boss, Valverde. Izagirre is good on the steep stuff, but not quite as strong as his Spanish rivals. His strong TT means he just has to follow wheels. Easier said then done!
Sebastian Reichenbach – what a performance by him today! He brought the 2nd group back to the front, to help Pinot. When his leader wasn’t able to keep up, the Swiss star was allowed to ride for himself. He is another rider that likes the steep climbs and he and Pinot will form a strong alliance. As Pinot has a stronger TT, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Reichenbach riding for him. However, if Pinot starts to falter, Seb will be set free.
Thibaut Pinot – battled hard today and did well to just lose 5 seconds. Struggling on the climb isn’t a great sign for this stage, but he’s another that will do well for having a tough day in the legs. Due to illness, Pinot wasn’t able to test his legs in Valenciana. I certainly wouldn’t write him off.
Wout Poels – Team Sky looked very strong today and in the sprint, Poels was a lot closer to Valverde than most would have thought. He didn’t look at his best on the climb, I can’t see him staying with the Spaniards as they ramp up the pace.
Diego Rosa – already starting to show what a great signing he will be. He was strong today and due to his poor TT, you would still expect him to be helping Poels. He is actually in the same position as Reichenbach, just waiting of this leader to show weakness! Even though he looked strong, he’ll struggle to beat the Spaniards.
Very good. With no bonus seconds on the line, there is every chance the peloton sits up and lets the break get a big advantage. Movistar already have a stage, it really should be up to Sky, Bahrain and FDJ to bring the break back. We also have some huge gaps on GC, thanks to today’s explosive stage. I would be keen to join the morning break!
Riders who would be dangerous in any move include:-
Tim Wellens, Tobias Ludvigsson, Pierre Rolland and Winner Anacona.
Contador v Valverde…round 2!
I mean what I said about Contador, he will be stronger after his effort from today. For that reason I think he’ll manage to break Valverde and take the stage.
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