By David Hunter
Lucena – Cordoba 12km ITT
Not many corners to worry about, this is flat out from start to finish.
It doesn’t look very hard, but this profile is deceiving. This is one of those routes with very little flat and a couple of short climbs to test the legs. We’ve seen GC riders go very well in this type of TT before. It actually starts with a kilometre at 4%, don’t ever remember seeing that before!
A nice day with little wind. The wind will change direction for the later starters, making it more of a tailwind, but it isn’t very strong, so shouldn’t be an issue for the early starters.
Alejandro Valverde – just about the perfect TT for him. As we know, he’s not always brilliant against the clock, but a mix of climbing and descending is great news for the defending champion. With the gaps at the top of GC being so small, it’s going to be a very exciting stage to watch. Valverde could just spring a surprise.
Wout Poels – did not have the legs today. It’s hard to think he’ll recover from this and bounce back in the TT, but I wouldn’t put it past him.
Alberto Contador – he won the 2016 Pais Vasco TT, but that included much harder climbing. Without a big climb, this is going to be hard for Contador to win. He has the overall race lead and could still hold onto it, but it won’t be easy.
Matthias Brandle – one of the few TT specialists in the race. After working very hard in the opening two stages, I hope his legs are fresh enough to give his all in this stage. He has already done a TT in 2017, finishing 3rd in Argentina. 2016 wasn’t his best year on a TT bike, but I think this year will be a lot better.
Thibaut Pinot – what a win! After losing 5 seconds in stage 1, I did say he would come back stronger, but I didn’t expect that. He now goes into the TT full of confidence and looking to take the overall race lead.
Victor Campenaerts – fast becoming one of my favourite riders! His performance in the Vuelta was awesome and I love how he dedicated himself to his team leader. The Belgian is one of those solid TT riders that always seems to pop up in the top 10, I would expect to see him there in this race.
Ion Izagirre – this race is there for him to win. In my overall preview, I said he would be looking to limit losses in the opening two stages. Well, job done! He sits just a handful of seconds behind some of his rivals and would expect to beat them in the TT. Izagirre enjoyed a great 2016 on his TT bike, winning in Romandie and the Tour de Suisse. Despite this, I wouldn’t say it’s a foregone conclusion he wins the GC.
Marcin Bialoblocki – a lot was expected of the Pole after winning the TT in the 2015 Tour of Poland, but he failed to live up to expectations last year. I have no idea how he’ll do in this stage!
Diego Rosa – you might be surprised to see his name make the list, but the Italian is no fool on the TT bike. Rosa managed to finish 4th in the 2016 Valenciana TT, that was a great result. He will be looking to finish as high as possible to impress his new bosses.
Vasil Kiryienka – the former world champion rarely wins a short TT and sometimes doesn’t even bother trying! Hopefully we get to see him going full gas, it would be nice to see him sitting in the hot seat.
Tobias Ludvigsson – the big Swede is slowing starting to rise up the pro ranks. In 2016 he was 4th in the short Giro TT and 3rd in the long Vuelta TT. That was a welcome return to form for him after a lean 2015. He was impressive in Valenciana, but not yet here. He might just have been saving himself for this stage.
This is tough. At 12km, it’s not quite long enough for the TT specialists, opening the door for the GC riders. Izagirre, Pinot, Contador and Valverde all have strengths in this type of TT, I’m finding it hard to split them.
After a lot of thought, I’m going with Ion Izagirre.
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