By David Hunter
La Campana – Sevilla 179.3km
That was an exciting TT, shame it will be hard to change the GC order now.
An easy start, a tough middle and an easy end. Think that sums up the route! The climbs are cat 3, cat 2 and another cat 3. The cat 2 climb is around 10km at 3%, nothing for any of the riders to worry about. Some will hope for a Contador attack, but it’s pointless, the stage does not suit a long range attack.
Crazy sprint alert! The organisers have managed to get two ninety degree corners inside the final 400m, I have no idea what they were thinking. After the double corner, the final straight is only 300m long.
With all the sprinters in Portugal and Oman, we are thin on the ground!
Moreno Hofland – now at Lotto Soudal, it shall be interesting to see if they can get the best out of him. He was a rider that had a good 2015, but a terrible 2016. He has two riders that can help deliver him into position, Van der Sande and De Buyst. Both are quick and will do a good job for him. Failure to make the podium would be a bad start to 2017.
Fabio Felline – given the lack of top sprinters, I think the Italian might just have a shot himself. There certainly seems every chance of him making the podium. He won’t have much help, so he’ll have to look after himself in the closing kilometres.
Bryan Coquard – easily the fastest sprinter here. That will put a lot of pressure on his team to work on the front of the peloton. Direct Energie are not the strongest team in the world and I doubt they have the strength to control a break all by themselves. A lot will depend on cooperation from other teams. Once in the sprint, Coquard can count upon the help of Gene, Tulik and Petit. He really should be winning this stage.
Eduard Prades – as Barbero has now moved to Movistar, he starts the season as Caja-Rural’s main sprinter. He is one of those riders that can actually surprise with his turn of speed. He is a quick sprinter, but usually after a tough day in the saddle.
Ray Kreder – the Dutch rider is very consistent, he always seems to make the top 10. He has slowly started to find his way again, Roompot are a good fit for him. He could make the top 5.
Roman Maikin – the Gazprom sprinter already has a 4th place to his name this season, in GP Etruschi. Not very quick, but neither are his competitors here!
Aidis Kruopis – another sprinter that lost his way. It wasn’t that long ago the Lithuanian was sprinting for Orica, then he dropped all the way down to continental level. Now back at PCT level, with Verandas Willems, I hope to see him back to form. This is a rider that has a world tour win to his name.
Given the huge gaps on GC and the lack of big sprint teams, the break has a great chance. Expect to see an almighty fight to join it, only then will we be able to tell if the sprinters will have a chance to shine. If the break is to make it, the big teams will want to be in it. Potential breakaway riders are:-
Jorge Arcas, Tim Wellens, Fabio Felline(I know I mentioned him as a sprinter!), Simon Clarke, Stef Clement, Florian Senechal, Nick Van Der Lijke and Mark McNally. A huge amount of luck will be needed to make this break!
It will take so long for the break to form, that it will hurt the chances of it staying away. I think we will get a sprint finish, I’m just not sure how! I’ll go with Bryan Coquard.
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