By David Hunter
Dubai – Hatta Dam 172km
The big day for the GC.
The stage is the same as in previous years, although high winds meant this stage was cancelled last year. The opening climb isn’t overly difficult, a rider has to be off form to be dropped here.
As you can see, we do have some difficult sections in the final 13km, but these only last around 500m. We then have a long drag up to the finish.
Expect a full on sprint battle, but the finishing line is with 250m to go. Once we hit the final turn, there is no need for lead out men, it’s over to the team leader. The Dam wall is around 200m at 15% and should last around 30 seconds. Let the pain begin.
Another sunny day and there looks to be less wind than today. I don’t expect any echelons.
Elia Viviani – the Italian starts the stage 14 seconds ahead of the main group, including Degenkolb and Colbrelli. Given his brilliant start to the season, he’ll be confident of doing well in this stage. The finishing ramp makes it difficult for some, but this is all about power and Viviani has lots of that just now. Also in his favour is his sprint train, positioning for the final corner is vital, even more so than a sprint stage. If QuickStep can deliver him to the front of the bunch, he’ll have a great chance of making the podium.
John Degenkolb – winner of this stage in 2015, he was magnificent that day. He has an enormous amount of power, which is perfect for this finish. My doubts are not about him, but his team. Will Trek be able to get him to the front of the bunch? If he starts around 10th place, he’ll struggle to make up the ground.
Sonny Colbrelli – the Italian was very good today, there was no shame losing in a sprint to Cavendish and co. Bahrain did a wonderful job in lining out the bunch and delivering Colbrelli into the ideal position. If they can do this again, he’ll be the man to beat. Colbrelli is very strong in uphill finishes and will also enjoy the little climbs as we approach the finish. Sitting 14 seconds behind Viviani, he’ll go full gas for the stage and see what happens.
Magnus Cort Nielsen – the Dane could be the surprise package. He is sitting just 8 seconds behind Viviani and has a great chance of moving into the race lead. Considering a crash disrupted his winter training, this has been a wonderful debut for Astana. The team have also done a good job at delivering their sprinters into good positions, something they will hope to repeat tomorrow. The finish reminds me of the climb in Vejle, a stage that Cort usually does well in.
Dylan Teuns – the finish is too short for his explosive style.
I will put my doubts about Trek to one side, I think Nizzolo will do a full sprint and get his man to the front. Once there, John Degenkolb will take another win on the Dam. I think Magnus Cort might just end the day in the race lead.
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