By David Hunter
Molfetta – Peschici 189km
Another day, another section of the beautiful Italian coastline.
This stage is certainly one that will interest quite a few of the peloton. It is too hard for most of the sprinters, but not hard enough for the GC riders. Coming the day before a huge GC day, opens the door to many riders.
The cat 2 climb comes after 80km and is tough, 9.6km at 6.1%. Once it has been crested, we have around 90km to go. That means this climb won’t be overly important. The next climb is a cat 4 and crests with 56km remaining, this is still too far out for any movement.
The riders again start climbing with 13km to go. The unclassified climb is split into two sections, firstly we have around 2km at 5.3%, then a short descent before 1km at 7%. A lot of riders will be dropped at this point.
After a fast descent, the riders approach the finishing line. We end with 1.55km at 5.7%. That doesn’t sound too hard, but the final 200m is at 10.5%. I like the sound of that!
With a fast descent, positioning is vital. If you are at the front of the peloton at the bottom of the final climb, you have a chance of winning. Those that struggle on the descent will not be winning the stage.
A couple of the fast men will hope to challenge for the win. For this to happen, they need a slow pace on the cat 2 climb, plus an even tempo as we climb to the finishing line. Sprinters can cope with the final 200m, but as they have already been climbing for 1.3km, it does sound too difficult for most of them. Gaviria would be the possible exception.
As teams have a huge focus on their GC riders, it means that riders have to sacrifice their own personal glory, in order to work for their team leader. Riders like Gasparotto, Montaguti, Teuns, Gaviria, Goncalves, Battaglin and Kelderman will hope for some freedom to chase a stage win, but most will have to work for their captain.
It is another day where the break could slip away. QuickStep are not going to go crazy in order to chase down the early move. With Sunday being hugely important, teams will not want to waste energy needed for Blockhaus. As most sprinters won’t fancy the finish, it’s doubtful that sprint teams will control. Things are looking good for the breakaway experts.
As we saw on Thursday, there are always a couple of teams who miss the break and have to chase. The breakaway’s success depends on which teams miss the move.
More sunshine for the riders. The wind is coming from the North, making it a headwind for much of the finale. The wind won’t be very strong, hopefully it doesn’t slow the break down.
Fernando Gaviria – is the finish too hard for him? No. Will he get freedom to ride? Maybe. We will have to see what role he fulfils during the stage. If the break stays away, he’ll look after Jungels. If a stage win is there to fight for, I hope that QuickStep let him go for it. Gaviria is a rider that can accomplish many things in cycling, we are still not sure what type of rider he will become. I will be watching this stage with interest, it might give us an indication of what’s to come in the future.
Kristian Sbaragli – the Italian might be a sprinter, but he can climb very well. I fully expect to see him staying with the best on the final climb and he does have the explosive kick required. One problem is that he doesn’t win many races.
Pello Bilbao – the Spaniard is enjoying life at Astana. He is a very talented rider and excels when we get steep slopes. His squad have a number of options for this stage, hopefully we get to see Pello given a chance. He finished 2nd in a stage of the 2015 Vuelta, can he go one better?
Michael Woods – the Canadian “won” the sprint home on Thursday. His team missed the break and then worked hard to try and bring it back together. They failed, but Woods still decide to waste a few matches by winning a pointless sprint for 5th. For me, this was a silly move, he just wasted vital energy. It’s hard to see Cannondale miss the break again, but Woods is still close on GC, he needs to win from the bunch.
Adam Hansen – it’s about time we saw Hansen in the break. It’s been four years since he won a stage in this race and some people have forgotten what an attacking rider he is. Experience is crucial on days like these, hopefully he can make the break.
Georg Preidler – a decent breakaway hope for Team Sunweb. They have lots of riders capable of helping Dumoulin at the end of this stage, hopefully they let Preidler chase personal glory.
Matteo Busato – Wilier were another team that surprisingly missed the break on Thursday. Busato is their strongest rider for this type of effort and I expect them to have someone in the front group. Yet to take a pro win, it would require a big ride to take this stage.
Adam Yates – if we somehow get a GC day, the Orica man is the best for a finish like this. He has an acceleration that most of his rivals will struggle to match, but it is unlikely that it is a day for the GC boys.
I think it’s another day for the break. With such a big day on Sunday, the bunch will be happy to have an easy day. I will go with experience and take Adam Hansen for the stage win.
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