By David Hunter
Cervia – Monselice 192km
Have you ever seen a profile like this before?
There might only be 875m of climbing, but this is all contained in a 17km stretch. The opening 160km is flat as a pancake, then the fun begins.
Thankfully, it should stay dry. It won’t be very warm, but everyone will be happy if the rain stays away. There won’t be much wind around, it will be a light headwind on the first climb, and a tailwind on the final one.
First up is the cat 4 ascent to Roccolo, it is 3.7km at 7.5%. The opening 800m averages 10.2% and the road is incredibly narrow. Once over this section, the bunch move onto a wider road, which is better for the quick men.
The climb to Calaone is also a cat 4 climb, this one is 1.8km at 10.6%. The opening 800m of this climb averages a whopping 13.4%, it is brutal. The road is even narrower than the first climb, it can barely fit a car. The crest comes with 15km to go, which is close enough for attackers to hold off the chasing pack.
Nice and easy, apart from the massive turn with 400 to go. This means everyone will be starting from a near stop before launching their sprint.
Normally a stage like this would end in a sprint. As the start is flat, it would usually only entice a small break to escape, but that might not happen in this stage. The success of the break depends on who wants to chase. Does Sagan or Démare think they can survive the final climbs? Démare has no chance, there’s not a hope in hell FDJ will chase. Sagan has a chance of surviving the climbs, if they are done at a steady pace, but Bora only have four men able to work on the front. That doesn’t sound like enough firepower to me.
A team like UAE could well get involved. The finish is perfect for a rider like Diego Ulissi, and he has six riders who can work on the front. After taking the opening road stage, the rest of the race has been disappointing for Ulissi, UAE will see this stage as a huge opportunity. If they can ensure a small break gets away, they will take up the chase and hope to set Ulissi up for an attack on the final climb.
Peter Sagan – here goes another of my bold predictions. This is too hard for Sagan. If Bora chase, he’ll only have Fabbro to help on the climbs. That isn’t enough to hold the race together. If by some miracle it does look like we’ll get a sprint, a late attack will have a great chance of success, as there won’t be many domestiques to chase moves down. I just don’t see Sagan winning.
Arnaud Démare – way too hard for the Frenchman.
Diego Ulissi – a perfect stage for the Italian, as long as his team commits to working all day. That final climb is so narrow it is perfect for an attack. Such a narrow road is a nightmare for a team like Bora, it significantly decreases their hopes of holding it all together. Ulissi knows that a well-timed attack can take the stage win, but he needs to ride better than he has in previous days.
Ben Swift – with Ineos on a high it would be foolish not to include one of their riders. Swift is climbing well, and he obviously packs a fast sprint. Ineos will carefully judge the mood at the start of the race, before deciding on their tactics. Sending a rider in the break would be advisable, saving Swift for a potential sprint.
Andrea Vendrame – fast and climbs well. AG2R have not had a great race, but a win would change all that.
Fabio Felline – finished third way back on stage 6. Since then we’ve seen him climbing well and he would back himself to survive the climbs and be around for the sprint. Winning will depend on who else survives to the end.
Mikkel Bjerg – breakaway option number 1.
Matt Holmes – breakaway option number 2.
Thomas De Gendt – breakaway option number 3.
Davide Villella – breakaway option number 4.
That man Diego Ulissi to get it right. A few teams should work to ensure a manageable break escapes, setting up a grandstand finish. Ulissi will attack on the final climb and take the stage win.
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