By David Hunter
Mesero – Stupinigi 198km
No longer a race for the climbers, but one for the sprinters.
Flat as a pancake, nothing to see here. With Milano-Sanremo on Saturday, this race will be used as a warm up for many sprinters. An easy day of racing in the legs, and possibly a win to boost the confidence.
Nice and sunny with very little wind.
Right, who’s idea was it to put a corner in with 300 to go? The corner is actually fairly wide and can be taken near top speed. The road leading to this turn is nice and straight, but it does have a couple of roundabouts which will line out the bunch.
Sam Bennett – I was hugely impressed by his uphill sprint in Burgos, you could see just how much it took out of him after the stage. Bennett has said that he needed that win, it was his first since the end of January. Moving into this race, he arrives with his trusted lead out train: Lampaert, Archbold and Mørkøv. These guys always seem to deliver, which is a massive help to Bennett. With the final turn at 300m to go, expect to see them leading the bunch at this point, allowing Bennett to launch his sprint from the front.
Peter Sagan – struggled in Strade Bianche, but so did most. He arrives here with one eye on Saturday, but I still expect him to be fighting for the win. Getting 200km in the legs, and sprinting at the end, will be important for Sagan as he looks to finally win Sanremo. He has his trusted lieutenants with him, but don’t expect Sagan to use them much in the closing kilometres, he’ll be doing his usual of jumping from train to train.
Arnaud Démare – his lead out was working well in Burgos, helping him to two second places. Both Guarnieri and Sinkeldam are hugely experienced and time their move to perfection, which is perfect for this type of finish. Remember, when FDJ commit to Démare, they really commit to Démare. His top end speed isn’t what it used to be, but he should still be challenging for the podium.
Nacer Bouhanni – started the season better than we’d seen him for a while, taking an early win in Provence. His lead out train have the potential to be good, but I find them a little inconsistent. Bouhanni still has the speed required to win bunch sprints, it’ll be interesting to see how he matches up against Bennett, Gaviria and Ewan.
Jakub Mareczko – wins small races, struggles in big ones. He’ll lose position in the closing kilometres and will be fighting for the top 10.
Caleb Ewan – first race back for the wee Aussie, but his main focus has to be Saturday. His lead out train looks good, with Van Der Sande and De Buyst to help in the closing kilometres. This is quite a short train, which means they need to time their move to perfection, but it’s something they’re used to. Even though Saturday is his big goal, he’ll still be going full and trying to win this race as striking a psychological blow against his rivals is important.
Fernando Gaviria – took an impressive win in Burgos, and I’m fascinated to see his sprint train in this race. On paper, he’ll have Kristoff and Richeze to support him in the closing kilometres, which would be a brilliant lead out. With confidence high, he’ll be backing himself to beat Bennett and Ewan, sending a message before the main event in Sanremo.
Mathieu Van Der Poel – will he sprint? I have no idea, but it wouldn’t surprise me.
He has the longest sprint train, and the best. This means Sam Bennett will be in the ideal position for the final corner and after taking a confidence boosting win in Burgos, I see him backing that up here.
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