By David Hunter
Sibiu – Sibiu 181km
Move over climbers, this should be a day for the fast men.
Two things can happen in this stage: we get a sprint or the break wins. The odds are heavily in favour of a sprint finish, as both the world tour teams here have sprinters with them. Not only that but the three pro-conti teams will also be very happy with a bunch kick, and it will be impossible for a breakaway full of conti riders to go the distance.
You have to consider Bora’s motivation to bring Ackermann to this race. He is one of the very best sprinters in the world, Bora brought him here for two sprint finishes, they are not going to waste time trying to get riders in the break when it should be easy for them to control. At the beginning of the stage they’ll make it clear that they want a sprint, and that is what we’ll get.
Very straightforward. The double corner you can see inside the final kilometre is the only turn the peloton have to take in the final 10km. This double corner is actually two roundabouts, and both can be taken at high speed. It will be very easy for the bigger teams to line out the bunch and the double corner will provide help in keeping the bunch in order.
There could be a storm or two in the afternoon, but again, the forecasts don’t all agree. Rain would be good news for the breakaway riders.
Pascal Ackermann – the German tasted success early in the season, winning in Almeria and the opening stage of the UAE Tour. He is here with some of his trusted lead out men, particularly Schwarzmann and Selig. The relationship that Ackermann and Selig have is amazing, it does help that they are good friends off the bike too. Looking at the other teams, Bora should be able to control the closing kilometres and Selig will put Ackermann into the perfect position, it will then be up to him to see how his legs are. Without a competitive sprint for a long time, there is no guarantee Ackermann will be at his usual level.
Rudy Barbier – the French sprinter won way back in January, taking the first stage in Vuelta San Juan, that seems a long time ago. He is a consistent rider, one that can be relied upon to be in good position and finish in the top 10. Given the level of his rivals, this is a big chance for Barbier to take his second win of the year, but beating Ackermann certainly won’t be easy. His team isn’t as strong as Bora, but they can benefit from sitting back in the bunch for the majority of the day and trying to jump Bora in the final kilometre. In Brändle and Räim he does have two riders who could surprise Bora and get him to the front, but still doesn’t guarantee taking the win.
Eddie Grosu – the local favourite. Just one win on home soil in his career, you can bet he’d love to get another. The big problem is the speed of Ackermann and Barbier, for Grosu to beat them he needs to do something different, he can’t beat them in a straight sprint. Like all the other sprinters, he’s fighting for the podium.
Riccardo Stacchiotti – it’s good to see the Italian back racing at a higher level. Make no mistake, he’s fast. Can he launch his sprint from a good position? It would be good to see him in the wheel of Ackermann, that must be his goal. If he gets there, he could surprise.
Matteo Pelucchi – a sprinter who never really fulfilled his potential. He has one less teammate compared to his rivals, which will be a problem. I think we’ll see him fighting for the top 5.
Andrea Guardini – the Italian has 43 professional wins to his name, that is some record. The reason he is now riding at conti level is because only one of these wins came in the world tour, back in the 2012 Giro. Guardini is a flat track bully, but I think his days of winning are over.
Got to be a win for Pascal Ackermann, I don’t see anyone getting close.
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