By David Hunter
Camaiore – Cascina 153km
The racing proper gets started and we have a sprinter friendly stage, that should end with a mass sprint. It’s a day for the sprinters and lead-in trains, so time to talk riders!
Bardiani – Ruffoni, Battagin, Boem
BMC – Oss, Van Avermaet
Bora-Argon 18 – Bennett, Dempster, Thurau
Etixx – Cavendish, Renshaw, Sabatini, Vermote
IAM – Pelucchi, Aregger, Saramotins
MTN – Sbaragli, EBH, Goss
Orica – Cort, Mouris, Tuft
Giant – Mezgec, Arndt, Timmer, Veelers, De Backer
Katusha – Porsev
Team Sky – Viviani
Lampre – Modolo, Richeze, Pozzato, Mori
Lotto – Debusschere, Roelandts, Ligthart
Cavendish has been ill but produced an excellent prologue. He might have been able to sustain top effort for 5.4km, but will he be fit enough to sprint. The same goes for Renshaw. Their lead-out is strong but if both are not 100% they won’t sprint. Instead, they will save their energy for later in the race.
Viviani is arguably the second fastest sprint but he has no help. Team Sky arrive with a GC team and the Italian will have to fend for himself. Renowned for his poor positioning, I get worried when Viviani doesn’t have help.
Matteo Pelucchi won this stage in 2014 but he has a small fever. This should be enough to rule him out of contention.
Lampre and Modolo look strong. He went close here in 2014, but sprinted too early. Pozzato has good form and when Richeze leads out Sacha, success isn’t too far away. Lampre know these roads and will have a plan worked out but can they execute it?
Also looking strong are Giant. Luca Mezgec is getting over illness and has spoken about targeting stages later in the race, when his legs have recovered. That should mean Nikias Arndt gets a chance. He made the podium on two occasions, in Qatar, and riding with Timmer, Veelers and De Backer will be a great help. Arndt is a danger man.
Sam Bennett is missing most of his sprint train. He still has Zak Dempster but it’s not enough for them to control the peloton, inside the final kilometre. Therefore, Bennett will have to sprint from down the pack, decreasing his chances of success.
The same can be said of Jens Debusschere. He has the brilliant Jurgen Roelandts but Yogi is recovering from illness, so don’t expect him to be his normal self.
Bardiani have been poor so far and will hope that Ruffoni can bring them some joy. Like most here, his sprint train isn’t strong. Nicola Boem will probably be trusted with guiding Ruffoni home. A top 5 would be a good start to the race.
I’m looking forward to seeing Magnus Cort make his sprint debut for Orica. He usually prefers tough stages but as Orica have huge TT engines with them, he should be placed in an ideal position. He showed good form in Strade so Cort has a great chance of taking his first win for Orica.
With so many illnesses and lack of proper lead-out men, this sprint could be very, very messy. That being the case I look towards Sacha Modolo, the King of the messy sprint. He’s had a slow start to the season but riding with Richeze should be enough to see him home. Although, a fit Cav should win. I would also expect to see Nikias Arndt on the podium.
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