By David Hunter
Castelraimondo – Cepagatti 216km
After the cancellation of the Queen stage, this seemingly innocent looking stage will see some fierce fighting. I’ll cut straight to the chase, the need for bonus seconds will kill the hopes of any breakaway rider. This is all about the last 30km.
Here is the little beauty of a finish. A downhill stretch means that the peloton arrive full of speed, just as well as they hit 6.8% for 500m. A sharp corner will slow them down, making them start the hardest bit of the climb at walking pace. After that we have a horrible false flat, getting steadily steeper. As they pass under the kite, the road reaches 3.8% for 500m, before easing to 2.8% for the final 500m. This is a tough finish.
The closing kilometres are on long straight roads. This is good news for most riders, especially those with good trains. If the speed is high, the peloton will be lined out making it tough to move up the bunch, especially with a crosswind. We do have a corner at 200m to go, making it crucial to be on the front. Ideally, you would like to be sitting 2nd wheel at that point.
Fernando Gaviria was the sensation of stage 3. His sprint was powerful and very impressive. His lead out wasn’t great but he managed to surf some wheels and find the perfection position.Caleb Ewan also positioned himself well, but just couldn’t pass the Colombian on the line. Both youngsters will be looking for a repeat performance in this finish. The final kilometre does remind me of the Vuelta stage that Ewan won in 2015. That day he had a great lead-out, much better than he has here.
Tinkoff dominated the closing stages on Friday. They were very impressive, little surprise as they are full of big strong riders. The finale is wonderful for both Bennati and Sagan. Both men are great as the road starts to go up, something that other riders struggle with. I remember back to the Tour de Suisse, when Bennati did a great lead out, but Kristoff won. If you were designing a sprint for Sagan, it would look very similar to this. Even the last corner is great news for him, due to his outstanding bike handling skills.
The world champion hasn’t managed to take a win yet in 2016. I wouldn’t be worried, despite being at around 85%, he’s still managed seven top 5 results. Very impressive work from the Slovak. His first win of the 2015 season was on stage 6 of Tirreno. The stage was 210km, this is 216km. I see a few similarities.
The weather that day was horrible, this stage shouldn’t be as bad. We do have a chance of some rain, but it won’t be too heavy. Like most of the other stages, it will be quite windy. It will be a tailwind for the vast majority of the stage, making it a quick stage.
Some of the pure sprinters will not like the finish, it’s too steep. I’m thinking of Viviani, Nizzolo,Cavendish and Hofland. Once you start to lose some wheels, your sprint is over. This is a power sprint, one that might interest the puncheurs, especially those in GC contention. With 10, 6 and 4 on the line, a podium could set a rider up to win the GC.
The GC is very tight and with just a 10km TT to go, it will be a tense day. Stybar has 9 seconds of an advantage to GVA and Van Garderen. He is 11 seconds ahead of his teammates, Jungels and Brambilla, with Sagan at 14 seconds. It’s very difficult to see anyone else challenging. That means, Greg Van Avermaet has to have a big interest in this stage.
He is a good TT racer, especially over a short distance. He finished 4th over 11km in the recent TT in Qatar. He will know all about his teammate, Van Garderen, but he would like a little more time on Jungels and Sagan. He didn’t sprint on stage 3, saying it was getting a little dangerous and he didn’t fancy his chances of a result. This sprint is totally different. I would expect to see BMC getting their big guns on the front of the peloton and powering up the final 5km. Dropping sprinters will be their priority, as will a podium for Van Avermaet. Usually he wouldn’t think he could beat Sagan, but he did outsprint him in Omloop. This stage gives GVA a massive chance of success.
Gaviria and Ewan are the two biggest question marks. Yes, they are wonderful riders and currently on great form, but I have my doubts. It’s a long stage and a tough finale, I think too tough for Ewan. Gaviria is a different kettle of fish and Etixx would like him stopping Sagan from taking 10 seconds. If he starts to lose ground, Matteo Trentin will be their man. He’s another talented puncheur who has a very fast sprint.
Boasson Hagen will certainly be in the mix, he loves spinting up a hill. He would like the finish to be even harder, say 2km at 5%. I get the feeling it’s just a little too easy, but a top 5 finish is certainly on the cards. Dimension Data should certainly be working for him and not Cavendish.
Sonny Colbrelli will love this stage. The Italian had a shocker in 2015 after a brilliant end to 2014. He was on the verge of moving to the world tour but stayed with Bardiani. If he still harbours hopes of moving to the big league, this is the type of stage he needs to do well in.
Howard and Modolo are two sprinters who should be able to cope with the grind up to the finish. Both are actually much better when the finish is hard, especially if it eliminates some of the faster riders. The Italian was looking good on Friday, but was edged out of it. Howard was in a wonderful position but was just beaten by faster men. No shame in that. These two are riders you should keep an eye on.
This is all about lead-outs. Tinkoff have Petrov, Bodnar, Boaro, Blythe, Gatto and Bennati. This is brutally strong and very fast.
BMC have Phinney, Quinziato, Oss and Drucker. Big engines who can force their way to the front, but the inside the last kilometre they lack the top-end speed required.
Etixx will go with Tony Martin, Jungels, Stybar and Trentin. Better than BMC, but not as good as Tinkoff.
Lampre are the ones that can cause a surprise, arriving late with Zurlo and Ferrari. I don’t see another team competing with these four.
Tinkoff will be the best and deliver Sagan into the perfect position. He just needs to hope that Gaviria isn’t on his wheel. I’ll go with the world champion to take his first win in the rainbow jersey.
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