By David Hunter
After Strade Bianche, the fun continues in Italy. The Tirreno route is packed full of fun, this promises to be a brilliant race.
We begin with the usual TTT, covering 22.7km. It’s long enough to see some big gaps between the GC riders.
We head straight into some tough racing, with this tricky finish in Pomarance. We have three categorised climbs in the last half of the stage, plus a demanding uphill finish. Looks like a hard day in the saddle.
This is a sprint stage, but it still comes with difficulty for the quick men. Not all will make the sprint, but we should see a sizeable group fight out the win.
We return to Terminillo. Last time here, Nairo Quintana won an epic stage in the snow.
This is one of the hardest stages you’ll see in any race this year. It promises to be a cracker! GC riders will be scattered all over the road.
Another sprint stage with a tricky little kicker near the end. Should be a big sprint.
We end with the normal ITT, covering 10.05km. Hopefully the GC is still wide open for a big finish.
The Terminillo climb will be hugely significant, but with 32km of TT, it might not decide the winner. Stage 5 to Fermo will also be hugely important.
Tejay Van Garderen – the American is sure to benefit from a big TTT by his BMC squad. It is certain that he’ll make time on his GC rivals, but he’ll need a lot to hold onto the race lead. He didn’t perform well in Abu Dhabi, due to illness. That would have been a big disappointment for him and I expect him to go well here. The Fermo stage could be his downfall.
Fabio Aru – Astana are a little concerned about the TTT. Aru has started the season well, he was 3rd in Oman and 8th in Abu Dhabi. That is more consistent than he has been in previous years. He would like to do well on home soil, but the amount of TT kilometres is bad news for him.
Vincenzo Nibali – the route does remind me of the 2013 edition, the last time the Shark won this race. He’s started the season in relatively good form and this is his first main target of 2017. Bahrain have a strong looking TT squad, although, clearly not the best here. Nibali will look to make time on most climbing to Terminillo, but it’s the stage to Fermo that really suits him. Has a big chance of winning the title for a third time.
Thibaut Pinot – the maverick! Fresh from his day in the break at Strade, I hope he stays healthy for the whole race. His win against Contador, in Ruta del Sol, was seriously impressive. FDJ will look forward to the TTT and Pinot will expect to deliver a good ITT. He has a great chance of contending for the overall podium.
Nairo Quintana – he was brilliant in Valenciana, but frustrated in Abu Dhabi. He wanted to attack from distance, but Contador did a very good job of marking him. The Terminillo is his type of mountain, long and hard! The team have brought many of their big engines, they are determined to ensure that Nairo doesn’t lose time in the TTT. He will hope to move into the race lead after the big mountain stage, but he’ll need a buffer as the Fermo stage is not really suited to him.
Adam Yates – took an impressive win in GP Industria & Artigianato, a nice way to get his season started. Orica-Scott have some very fast riders with them, they’ll be confident of a solid time in the TTT. Yates is a brilliant talent and will cope well with the Terminillo and Fermo stages. His ITT will determine where he finishes, he will be disappointed not to make the podium.
Geraint Thomas – hasn’t been seen since the TDU, we’ll have to wait and see what we get from the Welshman. Team Sky look very strong and he’ll expect a good performance in the TTs. The classic style stage to Fermo should also suit him, but I’m not sure if he’ll cope with the Terminillo. He will be co-leader in the Giro, expect him to try and put a marker down. It will be good to see how he and Landa work together, with one eye on the Giro.
Tom Dumoulin – the Dutchman has clearly started the season in good form. He was 3rd in Abu Dhabi and 5th in Strade, that is a strong start. This route looks to be good to him, with plenty of TT kilometres and just one mountaintop finish. He’ll struggle to match the climbing ability of Quintana, but he might be able to limit his losses climbing the Terminillo.
Bauke Mollema – just like Dumoulin, he’s started the season with a bang. He won Vuelta San Juan and was 4th in Abu Dhabi. He is targeting the Giro, so a strong start was to be expected. He arrives here full of confidence and has a great chance of finishing on the podium.
Rui Costa – won the Queen stage in San Juan, was 2nd in Oman and won Abu Dhabi. Of all the riders mentioned, Costa has had the best start to 2017. It’s great to see him back performing at his best, but can he keep the form going? He will lose time in the TTs, but stages 4 and 5 look great for him.
Here is my video preview with Jay Robert Thomson https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7gP–prDoE&feature=youtu.be
You’ll probably be expecting another Quintana prediction from me, you know I simply love him! This race is complicated for him, not only are there a lot of TT kilometres, but the stage to Fermo is not really for him. If he’s to win the GC, I think he needs to win by 1 minute on the Terminillo. For that reason, I’m not going with him.
Instead, I’ll be bold and predict a win for Vincenzo Nibali. His form seems to be okay and with the Giro just around the corner, he could do with a good performance. I think he’ll be able to follow Quintana on the Terminillo, and put him to the sword the next day. His skills as a one day racer will be put to good use in the Fermo stage.
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