By David Hunter
Camaiore – Follonica 167km
A day for the sprinters.
Straight from the gun, the riders are faced with a climb, this will be one for the early break to take. After that, nothing much happens until the final 5km.
Some sunshine and not much wind, a nice day for the bunch.
The finish is just like the whole stage, very easy. There is a u-turn with 2.6km remaining and that’s about it. The roads are quite wide too, making it possible to move up the bunch. As un-technical a finish as you’re ever likely to see.
Marcel Kittel – with only one recognised lead out man, I’m not sure how Katusha will line up. No doubt we’ll see Alex Dowsett and Tony Martin drafted into key roles, but José Gonçalves and Nathan Haas could also be asked to help out. After a poor start to the season, Kittel could really do with a morale boosting win. He doesn’t have much of a lead out, but that should be okay given the easy finish. Kittel will hope that Rick Zabel can help him in the final kilometre.
Fernando Gaviria – as usual, QuickStep arrive with a proper sprint train. They can count on Bob Jungels, Niki Terpstra, Philippe Gilbert, Zdenek Stybar and Max Richeze to help guide their young sprinter into place. This is a sprint train with a huge amount of power. As it is the longest train, expect to see QuickStep take control from the 5km mark. In order to not get swamped, they’ll need to ensure that Gilbert and Stybar keep the pace very high as we enter the final kilometre. Even if another team do go over the top of them, Richeze is brilliant at rescuing any situation.
Peter Sagan – not much of a sprint train, but when has that ever stopped him!? Without his recognised lead out men, he’ll turn to the power of Burghardt and Oss. Given the nature of the finish, these two will do a good job for Sagan. It will be interesting to see how he goes in a flat sprint, he didn’t win any in Australia.
Caleb Ewan – it’s not really clicking yet this year for Ewan. Yes, he did win in Almeria, but that was against an easier field. Despite having a strong train in Abu Dhabi, he disappointed. He again arrives with a strong train, this time he has Durbridge and Hepburn to drive the pace, then it’s over to Bauer and Impey, before handing over to Mezgec. They have the power to rival QuickStep in the closing kilometres. Does Ewan have the speed to win?
Sacha Modolo – took a nice win in Andalucía, but he’ll struggle to make the podium here. He’ll have Vanmarcke and Van Asbroeck to help him, but that won’t be enough.
Danny Van Poppel – as has been the case all season, Jumbo arrive with a short train. Van Poppel will hope that Wagner and Van Hoecke can put him into a strong position and he’ll do the rest. 2018 has started well for him, with a win in Valenciana and 2nd place in Abu Dhabi. He’ll be confident of challenging for the win.
Simone Consonni – the young Italian is a bit hit and miss. He has the speed to threaten the top 5, but a lack of helpers means it often comes down to luck.
Jakub Mareczko – the small race bully! He started the season with two wins in the Sharjah Tour, taking his total to 35 career victories. That sounds very impressive, but he’s yet to win a 1. race. Mareczko dominates against weak fields, but cannot get it right against the big guns. Age is on his side, he’s only 23 years old. That means he still has time to improve and get quicker, but I still want to see him doing better in the big races. One issue is his sprint train, they just aren’t quick enough at this level. I wonder if he’ll use a familiar tactic, get on Kittel’s wheel and let him bring him forward!
I’ll happily take Fernando Gaviria. His sprint train look very strong and he’ll want to make a statement against Kittel, Sagan and Ewan.
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