By David Hunter
Follonica – Trevi 239km
This looks like a brilliant stage finish.
The first thing to notice is that the stage is 239km long. This is great preparation for the classics riders, but very demanding at the beginning of March. The distance will be too much for a lot of riders. The next thing to consider is the challenging finish in Trevi.
We have two ascents of the final climb, with only around 8km between them. The final 1.5km of the climb averages 12.4% and that includes two flat sections. The climb is on a tiny road, which is incredibly narrow. It is a finish that excites me!
Once the riders complete the climb for the first time, they loop round for another bash. It will encourage some riders to attack on the first ascent and see if they can stay away until the end.
Sunny, with just a little wind. Very pleasant for the bunch.
Mikel Landa – so close to taking a tough win in Andalucía, he’ll be looking forward to trying to go one better. The Basque rider loves double digit gradients and this is a finish for him. Free from Team Sky, he arrives here as the outright leader for Movistar. He was making his season debut in Andalucía, which means he should be better here. If positioned well, he’ll be a hard man to beat.
Miguel Angel Lopez – as in most stages, Astana seem to have a number of options. I expect to see Lopez as their protected rider and I’m excited to see what he can do on this finish. A brilliant climber, he might just lack a little bit extra for this finish.
Tiesj Benoot – after a stunning win in Strade Bianche, he arrives feeling no pressure. The finish could be a little too hard for the puncheurs, but Benoot is much more than that. Spending a huge amount of his year in Granada, this is a rider who is a brilliant climber. He will be a major threat in this stage and I think his rivals will be worried about him.
Greg Van Avermaet – is this finish too hard for Greg? I think it is. Can he hang tough and move into the race lead? I don’t think so.
Peter Sagan – I think he has a better chance than Van Avermaet, but it must be right on his limit. The world champion is brilliant at most things, steep slopes don’t bother him too much. The length of 1.5km is the problem. He could well run out of steam in the last few metres.
Adam Yates – the climber will love this finish. He’s a rider who goes very well on steep slopes and he’ll enjoy fighting against the puncheurs. Yates enjoyed a great 2017 and I get the feeling he’s going to have an even better 2018. He’ll been very disappointed to have dropped time today, especially after such a strong TTT.
Philippe Gilbert – a former winner of Fleche Wallonne, I wonder if he can cope with the climb. Gilbert has set his sights on winning Paris-Roubaix, I think he is still a little way from top form. He’ll probably ride in support of Bob Jungels.
Michal Kwiatkowski – after a great win in the Algarve, he disappointed in Strade Bianche. Given how Team Sky operate, there is every chance of him being asked to ride in support of Thomas and Froome. This is a very dangerous stage for GC riders, it is possible to lose vital seconds on this climb. With Sky focused on GC, I think the Pole will have to sacrifice personal glory.
Wilco Kelderman – this is a good finish for Kelderman. As Dumoulin has a cold, I think he’ll be the main man for Sunweb. Steep slopes are good for him, he’s finished in the top 10 of Fleche Wallonne. Kelderman also possess a fast sprint, which could see him fight for the stage win.
Diego Ulissi – as we are in Italy, Diego Ulissi has to be considered as one of favourites. The Italian is very strong on these slopes, remember he is a former winner of Giro dell’Emilia. He looked in fairly good form in Abu Dhabi, which is encouraging for this stage. He used to have issues with long stages, but he now seems to be over that particular problem.
This promises to be a brilliant finish. As everyone looks at his each, there is a chance for a cheeky attacker to get away on the first climb and hold on until the finish. I think we would all hope this doesn’t happen and we get a big showdown on the final climb. I think the climb will prove too hard for the puncheurs and I we’ll see Mikel Landa take the win.
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