By David Hunter
Numana – Fano 153km
This should be one for the sprinters.
There are a number of lumps and bumps in the opening 87km of the stage, but the sprinters shouldn’t be put into difficulty. Once we reach Fano, the riders tackle a 12.8km circuit. There is a warning in the roadbook about the quality of the road surface. This is not what the sprinters need with Milan-Sanremo just five days away.
The good news is that the circuit doesn’t have many corners, but as we’ve already seen in this race, the circuit will be littered with road furniture. The big battle will be for control of the bunch with 2km to go. The bunch have to make a big right hand turn as we approach the flamme rouge.
After about 1km of straight roads, there is another big turn with 300m to go. The distance from the finish means that you have to be in the first 8 wheels if you want to win. Lead out trains will be very important.
Should be some sun, with a small risk of rain. The wind is stronger than it’s been all week, coming from the south-west. There is every chance of echelons as the direction of the wind is perfect. If some teams want to split it, they will. With the GC fight very close, there will be a lot of nerves in the bunch.
Marcel Kittel – got that elusive first win on Thursday, he really needed it! Katusha had the most men left in the front group and they took advantage of that. Kittel was poorly positioned, but he was brought forward by Nathan Haas and Rick Zabel. Once there, no one could match his sprint. I’ll be honest, Katusha got lucky. In the last 3km they were all over the place. They had two riders on the left and right hand side of the road, if it hadn’t been for Zabel going back to find Kittel, they would have lost. When the German rides like this, it gives his teammates a headache. With the win under his belt, he should be better in this stage.
Peter Sagan – technical circuits are perfect for the world champion. He’s a man that doesn’t need a lead out, he just floats from wheel to wheel at the front of the group. He was 2nd in the sprint on Thursday and he’ll be looking to take the win in this stage.
Fernando Gaviria – QuickStep lost a lot of numbers in the crash on Thursday. That left Gaviria without his trusted lead out men and he couldn’t find space in the sprint. I think QuickStep have the best sprint train and they should be able to use their power to line out the bunch. With Richeze at his side, Gaviria will be very hard to beat.
Danny Van Poppel – I’ve been really impressed by him this season. Jumbo have shown a lot of faith in him and I think they will be rewarded. He does have the speed to compete against the very best, but will need a little luck in the closing kilometres.
With Milan-Sanremo just around the corner, this is an important day for the sprinters. Given his sprint train, I think we’ll see Fernando Gaviria take the win. I still don’t have confidence in Kittel.
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