By David Hunter
Potrero de los Funes – La Punta 131km
Well, stage 2 turned out to be a surprise! Etixx their the toys out the pram when no one would help. The break almost had their day, but were caught on the final straight. They might get lucky in stage 3!
A largely flat day is interrupted by the cat2 climb, El Mirador del Potero. It is 4.8km at 6.7%, so it certainly will challenge the riders. Cresting just 11.4km from the finish, it offers no time for dropped riders to rejoin.
The placement of this climb is very deliberate. It stops most of the sprinters from being able to win, making it more for a puncheur. Coming so early in the race and season it also ensures that you need to be in good form, not something that can be said of the whole field.
How many riders make it over the climb depends on the strategy of the teams. If someone makes it really fast, the peloton will be small come the finish. However, the stages on this side of the Atlantic can often be quite slow and there is no guarantee of a high pace on the climb.
After Gaviria won stage 2, Sagan will sense an opportunity to take his first win in the rainbow jersey. A stage like this is perfect for him, as the length and gradient of the climb are within his comfort zone. He’ll get plenty of support from his team as they look to put Gaviria into difficulty.
There is one problem, Gaviria isn’t too bad on the climbs, especially shorter ones. I remember how well he performed in the Ride London Classic, on a challenging route. He got his win on stage 2, so the pressure is off the young man’s shoulders. If he doesn’t make it, Rodrigo Contreras could well move into the race lead.
There are a few other “sprinters” who will fancy their chances of surviving the climb. One of those is the new signing for Androni, Daniele Ratto. Remember he actually won a mountaintop finish in the 2013 Vuelta. The Italian has a very fast finish and will relish the chance of taking an early win for his new squad.
Marco Canola, his former teammate, is another who can sprint fast. I spoke to Marco in the build up to the race and he told me he had a good Winter but was looking to peak much later in the season. I wouldn’t be putting any money on him winning this stage!
Another rider who recently moved squads is Grega Bole. He is rider capable of most things. I was very surprised to see him leave CCC and move back to Nippo-Vini Fantini. Bole had a fine 2015 campaign and Nippo are lucky to have a rider of his ability in their team. He has a huge chance of finishing on the podium. He knows that Sagan is the one that he wants.
The climb does look a little too hard for Davide Cimolai but you just never know. He has commented on what a good Winter he had, so he might just be in form. He is Lampre’s only hope of a stage win in this race, so they’ll be hoping that he’s brought his climbing legs.
To be honest, it can’t see any other contenders for this stage. The vast majority of the peloton are close on GC and the WT teams won’t send any riders in the break. That means the break will be caught and we should get a sprint. There is a chance that some of the big teams attack on the descent. If a move goes with riders from Etixx, Astana and Movistar, it will be hard to bring back.
Has to be Sagan. What curse!?
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