By David Hunter
Before I get started I have a confession to make, I’m not the biggest fan of cycling in America. The long straight roads are mind numbing and the racing is often poor as well. Hopefully, the Tour of California, can make me eat my words!
The cat 1 climb would normally ensure the sprinters will get dropped, but this is America. Stages like this are usually tackled at a slow pace, allowing the sprinters to make it over the climb.
With plenty of climbing in this stage, some of the sprinters won’t make it to the finish. Expect another sprint, but with a slightly reduced bunch.
The organisers have found a new climb for the 2016 edition, Gibraltar Road. It is 12km at 8%, so a proper test of climbing skills. This stage will massively shake up the GC.
This is certainly one for the puncheurs. With two climbs inside the final 20km, it will be too tough for the sprinters. The final climb is 1.1km at 10.3%, so the peloton will be significantly reduced as we head towards the finishing line.
Another stage for the puncheurs, with an uphill finish of 1.7km at 5.9%. The uphill nature of the stage does make it good for the breakaway hunters. By this point, there will be huge gaps on GC, so a break will stand an excellent chance.
The TT is 20.3km and does feature some steep ramps. None of the climbs are categorised but the stage is not flat. This is the last day to make a move on GC.
Another stage with plenty of climbing, but most climbs feature in the opening half of the stage. Some of the sprinters will be confident of making the finish.
After a tough week, the sprinters will be delighted to see this stage.
Brent Bookwalter – BMC arrive with the strongest team. 2015 was a great year for the American, finishing 3rd in Utah and 2nd in the Pro Challenge. He seems to have cracked riding in his home country. Expect BMC to give him plenty of opportunities in this race.
Rohan Dennis – the Aussie will be slightly concerned with the HC climb, but he can climb very well. The TT is wonderful news for him and he would expect to take minutes on his rivals, over 20km. That means he just needs to follow wheels on the big mountain stage.
Sami Sanchez – BMC’s third option! The veteran has enjoyed a terrific 2016, but I think he’ll be back to domestique duties here.
Lawson Craddock – despite not quite working out what type of rider he is, Craddock continues to enjoy success. He’s heavier than most climbers, something that really does stop him from challenging in the big mountain stages. I think that trend will continue here, but he should be targeting a top 5 result.
Julian Alaphilippe – was the surprise runner up in 2015, I’m not sure what he’ll be able to do this year. He needs to be on top form, if he is going to challenge for the title.
Tiago Machado – the solid Portuguese rider has not had a wonderful year. He is one of those riders that promises much, but finds it tough to compete against the elite riders. That pattern will continue here.
Jurgen van den Broeck – this is a great race for VDB. His TT ability continues to improve, which will put him at a big advantage compared to some of the other climbers. He really should be targeting a spot on the podium.
George Bennett – too inconsistent.
Peter Kennaugh – not raced an awful lot in 2016, but this is the type of race he should be challenging for. He’s won the Tour of Austria and Coppi Bartali, but this would represent his biggest stage race win of his career. The TT is a worry, but he can climb well.
Peter Sagan – the surprise winner in 2015, I doubt it will happen again.
Daniel Jaramillo – talented Colombian riding for UnitedHealthcare. He was 5th in the Tour of Gila and will hope for something similar here. Can’t time trial!
Lachlan Morton – recent winner of the the Tour of Gila. Pleasing to see him back to winning wins, he really was a big talent a couple of years ago. Will hope to sneak into the top 5.
Wouter Wippert – not enjoyed winning for his new team in 2016. He’ll be supported by Paddy Bevin and will hope to make the top step of the podium, but that won’t be easy.
Max Richeze – the Argentine lead-out man has recently been given his opportunity with Etixx. He was 2nd in Frankfurt and 3rd in the final stage of Dunkirk, so he’s picking up solid results.
Mark Cavendish – he’s here to win and hopefully get the sprint train working. Brammeier, Eisel and Renshaw are all here, that will be his train in the Tour, with Boasson Hagen slipping into number 3. Will start as the favourite for the sprint stages.
John Degenkolb – so good to see him back. This is an important part of his rehabilitation, especially as he wants to compete at the Tour. No pressure on him to challenge for wins.
Dylan Groenewegen – the young Dutchman already has 3 wins for his new team, he really is enjoying a wonderful 2016. Jumbo arrive with a full sprint train and he’ll put serious pressure on Cavendish. I think he’s certainly going to take another win here.
Danny van Poppel – his recent win in the Tour of Yorkshire would have come as a relief, after another injury hit season. He really is a big talent, but the Sky lead out train isn’t the best. Expect to see him and Groenewegen continue their recent battle.
Peter Sagan – loves this race! Has 13 stage wins and will expect another couple this week. Hasn’t raced since Roubaix, but that is his usual preparation for the Tour.
Niccolo Bonifazio – another sprinter that hasn’t won yet for his new team. He is fast but I have a few doubts about the Italian. He has a big advantage here as Jasper Stuyven is his final man.
Bryan Coquard – simply amazing in Dunkirk. That’s him up to 7 wins in 2016, what a year he’s having. Aside from his wins, he was 2nd in DDV, and 4th in both Brabantse Pijl and Amstel Gold. He has Adrien Petit to help, a hugely underrated lead-out man. Coquard is surely moving to the world tour in 2017.
He was 2nd in 2015, this year I see him going one better. Rohan Dennis will take the win for BMC.
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