By David Hunter
We have a new name, but the same mix of brutal mountains as the Giro riders arrive to fine tune their form.
The opening stage might not look that hard, at first glance, but there is a chance for some riders to already lose time. The attitude of the peloton will be interesting as they approach Schlogelsbach, a climb that is 3km at 9.1%. It crests with 23.5km remaining, but has a horrible false flat at the top of the climb. The rise to the line is 3.6km at 7.3%, perfect for a fast climber.
Another stage with a steep kicker near the end of the stage and a long drag up to the line.
The third stage is a massive day of climbing, full of big peaks at high altitude. This should be the decisive day for the GC, especially with the final climb being 8.7km at 6.9%.
Looks like a great day for the break, with big gaps on the GC and a lumpy profile. Riders still challenging can attack the final climb, but it crests with 34km remaining, making it likely that the GC group will come back together.
The final stage has a monster of a climb, 19km at 6%! After a long descent we have another steep kicker near the end of the stage. The GC riders cannot rest until the stage is finished.
Geraint Thomas – he’s just finished a period of altitude training at Mount Teide, something that makes predicting form a little difficult. Given his performance in Tirreno, Thomas has to start this race as the favourite. Not only is he climbing well, but he can descend and packs a decent sprint. He arrives with a strong team to support him, but we’ll have to see what role Mikel Landa fills. He was meant to be co-leader at the Giro, but hasn’t performed well enough this season. This will be his last chance to stake a claim for a protected role in the Giro. Considering he won this race last year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him and Thomas swap roles.
Thibaut Pinot – 3rd place in both Andalucia and Tirreno in what is again looking like a good year for Pinot. A master of the one week race, he will be looking forward to this race. My only concern for him are the stages where the main group descend off a big mountain, he’s had problems here before. He will need the help of Ludvigsson and Morabito, if he is to hold off the Sky attack.
Davide Formolo – just like Thomas, the young Italian is just back from Mount Teide, where he and his colleagues have been for two weeks. No TT makes this a great race for Formolo and he also arrives with a strong team to support his aspirations, with Carthy, Dombrowski and Rolland all looking to impress.
Michele Scarponi – with Fabio Aru no longer doing the Giro, it’s time for Scarponi to step forward. For so long he has been a loyal domestique, helping others to take the big prize, but Scarponi now has one last chance to take some glory. Remember, this is a man that is no stranger to winning races, he was the Giro winner in 2011, winning this race the month before that success. Can he roll back the clock?
Domenico Pozzovivo – another rider hoping to turn back the clock. The little Italian won this race back in 2012 while riding for Colnago, it seems an awfully long time ago. 2016 was not the best year for Pozzovivo, but 2017 has hinted at better times ahead. He managed to finish 9th in Abu Dhabi and 10th in Tirreno, good signs ahead of this race. He will hope to make it onto the podium at the end of the race.
Rodolfo Torres – the Colombian really is a huge talent. He was 3rd in San Juan and 5th in Coppi e Bartali. That is a strong start to the season and he’ll be looking forward to the big tests in the mountains. He’ll particularly like the high altitude climbs.
Damiano Caruso – I hope that BMC give their Italian domestique a chance at team leadership. They also have Rohan Dennis here, looking to prepare for the Giro, but the Italian deserves his chance. He was 8th in the Giro in 2015 and 9th in the 2014 Vuelta, Caruso is a rider that can challenge in a race like this.
Sky v Cannondale v FDJ. It really is very hard to select the winner as most have just returned from altitude camps and form can be a little unpredictable. Given the descending involved, I’ll go with Geraint Thomas to continue an impressive season.
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