By David Hunter
Brixen/Bressanone > Innsbruck 140.6km
The opening stage is the easiest of the week.
The day begins with an unclassified climb of 4km at 7%, that’s rude! Next up is an easy cat 2 climb, 13.5km at 3%, before we head towards the finishing town.
This is a cat 3 climb and is done on two occasions. 4km at 6% is hard, the opening 2km contains some really steep ramps. This climb was used in the 2019 TTT World Championship, lots of riders had difficulty with it.
The bunch have to take on this kicker with 5km to go. It is 900m at 5.7%, which is very interesting as it crests with 4km to go. It certainly adds some spice to an easy looking finale.
Just as the sprint kicks off, with 200m to go, the road bends to the left.
A cold day with little wind. Riders will need lots of layers on for the top of the cat 2 climb.
Who wants to take control of the stage? This stage isn’t hard enough for the GC riders, but no one has brought a sprinter to the race. The big GC teams will ensure that perceived threats will not get into the break, it’s likely to contain riders from the smaller teams, but it still has a good chance of success.
We could see a team test some legs on the final cat 3 climb, but a GC rider will have to be having a very bad day to get dropped. A reduced sprint is the most likely scenario for this stage, but it’s not a guarantee.
Andrea Vendrame – on paper, he’s the fastest finisher in this race. AG2R are not a team used to controlling stages and setting up a sprint, but I do hope they commit to chasing for their Italian. He was 4th in the opening stage of Tirreno, he certainly has the speed required to win a stage like this. Vendrame is also a good climber, he should be able to survive the climb in the lap circuit and sprint for the win.
Fabio Felline – the Astana man showed a little form in Tirreno, but he’s quite inconsistent these days. He does have the speed required to challenge in hard stages, he was 3rd in stage 6 of last year’s Giro. I don’t think he’s as fast as Vendrame, but a good position for the sprint would help him to beat win.
Pello Bilbao – roll back the clock and the Basque climber used to be up there in sprint finishes, but that seems like an eternity ago. Last week in the Basque Country, he couldn’t beat Ion Izagirre in a sprint, he seems to have lost some of his kick.
Alexandr Riabushenko – the UAE rider is another who can climb well and sprint. His current form isn’t great, but if he makes it to the finish he has the speed to challenge for the win.
Enrico Battaglin – it wasn’t that long ago he was smashing stages at the Giro, but the last couple of years have been tough for the Italian. It’s been a while since he’s been challenging for wins, but this is a good day for him. Bardiani aren’t a strong team, he’ll need to climb well and ride his luck in the finale.
Luis León Sánchez – the crafty Spaniard has been in fine form this season, but he’s without a win. He’s exactly the type of rider who can win a stage like this, he’ll look to attack in the finale and avoid a sprint.
Gianluca Brambilla – see above.
That man, Luis León Sánchez, to disappoint the fast men.
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