By David Hunter
Konya > Konya 73km
The tough opening stage had to be changed due to lots of snow, luckily the organisers had a plan B.
We now have a short stage, just 73km, and one that should end in a sprint. The climbs on the profile picture look like the Angliru, but they are nothing to worry about, the second one is only 7.3km at 1.7%.
Still very cold, with temperatures around 6 degrees. The wind is coming from the north/north-west and is around 15km/h. We do have some exposed sections that the world tour teams can use to drop some of the weaker riders, but I doubt we’ll see splits between the favourites.
The finish is nice and easy. This right-hand corner comes with 1.4km to go, helping the bunch to get organised.
The final turn is a left hander with 600m to go, but it can be taken at speed.
Deceuninck – Quick Step – it’s brilliant to see Fabio Jakobsen back racing, what strength this young man has shown. Don’t get carried away though, he’ll be here to kickstart his recovery, getting kilometres in the legs and helping his team. The Belgians have Hodeg and Cavendish for the sprint, only the team will know who they will ride for. They have a strong sprint train for this race, with Steels, Keisse and Archbold to guide the boys in the closing kilometres. It would be great to see Cav take a win, but Hodeg is desperately in need of some success too.
Jasper Philipsen – his win in Scheldeprijs was brilliant, he seems to go well in cold conditions. Alpecin-Fenix have an okay sprint train at this race, but they’ve not worked together before. Philipsen won on Wednesday thanks to an amazing lead out by Jonas Rickaert, but in this stage I think he’ll need to have the speed to come from behind the Quick Step boys.
Andre Greipel – we’re rolling back the years here with a potential Cav v Greipel battle. ISUN also have a strong sprint train for a race of this standard, expect to see Brändle, Dowsett, Zabel and Cimolai to be fighting for control of the bunch in the closing stages. We’ll then see if Greipel still has the sprint to win.
Pierre Barbier – the young Frenchman is one I’ve closely followed for a number of years. He continues to improve every year, and he’s started 2021 in fine form. If DELKO get it right he has a chance to take his first professional win.
Luca Mozzato – just like Barbier, the Italian continues to improve every year and has gone close to taking his first pro win in 2021. He has the speed to battle for the win, but needs to start the sprint in a good position.
JJ Lobato – I’m starting to lose faith in the Spaniard. I’ve long been a fan, but he could really do with a result.
Kristoffer Halvorsen – another sprinter who has seriously lost his way in the last few years. He was the under 23 world champion back in 2016, that wasn’t that long ago. He had a couple of decent years at Sky in 2018 and 2019, before moving to EF for 2020. He started that year in okay form, but the COVID crisis hit him hard, and he had something called COVID depression. He’s now moved back to a Norwegian team in the hope to rekindle his love of the sport, but it will take him some time to be competitive again. His results this year are hinting that a return to form could happen soon, it would be great to see him back to near his best.
Deceuninck – Quick Step have the best sprint train and they’ll take the win, I’ll go with Mark Cavendish to roll back the years.
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