By David Hunter
Saint Joan Despi – Vilanova i la Geltru 197.2km
The longest stage of the race.
This stage offers the sprinters a final opportunity of taking some glory, but the breakaway riders will also be keen.
With Bouhanni away back to France, we really do have a large group of riders that are relatively equal in speed. There are no big climbs close to the finishing line, this should be a big bunch sprint.
The finish is very easy, no nasty corners to concern the sprint teams. After the turn at 2.3km, it will be fast, very fast. With no proper sprint trains, the finish could get messy. That’s if we get a sprint. Without a dominant sprint team, some squads will be reluctant to control the bunch. The responsibility will be on the shoulders of Movistar, but they don’t care about a sprint. Despite an easy looking profile, the race situation is good for the breakaway riders.
Several riders have been very attacking this week. The parcours opens the door to many riders, thanks to a lack of climbing. Some of the Ardennes riders will be looking for one last good work out, getting in the break is certainly a good way of working your legs. Watch for Alaphilippe, Gilbert, Clement and Meyer. As usual, some of the smaller teams will want to be represented. Dron and Aramendia will be looking to represent Wanty and Caja-Rural.
If we do get a sprint, some will be looking to test their legs for the first time this week.
Nikias Arndt – the Giant sprinter has had a difficult start to the season. One thing is clear, he’s fast. All things being equal, I think he is the fastest sprinter still in the race. That’s all very good, he needs to prove it on the road.
Jonas Van Genechten – was 8th in Olot, but he is capable of so much more. He has won big races before, but his inconsistency is very frustrating. IAM are always good at setting up a sprint, but Jonas needs to step up and take more responsibility.
Lorrenzo Manzin – FDJ have been riding for Kevin Reza this week, but this stage is much more Manzin’s style. The 21 year old hasn’t enjoyed any success yet this season, but he is quick. I would like to see FDJ giving him one opportunity this week.
The other riders competing for the stage have already been seen this week:- Tsatevich, Swift, Meersman, Gerrans, Impey, Van der Sande, Cimolai, Reijnen, Gasparotto and Barbero.
After today’s battle to get into the break, I just can’t see who wants to control the stage and ensure a sprint finish.
Breakaway day! I’ll go with an Ardennes rider, Julian Alaphilippe. He seems to be making a recovery and his form is on the up.
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