By David Hunter
We head back to Spain for another hard week in the sun. The organisers have put together a demanding edition of this race.
The opening stage is harder than in previous years, thanks to the inclusion of an extra cat 1 climb. This makes it almost impossible for the sprinters to contest the finish in Capella. The GC riders won’t go full gas, so plenty of the puncheurs will survive.
The organisers have decided to go with a 41km TTT, on the second day. This will kill the race, but it’s their choice. The opening 27km is constantly up and down, making it very hard.
With three cat 1 climbs coming close together, this is one hell of a stage. Expect some huge gaps on GC.
The presence of the cat 2 climb, with just 13km to go, means that the fourth stage is one of the puncheurs, not the sprinters. Not much point coming here if you can’t climb!
The fifth stage features the monster climb, Lo Port. This is another big test for the climbers.
Another stage and another cat 1 climb! This one isn’t that hard, but coming with just 36km remaining, means that the sprinters will again be shown the door. It does make it look like a good day for the break.
The race finishes with the usual lap circuit in Barcelona, featuring eight laps of the Montjuic circuit.
Due to the ridiculous length of the TTT, this section contains fewer riders than usual!
Alejandro Valverde – the Movistar rider started this season is sparkling form, but had to sit out Paris-Nice, due to a virus. After an enforced rest, he should be ready for a big week of racing. Looking at the two big mountain stages, this race might just be too difficult for Valverde, but he has a big chance considering his recent form. He will hope for a typically good TTT on home soil for his team.
Chris Froome – this isn’t a race he has a good record in. Froome has been here for the last three years, but still hasn’t featured in the top 5. At this time of the season, he does seem partial to picking up a cold. Sky will have a strong team and hope to avoid exploding wheels in the TTT! Looking at his rivals, Froome starts as the massive favourite. If it doesn’t quite have the shape, Sky also have Geraint Thomas and Mikel Landa to contend for the overall title.
Tejay Van Garderen – wasn’t great in Tirreno, but he may have raced there with one eye on this event. The American will benefit from a tremendous TTT result and hope to defend his lead in the mountains. He was 3rd here in 2014 and has a good chance of making the podium this year.
Adam Yates – he could have put some serious pressure on Quintana in Tirreno, but illness forced him to stop. There isn’t a huge amount of time between the races, but the fact that he stopped early will stand him in good stead. Yates will come here with a great chance of making up for his bad luck in Italy.
Dan Martin – the Irishman must smile when he sees TTT and not ITT. QuickStep will tuck him into their train and still produce a good result in the time trial, leaving Martin a great chance in the race. He was 3rd here last year and has a good chance of bettering that this year.
Alberto Contador – he will lose time in the TTT, but you can never write Contador off! With two difficult mountain stages, he has a chance of making up the lost time. It won’t be easy, but you just never know with Alberto!
Riders Hoping for a TTT miracle
There is a long list of brilliant climbers here, who will lose a whole heap of time in the TTT, making it impossible to challenge for GC. That should free them up for chasing stage glory. Expect to see a lot of Romain Bardet, Hugh Carthy, Ilnur Zakarin, Jakob Fuglsang, Steven Kruijswijk, Pierre Latour, Louis Vervaeke and Rafal Majka.
It’s about time Chris Froome won this race. Sky will post a good time in the TTT and Froome will be at his best in the mountains.
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