By David Hunter
Alicante – Alicante 166.8km
The TT is done, time for the first road stage.
Certainly not a flat stage, but is it one the sprinters will be confident of making it to the end? Will any team go full gas on the climbs? Lets see what DS Mole makes of the day.
2454m of climbing is enough to worry some of the sprinters, but the cat 2 climbs come early in the day. The main obstacle for the quick men is a series of climbs from 93km until 125km. We have two uncategorised climbs, which is quickly followed by 5.3km at 4%. If a team wants to make life difficult, this is the point where it could happen. Whether it does or not depends on the will of the teams.
As you can see, the final climb isn’t overly difficult. It’s hard to imagine that the sprinters won’t survive.
A 40km descent back into Alicante follows, which is bound to put teams off making the climbs really hard. Despite the look of the profile, I think this is a big sprint and teams won’t bother trying to make it tough.
Nice and straight heading back into town, but the map doesn’t show a potential area of concern.
I’m not sure why we have a roundabout with 300m to go, it doesn’t make any sense to me. This is bound to make the bunch nervous and could lead to a few crashes in the closing stages. To win the stage you must leave the roundabout in the first five wheels.
Sunny with a light wind from the East.
Dylan Groenewegen – after a hugely successful 2018, I’m excited to see what he can produce in 2019. The Dutch sprinter has been carefully managed by his coaches and I think we’ll see significant progression this season. The usual lead out has been slightly altered, they’ll have Teunissen and Roosen in front of their quick man. In the closing kilometres they’ll also be able to call upon the horsepower of Tony Martin and Jos Van Emden, making the sprint train very fast and hard to beat.
Nacer Bouhanni – a stage win in the Vuelta rescued a poor season for the Frenchman. It looked like he and Cofidis had fallen out of love with each other, but that win gave him an enormous confidence boost. It still seems that the management still favour Laporte, but Bouhanni will get plenty of opportunities to lead the team this year. In Filippo Fortin, he has a new lead out man, one that I do have a soft spot for. After four years in the wilderness it’s great to see him back at this level and I’m interested to see how he does ahead of Bouhanni.
Sonny Colbrelli – the Italian is another who enjoyed a good 2018 and he’ll be looking for more of the same in 2019. He’s the sprinter who would benefit the most from a tough day in the saddle, but I’m not sure his team will commit that many men to this. In the closing kilometres he’ll have a fair bit of help and I expect him to start the sprint in a good position, but it will be very hard for him to beat the pure sprinters.
Matteo Trentin – winning the European Championships was good, but 2018 wasn’t a vintage year for the Italian. I’m not convinced he has the speed required to challenge in this type of finish and if I was the boss, I’d go with Luca Mezgec instead.
Magnus Cort – 2018 was a breakthrough year for the Dane, taking his first grand tour stage at the La Vuelta. Astana are here with a big focus on the GC, leaving Cort to look after himself in the sprints. He does have a deceptively quick kick, but it will be tough for him to win.
Thomas Boudat – his win in the opening stage of the 2018 Vuelta Andalućia remains one of the surprises of last season. The French sprinter is quick, but not fast enough to challenge against the calibre of sprinters at this race. He’ll be hoping to use Niki Terpstra’s experience and net a top 5 result.
Alexander Kristoff – he has a cold.
The sprinters won’t get dropped and Dylan Groenewegen will take the first of many wins in 2019. In my opinion, he starts the year as the fastest man in the world.
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