By David Hunter
Paterna – Valencia 98.5km
Seconds out, round 3.
The race ends with a glorified criterium around the streets of Valencia. Just under 100km long, this gives the sprinters a final chance of glory, but can anyone beat Dylan Groenewegen?
We’ve had two sprints, Groenewegen has taken both of them. In the opening stage he was left in a horrible position in the closing stages, but somehow managed to rescue the win with a monster of a sprint. That day, it was QuickStep who delivered a good lead out, but Jakobsen couldn’t finish it off.
On Friday, the finish was vey messy. QuickStep had control in the closing kilometre, but Jakobsen had lost the wheel of Ballerini. He decided that he’d follow Groenewegen, but as he launched with barely 100m to go, there simply wasn’t enough time to come around him. Again, the Jumbo-Visma train did a poor job. I have previously mentioned that I’m a fan of Christoph Pfingsten, but he had to pull out the line with 400 to go, unable to do a proper lead out for Groenewegen. The wins have papered over the cracks, the Jumbo-Visma train isn’t working well. Groenewegen cannot continue to rescue them with big sprints.
The rest of the riders are simply fighting for 3rd place. It would take something special to beat Groenewegen and Jakobsen, particularly as no one really has a sprint train with them.
Again, we have very little wind. The peloton have enjoyed a fine week of weather, this area can be very windy in February, but there’s barely been a breath of wind all race. The sun will be out, and it looks like perfect conditions for cycling.
We have a straightforward finish to the stage, one that the riders know well. The final right hand turn is taken at speed and opens up into a finishing straight of around 200m.
Dylan Groenewegen – can he make it 3 from 3? Confidence will be running high, not that I think he ever lacks confidence, but to win his first two sprints of the year will certainly have given Dylan a little extra boost. As I’ve mentioned, his sprint train hasn’t been at the races this week, something that cannot continue. The problem is that Van Emden and Pfingsten seem to lack the power required to challenge for dominance in the closing stages of the race, this won’t simply change overnight. They will approach this stage with this knowledge, so they might continue to drop Groenewegen off near the front and let him sort himself out. This is a sprint he knows well; he took the win here last year. Beating Jakobsen in all three sprints would certainly send out a message to the rest of the sprinting world.
Fabio Jakobsen – finishing second to Groenewegen is no disgrace, but he’ll be hoping to take his first win of the season sooner rather than later. His sprint train have worked well this week, Cavagna has the power to lead the peloton approaching the final 2km, he is a big strong boy! Lampaert has the speed and stamina required to do a long turn going through the flamme rouge and then hands over to Ballerini. The Italian is new to this role, but he’s been quite good this week, but Jakobsen needs to stay on his wheel. QuickStep should focus on a classic lead out and let Fabio open up the sprint, if Groenewegen manages to come around him then well done to him. They should not try to be clever and put Fabio on Dylan’s wheel, they have the men to dominate the closing stages. If they nail the lead out, I think the win will belong to them.
Anyone else – well, I didn’t expect to see Mohorič just getting pipped on Friday. It just shows that early in the season strange things can happen. We have a whole host of riders looking to surprise the big two, but I wonder which of them actually believe they can win? Sprinters like Kristoff, Degenkolb, García Cortina, Capiot, Trentin, Mezgec, Cimolai, Aberasturi are all capable of getting on the podium, but I can’t see them winning. The biggest surprise would be if Mohorič can repeat his sprint from Friday and get in the top 3.
QuickStep to nail the lead out and Fabio Jakobsen to get his first win of 2020.
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