By David Hunter
Burgos – Burgos 157km
The race begins with a familiar finish.
This is the fourth consecutive year that the opening stage finishes with Alto del Castillo. The cat 1 climb has only been included in one of those years, back in 2018, I wonder if it will have any impact this year. The finish has also been used many times in the past.
As it crests with 80km remaining it is highly unlikely to have any influence on the stage, but as this is the first day back for most riders I do think there is a small chance of a team hitting the climb hard to test some legs.
Once we get close to the finish, the peloton have to tackle the finishing climb on two occasions. Back in 2017, Mikel Landa used the climb, and descent, as a launching pad to make a move. He escaped away with three other riders and had enough of a gap to hold on for the win. Teams wanting a sprint finish will need to be very careful first time up the climb.
As you can see the finish isn’t overly technical. The key point is the right hand turn just under the flamme rouge; a poor position here means you won’t be winning the stage.
The climb has two clear sections. The opening metres sting the legs before it flattens out. The final 500m just gets harder and harder, this is a great little finish, but which type of rider will win?
Nizzolo won the sprint last year, just pipping Alex Aranburu on the line. In 2018 it was Francesco Gavazzi winning the sprint from Pello Bilbao and as I’ve already mentioned, Landa won in 2017 managing to hold off a fast finishing Julian Alaphilippe. Just look at the names mentioned, it does show you that sprinters, puncheurs and climbers can all challenge for the win, which is why I like this finish so much.
This year is a little different, thanks to the strong start list. We rarely get so many big sprinters coming to Burgos, having so many of them here changes the dynamic in this stage. Given the final climb is around 1km at 6%, most of them will back themselves to win. I can’t wait to see if they can, especially with some fast finishing puncheurs looking interested.
Lots of sun, but this area can be quite windy. It should be around 37km/h, which is plenty strong to cause some stress in the peloton. Coming from the north-east means the long section as the peloton head south back to Burgos will be cross/tailwind. Being the first day back at school, you can bet someone will try and split it, especially as that section of road is wide open and lasts for 20km.
Time for something a little different…
Sprinters – Bennett, Démare, Cimolai, Gaviria, Kristoff, Nizzolo, Theuns, Aberasturi, Lobato.
Puncheurs – Trentin, McCarthy, Roosen, Aranburu, Stuyven, Pedersen, Canola, Bevin, Edmondson.
Climbers – Valverde, Landa, Evenepoel.
I’m not one for usually listing a huge number of riders who can win, I leave that to inferior previewers. However, I want to highlight the incredible start list we have, which makes this stage very hard to predict.
As the final kilometre is “only” 6%, it is almost impossible for the climbers to win. To do so, they need to do a “Landa” and attack on the penultimate climb. As we have lots of strong teams, I doubt this move will work this year.
Then it becomes a battle between the sprinters and puncheurs. Positioning in the final corner will be hugely important in deciding which type of rider wins. For the puncheurs to win, the first ramp of the climb needs to be hit very hard, this will kill the legs of the sprinters and leave them struggling in the final 300m. If the opening of the climb is controlled by the sprint teams, the fast men will still have plenty left for the final kick-up to the line.
Will anyone try something on the cat 1 climb? I don’t think so. Will someone blow the peloton apart in the wind? Yes they will! You know what the first day of school is like, the big boys are always bullying the little boys in the playground.
If the race splits we’ll see sprinters riding for their GC guy, having to sacrifice their own chances of glory. It looks like a good day to be a sprinter on a team without any GC hopes.
I’ll rule out a climber winning, I just don’t see that scenario playing out considering the strength of the start list. That means it has to be sprinter v puncheur, but who wins? To win you must be able to get a good position for the final corner, that makes it tough for those on smaller teams. Putting all of this together, and after much contemplation, I’m going to go with Matteo Trentin, he ticks many boxes for this stage.
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