By David Hunter
Maceda – Puebla de Sanabria 158.5km
Yet another tough day in the saddle. The peloton will be delighted to get out of Galicia.
Just the three cat 3 climbs, but plenty of uncategorised bumps, helping to make up the 2595m of climbing. This is no easy day. After a few tough days and a big weekend of climbing to come, the bunch will hope for a relaxed day. Most teams will be hoping that a small break goes away, with BMC controlling. Although there is a lot of climbing, some of the sprinters will expect to be around at the finish. The final climb crests with almost 20km remaining, so plenty time for the sprinters to get organised.
The finish is okay, but has a little chicane with 500m to go. That isn’t very nice! The speed of the bunch will be dictated by the size of road, at that point. If the barriers are well back, the bunch will be able to take it at high speed. If you touch the brakes, your day is over. There is also a little rise, with 500m to go. The bunch will be going very fast, so this will not have an impact on the finale.
Small, maybe around 10%. The stage does look okay for some sprinters, so BMC will get help from Etixx, Trek and Orica. That should be enough to bring the break back. However, nothing is guaranteed in a grand tour. With no flat in the final 90km, there is a chance the bunch get it wrong.
Gianni Meersman – two wins and full of confidence. Both times, his lead out has been perfect, despite only having a few men. Etixx will be expected to shoulder a lot of the chasing, but they know they can win with just two in front of Meersman. In Stybar and Lampaert, they have two wonderful riders. I still don’t think Meersman is the quickest, but he won’t mind!
Niccolo Bonifazio – his chances are running out! He climbs well, so shouldn’t be overly concerned about the route. The problem will be the demanding nature of the opening week. The Italian is just 22 and will be tired.
Magnus Cort – he must have been disappointed on Wednesday, this represents another chance. He could do with Gerrans sticking around and helping with the lead out.
Nikias Arndt – hasn’t managed to sprint yet, that will be hugely frustrating. Arndt really is a good climber, think back to his impressive performance in the Tour of Yorkshire. His team will be desperate to show themselves, with chances running out.
Fabio Felline – will hope for a fast race. If some of the sprinters drop away, the Italian has already shown he can make the podium. For him to win, all the sprinters need to be dropped.
Philippe Gilbert – I shall continue to list Gilbert until he wins! Has been very attacking and a win is just round the corner.
Watch out for Van Der Sande and Sbaragli. Both riders really do excel in tough conditions and I can’t see either getting dropped. They will hope for a podium spot.
I think we’ll get a sprint and it should be Arndt v Meersman. I still believe in the Giant train and the young sprinter, so it’s Arndt for me.
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