Albufeira > Fóia 182.3km
The second stage is one we all know well, the uphill finish in Fóia. Nothing much will happen throughout the day, then it all kicks off with 30km to go.
Lots of sun and not much wind, perfect conditions for the riders. As usual, there will be a headwind for most of the final climb.
The penultimate climb can often be ignored, but it really shouldn’t be. This is where teams can get on the front and blow the race apart, it’s all about trying to drop domestiques and isolate leaders. The reason for doing this is the final climb, it’s only 7.4km at 6%, it’s hard to put the best riders into difficulty.
If you have multiple riders in the front group, it’s possible to attack on the final climb, forcing team leaders into chasing and using up energy. Saying that, this stage always seems destined to finish in a small sprint thanks to the headwind. I wonder if someone can break free this year.
All eyes on Ineos, they ae the team with the numbers. They have three riders who can win this stage: Pidcock, Hayter and Martínez. They know that Remco is going to be very hard to beat, but they’ll sense some weakness in terms of his support, with only Asgreen and Vervaeke as climbing domestiques. It makes sense for Ineos to set a fast pace on the penultimate climb, in the hope of having the numerical advantage in the closing stages. Then they can attack, force others to chase, and hope to win the stage.
Tom Pidcock – wants to test himself in this stage, which is great news for those watching. After an impressive CX season, he had a short break, before resuming training in the Algarve. His form will be good, but it isn’t always easy to find your race legs again. He’s the same age as Evenepoel, but I think this is the first time they’ve gone head-to-head in a race. Get used to it, we’ll be seeing this for many years to come.
Ethan Hayter – won this stage last year, hopefully he’s recovered from his recent COVID infection. He was off the pace in Provence but will hopefully be much better here. If he’s good, it will allow Pidcock to attack on the climb, letting Hayter wait for a sprint. These two riders are sensational talents, but do they have what it takes to beat Remco?
Remco Evenepoel – he knows what Ineos will be planning, the best form of defence could well be attack. The headwind on the climb isn’t great news, he’ll hope that either Asgreen or Vervaeke can last until near the end. His sprint isn’t strong enough to beat the Ineos duo, if he wants to win the stage, he’ll need to attack close to the end, just like he did in 2020.
Brandon McNulty – has the form, has the legs, has the sprint, doesn’t have the team. McNulty will have to sit back and let Ineos try to put Remco under pressure, and hope it comes back together for him to have a shot at winning. I think it’s too risky for him to attack early into the headwind.
Sergio Higuita – another rider with a fine sprint finish. He’s the new Colombian champion, so his form is clearly good. Just like McNulty, he’ll be hoping to benefit from Ineos and QuickStep cancelling each other out.
David Gaudu – looked good today, he’ll be hoping to challenge for the win in this stage. The Frenchman is a hugely talented climber, he should be fighting for the podium, but the win will be hard.
Ion Izagirre – another who’ll be fighting for the top 5.
Tobias Foss – see above.
It’s a tough one to call, but I’ll take a win for Remco Evenepoel.
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