Camaiore > Sovicille 219km
Stage 2 is the first of the sprint stages, and it’s a long day in the saddle. 220km is perfect for those looking to get racing kilometres in the legs for some of the classics that are fast approaching. No doubt, the race will follow a familiar pattern. We’ll see a break consisting of mainly Italian teams getting a very large gap, before the peloton bring it back for the sprint. I’m calling it now, Albanese, Tonelli and Bais will all be in the break!
Sunny and cold. The wind is quite strong at close to 20km/h, and we do have a lot of crosswind throughout the stage, but most of the route is well protected from the elements.
It’s a typical finish for this race. The road is a standard two-lane affair, which means it’s not actually that wide. The final turn comes with 3km to go, there are a couple of bends after this, but they can all be taken at speed. The finishing line looks to be very close to a right-hand bend, I’d be wanting to take the right-hand side of the road just in case the organisers put the finish on the bend. There will be a lovely tailwind for the sprint, you can go for a long one!
Caleb Ewan – his sprint train is missing Jasper De Buyst, but it does include Schwarzmann, Sweeny, Kluge, and Selig. Caleb has started the season in fine form, he’s already got two wins to his name. His record in the opening sprint stage of big races is awful, but this year he did win the opening stages in both the Saudi Tour and Haut Var, so maybe he’s managed to fix this. His sprint train looks good, he’ll start as the favourite to win the stage.
Tim Merlier – Alpecin-Fenix have had to choose where they send Jonas Rickaert, and they’ve decided he’s at Paris-Nice with Philipsen, it’s got nothing to do with the rumours about Merlier leaving the team at the end of the season! His sprint train is still a good one, Stannard, Planckaert, Oldani and Vermeersch are all fast. Merlier hasn’t hit top form yet, but everything before this race was all about getting in shape for this one.
Mark Cavendish – will Remco be in the sprint train? I think we’re all hoping the answer is yes. The slight issue is that Ballerini is the only other recognised sprint train rider, but the likes of Asgreen and Honoré are adaptable and can do a good job further down the line. If they go with Remco at 3, they’ll likely get Cav right to the front for the final 250m, which gives him a great chance of taking the win.
Alexander Kristoff – Wanty have consistently got it right this year in terms of delivering Kristoff into a good position for the sprint. The issue is that the top tier are just too fast for him, especially in a flat sprint. I expect him to be in the mix, and he does have the speed to challenge for the podium.
Pascal Ackermann – non-existent lead out, his chances are limited.
Jordi Meeus – another with a non-existent lead out. It’s shame as the young men deserves better.
Elia Viviani – another who’ll suffer due to lack of numbers.
Arnaud Démare – it didn’t click over in the UAE Tour; we’ll have to see if FDJ get things right in Italy. There’s no Miles Scotson, but he does have Konovalovas, Sinkeldam and Guarnieri. I think Démare could really do with a good result, otherwise his confidence is going to take a bashing.
Giacomo Nizzolo – I really like the Israel – Premier Tech sprint train, you can tell they are guided by Greg Henderson. They have big TT engines in Dowsett and Brändle, they are used to smash to the front inside the final 3km. Then it’s Impey and Zabel for the closing stages, Nizzolo should be able to start the sprint from a good position. The problem is top end speed against the likes of Ewan, Cav and Merlier.
Olav Kooij – did someone say top end speed? This kid has it in spades! Like Israel, they have the big engines of Van Emden and Affini to smash to the front, then it should be Van Der Sande to help in the final kilometre. The youngster came close to a huge win in the UAE Tour, he’s going to be one of the men with a real chance of winning a stage this week.
Matteo Moschetti – they’ve got Edward Theuns to fill positions 2, 3 and 4 in the sprint train! Now, Edward is a talented boy, but this is going to be tricky.
Alberto Dainese – DSM don’t have their usual sprint train, but it’s not too bad. They’ll have Tusveld, Arndt and Nieuwenhuis to guide the Italian in the closing stages. Dainese hasn’t really threatened yet this season, but he does have the speed to challenge for the podium.
Nacer Bouhanni – top 5 on a good day.
Phil Bauhaus – sprint train looks okay to me, the big German will hope to be challenging for the win. In had a great 2021, how will 2022 go?
It’s time for Tim Merlier to remind everyone just how fast he is.