Murlo > Terni 170.4km
2083m of climbing in this stage, it’s going to be another sprint.
Sun and nice temperatures. There’s a lot of crosswind throughout the day, but apart from between km55 and km75, the route is well protected by trees. There is no point trying to split it.
We have four roundabouts between 5km and 3km to go, not ideal. Just inside the final 3km the bunch head off the main road, down a very narrow slip round which bends round and opens up onto another wide road.
We then have a fast right-hand turn at another roundabout with 1.7km to go. The road is a standard two-lane road, just like today, it’s not the widest. Under the flamme rouge the bunch go all the way round a roundabout, this is obviously a very important point in the sprint lead out.
The final turn comes with 300m to go, yet another roundabout. There’s a little surprise at the end, we have 200m of uphill cobbles! It’s not steep, but it’s going to be fun to watch.
Tim Merlier – took a very impressive win today, he always seems to do well in messy finishes. Alpecin-Fenix did a good job in the final 5km, they remained patient and let the other teams battle for the front of the bunch. When they decided the time was right, they hit the front with four riders in front of Merlier. They got a little swamped in the final kilometre, but Merlier was able to find a good wheel and finished it off with the win. Can he take another win? Given the way his train rode today, it wouldn’t surprise me.
Caleb Ewan – it didn’t happen for Lotto-Soudal today, but sometimes that happens. This finish is better for his sprint train, they should be able to be near the front in the closing kilometres. I don’t like seeing Ewan without De Buyst, we’ll have to see if Selig can deliver in this stage.
Mark Cavendish – didn’t sprint today, the team went for Ballerini instead, as Cav had a cold. I would expect to see Cav back on sprint duties for this stage, and QuickStep look to have a strong train. It doesn’t look like Remco will be getting heavily involved in the sprints, but Alaphilippe is. With Asgreen and Honoré to help, they should be able to boss the final kilometres, then it’s over to Cav.
Peter Sagan – it was great to see him back in the mix today, it seems like a long time since he was challenging for wins. He showed again that he doesn’t need a sprint train, he’s still a master at holding position in the closing kilometres. He’ll like the finish but winning will be hard against the likes of Merlier and Cavendish.
Phil Bauhaus – won a tough cobbled sprint in last year’s Tour of Poland, but this one can’t be compared to that. Bahrain did okay today, but they seemed to hit the front too early. They need to be more patient in this stage.
Giacomo Nizzolo – can’t see him winning.
Olav Kooij – finished very fast today but started the sprint too far back. Given his short sprint train, this stage will be even harder for him to win. He has the speed, but he needs the position.
Alexander Kristoff – today was the first time his train failed; we’ll see how they respond. The technical nature of this finish is good for them, having a longer train will give them an advantage. The cobbled finish is good for Kristoff, but he would prefer it to be a little harder.
Kaden Groves – he looked strong today; 3rd place was a decent start for him. It’s good to see BikeExchange getting it right for him, last year he didn’t have great support in the sprint finishes. Having a rider like Michael Matthews as final man is a huge boost for Groves, he should be challenging again in this stage.
I’ll go for a little surprise in this stage. Today, he was in a great position for the sprint, but got stuck behind a dying Davide Ballerini. The technical finish suits him well, I’ll take a win for Phil Bauhaus.