Sant Feliu de Guíxols > Sant Feliu de Guíxols 171.4km
The opening stage is a tricky one for the bunch. With only 1782m of climbing, you would normally expect this to be one for the sprinters, but I’m not too sure. Some will hope to be there for the finish, but puncheurs will sense a chance to challenge for the win. This is the same finish that was used in stage 2 back in 2019, when Michael Matthews took the win from Valverde, that tells you all you need to know about which riders it suits.
Windy! The wind will get up to 25km/h, but most of the route is well sheltered from the elements. There is an exposed section of road after km75, when the bunch start to head south and the wind is coming from the east, but as there’s still a long way to go in the stage, I’m not sure we’ll see any echelon action.
Some reports also say there will be a bit of rain tomorrow, but they don’t all agree. Some reports say a little rain, others say a lot of rain. A wet day isn’t great news for the GC riders.
The final categorised climb of the day is 6.8km at 4.2% and crests with about 25km to go. If someone pushes the pace, the pure sprinters will suffer here.
The final 6.5km is complicated. The bunch do this twice, once just before the final categorised climb, and again to finish off the stage. There are a couple of kickers to deal with, narrow roads, street furniture and a tough finish. The roads will likely be wet, meaning the fast descents will be dangerous, and then we have the final kilometre averaging 4.2%.
The weather will make the peloton nervous; I don’t think the morning break will be allowed a big advantage. Teams will get a good look at the finish before they head out to take on the final categorised climb. Once on that climb I would expect the pace to be relatively high, no doubt Movistar will push the pace on the descent, hopefully everyone stays safe.
Positioning is always important in a sprint stage, but even more so in an uphill sprint. The wet roads means that GC teams will want to be at the front for the final 5km, which will significantly increase the pace, and make the little climbs quite hard. The finish has lots of twists and turns, those too far down the bunch will have no chance in the sprint.
There’s also a real chance of someone attacking on the little kicker that crests with 3km to go. A fast descent follows, and if someone is willing to risk it on the wet roads, they’ll be able to get a gap.
Michael Matthews – after his win here in 2019, he’s got to start as the favourite. After crashing in Strade Bianche, his form has started to grow, 4th place in Sanremo was a good result. BikeExchange have a solid team to support him in a stage like this, they should be able to get him in a good spot for the sprint. If he launches from near the front, he’s going to be a hard man to beat.
Sonny Colbrelli – would normally love this finish, but he had to abandon Paris-Nice after just one stage, so it’s hard to predict how he’ll go. If he’s fit, he’ll be fighting for the win.
Alejandro Valverde – the harder the beater for Valverde. He was 2nd behind Matthews in 2019. He’s not always a fan of wet weather, so we’ll have to see how he gets on if the heavens open.
Daryl Impey – he was 3rd in 2019, it’s a good finish for the South African. Now at the ripe old age of 37, he still has plenty of power in his legs. He’s not managed to land a result yet this season, but he’ll be confident of challenging for the win in this stage.
Andrea Bagioli – QuickStep should be one of the teams with the ability to control the final 5km. Bagioli’s start to the season hasn’t been great, his crash in the Saudi Tour must have taken a bit out of him. The final kilometre at 4.2% is very good for him, especially as he’ll have Dries Devenyns on lead out duty. The Belgian has the ability to make the final kilometre very hard, which is perfect for his teammate.
Hugo Hofstetter – a rider in fine form, but will his team be able to position him well enough for the finale? I have my doubts.
Fausto Masnada – if anyone is crazy enough to attack on the final descent, then it’s Masnada!
The type of stage will depend on the rain. If it’s wet, the GC teams will take control. If there’s just a little bit of rain it’ll be much better for the sprinter/puncheur teams. I’ll take a win for Michael Matthews, the finish is perfect for him.