Catania > Messina 173.8km
The final stage in Sicily, one that should be for the fast men. There’s only 2000m of climbing, but over 1000m of that comes in the cat 2 climb, which crests with 100km to go. Will the climb be ridden at tempo? Or will someone look to up the pace?
A beautiful day with lots of sun and not much wind.
The cat 2 effort is 19km at 4%, which will certainly test the legs of a few. The issue is the 100km from the crest to the finish, will we see anyone strong enough to push the pace on the climb and continue all the way to the finish?
Tricky! We have a right hand turn with 3.7km to go, the entrance to this is very narrow and it’s a 90 degree turn. Get ready for a huge battle for position, with the GC teams getting involved as it’s outside 3km to go. This turn opens up into a little kicker, it’s around 250m at 4%, but the initial ramp is much steeper. It reminds me a little of the stage Caleb won last year in Termoli.
Once the kicker has been dealt with, we have just over 2km of straight road, with a little rise towards the end of this road. The left-hand turn at the top of this road comes with 1.3km to go, with the final turn coming with 800 to go.
The final corner is tough, it looks more than 90 degrees. If you take it wide it’s possible to maintain some speed, but if you come at it from the narrow side, it’s game over.
Hands up who wants to make the climb tough? Alpecin-Fenix, Lotto and Wanty should all be interested in this. Cavendish didn’t climb too well today, there is a good chance of dropping him on the climb and forcing QuickStep into working to try and bring him back. Normally, a climb with 100km to go would have no impact on a race, but I have a sense the teams I’ve mentioned will see this as a chance to slim down the bunch and put pressure on a few sprinters.
If some are dropped, we’ll then have a classic game of cat and mouse, we’ll need multiple teams working in the front group to hold off the chase. It’s a stage that could be interesting to watch, about time in this race.
Caleb Ewan – I never want to come across as overly critical in my previews, I think we see too much of that these days. However, I have no idea why Lotto Soudal had Schwarzmann in position 3 on Sunday, he just isn’t fast enough. Kluge is slowing a little has he gets older, that’s only natural, but Schwarzmann at 3 isn’t the answer for the team. Okay, De Buyst missed the race through injury, which has forced their hand a little, but it could be a long race for Caleb with his current sprint train. They do have a few climbers in the group, Lotto Soudal need to make the pace high on the climb to try and drop Cavendish, it will also help them in the sprint finish if the bunch is reduced. On the plus side for Caleb, when he did sprint on Sunday, he looked incredibly fast.
Mark Cavendish – if the pace is high on the climb, he’ll get dropped. We’ll then have to see if the boys can bring him back to the front. QuickStep will hope some other sprinters are in the same position, that way they’ll get help chasing the front group. The corners in the finale are perfect for Cavendish and his train, but will he be there?
Biniam Girmay – he’ll benefit from the pace being high on the climb, I expect Wanty to be one of the teams push. The problem is that Ewan is unlikely to get dropped, so it will be hard for Girmay to win the stage, but not impossible.
Mathieu van der Poel – this is a good stage for him, Alpecin-Fenix will be happy to help on the climb. Once we get into the finale, the little kicker with 3.7km to go is perfect for him to launch one of his trademark attacks, as the sprinters won’t want to risk following him and blowing their hopes in a sprint. He would prefer the kicker to be longer and steeper, but I think he’ll still give it a crack.
Arnaud Démare – is it too hard for Démare? Even if he does get dropped, FDJ will drop all their riders back to help pace him back to the peloton, but I don’t see him winning the sprint.
Fernando Gaviria – has another good chance of finishing on the podium, but with a lack of support, I can’t see him winning.
Magnus Cort – he’s not interested in full sprints, but this stage is a good one for him. The smaller the bunch, the better his chances.
The climb to be raced and Cavendish will get dropped. In the finale, Mathieu van der Poel will attack, and as the bunch will be reduced, no one will be able to stop him winning his second stage.
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