Santarcangelo di Romagna > Reggio Emilia 203.6km
This stage was meant to be a quiet day for the GC riders, with a boring sprint stage anticipated, but all of that changed thanks to a late increase in the wind strength. Just yesterday, the prediction was for a quiet day, but tonight’s forecast will spread panic amongst the peloton.
We’ll have an easternly wind blowing around 20-25km/h throughout the whole stage. As the riders head north-west, it’s crosswind for almost the whole day.
Feast your eyes on this. This is taken from Veloviewer, the little red bar at the top indicates when we get crosswinds, you can see there are a lot throughout the day. The good news for those wanting a calm day is that it doesn’t factor in how sheltered the road is. Most of the stage is in and out of little towns, it’s not long stretches of exposed road, but we do have a few.
The picture shows you the worst part of the route, or best depending on your love of echelons! Not all of the 30km are exposed, but I would still expect chaos during this section of the race, even though it ends with 65km to go. We have another tricky section inside the final 20km, this is going to be a nervous day for GC contenders.
The final 5km looks rather dull but looks can be deceiving. Between 5km and 2km to go, I count 25 traffic islands, and judging by the roadbook I don’t think the organisers will remove them. This is a nightmare, it means that riders trying to move up the bunch will be taking huge risks, it’s all about getting a good, early position.
The Fight for Pink
This is not the Tour de France, we don’t have teams built for echelons, we could see a few surprises. In the absence of “wind experts”, it should be the strongest riders in the race who appear at the front. The likes of Carapaz, Nibali and Valverde should be fine, but I worry about Pozzovivo, Hindley, Martin and Landa. This is not a day many of these riders will be looking forward to.
Arnaud Démare – must start as the favourite to win the stage. He still has a full team at his disposal and his trusted train of Konovalovas, Scotson, Sinkeldam and Guarnieri are the best in the race. If the wind blows, this team often excel, they won’t mind if we get some echelons. He already has two stage wins; this is a massive opportunity to take his third win and put himself in a brilliant position to win the Maglia Ciclamino.
Mark Cavendish – no Mørkøv, no party! Being without the best lead out man in the world would have a big impact on anyone, he’s so good that you really notice when he’s not there. QuickStep will still have Schmid and Vansevenant to get involved in the final 10km, but they only have Van Lerberghe and Ballerini for the final kilometres. If it was me, I’d put Bert at 3 and move Ballerini into position 2, it think it suits their skills better. Cavendish usually goes well in the wind; he should survive the echelons.
Caleb Ewan – this will be his last stage, there’s no way he continues after this one. Selig is no longer here, that leaves just Schwarzmann and Kluge for the sprint train. In the last sprint, Ewan was very happy to focus on getting the wheel of Cavendish, with his lead out men lying close to him in case he needed rescued from a poor position. He did get the wheel he wanted, but Démare was fast enough to pip him on the line. We saw today that his current form isn’t great, if it’s a tough day in the saddle, I don’t think he’ll survive.
Mathieu van der Poel – if it’s a proper windy day, one where the peloton is significantly reduced, he’ll stand a chance of winning the reduced sprint.
Biniam Girmay – will we see Biniam “One-Eyed Willie” Girmay on the start line? His win today was stunning, but the young lad clearly lacks experience in opening fizzy wine bottles, something I’m an expert at! All joking aside, I hope to see him racing tomorrow, he’s been brilliant so far in the opening 10 stages. I’m not sure how he goes in the wind, but if we do get echelons, the full team will have to surround Domenico “Tiny Tim” Pozzovivo. Remember, in a grand tour, it’s all about protecting your GC leader, even if that means sacrificing personal ambition.
With the weather forecast, some GC riders will lose sleep tonight. If the wind blows as promised, the race will be thrown in utter chaos with crashes and echelons. When the dust settles, I think Arnaud Démare will take this third stage win.