Sanremo > Cuneo 150.2km
Some will say sprint, others will say break, it’s a well-designed stage at this point in a grand tour.
Sunny and warm.
9.8km at 6.8% is a proper climb, despite its cat 3 rating. With a tailwind to help, this is way over the limit of all the fast men, but the position of the climb gives them hope. All the fast men will be praying the climb is done at tempo.
A tricky finish. We have 8 roundabouts between 5km to go and the flamme rouge, that’s a lot, even by Giro standards. With 2km to go, the road starts to rise and I’m talking about 4% for 500m. With 1.4km to go we hit some city centre cobbles, and they don’t stop until 700m to go. The final rise to the line is around 2%.
- A large break escapes at the start never to be seen again.
- The sprint teams control the start and ensure the break is manageable. On the climb, nothing happens, and the pace is nice and steady. The stage ends in a bunch sprint.
- Same as above, but Alpecin go crazy on the climb and blow the sprinters out the back door. This sets up a reduced bunch sprint.
- Same as 2, but then the climbers sense a great chance to attack on the climb and force a secondary breakaway, which stays away until the end.
My thoughts? Option 1 isn’t a contender; the start of the race is a headwind and there are enough teams to control the early stages of the day. Will Alpecin really want to smash the climb? Van der Poel didn’t last very long on the climb today, I’m not sure he’ll really want a battle on the climb. Also, as the climb crests with 96km to go, they’ll need help from other teams to ensure the sprinters don’t get back on.
That just leaves 2 and 4. The problem I’m having is that both options have a good chance of happening. The strong climbers will sense an opportunity to attack, if they can get a strong group away off the front, the sprint teams will have a hard time bringing them back. This strong group will feature riders from UAE and QuickStep, two of the main sprint teams, which will leave FDJ to do most of the work. The thing is, the weekend is also full of opportunity for the breakaway climbers, they might not want to go deep in this stage. It really is a delicately balanced stage, one where teams will decide their strategy, “on the road.” Apologies people, but I’m still taking it “day by day.”
Arnaud Démare – had a great chance to take his third win on Wednesday but launched his sprint far too early. As FDJ have the longest sprint train, everyone is looking at them to do the work in the closing stages, and then try to jump past them in the final kilometre. Stopping this from happening isn’t easy, they must go flat out and hope no one has any domestiques left. Démare will like this finish.
Fernando Gaviria – you can sense his frustration, but I think the win is coming. It will be interesting to see how UAE approach the climb, I’m not sure they’ll go all in for Nando. If we do get a sprint, Gaviria has the speed to win.
Mark Cavendish – not his type of stage.
Alberto Dainese – can lightning strike twice? I doubt it.
Mathieu van der Poel – the uphill finish and presence of some cobbles will get him excited; it certainly helps bring him closer to the pure sprinters. The problem is that he doesn’t look at his very best, but he can never be written off.
Lennard Kämna – secondary break option 1.
Mauro Schmid – secondary break option 2.
Alessandro Covi – secondary break option 3.
Simon Yates – secondary break option 4.
I think a strong group will force clear on the climb and go all the way. I’ll take a win for Lennard Kämna.
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