Estadio Aldo Cantoni > Estadio Aldo Cantoni 141.9km
The opening stage of San Juan won’t win a beauty competition! It’s out of town on a straight road into a barren wasteland, then a U-turn, before heading back into town. They basically spend 120km on the same stretch of road, I’ve not seen that for a long time. Think Mad Max and you won’t be too far away.
At least the weather’s playing ball. It’s a roasting hot day with temperatures getting up to 35 degrees and it’s windy! It should start around 25km/h, before weakening, and then picking up again to 25km/h, and its crosswind the whole time they’re on that one piece of road.
Sprint finishes in this part of the world can often be a little on the sketchy side, but this one looks fine to me. Most of the roads are nice and wide, and there a couple of corners to help line out the bunch, the last one coming with 700m to go. There’s no big rush to get to the front too early, the best train will likely make a surge in the final 2km.
Do any of the world tour teams want to have some fun in the wind? The road out of the city seems a little bit cross/headwind but coming back is a perfect cross/tailwind. It’s far too good an opportunity to pass up, but if none of the big names are dropped, I doubt the move will continue. Fingers crossed the riders want to come out to play. If not, it’s a boring sprint stage.
Fabio Jakobsen – please let Remco help in the sprint train! At this time last year, we witnessed Remco blowing everyone away while riding in position 4, it would be great to see that again. Once he’s done, it’s over to Lampaert and Mørkøv to finish the positioning and then Fabio sprints to the win. It’s as easy as that.
Sam Bennett – he’s got Mullen, Koch, and van Poppel, a train that worked very well for him last year. After a period of struggle, it was great to see Bennett back at the top of his game late in 2022. I’m expecting him to be one of the best sprinters in the world in 2023, he’s got everything required to win a lot of races. At this point in the season, it could be a flip of a coin between him and Jakobsen.
Fernando Gaviria – this is the race where he burst onto the scene way back in 2015, but his career hasn’t worked out the way he’d have hoped for. It’s a classic tale of wasted talent, and I’m not sure why. It all started to go wrong for him when he left QuickStep, and I doubt riding with Movistar is suddenly going to reverse his slide into mediocrity.
Elia Viviani – another sprinter who never reached the heights he hit with QuickStep, there’s a pattern there! Just two wins in 2022, it looks like he’s now on the decline. Ineos have Ganna at this race, he’ll make sure Viviani is near the front for the sprint, then we’ll see if he can challenge the big guns for the win.
Sam Welsford – 2022 was his first year in the big league and I liked what I saw. The big Aussie is a very talented track rider, he’s got the grunt required to win bike races, but not against the likes of Jakobsen and Bennett. If everything clicks, he can challenge for the podium.
Peter Sagan – we’ll have to wait and see which Peter Sagan turns up to this race. There were hints of a return to his best in 2022, I’m hoping for a resurgent Sagan in 2023.
Gleb Syritsa – the lad that looks more like a bare-knuckle boxer than a cyclist. Honestly, he’s built like a brick shit house, I wouldn’t go bumping into him. If it all clicks, he should be challenging for the top 5.
Giacomo Nizzolo – top 5 on a very good day.
Remco Evenepoel – if QuickStep want to have some fun in the wind he’ll be up there throwing some punches. Him winning a stage like this is very unlikely but I’ll throw his name in just in case.
It seems like we have the ghost of Christmas past, present and future in terms of QuickStep sprinters at this race, but which one will win?
I think we’ll see splits in the wind and a win for Fabio Jakobsen.