Sagres > Fóia 186.2km
The second stage heads back to Alto da Fóia, a regular finish in the race. This year, the approach to the climb is different, it looks a little harder to me. Last year, Higuita and Foss crashed withing sight of the line, allowing Gaudu to take the win, will it be another sprint this year?
Sunny, quite warm and not much wind.
This is the Picota climb, which comes just before Fóia. It’s hard enough to drop a lot of riders, especially as there’s also a couple of uncategorised lumps leading into it.
Will we eventually see this stage end in something other than a sprint? For the first time I can remember, there’s a tailwind for the climb, until the swing round in the final 1500m and it becomes the usual headwind. The hill is nice and steady, drafting in the wheels is huge on this type of climb. Ineos usually want to control this finish and I don’t see anything else happening this year.
Ineos are here with a ridiculously strong climbing team, they’ll dictate the finale of the stage, but who will they ride for? For me, it should be Pidcock, but it can be difficult to predict which races he’s going for. Arensman and Martínez are their protected GC riders, but I don’t think either has the sprint required to take the stage, but Pidcock certainly does.
Bora and UAE will also be happy with a sprint, both have excellent options in Higuita and Almeida. Even if Ineos try something fancy, and attack in the closing stages, there should be enough domestiques to chase it down and set up a sprint finish. The key for those wanting to win the stage is to hide in the wheels, but then get to the front in the final 500m. Those who start the sprint too far back don’t have a chance of taking the win, you need to take it on from the front.
Sergio Higuita – looked like he was going to win this stage last year but collided with Foss and hit the deck. Higuita has an excellent sprint, there are few climbers who can match his kick in the final 300m. He starts this stage as one of the big favourites, and with Hindley to help, he should be in a good position to launch his sprint.
João Almeida – he’s one of the few to beat Higuita in a sprint, that was last year in Catalunya, but it was a harder climb. Last time he was here it was back in 2020 and he played a huge part in Evenepoel’s win. Riding on home soil will give extra motivation, hopefully he’s fully fit after picking up a knee injury in Mallorca.
Tobias Foss – was likely going to finish 2nd last year before crashing. He doesn’t have a strong team to support him in this race, he’ll have to do the positioning work himself in the final kilometre. After winning the TT world championship, he starts the season with more pressure on his shoulders, an early win would be the perfect tonic.
Tom Pidcock – was here last year, but when the sprint started to launch, he went backwards. The classics are his main goal, so it’s hard to tell what his current shape is like. He only did two CX races in January, I expect he’ll be going better than he was this time last year. Pidcock has the sprint required to win the stage, hopefully he’s targeting it.
Rui Costa – the man in dazzling form. He’ll be in the mix for the win, but those already mentioned are faster than him these days.
Ilan Van Wilder – another climber with an excellent sprint finish. His current shape is good, he’ll see this as a big chance to fight for his first pro win.
Oscar Onley – he looked good in the Figueira Classic, but his legs fell off last time up the steep climb. I’m hoping he’ll feel the benefit of having that race in his legs, as this is a good stage for him. With so many big names at this race, he can just sit in the bunch and hope to show himself when it’s time to launch the sprint.
Magnus Cort – I’ll just throw his hat in the ring. It all depends on his current shape, it’s not out with the realms of possibility to see him fighting for the win. It’s up to the climber teams to make sure he’s not there.
This is going to be a close sprint, I’m finding it hard to split Pidcock, Almeida and Higuita. Okay, I’ll roll the dice and take a win for Sergio Higuita.
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