Marsala > Agrigento 159.2km
The opening stage of the race sees the bunch head down the coast towards Agrigento. The big teams should control the morning break and set up a “sprint” finish.
Sunny and temperatures will get close to 20 degrees. The wind is blowing around 20km/h, and there’s going to be a lot of tailwind throughout the stage.
Not an easy finish. The average gradient is reduced by a couple of flat sections, it’s harder than the numbers suggest. Some of you might think this looks familiar, and you’d be right, it’s the same finish which was used in the 2nd stage of the 2020 Giro. That day, Ulissi won from Sagan and Honoré.
Allow a small break to get away in the opening kilometres, then chill out for the rest of the day. Once in the final 10km, the pace will start to rise and I think we’ll see the likes of UAE, Bahrain and Jayco setting a hard tempo. These teams will be happy with a sprint finish, but they must be careful as this is the type of finish where a late attack can be successful.
Diego Ulissi – just about as close as you can get to a perfect finish for Ulissi. Recent form has been decent, he’ll look at this stage as a big chance to take his second win of the season. UAE have the team to control the finale and Ulissi will start as the big favourite.
Felix Engelhardt – the young German is enjoying a fine start to his Jayco career, thanks to winning Per Sempre Alfredo and looking good in Coppi e Bartali. Unfortunately, he recently had a training crash with a car, and despite being fit enough to race, I think he might be a little off his best.
Alexey Lutsenko – an uphill sprint like this is perfect for Luts. This year he made the Ardennes a big target, he should be close to his best, which will be a worry for everyone else. His team don’t look strong, but he’s got enough experience to guide himself into a good position for the final kilometre.
Marco Tizza – the Italian is normally good in this type of finish; he should be challenging for the top 10.
Vincenzo Albanese – a training crash at the end of January has meant he’s not raced yet this season, which will have been hugely frustrating after a strong 2022. This is a good finish for him, but he’s likely to be a little rusty.
Walter Calzoni – it’s been a great season so far for him, he’s really taken significant steps forward in terms of his progression. I don’t think he’ll win considering those already mentioned, but he should be challenging for the top 5.
Damiano Caruso – he’s got a good kick for a climber, but would need the final 4km to be done at a very high speed.
Kobe Goossens – late attack.
I’m looking forward to a battle between the puncheurs and climbers.
He loves this finish, it’s a day for Diego Ulissi.
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