By David Hunter
Puebla de Vicar > Roquetas del Mar 186.5km
A bike race in Spain? Given the cancellation of the other Spanish races, I am surprised this one survived, but I’ll take it.
This race is normally a big old sprint, the only thing that can stop it is the wind. This region of Spain is well known for high winds, and with lots of exposed roads we’ve seen this race split in the past.
Sunny and warm for this time of year. When the race reaches the closing circuit the wind should be 20km/h, coming from the east. With the exposed sections, this is strong enough for some splits if teams put it in the gutter.
This is where the race should split. We have a very exposed section of road and the wind coming from the left. Teams who know this race will all be aware of the importance of this section of the race, this is when some of the sprinters will have their hearts broken.
The final 5km has a few roundabouts to deal with, but it isn’t too difficult. The picture shows the final turn which comes with 400m to go. Ideally you would want to be in position 2 for this turn, especially as the sprint will be a tailwind.
Fernando Gaviria – the Colombian starts as the big favourite; he is the only top line sprinter at the race. UAE arrive with a strong team to support him, they have Richeze, Molano and the Oliveira twins to help with the lead out, and that looks strong to me. Gaviria normally starts the season in good form, but that’s usually in Argentina and Colombia. Gaviria didn’t take a big win in 2020, he really needs a big year if he wants to remain at the top table of sprinting.
Álvaro Hodeg – another rider who could do with a good season. The young Colombian is fast, but he doesn’t win enough, which is a problem if you ride for DQS. The Belgians will look forward to potential crosswinds, they have a team built for it. In terms of the lead out, they have Steimle, Sénéchal and Van Lerberghe which is nice and strong. An early win would do Hodeg the world of good.
Timothy Dupont – already has a win this season, thanks to the chaotic stage in Bessèges. His sprint train doesn’t look very strong, his best shot is a spot on the podium.
Giacomo Nizzolo – he was a little off the pace in Bessèges, but with that race in the legs he’ll be better here. His sprint train looks quite good, especially the presence of Walscheid and Pelucchi, but they are still getting used to each other. Nizzolo will fancy his chances of winning this race, especially if he can find his late 2020 form.
Danny van Poppel – I really don’t know where his career is going. This is a rider who has the natural ability to be one of the best, but the coaches at Sky and Jumbo couldn’t get the best out of him. He is still capable of a good result, but it would now be a surprise to see him winning a race like this.
Edward Theuns – my Belgian friend was nice and strong in Bessèges, finishing 2nd on the Queen stage. He arrives in Spain as the team’s sprinter, but his usual lead out men are not by his side. If the wind blows, Eddie will be in his element, but the lack of a good lead out means he’ll be launching his sprint from behind some of the top sprinters.
Marc Sarreau – didn’t really get an opportunity in Bessèges, that’s what happens when Greg is in your team! AG2R have a good train to support Sarreau, even though most would underestimate them. Case in point is Gijs Van Hoecke who used to be last man for Van Poppel in their Jumbo days. Van Hoecke is a beast of a rider, and if Naesen and Dewulf can get him in position, he’ll help Sarreau launch from the front.
Jordi Meeus – the talented youngster is in his first season at the top level, but don’t underestimate him. As Ackermann isn’t racing, he’ll lead Bora and will hope to post an impressive result. Winning will be hard, but he’ll hope to fight for the top 5.
Iván García Cortina – looking to upset the sprinters will be Movistar. They don’t have a top sprinter, which means they must look to attack and try to change the dynamic of the race. They’ll push the pace on the climbs in the middle of the race, but as the race heads towards home it’s a headwind, which will help the peloton chase down any escape. The next opportunity for the team to change the race is in the crosswinds, Movistar know this area very well and will try to split the race, but some of the sprint teams are better than them in the wind. It would take something pretty special for García to win this race, but he is a bloody good cyclist.
A Colombian battle on the streets of Almeria! I’ll go for a slight surprise and take a win for Álvaro Hodeg.
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