By David Hunter
Arco – Anras 220km
This is a stage that most won’t look forward to.
Not only is it a long stage, but it’s almost completely uphill. This is a not the type of stage that most enjoy. If teams really want to make it a tough day, the peloton could be very small. That is an unlikely scenario. What will probably happen is that Astana will set a nice pace on the front of the bunch, bring back the break, setting up a big finish.
The final 4km rises at 7%, but that includes a flatis a tough climb with double digit sections at the start and finish. It is a finish that suits an explosive rider.
Mikel Landa is fresh from winning a stage in Pais Vasco. That was a really steep final climb, but it shows that Landa is good at 10%+. Despite losing ground in the TTT, Landa starts the stage as the rider to beat. At just 4km, his team should not be exposed, despite a lack of quality. I would expect to see Lopez and Moscon lasting with Landa until the very end of the stage.
Astana have the race leader, Valerio Agnoli. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise if he retained the jersey. Agnoli is a good racer, one of those unrecognised by the media and some fans. It really makes me happy when teams make the right choice and allow them some glory. This type of action makes the whole team feel together and Nibali will be rewarded further down the line. Top marks to Astana. The finish isn’t a classic Nibali hill. Despite being a wonderful rider, he does prefer longer climbs. I think that Nibali will look to stay with Landa and not lose any time to him. In Fuglsang and Scarponi, they have two riders capable of attacking and putting Sky under pressure.
Hoping to take advantage of some marking will be Bardet and Pozzovivo. AG2R would have been very happy with their TTT performance, placing both riders in contention. Having two options is certainly a benefit, and I shouldn’t underestimate Peraud. He’s a rider that does like the steep climbs. AG2R should have a big say in the outcome of this stage, Bardet looks like their best bet, if he is in form.
Sergey Firsanov has been flying recently. The Gazprom-Rusvelo rider won Coppi Bartali and Giro dell’Appennino. He actually ended 2015 in good form, with 2nd place in Tre Valli Varesine. This is a finish that is wonderful for him and the others will allow him a little freedom. The Russian will not be expected to last the distance on stage 3, so his attack might not be marked.
Looking to follow him will be Mauro Finetto. Despite having to move to a smaller team, Finetto, has enjoyed a strong start to 2016. His team wasn’t selected for this race, so he rides for the Italian national team. He was 3rd in Coppi Bartali and Appennino, it seems that he struggles to beat Firsanov.
There are lots of riders who will hope to surprise: Wackermann, Pellizotti, Torres, Cunego, Busato and Bunchmann. The biggest surprise of them all could be Sonny Colbrelli. Given his excellent recent form, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him making the finish. The final climb is tough, but his climbing has been impressive recently. He was 6th in Brabantse and 3rd in Amstel. Colbrelli is showing the form he had at the end of 2014, I’m delighted he’s back to that level.
Astana to hold the race together and the favourites will have their fun. Given his recent form, Mikel Landa is my pick for the win.
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