By David Hunter
After a week in Spain, we return to Italy!
It’s the 95th edition of the race, which ends with 2 quick ascents of the beautiful climb, to Basilica di Superga.
The race is 193.5km long, but it only gets interesting in the final 30km.A nice, easy race until the first ascent to the Basilica. We then have a quick descent, before the final climb. The climb is very hard!
We were robbed of this race, from 2008-2011, but thankfully it returned in 2012. That year it was Alberto Contador, who took a brilliant victory. He had just won the Vuelta and arrived with great legs, sound familiar?
Diego Ulissi took a great win, in 2013, part of his hat-trick of end of season victories.
Last year, it was Franco Pellizotti who animated the race. He launched a number of attacks, but wasn’t allowed space. Majka and Pozzovivo were also in good form, but it was Dani Moreno who took 2nd. This is a good race for Moreno, as Rodriguez has one eye on Il Lombardia, which is on Sunday.
It’s interesting that both Contador and Ulissi won, after riding the Worlds. Will the same pattern continue?
Contador, has been resting since the Vuelta and will ride here, in Lombardia and in Beijing. It looks like he wants to take the number 1 rider of the season around, but this is awarded for World Tour races, only, so this race doesn’t count. Will this change how he approaches the race, or will he continue to amaze? Here to help Alberto is Roman Kreuziger. Back from his enforced absence, he will be keen to make up for lost time.
The race features some top riders: Hesjedal, Aru, Scarponi, Pellizotti, Rodriguez, Moreno, Izagirre, Capecchi, Giampaolo Caruso, Arredondo, Frank Schleck, Finetto, Rogers, Voeckler, Sicard, Zardini, Bongiorno, Pirazzi, Tschopp, Reichenbach, Duarte, Rebellin, Betancur, Pozzovivo, Vuillermoz and Lagutin.
This is quite some group of riders and hard to pick through, but I’ll try!
Fresh from a win is Alexis Vuillermoz. The 26 year old Frenchman, took his 1st pro victory, on Sunday. He’s had an excellent season, finishing 11th in the Giro and might get his chance. The reason behind this, is Betancur still seems to be lacking form/fitness and Pozzovivo is riding his first race since his nasty training injury. I expect AG2R, to turn to Vuillermoz, if Pozzovivo isn’t ready.
Ryder Hesjedal was excellent in the Vuelta. He took a great stage win and then was a loyal worker for Dan Martin. He was 12th here, in 2012, despite being in the break. This will prepare him well for Il Lombardia, but remember he goes well on steep slopes. The Canadian has a good chance here.
Fabio Aru has been one of the riders of the season: 3rd in the Giro, 5th in the Vuelta. He also took a stage win in both races and is a big threat here. It would be a great way to close out his 2014.
Mauro Finetto has been his usual consistent self. He was 11th in Bernocchi, 6th in Tre Valli and 9th in Prato. A 7th place, in 2013, was better than he thought possible as the finish isn’t ideal for him. With a bit more belief, he might be able to go a little better. I spoke to Mauro tonight and he informed me that he’s had a cold, this week, but still hopes to go better than his 7th place, last year.
Voeckler is an interesting option for Europcar. The length of the climb is good for him, and he could be allowed some freedom. I think it’s just too hard for Sicard.
Arredondo is off form and looking forward to his holidays and I don’t see Schleck challenging.
IAM come with Tschoppp and Reichenbach, who was 12th here last year. Both riders could challenge for the top 10, but the final 3km will be too much for them too!
Fabio Duarte, is a rider who could challenge. Without a win, for 2 years, he added to his collection of Giro 2nd places. He now has 4 to his name! The finale does suit him, if he can shrug off his losing streak. Team Colombia have had a very ordinary season, with no win in Europe. Time is running out for them…
Bardiani, again enter a race with multiple options. Zardini, is fresh from a brilliant win in the Tour of Britain. The difficult climb, suits him, just like Bongiorno. He disappointed, in Britain, and will be looking to strike back on home soil. They also have Pirazzi, for the long range attack. I expect them to feature at the end of the race.
Katusha arrive with a strong team. They have Caruso to help Rodriguez and Moreno. It’s unsure who will lead, but I think Rodriguez should be their main man. He didn’t go too deep, on Sunday, and will be looking to hit some form before his Lombardia defence.
Tinkoff-Saxo arrive with a strong team, to support Contador. They will ensure the break doesn’t succeed, and we get a battle on the final climb. Contador, is the massive favourite, and will be very hard to beat. Aru, Hesjedal, Duarte, Rodriguez, Moreno, Bongiorno and Zardini are capable of staying with him, but if Contador wants to win….he’ll win! If he is not targeting a win and is just training, I see Katusha as his main threat. Last year, Rodriguez was tired from the World RR and allowed Moreno the opportunity, but not in 2012. Either man is capable of winning, if given the opportunity.
I’ll go Contador, Aru, Rodriguez.
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