By David Hunter
Vence – Nice 184.5km
What a day we have in store: 3 cat 1 climbs and 3 cat 2 climbs. This is not going to be nice for many riders. The opening climb is 9.6km at 6.6%. Same as today, a climb at the beginning of the stage is not well received, by the riders. Will Team Sky be up to their old tricks and try to put Etixx under pressure from the start?
The organisers have decided to split the Col Saint-Roch into two and call it a cat 2 and a cat 1 climb. Most times it’s just all put together to be 25.1km at 3.4%. The cat 1 section has 5km at 6.8%, before easing off in the final kilometre.
The final climb is 6.6km at 6.8% and featured in the final stage of the 2014 race. It’s not a monster of a climb, so we should see a bunch of around 40 or so riders crest together.
There is bad news on the weather front with rain expected and a strong wind blowing from the East. This means we have the possibility of crosswinds for the majority of the day. Something that could excite Etixx!
Despite all the climbs, the 26km from the top of the final climb to the finishing line will deter a lot of attacks from the bunch. It’s a stage where a reduced bunch sprint is a definite possibility. If that is the case, we have a few riders who have a great chance.
Tony Gallopin is already shown that he’s in top form. This stage is ideal for him as the quickest riders will not be at the finish. The same can be said of Michael Albasini but he’ll find it harder to get over the climbs.
Riders with a fast finish who should be there are: Kwiatkowski, Rui Costa, LL Sanchez, Gautier, Hivert, Clarke, Tom Dumoulin and Impey.
The big question will be whether Michael Matthews can make the end? With so many climbs, I think not. He already has his stage and Orica have plenty of options.
JJ Rojas has a fair chance of making the sprint. If he does he should be able to make the step forward onto the podium after a successful, if not frustrating week.
The rain, wind and climbs all add up to an epic day. Kwiatkowski will have the option of trying to attack on the descent. If the roads are wet he should take advantage of his superior abilities and put Porte under pressure. Richie isn’t known as a brilliant descender, he can be put under pressure. The most likely outcome is a small sprint and that should really be won by Tony Gallopin.
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