By David Hunter
Utrera – Lucena 194.7km
After the opening split stage, the riders head East, with the sun on their backs.Again, we have a climb near the end of the stage. This time there is just 9km remaining when the peloton crest the 2.6km climb at 6.2%. After the descent, we have another uphill sprint.
The closing kilometres are simple enough for the bunch. The organisers have been kind here, something the Vuelta could take note of.
Despite the final climb not being long, it is quite difficult. Cresting just 9km from the finish, it looks perfect for a late attack. It really depends on who makes the move and who wants to chase it down.
We also have to consider all the sore bodies, from the crashes on stage 1. With a big stage coming tomorrow, these guys will want to rest up and not have to chase too hard.
A likely scenario is that Team Sky hit the front and drive the climb. They want to keep Froome out of trouble and this is the best way to do it. They don’t have a sprinter, so don’t really care who gets dropped. They’ll just ride it hard.
On the descent, they’ll hand it over to the sprinter teams. If they don’t take it up, a late attack will stick and the sprinters will lose their chance.
The big crashes have really hurt some of the teams and it will be hard to organise a structured chase. The big sprinters here are Degenkolb, Lobato and Hofland. All three had a number of teammates involved in the crashes and it might be up to others to do the chasing. Pim Ligthart won the stage but most of his team crashed, so Lotto won’t be working either. Lobato also crashed on his head and Hofland took a chunk out of his knee.
MTN – Qhubeka might be interested. With all the injuries flying around, Tyler Farrar has a chance of taking a stage. Teams like Topsport and CCC might just help out too. They have Bole but it would be a bold move to work all day for him when Degenkolb is there.
With so many riders losing big time, the chances of a successful breakaway have been increased, but finding riders fit enough to join it might be hard! Tim Wellens is the obvious shout. A brilliant breakaway rider, he’s far down on GC and his TT showed that his legs are fine. Teammate Van Den Broeck is in the same boat. The other big name, on great form and far down on GC is Wilco Kelderman. If he and Wellens make the break, it stays away!
Caja Rural will want to join the party but have lots of injured riders. That could hand an opportunity to Hugh Carthy. Can the young man take it?
This is such a difficult stage to predict. If we get a sprint, then it’s an easy win for Degenkolb. But there is no guarantee of that. Saxo – Tinkoff will ride tempo and they have a few big engines in Valgren, Tosatto and Petrov. Giant – Alpecin will need to help them out to ensure a sprint. Problem is, Giant don’t have many men to help. Ludvigsson and Oliver crashed today. Degs will need 2 men held back for the last 2km, so that leaves only 2 men to help. It’s not enough. Maybe some of the other teams get involved and help but don’t count on it. It’s a great day to put a man in the break and sit up. Quality breakaway options are Wellens, Kelderman, Canola, Riblon, Vichot, Bakelants, Saramotins, Sicard and Roux.
Even if the initial break is caught, someone could escape on the final climb. Anything can happen! I’ll say breakaway and Marco Canola.
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