By David Hunter
Stage 1 Recap
We got the expected sprint. A headwind meant that the sprinters were cautious and didn’t want to hit the front too early. apart from NetApp, who horribly misjudged the sprint and it cost Bennett the chance to have a go. The Giant boys lost Kittel, as they squeezed against the barriers. Lucky for him, Tom Veelers, was nearby. He picked Kittel up and put in a brilliant lead-out. It was very easy for the big German, to finish it off. Ruffoni was glued to his wheel throughout the last 5km and he was rewarded with second place, with Cavendish third.
Stage 2 Knowsley – Llandudno 200.8km
We head to Wales.
The final climb crests with just 5.8km remaining of the stage, so it’s very important. The climb is 2.67km long, with an average gradient of 5.1%. Sounds quite easy, but the maximum gradient is 20.2%! The climb looks like a staircase, with flat sections and steep sections. This makes it very demanding for the riders, as the have to constantly adjust their pedalling style.
The other major issue is the width of the road. It’s about 1 and a half cars wide. This continues on the descent, so positioning is crucial. The descent is fast, so they’ll be very little time for any teams to organise themselves. This is a very difficult day for the sprinters and a good day for the opportunists.
The cat 2 climb of Glascoed is 3km at 6%, Ty Gwyn is 2.8km at around 5%. These climb are not long enough, or steep enough to trouble the sprinters.
Normally you can discount all sprinters, on a day like this, but they will still be there. The final climb, isn’t long enough to eliminate these boys. Cavendish, doesn’t seem in great form, but I wouldn’t be surprised so see Marcel Kittel, still around at the finish. The problem will be returning to the front in the final kilometres.
Other sprinters, who will like the look of this finish are Ben Swift, Sam Bennett, Enrico Battaglin and Sonny Colbrelli. Having been in today’s break, Colbrelli will have a chance of taking the overall race lead, with bonus seconds. The stage today was short, so he shouldn’t have used up too much energy. Bardiani are a very clever team and it wouldn’t surprise me if this was their plan all along.
Some of the GC riders will be interested in attacking and trying to take the stage. Chavanel is the first who comes to mind! He’s in great form and could do with a cushion, before stage 3. The finish also suits Kwiatkowski, but I’m still unsure of his form. He was sitting very high in the bunch today, not usually a great sign.
Kittel can’t be written off. He should be able to crest the climb, around 30 riders back and his team will make sure he returns to the front. The only thing to stop him, is Sky and Ben Swift. The Englishman, can cope with a higher speed, on the climb. If they can reduce the peloton, he should take the win. Although, he needs to watch out for Colbrelli and Bennett.
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