By David Hunter
Al Hazm Castle – Al Bustan 195km
This stage has been used in the last two editions of the race but has been lengthened by the organisers. In 2014, Andre Greipel hung on to win, whilst in 2013, Peter Sagan attacked on the descent to win solo. Not only has the stage increased by 50km, but the climb crests 1 km closer to the finish too. It’s the same distance from climb to finish as when Sagan won in 2013.
The hardest climb is the second one but the first one is around 1km at 9%. This will soften the legs up a bit, especially after a long day in the sun.
The climb in question, Al Jissah, is 2.6km at 6.6%, with a maximum of 12.8%. The final kilometre is very challenging and lends itself to attacks. It has been known for GC riders to attack and test the legs of rivals and themselves. Or, it can be a boring climb with no action. We won’t know until we get there.
If we get attacks from Valverde and Nibali, the other GC riders will have to mark their moves. The problem might not be the climb, but the descent. Both these riders are brilliant going downhill, the other GC riders will struggle to stay with them. Teammates are essential to cover any attacks and discourage attacking riding. Riders who are not perceived as such a big threat might be allowed a little freedom. I’m thinking of riders like Greg Van Avermaet, Fabian Cancellara, Warren Barguil, Tom Boonen, Rui Costa, Mathias Frank and Edoardo Zardini.
The problem that everyone will face is Peter Sagan and Tinkoff – Saxo. A previous winner here, Sagan will have marked this page in the road book. He can mark any attacks himself or let his teammates do so. The descent is also perfect for Sagan and he has to be the favourite for the stage, thanks to his climbing, sprinting and descending ability. Often criticised for poor tactical choices, I look forward to seeing what his team decide is the best approach.
Alexander Kristoff is another massive threat. Last year, he made it over the climb with the main group but didn’t have the legs to sprint. The climb should be okay for him and other sprinters like Demare and Bouhanni. The problem will be how many teammates they have left. They need a few men to guide them back to the front of the bunch and set-up the sprint finish. Stages like this are brilliant because anything can happen!
Sagan is the favourite but this is a difficult finish. Expect attacks on the climb and on the descent, he can’t mark everything. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Sagan attacking on the descent. Other riders who will try their luck are Rui Costa and Greg Van Avermaet. Costa will benefit from not riding with a big rainbow on his jersey, he looks much more anonymous in his Lampre kit. I think the GC riders will mistakenly give him a little freedom, if they do, they’ll regret it. Costa is a very good descender and I hope he attacks. I’ll go for a long shot and say that Costa will win from a very small group.
Follow us in facebook https://www.facebook.com/CiclismoInternacionalLatinoamerica?fref=ts … or Twitter @CiclismoInter
Copyright © 2015 Ciclismo Internacional. All Rights Reserved