By David Hunter
Mataro – Olot 195km
On paper, this looks an easier day in the saddle. We only have two categorised climbs and both are fairly easy, but the road rises most of the way home.
The full climb is 4.84km at 4.5% and it does include a section of around 15%, but it’s not very long. The riders are heading along a main road and then have to turn right and head up a hill, through a very pretty village and then head back down onto the main road. The main road is very wide and straight. Even if we get attacks, it’ll be hard to stay away from the peloton, as we head into town. The escapees will be in sight of the bunch and easy to catch.
The climb will be hard enough to distance some sprinters but not many of them. Greg Henderson knows these roads well and he assures me that the climb “isn’t that hard”.
With the big riders needing to make time up, it is possible they attack but I doubt it.
CCC Sprandi Polkowice are delighted to be in the race lead and they’ll be determined to hold onto it. They will control the stage, especially as it’s not that difficult. Yes, we’ll get attacks, on the final climb, but they will get help from sprinter teams. That means, a bunch sprint. Although, some of the peloton will be posted missing.
On any normal day, I’d be telling you that Luca Mezgec would win the stage. He’s still recovering from illness and a crash, but if he can haul ass over the climb, the stage should really be his. Matteo Pelucchi is in a similar position but he’s not a great climber.
Bryan Coquard is fast! The climb isn’t a problem for him, so he can focus on getting his sprinting legs ready. The end of the stage is very easy, with a long straight. Today’s “sprint” was a mess but this should be more structured. Orica have the best lead-out and should be targeting this stage for Caleb Ewan. These boys love to target stages, this could be one of them. The peloton expected them to work today, but they refused. Expect more teams willing to help in stage 2.
Tosh Van Der Sande surprised a few with his sprint today. He was meant to be leading out Greg Henderson but did a poor job, but a good job for himself. He has good legs, so Lotto will have a decision to make: Henderson or Van Der Sande? I hope they go with Greg, as he’s in great form. He knows these roads really well, training on them most of the year.
Etixx will be riding for Alaphilippe. They have a decent train and the Frenchman loves this race. Expect another good finish from him, probably a podium spot.
It’s very difficult to picture a scenario where all of these riders get dropped and Valverde sprints against riders like Gasparotto, Simon and Hivert. I don’t see that happening.
Movistar do have Rojas, who should like this stage. King of 4th place, can he make the podium?
The climb isn’t that hard. Yes, it’ll be quick but I think we get a sprint. That means it’s Coquard v Henderson v Alaphilippe v Ewan v Mezgec(maybe). I went with Coquard for stage 1 and I stick with him for stage 2, although Hendo will push him close.
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