By David Hunter
Castellon – Fredes 163.3km
Stage 2 and it’s time for the mountains! It’s a nice and easy day, until the final 15km.
Alto de Fredes isn’t the toughest climb in the world, but at this time of the year, it will be hard. Officially, it’s 15km at 4.8%. It might not sound much, but the sheer length of the climb will put many riders into difficulty. Add in the 12% ramps and we’ll get a very small group fighting for the stage win.
As the gaps on GC are small, the breakaway has no chance of survival. Team Sky have the overall lead and they won’t be wanting to through it away. Expect to see Peters, Lopez and Kiryienka(despite being 2nd on GC!) on the front of the bunch for most of the day. Once on the climb they have Roche, Nieve, Intxausti and Konig to support Wout Poels. That is one hell of a line up!
After the TT, Poels has the following advantages to his GC rivals:-
LL Sanchez 0:15
Diego Rosa 0:22
Jesus Herrada 0:22
Ion Izagirre 0:38 (A strong performance, despite crashing)
Fabio Aru 1:01
Dan Martin 1:02
Jose Goncalves 1:05
Daniel Navarro 1:09
Tom-Jelte Slagter 1:24
Joaquim Rodriguez 1:31
You can see that the GC is heavily populated by Sky, Movistar and Astana riders. Sky lead the way with 4 riders(Poels, Kiryienka, Konig and Intxausti) in the top 13 positions. This should be all out war between the domestiques. On paper, it’s between Sky and Astana, but Movistar are always good on home soil.
It is possible for another team to steal the win, but it will be very difficult. Numbers matter, especially in the mountains. The TT should define the pecking order within the teams, but form will also come into play. Astana have Sanchez, Rosa and Aru, but I would think that Aru is still the boss. Losing 1 minute to Poels wasn’t that bad for him. Young Fabio might just be in shape! If he is, this is a perfect climb for him and he has the teammates to help. Remember that Aru has a decent sprint after a long climb. If we get a small group approaching the finish together, he should win.
That being said, he might not be in top form yet and Astana can look to Rosa and Sanchez. The Spaniard would be a popular pick, riding on home soil. Like Aru, he has a fast finish. 15th in the Tour Down Under, he has kilometres in the legs and I would expect to see a strong ride from him.
Movistar will still be relying on Ion Izagirre. We’ll never know if he would have won the TT, but he certainly would have been close. He says it’s just some cuts, so he should be okay for this stage. If not fully recovered, Jesus Herrada will have a chance to impress. The two of them will form a strong partnership, one that Sky and Astana cannot ignore.
Don’t forget David Belda of Team Roth! At long last he has the chance to ride on the biggest stage and he’ll try and take it. I really hope he goes well.
Jose Goncalves has a lot of pressure on his shoulders. His team expect him to improve upon his Vuelta performance of 2015. Only time will tell, but that Goncalves would certainly be capable of challenging for a stage like this. A young rider often has problems following up their breakthrough season. I wonder if this will be a season to forget for Jose.
If Purito is on form, he is one of the favourites for this stage. There has been some rumours about him not wanting to be here. If that is the case, don’t expect anything from him. Instead, Alberto Losada, will get a rare chance to impress.
Enrico Barbin, of Bardiani, is another rider we cannot forget about. It might have surprised a few to see Bongiorno and Zardini left at home, but the team are good at knowing their riders. Barbin is a very talented cyclist and usually has good form over the winter. Hopefully he can repay the trust shown in him.
Get ready for Sky v Astana v Movistar. At this point of the season, there are so many questions surrounding the riders. If Aru is here to win, he wins, I don’t care how strong Sky look. If not, Sky have the depth of quality to ensure a victory. I’ll stick with Fabio!
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