By David Hunter
Lagoa – Monchique 197.2km
It might only be stage 2 but the GC could be decided today. As we approach the end of the stage, we have two challenging climbs: 3.9km at 5% and 4.5km at 7.8%. In between we have a scary descent and a quick plunge down to the finishing line too.
Last year, Kwiatkowski won the stage by 6 seconds from Rui Costa, Contador and Prades. A group of 8 riders arrived 17 seconds after the winner, with 4 more riders at 16 seconds. Only the first 16 riders finished within a minute of the winner. This stage is huge!
Tony Martin rolled over the line 10:09 behind the winner. It will be interesting to see what he can do this year. The TT is now up to 19km, big Tony might just go full gas and try to stay close to the winners. However, the climb is on his limit. I’m not sure if he’ll cope.
The top climbers here are: Porte, Kwiatkowski, Stybar, LL Sanchez, Taaramae, Formolo, Machado, Chernetckii, Gesink, Gallopin, Izagirre, Henao, Thomas and Parra.
Both Etixx and Team Sky have very strong teams and I expect to see Sky set a fierce pace on the climbs. They will want to eliminate Tony Martin, Stybar and isolate the World Champion. As we all saw on Willunga Hill, Richie Porte is flying. His sustained attack was too much for everyone and I think we’ll see him apply the same tactics here. Kwiatkowski is good on short, steep climbs but can he cope with a long attack?
Taaramae is fresh from a brilliant win in Murcia, where he was simply too strong for the peloton. With he and LL Sanchez, Astana have a couple of good options.
Davide Formolo has the ability to stay with the big 2. His TT ability isn’t as good, so they won’t be too worried if he hangs around. A brilliant climber, he already looked good in Mallorca, helping himself to a 3rd place. He has a big chance of winning the stage.
Tony Gallopin is targeting the GC and I look forward to seeing how he goes. He’s a very classy rider and he has a chance to stay with the best. His climbing skills seem to improve every year, hopefully this continues.
Tiago Machado is riding on home roads and brings some good form with him, from the TDU and Murcia. He lacks the explosive kick required to win stages but he should be in contention.
It should be a battle between Porte, Kwiatkowski and Formolo. The Aussie has to distance the Pole on the climb, as Kwiatkowski will destroy him on the descent. Formolo could benefit from these two watching each other and letting him go. With superior descending skills, I’m siding with the World Champion. What curse?
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