By David Hunter
Mancha Real – Herrera 166.1km
Boring sprint stage.
Nothing much is going to happen. The big teams will control the start, ensuring that the break is full of pro-continental riders, must of whom will be from the Spanish teams. With just two cat 3 climbs, this is an easy stage to control. Expect to see EF Drapac take control and they might even get a little bit of help.
The road leading into town is very straight, with no corners. Just inside the final kilometre, the bunch do have to negotiate a roundabout, this will string out the bunch and make it difficult for misplaced riders to make up positions. We then have a big left turn with 500m to go. The final kilometre means that positioning is very important and those with good trains will have a massive advantage.
Another nice day for the bunch, sun and not much wind.
Sacha Modolo – he’ll still be kicking himself about stage 1. Modolo was given a great lead out, but was pipped on the line by Boudat. After crashing in Valenciana, this race represents a huge chance to take his first win for his new team. After years of riding with a short sprint train, Modolo finally has a long way to play with! With riders like Clarke, Vanmarcke. Breschel and Van Asbroeck, he is going to be put in a great position. With the big fight to enter the final kilometre in the lead, it is difficult to imagine Modolo won’t be in the first 5 wheels. The Italian starts the stage as the massive favourite.
Thomas Boudat – took a brilliant win on Wednesday, timing his sprint to perfection. After two 2nd places in Bessèges, it was great to see him taking a big win. Now that Coquard has left Direct Energie, Boudat will have lots of opportunities this season. It will be difficult to repeat his win, but not impossible.
Moreno Hofland – the Belgian was disappointed with his sprint in stage 1. Lotto delivered a good lead out and with Wellens, Bak and Van Der Sande, he should be given another opportunity in this stage. The experience of Lars Bak could be vital, so often he has helped pilot Andre Greipel to victory.
Clément Venturini – the little AG2R sprinter, has turned in very consistent performances this season. He lacks the kick to pass riders, but if Oli Naesen nails the lead out, he could improve his 3rd place from Wednesday.
Sean De Bie – took a very impressive win in Bessèges, but that was an uphill sprint. De Bie is a quick finisher, but he’s better uphill than in a flat finish. However, looking at his rivals in this race, he should still be able to challenge for the podium.
Andrea Pasqualon – the Italian ended 2017 in hugely consistent fashion. Wanty don’t have a huge amount of talent at their disposal, making it difficult for them to dominate the final kilometres, but their sprinter is quick. 4th on Wednesday, he’ll be hoping to reach the podium.
Against these sprinters and trains, it has to be a win for Sacha Modolo. If he fails, big questions will be asked.
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