By David Hunter
Ourense Thmeral Capital – Baiona 160.8km
After the TTT, the Vuelta has it’s first sprint stage.
We have a cat 3 climb, which will reward a breakaway rider with the KOM jersey. This should be an easy day in the saddle, until the final 10km. As we don’t have long sprint trains, the fighting to control the bunch won’t start until later than usual.
Giant – they may not have brought Degenkolb, but they still have a great lead-out train. With Frohlinger, Stamsnijder, Waeytens and De Kort, it’s safe to say that we’ll see a lot of the Giant boys. In Nikias Arndt they have a sprinter who can go fast. He’s already taken a grand tour stage in 2016, winning the final stage of the Giro. He did get lucky that day, as Nizzolo was unfairly relegated. Looking at the other sprinters, the German will be confident of winning a few stages.
Orica – the Aussies are focused on winning the red jersey, but will still have an option in the sprint. They have Keukeleire, Gerrans and Cort. An impressive trio of fast riders. Cort, the young Dane, was in good form over in the Tour of Denmark. He really is a fast sprinter, so should be given the backing of his more experienced colleagues.
Trek – Bonifazio arrives with a big chance. He is starting his first grand tour, so normally we wouldn’t expect much. However, given the quality of his rival sprinters, he has a good chance of taking a stage win. He won’t have much support, but Reijnen should be good enough to guide him into a solid position. The Italian is fast, he recently won a stage in the Tour of Poland.
Lotto – the Belgians have a team for the mountains, so Van Der Sande will not have much support. On the plus side, no matter who rides for Lotto, they also seem good enough to do a solid lead-out. They will look to Wallays, De Gendt, Dockx, Hansen and Armee to help their chosen man. Van Der Sande recently won in the Tour de l’Ain, his first win for 5 years. He will have confidence, a crucial element of a sprinter’s make-up.
Etixx – Lampaert, Stybar, Terpstra and Serry. That’s a very solid looking train for Gianni Meersman. The Belgian rarely wins sprints these days, such a shame as he was a big talent a few years ago. He won 3 races early in 2015, but hasn’t crossed the line first since. He is soon to be out of contract, so a win would boost any contract talks he’s having.
Dimension Data – the South Africans arrive with a reduced train, supporting Kristian Sbaragli. He will get the full support of Tyler Farrar and Nathan Haas in the closing kilometres, both very fast riders. The Italian sprinter only has one pro win to his name, that came in the 2015 Vuelta, where he outsprinted John Degenkolb. 2016 hasn’t been a wonderful season for him, but there has been signs of a recent improvement in his form.
BMC – not normally known as a team for the sprints, we’ll see them mixing it up with the others. Jempy Drucker took three 2nd places in Burgos, where he was led out by Danilo Wyss. He sprinted well in the 2015 Vuelta, taking two 4th places and one 3rd place. If they can nail the lead out, a podium spot is well within his grasp.
The Late Attack
As the sprint teams are relatively weak, it opens the door to late attacks. If the team leading the peloton is unable to set a fast pace, we’ll start to see solo riders attempt to get away inside the final 5km. These attacks rarely win, but the chances are increased in this race. To pull of such a move, you need to have a huge engine. Riders like Philippe Gilbert, Niki Terpstra, LL Sanchez, Sven Erik Bystrom and Dries Devenyns all have the skill set required.
I like the look of Giant. A good lead-out will go a long way in this race, due to the lack of an outstanding sprinter. With De Kort in front of him, it should be a win for Nikias Arndt.
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