We had some drama before the first rider even rolled down the ramp, with Froome, Lopez and Siutsou all falling on their recon of the course. The latter unfortunately had to abandon.
Dennis was the first big hitter out and he blitzed the course as expected, finishing over 30 seconds ahead of Cavagna who was his nearest early challenger. However, we saw surprisingly strong times from Conti then Goncalves which highlighted just how punchy the route was and that Dennis’ time may not have been as unbeatable as it first seemed. Campenaerts flew out the blocks, leading Dennis by 1 second at the intermediate time but he faded ever so slightly and came home fractions behind the BMC rider. It looked as if Dennis was going to be in the leader’s jersey tomorrow but the reigning Giro champion had other ideas and Dumoulin won by a “comfortable” 2 seconds in the end.
Will he manage to hold onto the jersey for the whole race? Personally I think it would be wise for Sunweb to relinquish it to save some strength over a few stages, it will be tough for them to control things every day. They shouldn’t have to worry about it too much tomorrow as they should get some help from the sprinter’s teams as the fast men look set to have their chance at stage glory.
Let’s have a look at what is in store for them.
An almost pancake flat day in the saddle with one small Cat-4 to reward someone in the break with the KOM jersey at the end of the stage.
As for the finish itself, the run-in zig-zags through Tel Aviv, taking many sharp 90-degree turns.
Thankfully for the riders none of them are too close to the other, with the last right turn taking place at roughly 800m to go.
It doesn’t look like an overly difficult turn either, with the riders being able to take it from the far left lane, making it a sweeping turn more than anything else. Nonetheless, it will no doubt string things out for the run to the line. You don’t want to be too far back as it might be difficult to make up places.
So a straightforward sprint stage then…
Well, it all depends on how the wind shapes up. The final 60km of the day hug the coast line and with exposed roads, there is a chance that some crosswinds cause echelons.
It won’t be as warm as it was today and the riders will be cooled by a breeze coming off the sea.
The above is the forecast for Gaash which comes with roughly 30km to go. As you can see, there is a stiff breeze in the morning coming off of the coast and blowing right across the riders. It does die down a bit throughout the day and doesn’t look strong enough to create echelons but these things can change in an instant. Furthermore, when you consider how nervous everyone will be knowing about the potential for echelons, then that will make the racing faster which will consequently increase the chances for splits.
Nonetheless, I doubt we’ll see any splits, the wind needs to be 5-10km/h stronger. Although I hope we do, as we all know, I do love an echelon!
The best sprinter on paper, Viviani has a team that is almost fully dedicated to him and there will be a lot of pressure for him to deliver. His 2018 started with a bang, taking 6 wins from January to March which included the overall title in Abu Dhabi. Since then though his racing schedule has been pretty light only returning to the action in Romandie where his performances were less than inspiring. With a strong team that should dominate the finale, they will hope to string things out in the closing kilometres, with Viviani calling upon his trusted lead-out man Sabatini. If he is as fast as he was at the start of the year then it will be hard for most to beat him.
Viviani’s likeliest challenger, the Irishman hasn’t had a great year so far as he’s been hampered by illness or injury. He took a handful of podium places in the sprints at this race last year, after spending the first couple of stages once again overcoming illness. His only recent race was Eschborn Frankfurt where he finished in 7th place, a result which doesn’t look great on paper but he messed up the finish so it could have been so much better. Bora have a compact but strong lead-out, including the under-rated last man Selig and will hope to challenge Quick Step on the run in. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Bennett take the win.
Danny Van Poppel.
He won his very first race this season with the opening stage of Valenciana but since then he has failed to raise his arms again. Van Poppel on his day can match some of the very best and he would hope to pick up one win this Giro. His lead-out is pretty short but that is very similar to what we’ve seen from Jumbo all season: they try to take over the head of the peloton in the final 2kms or less. It is a strategy that is very hit or miss so it is hard to tell what we’ll get from Van Poppel tomorrow.
Those three are the strongest sprinters here but there will be others looking to spoil the party.
Modolo – A hit or miss sprinter, he seems to find himself on the deck more often than not as of late. Nonetheless, he’s won two stages at this race in the past and can’t be discounted. Van Asbroeck and Docker will hope to provide support.
Mareczko – The King of the .1 and .HC race, the Wilier sprinter is only 24 but he already has 35 wins to his name. Rather amazingly though, he only has one win on European soil back in 2016 at the Coppi e Bartali. He gets incredibly aero, similar to Ewan, but his only good results against the big riders have been when he has followed the right wheel. Can he manage to actually come around someone?
Bonifazio – I rate the Italian as he is a bit of daredevil sprinter, willing to take some risks in the closing kilometre. Like Modolo, he is very hot and cold but on his day he has a great turn of speed. I wonder if we’ll see Mohoric give him a one kilometre lead-out again?
Guardini – Mr Langkawi will want to topple Mr Taihu Lake in the battle of the Italian Pro Conti teams. Guardini surprised most with his 2nd place on the opening day in Abu Dhabi, he took a few scalps that stage. However, he has since been a bit meh, but Bardiani have been going well as of late so there will be confidence in the team. Could easily podium or come 12th.
Venturini – The French pocket rocket has shown flashes of speed throughout this season but his lead-out isn’t great and he’ll most likely be surfing wheels. He would prefer a trickier finish.
Debuscherre – Long forgotten as an actual sprinter, Jens will be rolling back the clock here as Lotto Fix-All’s fast man. They actually have a powerful train and we could see them fighting for position at the end of the day. Does he have the zip in his legs to compete nowadays?
It will most likely be a Viviani v Bennett showdown but the opening day of actual road racing can often throw up a surprise.
Nonetheless, I think we’ll actually see Bennett take his first Grand Tour stage win here.
I liked what I saw from him in Frankfurt (aside from the last 500m) and with Selig delivering him to the perfect position, he has the speed to match Viviani, who himself will come home second. Behind, I think we might see Bonifazio sprint onto the podium.
As I’ve said though, this is the first open road stage of the Giro so anything could happen, it’s a shame Postelberger isn’t here!
3pts WIN Bennett @ 16/5 on the BF Exchange (Would take the 11/4 with Bet365)
1pt EW Bonifazio @ 16/1 with Bet365
Thanks as always for reading. Who do you think is going to win tomorrow? Could we see a shock result? Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.