This is the third time that Sardinia has hosted the Grande Partenza (1991 & 2007) and we begin the 2017 Giro in Alghero on the Northwest. The race travels north along coastal roads which feature two of three category four climbs in the first 90kms. This will see a scramble for riders trying to make it into the morning breakaway and win the points on offer, look out for the jersey of Bardiani, CCC, Gazprom-Rusvelo and Willier-Trestina as they try and get a rider into the Maglia Azzurra. The final KOM point on offer comes with 24km remaining and after this expect to see the break sit up and be reeled back in, their job done for the day.
Once the break is back in the peloton expect the sprint trains to start forming. Lotto Soudal and Quickstep are the best equipped at this race, and out of the two, we would go for Fernando Gaviria over Andre Greipel. But this isn’t just a battle of the sprint trains. Caleb Ewan is a crit racer at heart and can fly solo in the final kilometres, he’ll have Luka Mezgec as his compass but after that, he’s a pro at hitching rides on the wheels of other teams. Sam Bennett will have a similar situation with Matteo Pelucci, but we think it’s going to come down to Ewan v Gaviria. Given the semi-technical finish, with a left-hander coming in the last few hundred metres which could snuff out the pace a bit, we think it’ll be Gaviria who’ll end up wearing the first Maglia Rosa of the race. Also look out for the Trek due of Nizzolo and Stuyven for a surprise win.
No overnight transfer for the race, as we begin where we finished stage 1, in Olbia. The race heads south and inland and will be steadily climbing throughout the first 60kms. At 75km the riders will reach Orune which signals a 12km descent to the foot of the first climb of the day: the cat 3 climb to Nuoro. More wildcard breakaway heroes will likely be contesting this as they try to hang onto the Azzurra jersey for another day.
The road then bumps along for another 40km, before reaching the foot of the main test of the day, the cat 2 climb up to Genna Silana. It’s a long one, at 27kms, but only averages 3.3%, so no big splits in the peloton. Expect a few have-a-go heroes to attempt something near the summit, riders like Dylan Teuns or Valerio Conti. We then have a gradual descent over the next 40kms and when the road reaches the flat there are 10kms left to race.
Depending on how many riders get away on the descent, and also what calibre they are, will determine whether the race all comes back together for a bunch sprint. The Giro is known for throwing up surprise results on expected sprint days, so we’re going to go with that happening here. It needs a rider like Diego Rossa, Simoni Ponzi or Micheal Woods to commit and then things could get interesting as we enter the final 10km, as there are three 90 degree corners and one roundabout within the final 5kms, which will help a strong rider keep away. if it all comes back together, then read the last paragraph of our stage 1 preview!
The final Sardinian stage and it’s a nailed on sprint, unless we have some crosswind action as the first 100km are all along the east coast of the island heading south. We’ll be hoping that the wind does blow and that we see some scrabbling within the peloton to make the echelons. The only ‘climb’ of the day is the the Capo Boi, a cat 4 climb which is crested with 41 kilometres remaining.
It’s then a pan-flat run into the finish town, Saedinia’s capital Cagliari. There’s minimal road furniture to negotiate and its a near straight line from 5km out, so a straight forward bunch sprint should be on the cards. There is the novelty of a section of ‘pavé’ with 350m to go, but it shouldn’t really trouble anyone.
The Lion King, Mario Cipollini, won here in 1991 and we think that another animal of the peloton could have warmed up enough to take the win and maybe the Maglia Rosa. Incase our sophisticated animal-based prediction eluded you, we’re going for the Gorilla, Andre Greipel, with Caleb Ewan not far behind him.