A rather bizarre stage profile which is pretty much downhill all the way for the first half and then things get a little lumpy, with a cat 2 climb coming with just 15km to go. Woet Pouls won from a breakaway in a similar looking stage last year and we could see the same result again or perhaps the reduced bunch sprint for the line that was expected on Stage 1.
After the lump in the road at 6km, there features a sprint, so expect some GC men to go for this and the bonus seconds it offers, the road steadily works it way downwards for the first 100kms. At the halfway point the cat 3 climb arrives, Alt del Pubill. It’s only around 3km and averages at 5%, so won’t present much of challenge to the break or the peloton.
Then, at around 150km, appears the summit of another, and rather oddly uncategorized, climb. However, it’s a sprint rather than a KOM at the top. The riders then come to the main challenge of the day, the cat 2 Turó del Puig. It’s around 5km long and averages at 5.7%, again this won’t trouble the break (if it’s still intact) or peloton, but as it’s at the sharp end of the stage, it will be tackled at some pace in order to shake off any sprinters that are still present. It’s then downhill until the 5km are flat but the final 2km feature two 90 degree turns and a roundabout, so a technical finish in what should see either a reduced bunch sprint or lone attack cross the line.
We’ve mentioned throughout that we don’t fancy the sprinter’s chances, the short and sharp nature of the final climb and descent to the finish lends itself to riders who can attack before or on the final descent.
Riders like the winner of stage 3, Alejandro Valverde. The Movistar rider took revenge for his team’s relegation in stage 2 TTT and could easily double up here and snatch a few more seconds back from the bonuses on the line.
Quickstep are now playing for stage wins and Dan Martin was close on stage 3, finishing 2nd on a climb where he won in 2016. Gianluca Brambilla and Petr Vakoc both can cope with the final climb and have an explosive kick on descents and for the line, with the Czech rider being our favoured option for them.
Jay Mcarthy won a lumpy stage where he got the better of Diego Ulissi in the Tour Down Under last year and we feel that the finish today could also suit him. The climb may not be as tough as he might like, but he’s another one with a decent kick that could either out-sprint his fellow breakaway comrades on the descent or a reduced bunch for the line.
Another Aussie, Nathan Haas, was many people’s outside pick for stage 1. However, he has since said that he wasn’t feeling on form. This stage presents a better opportunity for him with the final climb not being too tough. He also has a great sprint and could take the win from a reduced bunch.
Finally, we think that as Bouhanni won’t make the final selection over the last climb then his teammate and experienced breakaway contender Julien Simon could be an option for Cofidis. He may be getting on a bit now, but he’s been in the mix at similar stages here before in recent years.
Our Pick: Nathan Haas will have shrugged off whatever was bothering him on stage one and will take this from a reduced bunch in a sprint.