Bauke Mollema timed his attack perfectly on Stage 2 when he caught Ryder Hesjedal on the final kilometer and soloed away to win the stage. After the stage, Mollema was quick to point to the overall podium as his new target in the race, something I had him down for in my overall preview as well. Unfortunately the Dutch climber got a 20 seconds penalty after the stage since he had gotten a bottle of water from his team car within the last 20 km. Mollema is now 34 seconds after Cameron Meyer in the GC and that means he needs to attack more the up-coming days.
Stage 3 is 204.9 km long but the first 165 km are more or less flat. As the riders enter Meiringen the road kicks up with a small category 4 climb on Grimselstrasse. The 1.9 km with an average of 5.6 % won’t make a big selection but the following category 1 climb will indeed.
The 12.2 km towards the top have an average gradient of 6.3 % but the climb is actually a lot steeper. The average gradient goes down because of a flat part of 1.2 km halfway to the top. The climb starts out with 7 % and has a part of almost 4 km with 9.5 % before it evens out. The last 2.8 km have an average gradient of
7.5 % and I expect a group of maximum 20 riders to reach the top together. There are 19.4 km to go from the top of the climb and if a lonely rider or a small group get a gap over the top, they won’t be easy to catch.
The first part of the descent is technical but the second part is easy and very fast. The final two kilometers are flat and straight out towards the finishing line. For those of you who watched the Giro d’Italia, this stage reminds me of Stage 16 to Ivrea. Beñat Intxausti won that stage after breaking away on the final flat part and if this one doesn’t end in a sprint within a reduced group, it could very well end like in Ivrea.
Giovanni Visconti came out of the Giro with two stage wins and he is still looking very strong. He finished 9th on Stage 2 and is now 4th overall. I doubt he will be able to keep his Giro-shape the whole week but he seems eager to get another win and it could very well be here. Visconti has a newfound strong mentality and he now knows he can win. He won a similar stage in the Giro just a couple of weeks ago and to me he is one of the big favorites for the win in Meiringen.
On paper, this third stage could also be another one for Team Blanco. With riders like Luis León Sanchez, Steven Kruijswijk, Lars-Petter Nordhaug, Wilco Kelderman and Bauke Mollema they have a very strong team. Mollema is not only good on the climbs he is also fast on the line in a reduced group. His moral is great after his stage win but he is probably also eager to take revenge for the 20 seconds penalty. If Blanco can make the race hard and keep Mollema up front, he might as well make it two in a row.
Ryder Hesjedal and Daniel Martin were two of the strongest rider on the final climb on Stage 2 and I think they will both try something on this stage. Hesjedal showed he was good on the descents when he attacked numerous times in the Giro and Daniel Martin is another rider with a good sprint in a reduced group. Martin joined every move when Hesjedal was in front on Stage 2 and that was even without being able to breathe properly. If Dan Martin feels better in the rain on Stage 3, he is another strong candidate for the win.
One of the big favorites for the overall win, Rui Costa, couldn’t follow the best riders in the final on Stage 2 but I think he will only get better. He shouldn’t have problems staying in front on this final climb and with a descent towards the line, he is another one of the favorites. Like Visconti, Mollema and Martin, also Rui Costa is fast on the line and if a group of 20 riders arrive together it will be difficult to pick a winner.
With a tricky beginning of the final descent and rainy conditions, I doubt the riders aiming at the Tour de France will take any chances. Instead, the riders coming from the Giro may take a few more risks and that is something that favors Giovanni Visconti. It also favors my joker for Stage 2, Tanel Kangert. The Estonian Champion probably attacked too early in the headwind on the final climb but he seems very strong and I think he will try again on Stage 3.
Win: Giovanni Visconti
Joker: Tanel Kangert
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Preview by C-Cycling. Thanks to Mikkel Condé for these informative previews, I’ve supplied him with Dauphiné previews all week and now I’m drafting his Swiss analysis in return. Remember you can follow Mikel on Twitter as @mrconde.