Stage 2 and already the race heads for the hills and an uphill finish by the Caminito del Rey.
Juan Dennis: a stage win and the leader’s jersey for Rohan Dennis, just like last year. The short course meant the time gaps were limited, for example Rigoberto Uràn, David de la Cruz and Richie Porte fared worse among the obvious GC contenders but if they were 80th, 81st and 97th it was only at 45 and 51s seconds to Dennis and 20-25 seconds to the other GC names.
The Route: 163km and 2,425 vertical metres. They cross the finish line after 91km and then go for a large loop before returning for the finish. If the name of “Caminto del Rey” is familiar you may be a hiker keen to walk the path… but readers here should remember the name from 2015 when Esteban Chaves surged for the stage win, his breakthrough performance. However then the stage finished on the Alto de la Mesa, today’s road sticks to the main road below, it’s a drag up rather than a spiky climb.
The Finish: 7km at 2% average but with 3km to go there’s a kilometre of 6-7% and then it levels out before a final kilometre with moments just above 7% and then there’s a right turn and 140m to the finish line.
The Contenders: Peter Sagan could win this but how is his form? He’s not raced much of late, was ill in the European championships in Glasgow and finished 58th yesterday, beaten by his team mate Rafał Majka which suggests he’s far from his best. Bora-Hansgrohe’s best chance might be Jay McCarthy although his win rate is very low.
Alejandro Valverde is a safe pick, Movistar’s leader is versatile but all the same if he’s showing few signs of ageing he’s not as quick in the sprint.
Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott), Elia Viviani (Quick Step) and Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) are the sprinters with an outside chance today. Trentin’s in form, Viviani too and his win in the Italian championships was his capolavoro, a masterpiece for the way he coped with the climbs while Bouhanni is weighing in as lean as he’s ever been. Still today is a big ask for all three, they need to hope the bunch hesitates.
Michał Kwiatkowski is in form and able to take the race lead today, especially if Team Sky can make the race hard for the sprinters. Dan Martin (UAE Emirates) is punchy for an uphill finish like this too and if you cast your mind back to early March Gorka Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida) just lost out to Arnaud Démare in the opening stage of Paris-Nice. Michael Albasini is good for an uphill sprint but can he win outside of the Ardennes and Romandie or will Mitchelton-Scott back the Yates brothers instead?
|Alejandro Valverde, Gorka Izagirre|
|Martin, McCarthy, Teuns, Felline, Consonni|
Weather: sunny and 25°C.
Tune in: the finish is forecast for 5.40pm CEST.