Another day, another flat stage exposed to the wind…
Sailing race: who knows what will happen in the rest of the season, or even if the rest of the season will happen, but Stage 2 is a likely highlight of the year. A pity it happened on a quiet Monday and when part of the peloton was saying adieu to Nicolas Portal. The stage finale resembled what Cyrille Guimard sometimes calls “a sailing race”, each rider tacking into the wind as the peloton split. Nairo Quintana and Julian Alaphilippe made the move only to crash and puncture respectively. Thibaut Pinot was instrumental in forcing the move but lost a few seconds when the front group fractured later, but given he’s riding Paris-Nice precisely because of the crosswinds in order to be more experienced should the wind blow in July only losing 18 seconds was ok. In the end Bora-Hansgrohe had numerical superiority but stuffed up the finish, Felix Großschartner trying an attack in the final straight which blunted his legs and Peter Sagan dropped off Pascal Ackermann too early leaving Giacomo Nizzolo to come round and provide some rare Italian cheer. Max Schachmann stays in yellow while Sergio Higuita was the only other GC rider not to lose time to him. All this on a finishing straight without spectators allowed near the line, new public health orders seek to prevent crowds forming.
The Route: 212km south by south-west, a long stage and ideal for banking kilometres ahead of Milan-Sanremo and the spring classics… or that was the plan anyway. Today’s course doesn’t change direction as much as yesterday did but it features plenty of similar exposed roads.
The Finish: roundabouts and boulevards leading to a slightly uphill finishing straight.
The Contenders: a sprinter is the obvious pick, either they win from the bunch or out of a group that has formed in the wind. Giacomo Nizzolo (NTT) is the form sprinter of the moment, he won a stage of the Tour Down Under, took the bunch sprint in Kuurne recently and so his win yesterday was no fluke. Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) will want to make amends for yesterday while Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) had a mechanical and lost contact yesterday. But it’s an exercise in story-telling so far, it’s hard to tell between them and the others in a straight sprint, even the uphill drag to the line is fine for all three names cited so far.
|Caleb Ewan, Pascal Ackermann
|Giacomo Nizzolo, Cees Bol
|Bennett, Viviani, Matthews, Bouhanni
Weather: wet, grey and a top temperature of 13°C. The wind will blow at 30km/h, strong enough to split the peloton but the SW direction means it’ll be a headwind rather than the crosswind or three-quarters tailwind that can do so much damage.
TV: 90 minutes of live and the finish is forecast for 4.25pm Euro time. It should be available on the same channel you watch the Tour de France and/or Eurosport.