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Will Peter Sagan take his first win in the rainbow jersey in the tricky finale on stage 2 of Tirreno-Adriatico?

Photo: Sirotti




10.03.2016 @ 14:41 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

BMC lived up to their status as the favourites in the team time trial and will look to add to their tally in stage 2. While the GC riders have to be very attentive to avoid time losses in a technical final, Greg Van Avermaet and the rest of the punchy classics riders will be going for victory in a typical Tirreno-Adriatico stage.


The course

The first road stage of the race has traditionally been for the sprinters but that is set to change in 2016. Instead, the riders will face the first climbing and even though it is not a day for the GC riders to make a difference, they will have to be on their toes in the uphill finale. A relatively gentle climb in the end will take out the sprinters and make it a day for classics riders. The stage is wavy and undulating, especially in the second part, and it features a summit finish that might make it suitable for puncheurs.


After the start in Camaiore on the coast, the 207km route reaches the seafront at the Lido, and then heads south towards Viareggio and Pisa, on flat roads. Gentle climbs begin while approaching Collesalvetti. The route becomes technically demanding after the feed zone, located between San Martino and Casino di Terra, where the riders have changed direction as they are now approaching the hilly interior and have left the sea behind them


After having tackled the small Canneto climb, the first categorized climb of the Race of the Two Seas will be located just past Monterotondo Marittimo (7.3km, 5.8%, max. 9%). The first intermediate sprint is located 2.4km from the top which comes after 149.6km of racing. From there, they will head to the second intermediate sprint at the 161km mark along undulating roads and then they will descend to the finish in Pomerance.


After reaching Pomarance the first time with 31km to go (the riders won’t cross the finish line), the route almost draws a circuit leading to Saline di Volterra and to the final climb (6.5km, 4.2%, max. 18%) along descending and flat roads. Just past Saline di Volterra, the route starts to go up towards Cerreto, on a long and very uneven climb, with slopes beyond 10-12% alternating with mild 2-3% gradients. After an almost flat section of 1.9%, there is one last steep stretch (15%) 3km from the finish where it averages 7.1% for one kilometre. The KOM sprint comes 2.85km from the line. The route takes a wide half-circle around Pomarance along rolling roads that are mostly descending, leading to the sharply uphill home straight (250m after  the last mild bend), on 7-m wide, asphalt road. The final 100m average 7.8%. After the top of the climb, it is very technical as there are numerous turns until the riders get to the flamme rouge. Here a sharp turn is followed by three sweeping bends.


Pomarance has not hosted a stage finish for more than a decade.





The weather

With the snowy conditions in France, the riders have no reason to regret their decision to do Tirreno-Adriatico even though the weather won’t be exactly great on Thursday. It will mostly be a cloudy day with only a little bit of sunshine. The maximum temperature at the finish will be 12 degrees.


There will be a moderate wind from a northwesterly direction which means that it will be a cross-tailwind almost all day until the riders will turn into a cross-headwind as they approach the first intermediate sprint and the first climb. On the circuit, it will mainly be a crosswind. It will be a cross-tailwind on the final climb and then mainly a cross-headwind in the technical finale. It will be a crosswind on the finishing straight.


The favourites

Going into the race, stage 1 was always going to be the second most important stage and so we can already draw significant conclusions. As expected, Tejay van Garderen has a head start but he must be worried by the very good FDJ performance. We made Thibaut Pinot our overall favourite but were always concerned that he would lose too much time in the team time trial. However, the French team did the team time trial of their life and the Frenchman now stands out as the man to beat.


Astana and Vincenzo Nibali can be very pleased with a time loss of just 15 seconds which means that the grand tour star is still very much within striking distance. The big loser was of course Alejandro Valverde whose Movistar team did their worst time trail for several years and he probably needs to deliver an amazing performance like he did in Andalucia to win the race.


Unlike his rivals, Valerde has an early chance to gain some time back in tomorrow’s second stage. It is a perfect course for punchy classics riders and so the Spaniard should find it to his liking. There are 10 bonus seconds on offer for a stage and so his speed provides him with an opportunity to reduce this deficit. However, he faces tough competition from a formidable series of classics riders who all love this kind of finish.


While Valverde hopes to gain time, it will be a day of limiting the losses for the rest of the GC contenders. The finale is very technical and there is no doubt that we will see several splits. It will be very important to take some risks and stay near the front all the way from the top of the final climb to the finish.


The final climb includes some very steep sections but also has several parts that are almost flat. It will create a first selection but it is definitely not hard enough for the GC riders to make a move. Instead, Peter Sagan, Greg Van Avermaet, Zdenek Stybar and Fabian Cancellara will have their eyes on a stage win and their teams are likely to control things firmly, making sure that the early breakaway is brought back. The uneven climb will make it hard for anyone to escape and the race will probably come down to a sprint from a reduced group. In the technical finale, positioning will be key and splits could very well occur and so the GC riders have to be attentive while the classics specialists will battle it out on the short ramp to the finish.


The first part of the stage should be rather uneventful. The wild card teams will be eager to get into break and there should be no big fight to join the move. As the break is likely to have been caught for the final KOM sprint and GC positions determining the holder of the KOM jersey as a tiebreaker, the mountains jersey won’t even be on offer. Hence, it should be a calm start to the race. However, it will be a bit windier than usual as the riders will have a cross-tailwind in the first part of the race, things may be a bit more nervous than it is usually the case in Italy.


BMC and Tinkoff will probably lead the chase and make sure that the break has no chance to success. The first key point will be the first climb. It comes too early to make a difference but it would be no surprise to see FDJ hit the front. Pinot is no fan of the fight for position and he could easily lose some time in the finale. One way to avoid this is by making the field smaller. FDJ have some good climbers here and the first climb offers them a chance to put other riders in difficulty.


The break will have been caught by the time we get to the final climb. It will be a huge fight to get into a good position. Again we expect FDJ to try to make the race as hard as possible. Movistar may have similar plans and then it will be a big sprint at the top to be well-positioned as they approach the many turns in the finale. The final few kilometres will be all about positioning and even though the finishing straight is uphill it won’t make much of a difference. It’s just a 100m ramp and it will be far more important to be one of the first two riders through the final turn. Hence, this is a stage for a solid climber who can make it over the steep 18% section as one of the first riders and then use great technical skills to keep a good position through the final turns before launching a powerful sprint on the final ramp.


That description sounds like Peter Sagan. The world champion is one of the best bike handlers in the field and he loves this kind of technical finales. Furthermore, he is very hard to drop on this kind of climb and he has the punch to sprint to the top of the steep ramp as one of the first. He is usually willing to take the risks which are needed in this kind of finale and he is very hard to beat in an uphill sprint.


Sagan has proved that his condition is good even though he is still not at his best. However, this kind of climb is manageable even at his current level and the final part of the stage is more about bike-handling than form. He has been beaten by Greg Van Avermaet in recent uphill sprints but this is more about positioning than sprinting. We put our money on a rainbow jersey victory.


Fabian Cancellara is in great condition and there is little doubt that he has his eyes on this stage. Like Sagan, he is an excellent bike-handler and he likes this kind of climb. One tends to forget that he is actually very fast too – just recall that he has finished on the podium in Milan-Sanremo numerous times and that he nearly won a medal at the Worlds in Copenhagen – and he is even better when the finale is uphill. However, the most important skill here is his great technique. With his good form, he will be one of the first at the top of the climb and he has both the power and the technical skills to be first through the final turn.


Another in-form rider is Zdenek Stybar who proved his form in Strade Bianche. This is a stage that is tailor-made for him as he is a great climber on this kind of ascent, a fantastic bike handler and fast in an uphill sprint. He is not as fast as Sagan and Van Avermaet but he is a better bike handler than the latter. This is a more important skillset in this finale and so the in-form Czech could very well be the first rider through the final turn.


Greg Van Avermaet has suddenly turned into a winner. In fact it all started when he won the very similar stage to Arezzo in this race last year. The Belgian is now fully confident that he can beat Sagan in an uphill sprint as he has done so thrice, in Tirreno, the Tour and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. He has all the skills to do this kind of finale and is usually faster than both Stybar and Cancellara. The main question is whether he can hold them off in the many turns in the finale.


Edvald Boasson Hagen is obviously in great form and is back to his best after several years of disappointment. This stage is a very good one for him. He can climb and he is very fast in a sprint. Furthermore, he is a great bike handler so he has the complete package. The main question is whether he is prepared to take the necessary risks in this kind of very tricky finale.


Michal Kwiatkowski lost a bit of time in today’s stage and now wants to get some of it back. This is a great stage for the former world champion. He is clearly not at his best yet but the challenges here are definitely manageable for him. He is one of the best bike handlers in the peloton and is not afraid of taking the necessary risks. He is not as fast as the likes of Sagan and Van Avermaet but he doesn’t miss much, especially not in an uphill sprint.


Alejandro Valverde will be eager to pick up some bonus seconds in a stage that suits him really well. He is faster than most in an 8% sprint and is a great bike handler. However, he is usually not prepared to take too many risks even though he is great in the fight for position. This could be costly in this finale.


A great dark horse is Fernando Gaviria. There seems to be no limit to his potential and his performance on the track last week proves that he is already back in form after his crash in San Luis. He is a very good climber and it won’t be impossible to survive this climb. Unfortunately, he may not be far enough ahead to get back into position for the sprint but it won’t be impossible for the hugely talented rider whose full potential has not been revealed yet. No one is going to beat him in a sprint and he has the bike-handling skills to do well.


Sonny Colbrelli had a disappointing 2015 season but he has been flying since the start of the year. He is clearly climbing better than ever before and we wouldn’t be surprised if he is one of the first at the top of the climb. The uphill sprint suits him well and his form is great. However, there are still better climbers than him and it won’t be easy for him to get into the right position to win.


Tiesj Benoot’s potential is unlimited and he should be up there in a finale like this. He is fast in a sprint, a great climber and a solid bike handler. He may not be as explosive as some of the real specialists for this stage but we will be surprised if he doesn’t finish in the top 10.


On paper, the uphill sprint is very good for Diego Ulissi who is in great condition. However, the Italian doesn’t like the fight for position which is very important here. He is hard to beat in an uphill sprint but we doubt that his position will allow him to win.


Jan Bakelants has been riding well all year and will be keen to take his chance here. He was third behind Van Avermaet and Sagan in Rodez at last year’s Tour and has a decent kick. He won’t win the stage in an uphill sprint against the best though but he could make a late move in one of the final turns. Then he won’t be easy to get back.


Finally, we will point to Jasper Stuyven. He will probably have to work for Cancellara but in this kind of finale it won’t be easy to support each other. That could open the door for the in-form Belgian to take his own chance. There are definitely better climbers than him in this race and he may not be far enough ahead after the climb but if he is, he has the skills to do well.


For other strong contenders, look out for Francesco Gavazzi, Enrico Battaglin, Jose Goncalves, Simone Ponzi, Simon Clarke, Davide Rebellin, Gianluca Brambilla, Jarlinson Pantano, Zico Waeytens, Jens Keukeleire and Paul Voss.


CyclingQuotes’ stage winner pick: Peter Sagan

Other winner candidates: Fabian Cancellara, Zdenek Stybar

Outsiders: Greg Van Avermaet, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Michal Kwiatkowski, Alejandro Valverde

Jokers: Fernando Gaviria, Sonny Colbrelli, Tiesj Benoot, Diego Ulissi, Jan Bakelants, Jasper Stuyven



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