The sprinters had a hard time in the cold conditions on the Monte Terminillo but they had a big incentive to survive the pain. After two days in the mountains, they will get a big chance to battle for the win in tomorrow’s final road stage of the race which will offer them a final chance to test their speed before Milan-Sanremo.
After the brutally hard 2013 edition of the race, the organizers decided to give the sprinters a goal in the second half of the race by including a sprint stage on the penultimate day. This year they have repeated the formula and the fast finishers even have a bigger incentive to be pleased than they had in 2014. Last year’s stage included a late climb that spelled the end for Marcel Kittel’s hopes of winning the stage but this year the penultimate stage is almost completely flat and only has a single categorized climb at the midpoint.
The 210km stage brings the riders from Rieti and completes the journey between the two seas as it ends in Porto Sant’Elpidio on the Adriatic coast. Starting on the outskirts of the hilly area, the first part consists of a gradually ascending road as the riders travel in a northeasterly direction. The summit comes after around 50km of racing and then they gradually descend to the feed zone in Roccafluvione.
Another uncategorized climbs follows before the riders descend to the bottom of the Montelparo climb (5.5km, 4.5%). Shortly after the summit, the riders contest the first intermediate sprint and then there’s only a short little hill to test the legs as the riders gradually descend in a northeasterly direction towards the coast.
The riders will reach Porto Sant’Elpidio and cross the finish line for the first time to contest the final intermediate sprint after 181.2km of racing. The final part of the stage consists of two laps of a 14.4km finishing circuit. It mainly consists of long, straight roads along the coastline and this means that it is almost completely flat. There are a few turns and a very small climb at the midpoint but then the riders get back to the flat roads along the coast. Just after the 2km mark, they will do two sharp turns in quick succession before they head onto the long 1400m flat finishing straight.
Porto Sant’Elpidio has hosted the finish of the penultimate stage two years in a row. In 2013, it was the end of the very dramatic penultimate stage that saw Vincenzo Nibali use the rain and the many short, steep climbs to take the leader’s jersey off Chris Froome’s shoulders. Peter Sagan stayed with his former teammate in the tough terrain and easily won the sprint. Last year the run-in was much easier and after Marcel Kittel had been dropped on the final climb, it was Mark Cavendish who benefited from a perfect lead-out to lead his teammate Alessandro Petacchi across the line for an Omega Pharma-Quick Step 1-2. In 2012, the city hosted the finish of a very hilly stage that was won by Miguel Angel Rubiano from a breakaway while Adriano Malori took the leader’s jersey.
The riders had brutal weather conditions for today’s mountain stage and they will be disappointed to learn that things won’t be better for tomorrow’s stage. Light rain is forecasted for the entire stage and the temperature at the finish will reach a maximum of only 12 degrees.
Again it will be unusually windy as there will be blowing a pretty strong wind from a southeasterly direction. This means that the riders will have a crosswind from the right for almost the entire stage until they hit the finishing circuit. Here they will have a headwind in the first part before they turn around and head into a tailwind. When they do the final turn with 1400m to go, they will again have a headwind for the finale.
In the past, Tirreno-Adriatico often had lots of sprint stages but in recent years, the organizers have made the race a lot more selective. That culminated in 2013 when the riders criticized the organizers for designing a brutally hard course and in 2014 and 2015 the course has had two flat stages.
With Milan-Sanremo coming up, the sprinters have always had a big incentive to make it to the finish but the addition of a late sprint stage has given them an extra motivation to suffer on the climbs. Tomorrow will be a very important day for them as it will offer them a final chance to win a stage in this big WorldTour race and a final opportunity to do a sprint before Sunday’s Milan-Sanremo.
Most of the sprinters were left disappointed in the first sprint which was marred by a big crash and so there will be a lot of hungry riders on the start line in Rieti. Mark Cavendish will be especially eager as he never got the chance to sprint in stage one and this means that the early breakaway is doomed.
Tirreno-Adriatico is definitely not known for its windy conditions and in general, there is rarely much wind in Italian races. Tomorrow, however, things are different and with a strong crosswind all day, the stage could turn into a dramatic affair. The GC riders will all be very nervous and the tension will only be made bigger by the wet roads.
As everybody knows that the stage will be firmly controlled, there won’t be much of an incentive to go into the break. On the other hand, this is the final chance for most of the riders as the time trial is an affair for a select few specialists. In general, the final road stages of stage races are pretty aggressive and as a lot of teams are empty-handed, it may take a bit longer for the early break to be formed. The sprint teams – most notably Etixx-QuickStep – will have to be on their toes but as the terrain is pretty easy, they should be able to make sure that just a small and non-dangerous group gets clear.
Movistar will probably do the early chasing but very quickly Etixx-QuickStep will come to the fore. The Belgian team rarely give the early breaks much leeway and that is unlikely to happen tomorrow either. Expect Julien Vermote to spend a big portion of the race on the front, trying to bring back the early break.
With the windy conditions, it will probably be a very nervous affair and this will make things easier for Etixx-QuickStep. The pace will automatically be ramped up and the break will almost come back automatically. However, we don’t expect the peloton to split. In general, these roads are not very exposed but there is a chance that some teams may try to do some damage. Both Etixx-QuickStep and Tinkoff-Saxo have strong teams for this kind of racing and they may try to distance Quintana. Even if they managed to split things, it will be hard to maintain an advantage though as there won’t be much crosswind on the finishing circuit, meaning that they have to ride hard for 30km to maintain their gap.
With the finishing circuit including long stretches along the coast and the roads being wet, it will be another very nervous affair but it should all come down to a bunch sprint. Hopefully, we won’t see any crashes and if the conditions are too dangerous, we could see a few riders decide not to do the sprint.
The finishing straight is very long, meaning that it suits the power sprinters. At the same time, there is a headwind and this means that timing will be very important and that aerodynamics play a bigger role than they do in a tailwind sprint.
Mark Cavendish never got the chance to sprint in stage 1 and he will be extremely motivated to win tomorrow’s stage. He went into the race on the back of some illness but with a good prologue, he showed that he was back in form. He was already ready to sprint in stage 1 and he will definitely be up for the challenge tomorrow.
On paper, Etixx-QuickStep have the best lead-out but they didn’t really nail it in stage 1. Instead, Mark Renshaw and Cavendish had to negotiate the finale on the own but Renshaw did an excellent job to position Cavendish well. With that kind of support, there is a very big chance that the Brit will again be in a perfect spot at the start of the sprint and with both Matteo Pelucchi and Elia Viviani out of the race, he is clearly the fastest in this field. Furthermore, his aerodynamic sprinting style is suited to this headwind sprint and this makes him our big favourite to win the stage.
Giant-Alpecin were expected to ride for Marcel Kittel in this race but the German never made it to the start. Instead, Luka Mezgec is their protected sprinter but it is hard to know whether he will be given the chance to sprint. The Slovenian was ill before the race and he even went down in the crash on stage 1. Even though he didn’t suffer any major injuries, he may not be 100% ready to do the sprint.
However, Mezgec is clearly one of the fastest riders in this field and he showed great condition when he won a very hard stage of the Tour du Haut Var. His main asset, however, is his lead-out as Giant-Alpecin have one of the strongest trains for this race. In stage 1, they fought hard for control with MTN-Qhubeka and even though they lost the battle, they managed to bring Mezgec into a reasonable position for the sprint. If they can get things right tomorrow, Mezgec may start the sprint from the best position and then he has the speed to finish it off.
Alexander Porsev is getting better and better and he is knocking on the door of a first big win. All year he has been very fast but he has often missed out due to poor positioning. In stage 1 he was set back by the crash but still managed to take 4th and he is clearly one of the fastest riders here.
In this race, he can count on Luca Paolini and Alexey Tsatevich for the lead-out and that is a huge advantage for the fast Russian. If he can finally manage to get into a reasonable position, he will be very hard to beat.
Sam Bennett took a major win when he beat some of the best sprinters in the world in the final stage of the Tour of Qatar. He got this race off to a great start too when he finished third in stage 1. Those two sprints prove that he is one of the fastest riders in the field as he was set back by the crash in the opening road stage but came very fast from behind.
Bora-Argon have done their best to build a train for Bennett but they don’t have the firepower to go up against the best lead-outs. However, Zakkari Dempster is a very handy lead-out man and if he can get Bennett into position, the Irishman could take his first stage win.
In the first sprint stage, MTN-Qhubeka impressed as they finally managed to use their big firepower to make a great lead-out. Tyler Farrar started his sprint from the perfect position but he lacked the firepower to finish it off. It remains to be seen who will be given the chance tomorrow but the mostly likely scenario is that Farrar will again be given the chance. Farrar is no longer as fast as he once was but he actually sprinted really well at the end of the 2014 season and if MTN-Qhubeka can again make a perfect lead-out, he can win the stage.
Peter Sagan is still in search of his first win since June and tomorrow will be his final chance in this race. He is usually not able to win this kind of big bunch sprints but with several riders licking their wounds, he may have a chance. Sagan is excellent at positioning himself and in this field, not many riders are faster than him. If Cavendish doesn’t get the chance to sprint from a reasonable position, the playing field is very level and with his great positioning skills, Sagan could come out on top.
Jens Debusschere took the biggest win of his career when he emerged from the chaos to win stage 1. The Belgian champion goes into this stage with lots of confidence and he knows that he has the speed to win. With Jurgen Roelandts at his side, he has a very experienced lead-out man and things go his way, he could make another surprise.
Sacha Modolo has not had the best start to the year and things turned even worse when he crashed in stage 1. However, he has survived the mountains and is now ready to sprint tomorrow. He usually needs a more technical finale to really excel but in this field he should be one of the fastest. With Maximiliano Richeze at his side he can count on the support from one of the best lead-out men and this could make the difference.
Finally, we will select a few jokers. If Mezgec is not up for the challenge, Nikias Arndt will be the protected Movistar sprinter. The German is not as fast as his teammate but he has been in very good condition all year. As he can count on one of the best lead-outs, he may be the rider to start the sprint from the best position and then he could take the win as he did last year in a Dauphiné stage.
Ramunas Navardauskas has suddenly turned into a sprinter and he even finished third on the Champs-Elysees last year. He is not very good at positioning himself and doesn’t like technical finales but this long finishing straight should suit him well. There are faster riders than him and so it will be hard to win the stage but a podium spot is definitely within reach.
If MTN-Qhubeka decide not to ride for Farrar, Kristian Sbaragli or Matthew Goss may be given a chance. Goss is no longer the sprinter he once was and Sbaragli usually needs a harder race to shine. With one of the best lead-outs, however, they could win this stage.
CyclingQuotes’ stage winner pick: Mark Cavendish
Other winner candidates: Luka Mezgec, Alexander Porsev
Outsiders: Sam Bennett, Tyler Farrar, Peter Sagan, Jens Debusschere, Sacha Modolo
Jokers: Nikias Arndt, Ramunas Navardauskas, Kristian Sbaragli, Matthew Goss
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