An uphill finish in Visegrad to decide who is the first to wear the Maglia Rosa this year. We have 1544 meters of climbing.
Starting in Budapest and going counterclockwise towards Visegrad Castle.
The last climb of stage 1 is very, very similar to the finish on stage 2 in 2020. This stage saw Ulissi winning ahead of Sagan and Honoré after an attack on the climb. Prior to the climb, they had climbed 400 elevation meters more, which makes the stages quite identical. Below, are the top 10 from that day in 2020. Only the sprinters with climbing abilities, Sagan and Matthews, managed to finish within the top-10.
This makes me believe it is too hard for the pure sprinters but there will be some sprinters who might hope to survive and fight for the leader’s jersey. The climb tomorrow is 4.2 km at 4.8% on new asphalt. Some have suggested it should help the sprinters, but it will also just make the pace a lot higher.
Comparison of the climbs.
The wind will blow around 4 m/s from the SW for most of the day. That means most of the stage will be ridden with crosswinds, but we should not see echelons. It will be cloudy, yet above 20 degrees C, at the finish. At Visegrad, the wind will be 1 m/s which means it will not have a big impact on the climb.
Mathieu van der Poel – is looking to collect another leader’s jersey from a Grand Tour. He looked cooked at Paris-Nice, but it has been a few weeks since that race. I imagine he will be fresh at the start and fight for the jersey and hold on to it for as long as possible, which is likely Etna on stage 4. He has Dries de Bondt to help him position ahead of the climb – that will be very valuable for him. I doubt many can beat him in a sprint on this gradient.
Biniam Girmay – time to see if the young start can sprint uphill. We have seen throughout the spring that he certainly can climb, and this should not be a problem for him. The last 100 meters are almost flat, which is a big bonus for him. We have also seen he does not have the top speed to beat the very best. At Paris – Nice he struggled when it came to finding a good position to sprint from, always starting too far back. Given it is now the Giro d’Italia, it will be even tougher for him tomorrow.
Caleb Ewan – the big question mark. If he is not dropped, he is likely going to win. He will arrive fresh which is a big bonus for him after taking two wins in Turkey. I think it will be too difficult for him, simply because everyone has one common objective – dropping him.
Joao Almeida – is the go-to man for UAE tomorrow. Him having Ulissi, Formolo and Covi in a finale like this are fantastic. You might even think Ulissi wants to go on his own if Almeida can sense he is not going to win it. Remember, it was Ulissi winning a very similar stage in 2020. I assume they go for Almeida simply due to the chance of taking bonus seconds. It also makes it very likely he can take the jersey after the TT, something that will motivate the team. They just need to make sure to drop it and let the breakaway take the win on Etna.
Alejandro Valverde – this is a good stage for him. He will carry some of the Ardennes-form into the race and he knows how to time his efforts. He still has a good sprint in him but not as good as it once was. I would be a bit surprised if he won, but he will be challenging for the podium.
Richard Carapaz – it is very difficult to say how his form is just now. INEOS has the best team in the race which is a bonus on tomorrow’s climb. They will do what they do best, take the front and control the pace. The sprinters will blow out the back one by one. He beat Higuita in a flat sprint in Catalunya and won a stage in Tour of Poland in 2020 on similar gradients. I think it will be tough for him to win, but the team will put him in a good position.
Magnus Cort – is coming back after he broke his collarbone. He and the team is saying we will see him get better and better throughout the Giro, but I do think the Dane might want to challenge for tomorrow’s stage – or at least test the legs ahead of the TT that also suits him. Given the comments from his team, it is unlikely he will win.
Romain Bardet – the form is fantastic but I doubt he is fast enough to win. With a bit of luck, a top-3.
Who will win?
I will go for Mathieu van der Poel.