32th in the first prediction of the year. Always good to know there is room for improvement. Stage 2 is a different type of stage, one that requires a bit more analysis to get right.
Fox Creek Climb. You shouldn’t expect the teams with a sprinter to control the day.
The lap looks like this. Fox Creek Climb as the toughest climb but we have to counter-attack possibilities shortly after.
Here you have it.
With just 8.3 km to the top and mostly downhill from there, it should invite attacks over the top.
We had some crosswinds today but nothing major. Slower winds tomorrow, an unfortunately a headwind up Fox Creek Hill. When they reach the bottom of the descent, they turn into a cross-tailwind for the remaining 5 km. That makes the little kicker 4750m out the perfect spot for a late attack.
How will the stage unfold?
We have a few things to talk about. Fox Creek Climb, the wind and who is up for it? Fox Creek Climb should be tough enough to drop the likes of Welsford. Add in Viviani and Ewan who both reported bad legs after today. But what about the wind. A headwind makes it more likely they can’t distance them or someone can distance themselves from the peloton.
It also makes the climb longer, in theory. As long as someone is willing to sacrifice their legs for the better of the team, the watts still needs to be pushed. The optimal spot to launch your rider is right at the hairpin. Steep and the terrain provide cover from the wind. The last 750m are the toughest to, going up to 10.3%.
So, then it comes down to – who wants to do it?
Jayco – AlUla? Well, that really limits the chances for Ewan. Chris Harper could set up Yates and have Plapp counter with 4750m out.
Quick-Step? It is good terrain for Alaphilippe, it is just difficult to say what shape he is in. They should push the tempo for Alaphilippe, there are bonus seconds to be won.
INEOS? Ganna and Viviani are not likely to make it. I think they would fancy Narvaez for the sprint rather than risk spending energy.
UAE? I think they will. No chance Hodeg makes it, even if he hung on to Fisher-Black’s shirt.
I think my conclusion is simple. I’ve been out of the game for a few months and I can’t conclude how much the headwind will impact the climb. I think we will see a reduced bunch sprint or a late attack.
S. Yates – first of three from the team. Maybe I’m rusty and biting into the hype. He is the best climber here and one of the few who could create an attack strong enough to get away. I just don’t see it happening with the headwind.
L. Plapp – late attack option, or getting things back together for Ewan option. Watch out 4750 m out, I think he strikes there. It would put the other teams in an odd position. Who has helpers left? Is there sprinters left? It would give him just the few seconds he needs to get away.
Ewan – bad legs reported today. Usually, I wouldn’t count him in here but the headwind suggests we may see more sprinters making it. All about starting near the front at the foot of the climb.
Alaphilippe – time to see where he is at. On his best days, he attacks and stays away. He is one of the few who should be able to follow S. Yates and he would be comfortable against him in a sprint.
C. Pedersen – if we see a sprint, C. Pedersen should make it. He is a versatile sprinter who can find his way in a hectic sprint.
Girmay – he should be the favorite tomorrow due to the headwind. He came with enormous speed today. If we see a reduced bunch sprint, he would be my pick.
C. Strong – it will likely be another top-10 for the collection.
Narvaez – he is looking very good just now. I think the podium is a realistic result tomorrow.
D. van Poppel – I’m uncertain if he is strong enough just now to contest for the win tomorrow, but he climbed very well at the end of last season.
Covi – a stage made for him. If the Italian can find the 2021-legs again, that is.
Who will win?
I think the headwind kills the stage tomorrow. It will limit the riders willing to attack and the headwind over the top doesn’t make it easier. Plus, it makes the group much bigger for the last ascent, meaning more helpers to help reel in attackers.
I will take a win for Girmay.