Monday, April 1, 2013

Vuelta Pais Vasco - Stage 2 Preview

As predicted, stage 1 ended in a sprint in a reduced group and I think the same will happen on stage 2 - hopefully without the crashes. The final climb before the finishing line isn’t as steep as the one on stage 1 and without any accidents, we should see a bigger group fight for the stage win this time.

Simon Gerrans is in great shape right now and he won’t be easy to beat. GreenEdge will have to take responsibility defending the jersey early on but Gerrans still has a strong team to lead him out in the final. The last climb, Alto de Zaldiaran, is only 2,9 km with 4% average and have its top 9,2 km from the line. Phillipe Gilbert got hold up by the crash on stage 1 and couldn’t get back in the mix for the win. I think he will be eager to take revenge in Vitoria. Like Gerrans, Gilbert is looking to fine tune his shape for the Ardennes Classics and I think this is a good chance for the World Champion to get a win.

Astana were very strong on stage 1 and had three riders in first group of 17. They messed up a bit in the final sprint, but if they can get it right this time, I think Francesco Gavazzi has a solid chance of winning. The fast Italian is normally very good this time of year and if he can position himself well on the wheel of Gerrans or Gilbert, he has a good enough kick to win the stage.

We have seen how the descents have been used to split the peloton a couple of times this season already and I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens again on stage 2. Without any bonus seconds in the race, every gained second is a success and some of the riders caught behind the crash on stage 1 naturally want to take back the lost time.

Euskaltel didn’t manage to put a single rider in the front group as Samuel Sanchez, Gorka and Ion Izagirre and Igor Antón all got caught behind the crash, and I expect them to be riding very aggressively on this stage. Samuel Sanchez is one of the best riders on the descents and the Izagirre brothers aren’t bad either. Without a single win this season, Euskaltel are forced to attack - especially on home soil - and I’m sure they will do whatever they can to join the winning club of 2013. Therefore, I’ll give Gorka Izagirre another chance to prove why he should be a joker for the stage win.

Another good joker is Lampre’s Daniele Pietropolli. Like team leader Damiano Cunego, Pietropolli got caught behind the crash on stage 1 and if he manages to stay out of trouble, I think he could end up surprising a few with his fast finish.

Favorites: Phillippe Gilbert / Simon Gerrans
Jokers: Gorka Izagirre / Daniele Pietropolli

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