Tuesday, January 22, 2013

TDU Preview - Stage 2

As predicted nobody could touch Andre Greipel on stage 1, but Arnaud Démare sure was the strongest of the rest, taking 2nd place after an impressive kick in the final. Now it’s time to switch focus from the sprinters to the puncheurs as Tour Down Under takes on the first real struggles for the GC contenders.

Corkscrew Road is a steep one to get over this early in the season and despite it only being 2,4 km the average gradient of 9,5% will make a huge impact on the final classification. Every team with GC ambitions will try to deliver their guy in front and with a  super fast descent towards the climb and a narrow turn as it starts, we are in for a hectic - and probably very chaotic – final kilometers before it goes uphill.

Looking at the climb the steepest part is at beginning with sections of 20% as the riders later struggle through 4 hairpins before it evens out (about 5%) near the top. The Australian National Team have been training on these roads many times, so you can use all the local riders will be eager to try their luck. Especially Simon Gerrans who seemed very happy with taking 3 bonus seconds on stage 1. So did Phillipe Gilbert and I think it will be a fight between these two and a handful of other riders for the win in Rostrevor.

It will be a fast finish as the last 7 kilometers from the top of Corkscrew Road are downhill towards the finishing line and according to the race organizers, riders are set to reach a speed of almost 100 km/h on their way to the line. Still the wind can be an issue as a head wind will in the valley will make it difficult for a small group to keep the peloton at bay.

Except for the Australian riders you have to keep an eye on the Movistar team. My pre-pick for the final podium - and a strong contender for the this stage - Eros Capecchi, stroke out on Stage 1 (lost 1:19 min after preparing the sprint for JJ Rojas) so I’m not sure what to make of him, even though the finish is perfect for his characteristics. He could be man for a morning break, but with the bonus seconds being so important it will be very difficult for an early breakaway to make it. Guys like Javier Moreno, José Herrada and Giovanni Visconti all have what it takes to attack in this terrain, but again, it won’t be easy to drop Gerrans and Gilbert.

Edvald Boasson Hagen must be mentioned among the big favorites for the stage too, but he needs to stay with the explosive riders on the steep parts of Corkscrew Road. One could argue that he's strong enough on the descent to catch up, but don't forget that Gilbert too is very good on the downhill sections. Another chance for EBH is if ends up in a sprint, but unless there's a head wind on the final kilometers I doubt it will come down to that.

Thomas De Gendt showed he wants to challenge the favorites in the GC as he took bonus seconds on stage 1 as well and being stronger than normally this early in the season, he could be a dangerous outsider for the stage and for the overall classification. In my “Favorites”-piece I’ve put down Tom-Jelte Slagter for a top5 spot in the GC and I think he will try to attack on Corkscrew Road. He’s strong on the steep parts and actually fast on the line too. If anyone was to drop Gerrans and Gilbert on Corkscrew Road my money would be on Slagter or Moreno.

If you are looking for a super joker, try Tim Wellens. The young Belgian is a great climber and fast on the line as well. Lotto-Belisol have been in Australia for a while, getting ready for Tour Down Under and I wouldn't be surprise to see Wellens mingle with the best on Corkscrew Road. 

Winnerpicks: Phillipe Gilbert / Simon Gerrans
Jokers: Javier Moreno / Tom-Jelte Slagter

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