Wednesday, January 23, 2013

TDU Preview - Stage 3

I always look forward to this stage. In the past it was the only one not suited for all the sprinters and now it’s an important stage for the overall classification due to the bonus seconds on the line.

Yesterday my favorite Phillipe Gilbert attacked early but crashed on the descent - probably without a chance of winning the stage anyway at that point - but at least my three mentioned jokers; Javier Moreno, Tom-Jelte Slagter and Tim Wellens all did well, as expected. Geraint Thomas surprised me a little by getting away that “easily” on the steep part and to be honest, it will be very difficult to rip the leading jersey of his shoulders now. I can’t imagine it being done in Stirling, that’s for sure.

Team Sky have a very strong team in Tour Down Under and if Thomas is able to break away from the rest on 15% and still have enough energy to smash it in the sprint, how are they going to drop him in Stirling? A lot of riders hit the deck yesterday and I would expect many of these - out of the GC already - to try to get in the morning break. Last year the early break made it all way to the line and seeing how the race organizers have added two more laps, it will be a very tough stage to control.

I think Team Sky would be happy to let riders out of the GC get up the road early and for their sake battle out the stage win between them. The problem for Team Sky is that so many other teams still want to keep it together. BMC will be eager to set Phillipe Gilbert up for a win on a finish that suits him perfectly and the same goes for GreenEdge with Simon Gerrans, Simon Clarke and Matthew Goss. Lampre have in-form Daniele Pietropolli to count on should it come down to a sprint while Movistar have José Joaquin Rojas to play.

And don’t forget about Andre Greipel. Many would probably say this stage is too hard for fast German, but in the past Greipel have shown he can stay up front in Stirling when he’s on top of his game. In 2011 Greipel took second after Michael Matthews thanks to a powerful finish and with the shape he’s been showing lately, it would be a mistake to count him out already.

Edvald Boasson Hagen could be an obvious candidate to the win, but if Team Sky manage to keep it together for a sprint, I think it would be foolish not to give Thomas a chance to gain few extra bonus seconds. Having EBH leading him out, Thomas would be in an excellent position to increase his lead before the decisive stage on Willunga Hill.

Anyway. To sum it all up. A break will have good chances since it will be difficult to control it on this undulating route, but if the peloton starts working together it should come down to a sprint in a reduced group. My favorite, as said in my first preview, is Phillipe Gilbert. It’s difficult to say how much of an impact the crash will have on him, but if he’s in the front, he will be very difficult to beat. One of the few who could do it is Andre Greipel, but again it won’t be easy for the German Gorilla to stay up front.

For the jokers I would like to point out Luke Durbridge. GreenEdge is out of the GC now and that means Luke Durbridge will have green light to seek an early break. Just like he did in the national championships when he won the road race (after already having won the time trial). The Australian wonderkid seems to be in the shape of his life already and he knows how to suffer on the hills as well. Another guy who knows how to win from a break is Thomas De Gendt. The Vacansoleil captain came to Australia with GC ambitions, but was among those who crashed yesterday. He’s 2:44 min after Geraint Thomas in the classification and even though that’s not a lot, De Gendt may not be the first rider the peloton will start chasing down.

Winnerpicks: Phillipe Gilbert / Andre Greipel
Jokers: Luke Durbridge / Thomas De Gendt

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