Friday, January 25, 2013

TDU Preview - Stage 5

It’s time to settle the general classification. As always this will come down to the bonus seconds but compared to last year, this time there are many riders with a good chance of ending on the final podium.

It’s clear that right now Geraint Thomas and Tom-Jelte Slagter are the two big favorites for the overall win, especially since Thomas dropped everybody else on the steepest part of Corkscrew Road and Slagter has turned out to be the fastest among the climbers. Still it would be foolish to count out anybody from Top13 just yet.

Last year the two strongest riders on Willunga Hill were Javier Moreno and Tiago Machado and I wouldn’t be surprised if one of these two took the win this time. Machado attacked very early last year and was caught with 1 km to go and I think he will be eager to take revenge. Radioshack have a super strong team for this stage with George Bennet, Ben Hermans and Tiago Machado all in the Top10 overall plus they have Jens Voigt and Jesse Sergent to set the tempo on the flat part. And hey, don’t forget Andy Schleck is here too. If he was to show his face at any point in this race, now would be the time to do it in order to help his team mates.

I know Tiago Machado is very motivated and that he believes he can win both the stage and race on Willunga Hill, but he still needs to shake of the rest of the great climbers. Last year Javier Moreno absolutely murdered the rest of the favorites’ intentions of attacking when the set a furious pace for team leader Alejandro Valverde and now it’s Moreno’s turn to get paced by a strong team. Eros Capecchi, José Herrada, Giovanni Visconti and Andrey Amador will all be ready to pull uphill on for the Andalusian climber while José Joaquin Rojas and José Ivan Gutierrez can control the peloton on the flat part like they did last year.

Team Sky will probably try to control the race as much as they can but near the coast it won’t be easy in the cross wind. Edvald Boasson Hagen hasn’t been on top of his game yet in this race, but he needs to do at least as well as last year on Willunga Hill to help Thomas get the overall win.

Personally I think this stage is perfect for Tom-Jelte Slagter if his Blanco team can manage to keep it together until the final kilometers. He has another young and strong climber, Wilco Kelderman by his side to help out and the average gradient of 7,6% on Willunga Hill should be in his favor. Furthermore Slagter showed in Stirling that he is the fastest man uphill right now, so if Machado, Thomas and others don’t drop him before the line he could very well end up winning both the stage and the race.

With the bonus seconds being so important I doubt the peloton will let a breakaway steal the win. Well, Team Sky would probably like to, but Blanco, Radioshack and Movistar will all work hard to prevent it. Therefore it’s also difficult to point out a joker who hasn’t shown much yet. Still I think Spanish climber, Rafael Valls will be a good pick for a top result on Willunga Hill. He’s currently sitting 15th overall - 31 seconds after Geraint  Thomas - but so far the finishes haven’t been in his favor. Valls is a real climber and he needs an uphill finish to show his talent. He’s seems to be getting better and better every day and I think he will be among the first on the top of Willunga Hill.

What about Phillipe Gilbert and Simon Gerrans, you might ask. Well, Gerrans doesn't seem to have the same  legs as last year and I honestly think Gilbert will lack a little explosivity on Willunga Hill when the real climbers go for the GC.
Winnerpicks: Tom-Jelte Slagter / Tiago Machado
Joker: Rafael Valls

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