Saturday, March 9, 2013

Tirreno-Adriatico: Stage 5 Preview

Team Sky are in a league of their own. Especially with a strong head wind on the climbs. They seem unbeatable this year on mountain top finishes, so if you want to get them, you need a powerful kick and some steep percentages. Luckily for the spectators, that is exactly what we will see on this stage. The steep finish in Chieti has quickly turned into a classic Tirreno finish and it will be difficult for Team Sky to control the pack with gradients up to 19%.

Race leader Michal Kwiatkowski continues to perform on a high level this year and if the other favorites want to fight for the overall win, they need to drop him in Chieti. Kwiatkowski is very strong against the clock but on the steep parts, he has his limitations. 

Peter Sagan won this stage last year but it won’t be easy to repeat that win this time. The race organizers have made the finish even more demanding with the inclusion of Passo Lanciano (11.3 km at 8,6%) just 40 km from the line.  Sagan is great on the descents but if Team Sky set a furious pace uphill like on Prati di Tivo, he won’t be in the mix.

Final steep kilometers in Chieti.
Click for larger view.
The last 7 km see the riders tackle two steep parts separated by a 2,5 km descent. Gradients of 19% on the final hill provide an excellent chance for explosive riders to get a gap before the last, tricky, and flat kilometer towards the line. I know Purito didn’t live up to the expectations on Prati di Tivo, but I won’t hesitate picking him as my favorite again. Purito had problems on Prati di Tivo last year too and if he really is in better shape this year - as he states – he’ll win this stage.

The steep part ends with one kilometer to go and this is a great time to counter if the front group stops a little. Last year Vincenzo Nibali got away on the final 500 meters, but was overtaken by teammate Peter Sagan. Not a very wise tactical decision by Sagan who had to apologize to Nibali afterwards. Nibali wants revenge and if Purito doesn’t take this stage, I think Nibali is the best pick. He knows the final very well and he will be extremely difficult to catch if he manages to put in a late attack like last year.

Originally, I would have picked Mauro Santambrogio as joker for this stage but after his amazing performance on Prati di Tivo, I guess he can’t really be seen as a ‘joker’ anymroe. Same goes for Wout Poels who showed to be back on a great level after his horrible crash in the Tour last year. I think both will be up there in the final, but none of them really fit the joker category. Instead I’ll say Moreno Moser. The young Italian came to Tirreno-Adriatico aiming at the GC, but couldn’t keep up on Prati di Tivo. Moser now has to look for stage wins and stage 5 and 6 seems like good options for him. If he manages to stay near the front on the last steep part, he could profit from an strong attack just as it evens out with one kilometer to go. It won’t be easy, but hey; that’s why it’s called a joker.

One last thing. If the favorites don’t attack on Passo Lanciano and Peter Sagan stays in front over this climb, he’ll most likely end up winning the stage. I hope Nibali and Contador will try something far out, but in case they don’t, put your money on the Slovakian wonder boy. I can only pick one winner and even though all three (Purito, Nibali and Sagan) look good to me, I have to stick with my original idea and say Purito.

Winnerpick: Joaquim ‘Purito’ Rodriguez
Joker: Moreno Moser

For live coverage of the stage check out steephill.

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