Sunday, March 31, 2013

Vuelta Pais Vasco - Stage 1 Preview

There aren’t any tailored stages for the sprinters in this year’s Vuelta Pais Vasco but stage 1 and 2 should still end in a sprint. A sprint in a reduced group that is. We have six categorized climbs on the menu and the last one, Alto de Aiastia (4,8 km / 5,42%), has its top just 7 km from the line.

It’s a good finish for riders with strong downhill skills like Samuel Sanchez and Damiano Cunego, but I think GreenEdge, BMC and Astana will try to keep it together. Especially GreenEdge look strong with Michael Albasini, Simon Gerrans and Daryl Impey for the stage, while Astana have Francesco Gavazzi and Enrico Gasparotto. For BMC, Phillipe Gilbert will be the man for sprint and this is a good opportunity for the World Champion to show he’s ready for the upcoming Ardennes Classics later this month.

With a profile like this one, a break will have a solid chance of making it. Especially if strong riders get away on the last climb and if so, look to the Basque home favorites. Euskaltel are still without a win this season and naturally, they are very eager to perform on home soil. Samuel Sanchez may not be 100% yet - since he's targeting the Giro this year and not this race - but riders like Gorka and Ion Izagirre and Igor Antón will be ready to fight stage wins. Personally, I expect a lot from Igor Antón, but on this stage I think the Izagirre brothers will shine. Gorka is very strong on the descents, he showed that in the Tour last year, and fast on the line too. He ended 14th in GP Miguel Indurain on Saturday and he is my outsider for the stage win in Elgoibar Monday afternoon.

Winner pick: Phillipe Gilbert
Joker: Gorka Izagirre

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