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Who'll win the first hilly stage of the new stage race?

Photo: Sirotti




13.02.2016 @ 07:52 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Arnaud Demare lived up to his status as the big favourite but that’s likely to be his last success in this race. After two days in flat terrain, the final two stages are reserved for the punchy climbers and they will test each other for the first time on the famous Col du Tanneron and its very difficult descent.


The course

The queen stage comes on the third day when the riders are set to travel 180.5km from Caldolive to Pegomas. The first part of the stage is pretty lumpy with a single category 3 climb at the 37.5km mark and then the race enters flatter terrain in the middle part. The finale will kick off with 55.2km to go when the riders reach the summit of the famous Cote des Tuilieres (2.3km) which has often featured as a key point in the Tour du Haut-Var. Then it’s back into flat terrain until the riders get to the final two climbs. First they will tackle the uncategorized Col des Marjories before they go up the category 2 Col du Tanneron (3km) which was once a fixture on the penultimate day of Paris-Nice. The summit is located just 8.5km from the finish and the final part of the stage consists of a very technical descent and a very short flat section.



The weather

After two days in the rain, sunshine is forecasted for Saturday. There’s only a small chance of a shower and the maximum temperature at the finish will be 13 degrees. It will be a windy day with a strong wind blowing from a westerly direction which means that the riders will have a tailwind almost all day


The favourites

There was barely any wind in today’s stage and so it failed to create any time gaps. It ended up as a straightforward one for the sprinters so now the battle for the GC will come down to the final two stages where the climbers and puncheurs will have a chance to shine. Compared to the roadbook, the final stage has been changed and now includes several passages of a 500m climb and it will even have an uphill finish. This means that there are now more chances for the climbers to make a difference.


The first chance comes in tomorrow’s stage which has a significant amount of climbing. The Cote des Tuilieres is the hardest challenge but comes relatively far from the finish. However, it can’t be used to create an initial selection. Furthermore, there will be a strong wind and even though it will mainly be a tailwind, there will be crosswind sections along the way. This will make the peloton nervous and it won’t be impossible to split things.


Cote des Tuilieres probably comes too far from the finish to make a decisive move so it will probably be decided on the final two climbs. They are not very steep, mostly with a gradient of around 5%, so it is a not a very hard finale. It will be hard even for the best climbers to make a solo move and we will probably have a select group gathered at the top. The final descent is very difficult though and it won’t be impossible for a good descender to make a solo move here.


Today all the work was left to FDJ and they are still in pole position. However, they can allow themselves to ride defensively to protect Alexandre Geniez who is their best climber. He doesn’t have a very strong team at his side though and could find himself isolated in the finale.


As opposed to this, Ag2r have a formidable team of climbers and they will probably try to blow the race to pieces by going fast up the Cote des Tuilieres and then attack in turns in the finale. It won’t be easy for Geniez to control things. Astana will also try to play their cards and also have a few climbers that can make things difficult. If all the work is left to Geniez, a breakaway can definitely stay away.


Alexis Vuillermoz is one of the many Ag2r cards. The Frenchman was riding solidly in San Luis and has probably improved. He is one of the best of this kind of climbs and is a great descender. Furthermore he is fast in a reduced sprint and probably the fastest if the best climbers arrive together. He has the punch to make the difference on the climbs too so he can win in almost every scenario. He is our favourite to win the stage.


The second great Ag2r card is Jan Bakelants. The Belgian is making his debut here but showed good form by sprinting to third today. This shows that he also has a decent turn of speed in his legs. Still he probably has to set Vuillermoz up for the sprint if a small group arrives together. However, they may also do separate sprints and Bakelants is fast enough to win. Furthermore, he is very aggressive, a good climber, a great descender and fast on the flats. This stage suits him down to the ground so he will be a strong contender.


The third Ag2r card is Cyril Gautier who shares many of the same qualities as his teammates. He climbs well, is a good descender and is fast in a sprint. He won’t be allowed to do his own sprint but he is very aggressive and could very well make the right move in the finale.


Pierrick Fedrigo is making his season debut in this race and he doesn’t have too many expectations. However, he is often riding well at the start of the year. This kind of hilly terrain suits him really well and he is very fast in a sprint from a small group. His teammate Julien Loubet shares many of the same characteristics and unlike Fedrigo, he has the Tour de San Luis in his legs.


Eros Capecchi is mostly a domestique but will be allowed to take his own chance here. A few years ago he was pretty fast but he has not sprinted for the past couple of seasons. He is one of the best climbers in the race though and if he still has speed in his legs, he will be a contender. The main question is his form as he was not great in San Luis where he crashed.


Delio Fernandez has joined Delko Marseille for this season and he got his year off to a great start in San Luis where he climbed really well. In the Volta ao Portugal, he has proved that he is very fast in a sprint from a small group.


Armindo Fonseca, Florian Vachon, Yannick Martinez and Florian Senechal are all fast but they have not shown great condition and the amount of climb is probably a bit too much. It is also worth keeping an eye on Andriy Grivko and Anthony Delaplace who are both in good form and are strong enough to make a successful move in the finale.


CyclingQuotes’ stage winner pick: Alexis Vuillermoz

Other winner candidates: Jan Bakelants, Cyril Gautier

Outsiders: Pierrick Fedrigo, Eros Capecchi, Julien Loubet, Delio Fernandez

Joker: Andriy Grivko, Anthony Delaplace, Armindo Fonseca, Florian Vachon, Yannick Martinez, Florian Senechal



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