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A change to the course means that all is still to play for in La Méditerranéenne

Photo: Sirotti




13.02.2016 @ 19:51 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Andriy Grivko’s aggressiveness finally paid off as the strong Ukrainian broke an 8-year drought with a gutsy solo move and he now finds himself in pole position to win the inaugural edition of La Méditerranéenne. However, a late change to the course means that the final stage can create some significant damage and he will have to be on his toes to defend his jersey against a strong and aggressive Ag2r team.


The course

The final stage was originally set to be a straightforward affair for the sprinters but the organizers have made a change that is not even in the roadbook. It has been impossible to get much information about the new course which was originally set to be made up of 20 laps of a 6.3km circuit in the Italian city of Bordighera on the Mediterranean coast. It will still be a circuit race but the circuit has been changed and will now include a 500m climb. As the finish line comes at the top, the race is no longer for the sprinters and should be one for the puncheurs.


The weather

The riders have had lots of rain in this race and they may again have to face wet roads on the final day. Sunday is forecasted to get off to a cloudy start but as the day goes on, the sun will come out. At the start, there will be a 25% chance of rain but there is little risk in the finale. There will be a moderate wind from a southerly direction.


The favourites

A hilly course, bad weather and a lack of an obvious favourite made the third stage a very aggressive and uncontrollable affair. In such circumstances, aggression usually pays off and it was pleasing to see Andriy Grivko’s many attacks finally pay off. The Ukrainian crowned a splendid Astana performance that saw the small 6-rider team control the early part of the race and then place half of their team in the 16-rider group that decided the race.


At the same time, Ag2r must ask themselves how they could mess up the race. Apparently, Jan Bakelants and Alexis Vuillermoz were the strongest on the final climb but the team had failed to place any of their captains in the decisive move. They only had Cyril Gautier who had been on the attack all day, and Mikael Cherel in the group and when Vuillermoz and Bakelants gave chase, it was too late.


It will now be hard for Ag2r to win the race. They have a very strong team but Astana also proved their strength today. Furthermore, the time gaps are pretty big and they have to distance Grivko significantly if they want to take the overall victory.


The final stage has been changed and it will no longer be a sprint festival. Instead, the inclusion of a climb on the circuit and an uphill finish means that the stage will be selective and that time gaps will be created. However, it is very hard to make very good predictions when it is impossible to get any detailed knowledge about the climb and even the riders don’t know what to expect.


However, the sprinters have all written themselves off and we can expect the race to be a hard one suited to the puncheurs. Ag2r will come out with all guns blazing and try to put Astana under pressure. It’s a short race so we can expect a festival of attacks right from the start. It won’t be easy for Astana to keep things under control but today they proved that they will be strong enough to keep the best riders in check.


Ag2r will definitely try to send their many climbers on the attack but Grivko only really has to watch Bakelants, Vuillermoz and Cherel. The Ukrainian is strong on such a short climb so we doubt that they will be able to drop him. Ag2r may have to turn their attention to the stage win and if they want to, they should be able to set up an uphill sprint. However, as the GC battle rages, it won’t be impossible for a break of strong climbers to get clear in the final laps and make it to the finish.


That opens the door for a lot of different riders but this is really Ag2r’s stage to lose. They have so much firepower that they should be able to control things. If they realize that they can’t drop Grivko, they will probably make sure that their climbers can make the difference in the final two laps.


Yesterday we pointed to Alexis Vuillermoz and he was reportedly one of the strongest on the climb. He lost ground on the descent but the form seems to be good. He is a great puncheur and one of the best riders in an uphill sprint so if the favourites arrive together at the finish, he will be the man to beat. Furthermore, he lost a bit of time today so he won’t be too heavily marked by Astana. He has a chance to take off in the finale and ride away with the stage win from a breakaway. Hence, he is our favourite.


His teammate Jan Bakelants confirmed his good form with another third place and this is the kind of stage that suits him really well. He won’t get any freedom from Grivko so he probably has to rely on his sprinting skills to win the stage. They are pretty good though as he proved by finishing third in last year’s Tour de France stage to Rodez. The main issue for Ag2r will be to share the leadership role between him and Vuillermoz as they are probably the fastest two riders in a sprint.


Pierrick Fedrigo is making his season debut here but he is already at a high level. He joined Vuillermoz and Bakelants in the finale which proves that his form is good. In the end, he was not strong enough to match their pace but tomorrow it may be different. He is fast in an uphill sprint and as he is a bit down on GC, he can win the stage by attacking or focusing on the sprint.


Andriy Grivko was really impressive in today’s stage and he is definitely one of the strongest riders in the peloton. His main concern will be the GC and he won’t focus too much on the stage win. However, if it comes down to an uphill sprint between the best riders, it won’t be impossible for him to win. He is not very fast but he has a decent turn of speed and he is obviously very strong.


Guillaume Levarlet crashed in the first part of today’s stage but bounced back with a great ride to finish the stage in fifth. Tomorrow’s stage suits him really well as he is pretty fast in an uphill sprint and has a solid punch on the climbs. His main problem is that he is close on GC and won’t get too much freedom.


Today Cyril Gautier was on the attack all day but he still reached the finish with a time loss of just 2.11. This proves that his form is good and tomorrow’s stage suits him really well. He has the right puncheur skills for such a short climb. He won’t be allowed to do the sprint as he will have to support Bakelants and Vuillermoz but he is guaranteed to attack at some point. If he does, he won’t be easy to catch.


FDJ were the big losers in today’s stage as Alexandre Geniez was unable to keep up with the best. The Frenchman is not really suited to this punchy stage but the team still have a good card to play. Odd Christian Eiking is a very talented climber and he is pretty fast on this kind of climbs. With Geniez out of the GC battle, he may be allowed to play his own card and he won’t be too heavily watched.


We have been impressed by Matthieu Ladagnous. He lost a bit of ground on the climb but did an excellent descent to finish the stage in second. Tomorrow’s stage is probably too hard for him but it all depends on how steep the climb is. He actually specializes in uphill sprints so if it’s easier than expected, he will be one of the favourites. Florian Vachon can also do well in this kind of uphill sprint.


For riders that will be ready to launch a late attack, look to Ignatas Konovalovas and Arnold Jeannesson.


CyclingQuotes’ stage winner pick: Alexis Vuillermoz

Other winner candidates: Jan Bakelants, Pierrick Fedrigo

Outsiders: Andriy Grivko, Guillaume Levarlet, Cyril Gautier

Jokers: Odd Christian Eiking, Matthieu Ladagnous, Ignatas Konovalovas, Arnold Jeannesson, Florian Vachon



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