Gree - Tour of Guangxi Preview
Updated: Feb 16
And with the Tour of Guangxi, the road season pretty much comes to an end. With a prolongued lenght in the year, finishing the WorldTour calendar in China has been the norm in these last few years, and this year will be no exception. On the menu are six stages and quite a big feast for the sprinters to grab an elusive WT win, or another one in the list. The lack of overall riders still racing hard into the end of October at the same time lures some riders to fight for the GC, both for the points for riders looking for contracts, another chance to show off their qualities, but also to add another strong result into the palmares.
The race opener is a circuit finish in Beihai, a short stage only 136 kilometers in lenght with a small bump there in each lap, but it should be no threat to the fast men and we should see the first leader of the race emerge from a sprint.
The second stage shouldn't be any different, this one pan-flat there's no dificulties to set gaps except the slight possibilities of crosswinds, although it's unlikely as almost half the stage will be raced in a criterium-like finish in Qinzhou.
The third stage will be a little different, in the overall it's not a very hard stage, but there are a lot of rolling roads and in each one of the laps, in a stage that is fully a circuit aswell, there will be a climb where the final 650 meters average over 10%, it should be the place where the puncheurs will make their moves as any second in this race is important, the final summit comes with just a mere 5.5Km to the finish and following there's a fast descent and a short run-up to the finish, the sprinters who can climb well may have a shot in the end but it's a finale that's hard to control, and where bonifications will be heavily disputed.
And stage 4 will be the queen stage. As it's been a familiar scenario in this race, there's a small hilltop finish that should be the main decider in the overall. The stage in it's whole is quite short (only 160Km kilometers) and also very flat, so it should be a single-effort stage where everything will be decided in the end. The final climb is 3.4Km long at 6.9%, it's a power climb, a twitchy start but very straightforward in it's bulk before a final sting in the end, it may be decided in a sprint between those who make it that far.
Stage 5 is perhaps a stage that could be dangerous, as the final GC fight could come at this point, some riders trying their best to switch up their places with very little to loose. That could make the stage interesting, however the sprinter teams will surely get in the fight to bring it all back if needed to deliver another one for the fast men. The difference in this stage comes in it's lenght, after a long long season there are riders who just can't be at their best racing over 215 kilometers, specially if they are raced hard.
And the final stage, it's somewhat similar but shorter, the possibilities of having something happen are still real, but if no gaps were made the previous day I doubt much will be played in this day, with only the intermediate sprint a possibility in motivating them to do so. Otherwise, it should be another showdown for the fast men, the final one of the year!
Quite a lot of heat, the temperatures throughout the week will actually be around 30 degrees, maybe something to take into acount but we'll see how badly it'll affect the riders as the race moves on.
Riders for the GC
There's a big list of riders coming in with good chances of taking the overall home. First of all there's only one stage that will certainly create gaps, which means the gaps will stay rather short, and the explosive finales will have a lot of importance, as will the bonifications. This will mean a very balanced fight where form and season fatigue will mix up things in an exciting way that you can rarely get throughout the season.
Starting with some riders who have been showing great form, in the INEOS squad there are some interesting names in Diego Rosa and Ben Swift who have had great form in the season closing, Jhonatan Narvaéz and David de la Cruz are also names to take into account. Some teams have a large number of riders that could take the lead, it should be a very open subject, Deceuninck for example have Enric Mas but the queen stage isn't as hard as his skills suit, it's too short and explosive of a climb, but in Remi Cavagna and Pieter Serry there are alternatives to be there and to attack throughout the hillier stages, also the other team of the season Jumbo-Visma - at the moment I write it hasn't yet been confirmed - should have one of the season's revelations Laurens de Plus lining up, with Antwan Tolhoek and a very sharp but underdog Jonas Vingegaard also as some serious explosive climbers to take into account.
Davide Villela should be one of the bigger contenders seeing how strong he's been riding lately, he's having Jan Hirt and possibly Davide Ballerini as backups, alongside UAE's Alexandr Riabushenko they should perhaps be two of the biggest contenders without the reputation, should be able to go under the radar but I know very well both have the power to be taking the race home, and Vuelta revelation Carl Frederik Hagen too, after all I barely noticed him in the startlist.
Wanty is coming in big for the last race of the season, they will be chasing the top place in the PCT rankings, that may give them access to the whole WorldTour calendar for 2020, these details mean the world and are definitely a motivating sign, they have Guillaume Martin as a leader on paper but several riders, like Xandro Meurisse/Aimé de Gendt/Loic Vliegen could play in depth but also in number and can take serious advantage out of it. Staying with the climber subject, Katusha is coming in with Ilnur Zakarin and Simon Spilak, although expectations should be limited in this case, same with Max Schachmann who is perhaps the strongest name on this part of the startlist but is still coming back from his Tour injury, Felix Grossschartner should step in as part of his alternative calendar this year where he's lead Bora throughout the year. Lemnard Kamna took a big step in the Tour, I'm interested in what he can do in these shorter efforts.
On the more punchy side, there's EF, they have several climbers but I tout these efforts as ideal for Sep Vanmarcke, and I think he should be the most covered rider of the team, Dani Martinez and Hugh Carthy should be the main backups that will likely share the lead with him. To finish off there are the Dimension Data riders, Enrico Gasparotto and the talent Gino Mader, Jonathan Hivert and Lilian Calmejane from Direct Energie and August Jensen from Israel Cycling Academy.
As expected, World Tour racing with half the peloton already in the off-season, everyone still feeling the legs and with good form will definitely be here. With a host of sprint stages available for the fast men there is still a quite big list of sprinters here. Pascal Ackermann for a start, one of the men of the year, coming with his Schwarzmann/Selig leadout he is set for another race in the hotseat? Well, normal circumstances would lead to that, but who is here to argue? Fernando Gaviria for a start, sure, his season hasn't been the best but it wasn't horrible too, and he's got his whole leadout behind him, so I see quite good chances of seeing him take a stage as the finishes shouldn't be in narrow/dangerous finishes, so he can be there in the end.
Everyone else, a step below essentially. Matteo Trentin, late-season bloomer almost every year, he's had his fair share of success here, he has the speed in the harder stages but I think GC will also be on his mind, there are more riders who may be thinking of the same like Davide Ballerini and Danny van Poppel, as they are quite the engines too. Nikias Arndt should be another name, not for a possible GC tilt, but as a possibility in the hillier stages.
As for the pure sprinters, there's some more names, Kristoffer Halvorsen representing INEOS for the last time, Phil Bauhaus, the German powerhouse has yet to take a step in his progress so any race I expect it to happen, a diamond in the rough. There's Jakub Mareczko, you know I've got to know him as the Asian, late-season sprinter, he's gotten to be a more complete rider this season and I should expect him to take big confidence in the country where in the last 4 years an astonishing 31 (!!) wins, Habemus Jakub! Fininishing up the segment there's Moreno Hofland and Dan McLay for EF and Matteo Moschetti/John Degenkolb from Trek, I would always consider the Trek riders seeing how they're riding in the last few weeks.
⭐ Rosa, Swift, Vingegaard, Ballerini, G.Martin, Grossschartner, Carthy, Vanmarcke
17 Top10's this season, but such a huge quality. This man deserves a win, a big win, Yorkshire was it, but unfortunately for him he didn't pull it off. Matteo Trentin is still in my opinion a widely underated rider. A cobbled specialist sprinter, his wins this season have come from sprints in hilly stages, exactly what he'll find here, and from solo attacks. He is a pure engine, a rare breed in the peloton and one of the most agressive riders in the peloton, one of the strongest physically and tactically. I want him to take this race, he has the form, he has a big palmares but it still doesn't represent how strong he is, Guangxi should be a step, and perhaps he can finally net a monument in 2020.
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