Itzulia Basque Country Stage 1 Preview
There's been a change in the classical stage orders, it seems that every year the organizers bring the time-trial stage back another day and this year it's come to the opening stage.
It will be a time-trial only 11.3Km long but with a brutal ascent in it, the Alto de la Antigua. The sole last 900 meters of the climb have a 15% gradient and pitch up to 20%, it was last used in the opening stage of the 2011 edition and is a classic Spanish murito, the first of the week. This will be a fight for the overall, there are top time-trialists but the climb is going to be the decisive factor of the day, alongside the rain, we have to see who is able to take the right risks and pacing tomorrow.
What part will the weather take tomorrow?
It's going to be a rainy time-trial, with a very fast descent, followed by a very steep climb, followed by a very technical descent to the finish. All of this in wet roads, and there's no point of telling who can be benefited or not as the rain is predicted for the whole afternoon, also with no wind changes assumed. If there's any favouritism to be given it should be to the first riders lining up on course, they may have less acumulation of rain and may luck out if the weather changes slightly over the afternoon (a late start to the raining).
There's been a history of rainy dangerous time-trials. There's the group of riders who is willing to take big risks and pull them off, and there's the group that either doesn't have the courage, doesn't want to sacrifice his long-term injury-list or simply doesn't have the technique to ride these wet roads. There will be 7 hairpin turns simply in the final 3 kilometer descent, so there are major gains to be made if the risks are rewarding, so it will be a matter of who can climb very well and have the technique for the final descent above those who are nouned as good time-trialists.
Julian Alaphillipe is perhaps the biggest name, if the weather was dry he'd already be considered a major favourite but he's also one of the riders who can benefit from the weather, he is a brilliant descender and likes this weather.
Michal Kwiatkowski and Ion Izagirre are two riders who should also fancy their chances tomorrow, other two riders with a very good history in this distance of time-trial, excelent climbing skills and good performances in the wet, the win should come between those 3 for sure, if their risks don't take them to a halt.
Max Schachmann, Pattrick Bevin another duo to watch, coming out of great form and great performers in short time-trials.
On the time-trialist side we obviously have Rohan Dennis, but he hasn't looked like himself this year and his time-trialing has definetely had a blow with the bike/position change, plus the climb shouldn't be to his favour, aswell as the descent, he doesn't have much ground where he can benefit.
Other two names to be mentioned will be leaving as first riders of the team. Tony Martin and Jonathan Castroviejo. Not the best of climbers but both can do it, they are both very strong time-trialists but their shot is really if they benefit from a late raining period, that's obviously a long shot but one that can work.
The ultimate outsider that I'll name is Fabio Felline. His last win came in the 2017 Tour of Romandie prologue, in a wet and technical prologue. He knows how to do this type of stage perfectly, but obviously the question is wether he has the legs for it.
⭐ Bevin, T.Martin, Lutsenko, A.Yates
My call will be on Alaphillipe, he's strong enough but above all he's crazy enough to be able to be fast on all parts of the time-trial. It'll take a big combination of skills to be able to win it but he is one of the few who has it, after his San Juan TT win it only encourages me more to have him as the pick.
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