Itzulia Basque Country Stage 3 Preview
Julian Alaphillipe took the win on the second stage of the Itzulia. It was a hard stage, the gravel sectors were attacked mostly by Astana, and a very hard constant pace throughout the final part of the stage had only around 50 riders begining the final climb in front. Adam Yates was the main rider harmed by the gravel, having a punture around 15Km from the finish and as a consequence loosing over a minute in the GC, aswell as many GC aspiations. Alaphillipe stormed around second placed Bjorg Lambrecht who had made an early move and almost made it stick, Kwiatkowski finished third and Schachmann retained the lead.
Positive: Deceuninck, Alaphillipe wins the stage and Mas wins time on some rivals, Serry and Honoré finished in the select leading group. Lambrecht obviously, a big move almost giving him the win, Bora and UAE kept all their riders safely without any losses having a good stage.
Negative: Yates, he had no fault but ultimately is the big looser of the day, Mollema also blown out of contention. Astana also I'd say, they played their cards agressively as they usually do, but sacrificed Gorka Izagirre, Luis Leon Sanchez and Alexey Lutsenko for pretty much no reward, and all lost time that could be used to put other teams under pressure, they shouldn't be sacrificing riders like this.
As predicted it was a puncheurs finish, a full-on 1-minute sprint. In the image above is the power output of Tadej Pogacar who finished 9th in the stage integrated in the leading group. He weighs 66Kg and that almost leads to 10W/Kg for a full minute. He did enough to stay in the group, Lambrecht's attack is very visible as he was forced to go to his maximum right from the begining of the climb, what he lacked was the final edge, something that seemed to lack everyone except Alaphillipe, who was the only one able to bridge across the young Belgian and go through him seemingly easily.
Tomorrow seems perfectly suited for a breakaway, the winding roads of the Basque Country always provide for a good opportunity, but the roller-coaster nature of the stage will be the most important factor. It isn't overly hard, with no pure sprinters on the startlist there's no-one who will be damaged by these climbs, and the finish is very similar to the previous day with a 1.7Km climb at 4% where the stage winner will be crowned, perhaps more suited to the fast men than yesterday, but of course it will depend on if any team will step on the gas like today.
But the weather will have a big saying for tomorrow, the wind will be strong, a constant 15Km/h with gusts of over 40, that adding to what will be a rainy afternoon will make for a stressful and dangerous stage.
The wind in coming from the north, meaning the last 35 Km will be those where attacks can be made. The short section between climbs is very dangerous, with around 70Km to go, but the main part is really the last 20Km, where it will mostly be a tailwind with some crosswind sections, as for the final climb it's gonna be ridden in a headwind, so late attacks aren't likely to succeed and the timing is essential for the sprint.
Who can we expect to see?
Tomorrow is not going to be an easy stage. The finish isn't as steep as today but the extra climbing plus the weather conditions will likely make it a sprint as reduced as today's. With that said, it's expected that the protagonists are pretty much the same of course.
Julian Alaphillipe is the overwhelming favourite. Deceuninck showed tremendous group and individual strenght, Alaphillipe didn't have a leadout but that didn't stop him as it was up to individual positioning, but in case he does he will certainly have Serry and Honoré at least to keep up with him until the end.
Kwiatkowski looked good but didn't have the edge in the end, in fact no-one had. So it seems like a one-against-all type of sprint if the scenario repeats itself. Schachmann was very strong but burnt himself chasing Lambrecht. Lambrecht looked very good but as a lightweight he won't have as much ease tomorrow. Fraile, Madouas and Konrad are more than good enough to contest the top placings but they don't really have the edge that the other do.
Long-story-short if the fight is purely for the stage win, the other teams have to try to deal blows on Deceuninck, or catch Alaphillipe in a bad position or surprise him. There are several riders who can be up there but the final climb not being as steep won't benefit those who are more of an explosive climber type.
Of course there's Pattrick Bevin, alongside many of the explosive riders that didn't make it to the end today, but there's some doubt over if they will manage to do it tomorrow after not being successful today.
⭐ Lambrecht, Fraile, Madouas, Sanz, Bole
Well, there isn't anyone stronger than him in the time being. Bad positioning today wouldn't have taken away the win from him, tomorrow with such a strong team it's hard to see him get caught out. I pick him, and it mostly comes down to the fact that in normal circumstances there's no-one who will be able to beat him in such finish, so let's see if the others can come up with the answer.
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