Tour of Romandie Stage 1 Preview
Jan Tratnik stormed to a breakthrough win in the prologue, the Slovenian took advantage of the technical and sharp course to ride the fastest time out on course, benefiting partly with Campenaerts' crash knocking him out of contention. Primoz Roglic and Tom Bohli completed the podium, Roglic got off in the right foot but the gaps were still small to become anything significant.
Positive: Roglic and Thomas showed very good legs, of Roglic it was to be expected but Thomas still could have some doubts over his form, this comes as a big encouragement. Gaps were very small, but still some riders can take confidence from today, Rui Costa, Carlos Betancur and Felix Grossschartner had strong rides and are looking sharp to be in the overall contention.
Negative: Campenaert's crash, not his fault but it's an opportunity down the drain, Kung seemed completely off, the loop was certainly too explosive for his skillset, both will look for the final stage. Kudus and Hirt lost 28 and 35 seconds respectively, big loss for such a small time period.
As it's quite clear, this was no ordinary time-trial. Dowsett finished a strong 6th in the stage, averaging 485 watts throughout the 5:16-minute effort. There were several freewheeling periods involved in the most technical parts, and a steep climb in the middle where he pushed 653 watts for 1:06 minutes (600 meters at 5.3%), and 763 watts for 32 seconds in the opening ramps of the climb that averaged over 10% in the cobbles of Neuchatel.
It was far from a constant effort, it was one who benefited those who could make multiple accelarations and had big power. Risks aren't possible to calculate but with Dowsett's result it is certain that he pushed it in the corners, although with average below 44Km/h it was an obvious slow speed for the discipline.
The first road stage comes as a hard challenge. It won't be easy to predict how this stage will unroll, it has a 5 classified climbs but several more that will make it too hard for the sprinters. But for the climbers the climbs may come too early on to make differences so they should try to keep their overall ambitions safe, so it opens up the chance of a breakaway succeeding or late attacks being successful.
Lots of steep climbs, it's a stage very well suited for a breakaway and with such climbs in the begining it is sure to see a big battle and a dreadful pace until the summit of the first couple of climbs. From there on the race should settle and depending on who makes it in front we'll see if they can hold on to the advantage or if there will be interests to reel them in, which may be the most dificult part.
Weather won't be an issue for tomorrow, the sky will be clear but the temperatures low, but now to a point where it'll favour some. The wind won't be non-exhistant but intensity won't be high, it will come as a headwind for some of the latter parts of the stage so maybe the only argument against a breakaway.
To cover all sides it's safe to begin with the sprinters. The stage will likely be too hard for them, but in case of a slow race or a tightly controlled break it's possible to see the fastest men to arrive. Elia Viviani and Sam Bennett are the obvious calls in that side, but it will take a specific race situation to see them for the win.
Sonny Colbrelli seems the right option. Bahrain with the lead, Colbrelli and no true GC contender they will likely try to control the race, and Colbrelli is the rider most suited for it. In the list of riders who can sprint Michael Albasini can't be discarted with his great track record in the race, he looked good today. Patrick Bevin and Simone Consonni are two other riders who can climb and sprint too, but also attacks in the finale can succeed.
In that case, riders like Rui Costa, Eduard Prades, Tanel Kangert and Dylan van Baarle are good examples of those who will certainly be climbing in front and have the power to escape the peloton in a final dash or even attack on the final ascents, the race can easily be very unorganized and lots of riders can take advantage of it.
But in such a stage it's mandatory to play breakaway roulette. So Thomas de Gendt is the obvious call, the stage suits him very well but at what point can he escape and be able to discard his competition. Only for a rider like him is it easy to imagine such scenario but it won't be easy to repeat his feat from Catalunya, as if a breakaway succeeds the lead is also likely to change.
I will rate some names by no specific order, Mathias Frank of AG2R, Rodrigo Contreras of Astana, Odd Christian Eiking of Wanty, Patrick Muller and Matteo Badilatti of the Swiss national team.
These I can imagine winning from the break, it'll take a varied skillset, some freedom and good form, and these look to match the best.
⭐ Frank, Contreras, Eiking, Muller, Badilatti, van Baarle, Prades, Viviani, S.Bennett
I'm going bold for tomorrow. Michael Albasini, he seemed to have gone off the radar but looking at his results last year he was very consistent when in form, winning in Fjords inclusively. He hasn't apparently lost his top-end power as I thought, he was 20th today and looked really good actually, tomorrow's stage suits him very well and I don't think many will be considering him up there, his team can afford to support him well if he's feeling good.
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