Volta Ciclista a Catalunya Stage 2 Preview
As expected the breakaway was victorious today. It was none other than break specialist Thomas de Gendt who managed to be a part of it, and 60Km from the finish he set out on his own where he remained all the way to the finish line, winning the stage by a margin of 2:38 minutes over late-attacker Max Schachmann and 2:42 over the peloton led by Grega Bole.
The fight for the breakaway wasn't as big as hoped, it went off relatively quickly with De Gendt himself, Luis Mate (Cofidis), Alexis Gougeard (AG2R ), Angel Madrazo (Burgos), Alvaro Cuadros (Caja Rural) and Huub Duijn (Roompot). The 6 riders built up a solid gap that got to 4 minutes over the climbs but when the Muntanya/Formic climbs came the situation changed.
But not in terms of the gap, as de Gendt was able to keep the gap over the climbs, whilst having distanced all his breakaway companions. Mate still resisted his first surge but the Belgian's power proved too much for the Spaniard.
de Gendt moved on solo from 60Km to go on out, he powered his way through the descents and the flats, involving the Port de Collsacreu where he kept powering. He didn't crack until the end, he kept a bery big gap all the way to the line and in the end gained enough time that will surely allow him to keep the leader's jersey for at least a couple of days, ranking up the KOM and the points classifications aswell.
In the peloton there was some occasional interest in the chase, but there never was a big understanding. Arkea and Euskadi worked after the climbs but seeing the gap couldn't be closed they stopped, and none of the GC teams put a real effort to shut it down. Some teams then put in some work but nothing that chopped de Gendt's lead noticeably, with Bernal and Valverde sprinting to bonificate 1 and 2 seconds respectively, putting them a nudge in front of the other GC contenders.
Max Schachmann attacked off the front with some 6 kilometers remaining, and the peloton's confusion allowed him to still finish off in second, ranking up 4 seconds on the road and 6 in bonifications, also putting him as a possible card GC-wise.
The sprint in the back was won by Grega Bole, outsprinting Michael Matthews and Mikel Aristi, after Daryl Impey had launched the sprint initially, with all the GC contenders arriving safely in the bunch.
Grega Bole had a surprising performance to finish in 3rd, leading the peloton home. It was a noticeably long sprint, 21 seconds in a slight uphill sprint, Bole followed Impey before powering himself for a great result. His ability for these uphill sprints make him a favourite for tomorrow.
An opportunity for the sprinters. Again, not an easy route for them but with riders like Matthews and Gibbons there will surely be teams trying to keep the race together, the stage in it's bulk is much easier than today's, but a 4rd cateogry climb close to the finish might motivate some moves.
It isn't a overly hard one, but then the final kilometer also features some hard gradients for the purest of sprinters to prosper, the 5.8Km climb at 4.5% average gradient features some harder ramps, and it's enough to leave sprinters behind if the race is hardly pushed.
Today the sprinters showed their evident dificulties and rider like Bole and Aristi showed enough speed to battle out for the win, so there are lots of riders who can take advantage of tomorrow's stage, that is, if a breakaway doesn't win again.
By the looks of it it looks like there will be a headwind for most of the day, it will be strong early in the day but loose it's intensity along the afternoon, so it is something that won't benefit a breakaway attempt for sure. It should be easier to control the race, and although there are some changes of direction in the end of the day, the roads won't be as exposed and also the wind won't be as strong.
Who can we expect to see?
The stage isn't as hard as today's, and with the wind conditions it shouldn't harm the sprinters as much. Although, the slightly easier route the final 600 meters have a 5.2% gradient, which will make it a long sprint, perhaps too long for some of the contenders.
It would seem like a perfect arrival for Michael Matthews, he is a specialist in this kind of finish but today he wasn't able to win the bunch sprint so his form isn't as good as he may have hoped. Nonetheless he should still set out as the man to beat tomorrow. Grega Bole was the surprise of the day perhaps, winning the sprint for 3rd place, he now rates himself as a big name for tomorrow, possibly Bahrain-Merida can also assist in the chasing, although Phil Bauhaus is also in the team but he also showed a lack of power in the climbs today, he may suffer too much tomorrow. Hodeg finds himself in the same situation, he isn't known for his climbing, tomorrow's finish may be too hard for him.
Andre Greipel survived the climbs but didn't manage to beat some riders in the sprint, not the best of indicators but he deserves a good mention for tomorrow seeing he passed all the climbing tests today. Ryan Gibbons punctured today with only a few kilometers left to the finish so we couldn't see how his sprinting was, but he went through all the climbs so it's proven that he's a man to watch tomorrow.
Mikel Aristi was also a surprise in today's sprint, Daryl Impey should really like tomorrow's arrival as it suits a punchy sprinter too. Patrick Bevin and Jay McCarthy were also there but far from the front. And of course, Alejandro Valverde is always a name to mention.
⭐ Greipel, Valverde, Aristi, Bevin, McCarthy, Hodeg
Michael Matthews is the call for tomorrow. Tomow's finish strikingly resembles the one in the GP Montreal which he won last year, it's gonna be a long one and timing will be crucial. He is an expert in this type of finish so even though he doesn't seem in his best days I think he has enough to take the win.
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