There are a considerable amount of top-class sprinters here for the Giro D'Italia race, so it should be a real battle for the honours when they take the first road stage. Cycling odds inside.
Giro D'Italia Stage 2 - Arnhem to Nijmegen
Saturday 7th May, 190kms
A flat run around Holland for 190kms, with nothing on the profile that should cause any problems to anyone it would seem. What you won't see on a profile though you might see on a weather forecast, particularly the wind forecast. The wind can really whip up around these parts and we could see plenty of echelons and possible splits.
There are a considerable amount of top-class sprinters here for the race - Kittel, Greipel, Ewan, Viviani, Nizzolo, Modolo and MSR winner Arnaud Démare. There are lots of other 2nd tier sprinters here too like Ruffoni, Sbaragli and Marezcko so it should be a real battle for the honours of taking the first road stage of the Giro in 2016.
They start in the southern outskirts of Arnhem and head north first for 30kms before turning left and heading south-west until they reach Tiel after around 80kms. They then head south-east for 75kms towards Berg en Dal where the road starts to get a little lumpy, rising to the heady heights of 95m!
First they climb up to Berg en Dal from the easy side and it's just a gentle rise but then the road goes out on a little loop for 10kms before coming back to Berg en Dal from the other side where they will climb the first KOM hill of the race, it’s 1.1kms long, but averages 6.5%, with the last 400m closer to 10%. The road carries on toward Nijmegen where it enters the final circuit of 8.6kms which they do twice.
Contenders and Favourites
Etixx have the main man in Marcel Kittel, and he certainly looks the man to beat. He warmed up for this with a good stage win on Stage 1 of the Tour of Romandie, but it was closer than expected with Bonifazio almost beating him - but to even be there at the finish was a surprise for many, most expected him to be dropped with the hills on the stage. So it was impressive to be there and it wasn't a surprise a little sting was taken out of his legs.
It was his 8th win of the year though and his 68th in total as a pro and it looks like the big German is back to his best. With a strong team to support him, with the likes of Jungels, Sabatini, Trentin and Serry he is sure to be dropped off in pole position with 200m to go and he should do the rest.
His biggest danger could well be one of the smallest men in the race, in Caleb Ewan. The little Australian is a powerhouse of speed but it's been a pretty low-key start to the year for him in Europe. Two stage wins in the TDU and one in the Herald Tour was a good start to the year, but since returning to Europe he has only raced five road stages at KBK and Tirreno, with a 2nd place behind Gaviria in stage 3 of Tirreno his best result.
But then he went to Yorkshire last week and was pretty poor as far as I was concerned. He was too soft in the sprint on stage 1 when Groenewegen nudged him out of it and he lacked the speed to come back at him.
On stage 2 his performance was even worse, his team disappeared until about 300m to go and then he only had one man try to drag him in to position and quickly disappeared again, ultimately finishing 30th, a pretty disastrous result for a -120 favourite.
One of the guys he's likely to be fighting with though is Elia Viviani, there aren't many others who are prepared to scrap for a wheel like the temperamental Italian. His team are nowhere near as strong as EQS or OGE, it's a team full of climbing types, but then again, Viviani doesn't particularly need or like a leadout at times, he prefers to surf wheels looking for the right one and pounce late using his track speed. Winner of two races this year, one of which saw him defeat Kittel in De Panne, he's also had a couple of 2nds and 3rds, one of the 3rds was behind Ewan and Gaviria in Tirreno.
André Greipel has had an eventful start to the year, with some good early-season victories in the Mallorca races, but then crashed in the Algarve in late February and damaged some ribs. Although he kept racing to keep good fitness levels up it clearly hampered him as he was not competitive in sprints for a while. I'm not sure what to make of Greipel for this, he will have recovered by now from that injury and the week of hard training in Turkey will have stood him in good stead.
Giacomo Nizzolo has frustrated me greatly in the past, none more so than three weeks ago in the Tour of Croatia, where he finished 1st, 2nd, 1st in the opening three stages, a race where there was no betting odds available from any of the sportsbooks! Nizzolo has been the nearly man too often in the past, but he has been a pretty good guy to back each-way, often at decent prices. He prefers days when the course is a bit harder and lumpier as he can climb better than most sprinters, but in a flat-out sprint like this one against the likes of Kittel and Ewan, I can't see him beating them.
MSR winner Arnaud Démare is another who has to come in to the reckoning for a stage like this. Winner of the first stage in La Mediterannée, winner of the first stage in Paris-Nice, winner of Milan-San Remo, he seems to go well fresh this season. He was 5th in Gent-Wevelgem, but that masks the fact that he 'won' the sprint behind the Sagan/Cancellara break, but then crashed out of Flanders a few days later. He hasn't raced in a month since then but has been away on training camp with FDJ, so it will be interesting to see if he comes here fresh and ready to win again, or if it will take him a few days to get his racing legs back.
Sacha Modolo has been in good form last week with two stage wins in the Tour of Turkey, but to say the opposition was poorer than what he'll face here would be an understatement. He will have a good lead-out with the likes of Mohoric, Koshovoy, Ulissi and Ferrari and Lampre aren't afraid to put themselves about in the last kilometre. Modolo always goes well in Italy (ok, this is Holland!) and in last year's TDF he won two stages, beating Nizzolo, Viviani, Greipel and Pelucchi. He could be right up there again in this stage and at +1600 he could be worth a shot each-way.
Although Cannondale, BMC and Astana don't really have any guys here who will be fighting it out in the sprint, there are a number of other guys like Kristian Sbaragli, Jacub Mareczko, Diego Ulissi/Roberto Ferrari just below the level of the top guys above could get involved. Marezcko has been a surprise package this year, beating his 'Italy' team-mate Viviani in a stage in San Luis at the start of the year and in the last six weeks he won a stage in Coppi e Bartali and a stage in the Tour of Turkey, beating André Greipel.
I think Kittel will take all the beating though and Etixx-Quickstep should maouever him in to position nicely with 2-300m to go and he'll do the rest. Viviani and Modolo should come close to him, with Greipel, Nizzolo and Ewan scrapping it out for places 4-10.
2pts win on Marcel Kittel at Evens with various
0.5pts each-way on Elia Viviani at +800 with various