C-Cycling - Giro d'Italia 2015 Preview and Favorites

10/05 - Stage 2 - Albenga to Genova - 177 km

The route
Even though this is a stage for the sprinters, the terrain is very undulating. From the start in Albenga, the first 35 km are mainly uphill. Upon reaching the top of the uncategorized Testico climb, the riders start heading back towards the coastline. Here, they will spend most of the day heading northeast.

The only time the peloton deviates from the route alongside the sea is in Cogoleto, where they take on the Pratozanino ascent. The 4.2 km towards the top have an average gradient of 4.8 %. This category 4 climb offers 3-2-1 KOM points, meaning the first rider over the top will get to wear the first blue mountain jersey of this year’s Giro d’Italia. The small teams will be very eager to make it into today’s breakaway!

With about 25 km to go, the riders enter Genova. Soon after, they take on the 9.5 km finishing circuit around the city for the first of two times. Remember, you can see a detailed profile of the final kilometers by mousing over the finish area on the profile at the top.

It’s an undulating circuit with a 1 km ascent of around 4 % on Via Francesco Pozzo. A section of false flat follows before a descent leads the peloton towards the sea front. They continues alongside the sea front for a bit more than two kilometers on an undulating road. Shortly after passing the 2-km-to-go banner, the riders turn right in a roundabout. The next 850 meters are straight-out and flat before they turn again in a big left-hand bend. From here, the road starts to kick up with a bit more than 2 % all the way towards the finishing line on Via 20 Settembre.

The candidates
As mentioned in the overall preview, the level of the sprinters in this year’s Giro d’Italia is very equal. On paper, Andre Greipel is probably the prime pick. However, the big German doesn’t have his usual leadout train with him. Only Greg Henderson is here. Therefore, I doubt we will see Lotto-Soudal take the front of the peloton on the last kilometers. If so, this hampers Greipel’s chances of winning significantly. He has always been best having a proper leadout. Also, Greipel doesn’t seem to be as strong as earlier. Unless Henderson manages to take the front with Greipel on his wheel on the last 500 meters, I doubt he will win this stage. However, given his track record, it would be foolish to count him out prematurely.

The Italians have at least three very strong candidates to win this stage. Sacha Modolo arrives with a huge confidence boost after winning stage 5 in Tour of Turkey on a slightly uphill finish. Surely, he can win on the finish in Genova as well. Despite always being in the mix, Modolo is still to win a stage in the Giro d’Italia. Right now, he seems stronger than ever. Lampre-Merida sends a very strong team to support him with the likes of Max Richeze and Roberto Ferrari. If an Italian rider is to win stage 2, Modolo is my pick.

Giacomo Nizzolo has a dedicated team to back him up in the Giro. Trek’s solo focus in this race is to win a stage. It’s not often they perform a leadout train but looking at their line up, they definitely have the riders to do. Fabio Felline, Marco Coledan and Boy van Poppel are all very fast, while the time trial specialist Kristof Vandewalle is able to keep a very high pace for a long time.

Team Sky’s main objective is the general classification with Richie Porte. Therefore, Elia Viviani only has Bernhard Eisel at his service for the sprints. Still, he should be able to fight for the win today. Viviani has been unlucky with crashes this season but he seems to have timed his condition well ahead of the Giro. Winning a stage here is the biggest goal for Viviani this year. He has already outsprinted Mark Cavendish this season, in Dubai, proving he has what it takes to beat the elite. I’m sure he’ll be up there fighting for the win in Genova today.

Personally, I’m very much looking forward watching Michael Matthews and Juanjo Lobato going head-to-head in this year’s Giro d’Italia. Today’s stage may not be tough enough for them to really excel but both still have a fair chance of winning. The slightly uphill sprint is definitely in their favor. Lobato hasn’t done much since March. However, the team assures the fast Spaniard arrives in great condition, hoping to win a stage. Knowing Lobato’s qualities, I wouldn’t be surprised if he decided to target the points jersey. If so, it requires a good performance today. Also to boost his moral. For the sprinters, it’s extremely important to start out with a good result in the first bunch sprint of the race. Michael Matthews not only has the stage win on his mind today. Due to the great performance in the opening time trial, the Australian will be able to take over the pink leader’s jersey from his teammate Simon Gerrans. All he has to do is to be better placed on the stage than Gerrans. Should he finish in top3, he’ll also get bonus seconds, making it very difficult for other riders to take the jersey in the up-coming stages.

Given the equal level of the sprinters in the race, I could mention all of them as strong candidates. Brilliant riders like Luka Mezgec, Matteo Pelucchi, Moreno Hofland and the Etixx duo of Tom Boonen and Gianni Meersman are all capable of winning on this course. Not to forget the sprinters from the Italian wild card teams like Alessandro Petacchi, Nicola Ruffoni, Davide Appolonio and Katusha's Alexander Porsev.

For live coverage of the stage, go to steephill.tv.

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