It’s just Sam Bennett’s luck that right when he becomes one of the world’s top sprinters, he’s kept out of the Tour and Giro by his team and when he finally gets a go at leading a sprint train, the transition stages look are like this.
It doesn’t look so scary at first glance but look again: there’s a few thousand vertical metres of climbing, as useless a statistic as that is. Useful figures include gradient and distance, which I will now use to tell you that the category two climb is three kilometres at ten per cent, and will eject all the sprinters never to return. Hence, this stage looks nailed-on for a breakaway unless Alejandro Valverde or someone with similar skills is bothered enough to make his team work for him. If they do, it will be a reduced sprint that would almost certainly be won by 2018-Valverde if he had bothered to turn up. However, this is 2019-Valverde who is altogether a more beatable prospect.
Enrico Battaglin could have a chance. It’s hard to predict the form of the Italian but if he’s on top form he could make it over the final climb and if so, it won’t take the greatest sprinter in the world to beat whoever is in the front group. That means that Zdenek Stybar could be in with a chance.
If we’re to look at breakaway contenders, Omar Fraile always sticks out to me if Astana want to pass the jersey around. Valerio Conti seems suited to this stage, as does Dylan Teuns.
My prediction: the 50/1 Battaglin to do it, because why not. My, I don’t like possible breakaway stages this early in a race, it’s hard to adjust.