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Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 14 Preview

Course:

Spokenforks collected another correct prediction as a result of the immense sprinting prowess of Fernando Gaviria, demonstrating one of the best sprints we have witnessed in recent history. Regardless, Stage 14 shall certainly not be a day for the sprinters, the day structured to build to an almighty crescendo which may lure the best out of the general classification contenders once again. Starting in Castellania, the course is an incredibly flat affair as it makes its way to the uphill battle atop Oropa, clocking a total of 131km along the way. The short stage should ensure we witness fireworks amongst the big name favourites, while the summit finish could prove a springboard for an outsider to steal the glory and sneak a win from beneath the nose of the maglia rosa hopefuls.

Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 14 Preview

Contenders:

Nairo Quintana was never expected to contest the previous time trial victory, but to lose as much time as he did was a surprise for many. The Movistar rider shall not have expected to be so far off the leader’s jersey at this point of the race, making today’s climatic finish a golden opportunity to begin chipping away at the deficit. The ascent of Blockhaus provided blunt realisation to his rivals, the Colombian already riding in imperious form, despite expectations for him to peak later in the race. This short ascent is not ideal, but with the steeper sections and irregular nature in parts, there is little doubt that he will attempt something in order to gain time here.

Tom Dumoulin will need to keep a close eye on his strongest rival Nairo Quintana, yet this relatively short finale to the day, should mean that the Dutchman does not need to dig too deep in order to keep his healthy advantage. With no other climbs en route to the finale, there is little doubt that Team Sunweb will have everyone at their disposal to protect their captain’s lead. Dumoulin does lack the explosive attack required to match the anticipated moves on this stage, but with such a considerable margin already, it would be of no surprise should he choose to concede time here in order to stay fresh later in the race.

Thibaut Pinot is certainly not renowned for his prowess against the clock, yet many were disappointed in his performance in comparison to recent results, meaning he will have to start attacking days like these as soon as possible to keep his podium chances alive. Though he was easily distanced by Quintana upon the slopes of Blockhaus, today’s shorter ascent could allow the Frenchman to utilise his explosive attacking nature to better effect. If stage honours are of a greater focus on Stage 14, then Pinot will need only to stick close to the front of the pack, seeking to sprint hard for the finish line in an attempt to take the victory.

Vincenzo Nibali has shown a glimpse of the form which previously secured grand tour titles, making it an obvious risk to rule him out of contention on Stage 14. With little to worry about throughout the day, Nibali can focus entirely upon the summit finish, a climb which should see the Italian produce some of his best racing. The ideal situation which he will be hoping to orchestra is one of a late move, keeping pace with the likes of Dumoulin and Quintana, before investing everything in a last gasp effort to take the stage honours late in the day.

Pierre Rolland shall be on the hunt once again for a stage victory, the Frenchman rightly confident in his form at this year’s Giro d’Italia. With such a large part of the day’s racing to be contested upon flat rides, it is not ideal for him to make a success of the breakaway, but he will be a face to watch for if everything comes together in the final kilometres of Stage 14.

Others who will have eyes upon gaining time on the maglia rosa or a stage victory are Ilnur ZakarinBauke MollemaDomenico PozzovivoMikel Landa and Hugh Carthy.

Outcome:

1st Nairo Quintana 2nd Thibaut Pinot 3rd Vincenzo Nibali

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Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 11 Preview

Course:

Stage 11 promises to be a day for the breakaway to lay claim upon stage honours, after yesterday’s individual time trial was dominated by Tom Dumoulin in monstrous fashion, as he sailed into a potentially race deciding time gap over Nairo Quintana. Starting in Firenze, the day just about delivers 15km of flat riding before the roads tilt skywards for the majority of Stage 11, beginning with the Category 2 Passo della Consuma which lasts 15.9 km (avg 6.1% max 10%) before dropping down to the foot of the Category 3 Passo della Calla (16km avg 5.3% max 9%).  A long downhill section then follows, before sending the riders up the 11.4km Category 3 Passo del Carnale (avg 4.5% max 11%) and the longer 23.1km Monte Fumaiole, averaging a tame 3.7% average with maximum gradients of 12%. The road then rapidly falls away, leaving the frontrunners to hurtle into the finale at Bagno di Romagna after 161km of racing. The shorter overall distance and high probability of a breakaway surviving the day is bound to make the opening hour of racing frenzied, making the first couple of ascents even tougher than they look on paper.

Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 11 Preview

Contenders:

Omar Fraile has yet to truly cash in on the form which we saw from him during this year’s Tour of Yorkshire and could choose today as a good opportunity to do so, if able to make the cut on the opening climb. Though this is not a perfect fit for Fraile, it cannot be forgotten that he won the mountains classification at last year’s La Vuelta a España, so is talented when it comes to hunting the right move to join on a day built for the break. He has the strength to succeed on Stage 11, but the biggest question mark hangs above his ability to make it into the right attack.

Mikel Landa shall be another of Team Sky’s options to salvage their appearance at the Giro d’Italia in the wake of their general classification ambitions taking a heavy blow. The Spaniard loves a long range attack, so may well be allowed off the leash to try his luck once again in the breakaway, hopefully chalking up the team’s first win at the race. The testing start will play into his hands, even if the rest of the day is not ideal, while he will need to attack solo over the final summit if he is to take the win; Landa not known for his sprinting abilities after all.

Pierre Rolland is likely to have glanced over the day’s profile as a chance for stage honours, with the length of the climbs hopefully dispatching the quicker rivals who may finish alongside him. The Frenchman has already been combative, but was not able to help deliver Cannondale – Drapac their first WorldTour victory since 2015’s Giro d’Italia. He will want to go it alone in the latter stages, but the climb to Monte Fumaiole might not prove tough enough to allow that.

Rui Costa may have once held ambitions of producing a convincing general classification campaign at 2017’s Giro d’Italia, yet will now realise that his best bet for glory is to try and join the day’s breakaway on stages like today. The terrain should not prove too difficult for Costa, while his descending abilities will allow him to conserve a degree of energy, if able to bridge back to more talented climbers during some of the climbs. He will hope for a sprint finish at the end, as few others likely to work alongside him all day, possess an acceleration able to match the former world champion rider.

Adam Yates could still be focused upon climbing his way up the general classification, but if the race is close to coming back together on the final climb, he has all the skills required to attack over the summit and rapidly descend his way to a stage victory. A fast finishing rider too, if an unexpectedly strong group of general classification contenders end up deciding the day’s outcome, it is also likely that Yates will be the fastest present from that scenario.

Valerio Conti was struck by misfortune when crashing within the final kilometre of Stage 8, having produced a brilliant display of strength as part of the day’s main breakaway. The incident is bound to have stoked the fires of the Italian rider, eager to overturn his bad luck and aim to conjure up another brilliant effort to be in with a chance of victory in Bagno di Romagna. 

Luis Leon Sanchez is an interesting prospect who could be motived by either the mountains classification points on offer here, or the prospect of a group making it all the way to the finish, from which he is almost guaranteed to be the fastest sprinter present. He will no doubt be curious to see who may join the moves, potentially forcing him into action, assuming that Sanchez realises he now has a chance of collecting a jersey in Milano.

The mix of riders who have a chance here is broad and essentially a lottery, keep an eye upon the likes of Alberto LosadaMatej MohoricDaniel TeklehaimanotKenny ElissondeTom-Jelte SlagterJosé Gonçalves and Hugh Carthy.

Outcome:

1st Omar Fraile 2nd Pierre Rolland 3rd José Gonçalves

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Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 9 Preview

Course:

Having spent the opening week attempting to stay out of trouble by keeping safe amongst the peloton, Stage 9 should see the first serious exchanges amongst the riders vying for the maglia rosa. A 149km passage from Montenero Di Bisaccia to the summit of the mighty Category 1 ascent of Blockhaus is likely to prove an intense uphill battle on such a short stage. The topography is relatively tame ahead of  the blockbuster finale, with the rise at Chieti the most noticeable feature between the departure and the base of Blockhaus. The road begins to point skywards with around 30km remaining, though the officially recognised start of Blockhaus does not begin until the riders are 13.6km from the finish line. With an average gradient of 8.4% and maximum slopes of 14%, it is a truly testing climb, but it generally avoids fluctuating too greatly and should allow the elite riders to find their rhythm to the top.

Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 9 Preview

Contenders:

Nairo Quintana is the favourite of many pundits to take the overall title this year and it shall be intriguing to see how himself (and Movistar) choose to ride this first serious mountain clash. Expectations are that he will not lead the charge to begin with, preferring to allow his rivals to initiate the opening salvos of attacks, but shall be ready to close the gaps and counter in aggressive fashion if required. His ambitions to achieve a Giro d’Italia and Le Tour de France double this year has meant that he arrives at the former without his best form, aiming to ride himself into race winning shape by the final week.

Ilnur Zakarin has been plagued by bad luck thus far, yet looked particularly dangerous to the general classification when making a late move on Stage 4 to recoup some of his lost time. Zakarin is one of the most aggressive climbing specialists here and will find the course suiting to his strengths, capable of seriously turning the screw upon the bigger name favourites. The Russian rider is clearly coming into great form, yet the expectation is that he may be allowed a degree of freedom, as many do not seem him as a serious threat for the maglia rosa at the end of the three weeks.

Thibaut Pinot will be eager to turn in a strong performance on Stage 9, as the Frenchman seeks to overcome his tendency to choke on the first decisive stage of a grand tour. With the ascent of Blockhaus a sustained grind to the summit, Pinot is one of the obvious contenders for this specific climbs and has been riding strongly so far; often sprinting for the line alongside the likes of Geraint Thomas. Normally seen to roll over the line amongst the general classification names at grand tours, there is a sense that Pinot’s approach at 2017’s Giro d’Italia may become more attacking than previously seen.

Steven Kruijswijk came close to wining this race last year and comes back to the Giro d’Italia wiser for his close brush with victory in 2016. The Dutchman has been on the floor during the opening week and also abandoned the Tour of Yorkshire early after having crashed relatively hard, leaving as a precautionary measure ahead of his appearance here. An incredibly strong rider, he may prefer a longer ascent than Blockhaus can provide, yet shall no doubt be able to follow all the necessary move.

Geraint Thomas has proven to be extremely consistent in regards to staying in the right position at all the key moments in the first week of racing so far. The Welshman was incredibly strong during the Giro del Trentino and will need to be considered a serious challenger for the overall title if able to show he has retained the form having reached the top of Blockhaus. Like Pinot, Thomas has often been seen sprinting for the line when able to, displaying his eagerness to make every second count ahead of the race’s first venture into the mountains.

Away from those who have their eyes set upon the general classification, dangerous riders on Stage 9 include: Vincenzo NibaliDomenico PozzovivoHugh CarthyOmar FraileMikel Landa and Adam Yates.

Outcome:

1st Thibaut Pinot 2nd Ilnur Zakarin 3rd Geraint Thomas

Outsider: Omar Fraile

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Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 4 Preview

Course:

Skipping from one island to the next has left the centenary edition of the Giro d’Italia to play out the first exchanges between the general classification contenders upon the Sicilian slopes of Mount Etna. An extremely tough summit finish for the race’s fourth stage will come as a shock to the system for many, charging headlong into a 181km trip from Cefalú to Etna, built entirely around the ascent of Portella Femmina Morta and the volcanic finale itself. The peloton are afforded almost 60km to get their legs back into motion after the preceding rest day, and they shall need it once they ride onto the opening slopes of the Category 2 Portella Femmina Morta. Lasting a soul destroying 32.8 km would be enough for many to simply climb off their bike upon its average gradient of 4.5% (max. 8%), but combined with the subsequent rise to Etna, this is one of the worst stages for anyone to experience a bad day in the saddle. The Category 1 climb to Etna’s summit lasts 17.9km and averages 6.6%, but the constant fluctuation of gradients is what will make it so hard for the riders to find a rhythm more than anything else, while the steepest slopes max out around 12%. With the GC riders keeping close tabs on one another, it might be the chance for the breakaway to take the glory, but the prestige of winning this stage in the 100th edition of the Giro d’Italia may prove an irresistible honour for some of the race’s biggest names.

Giro d'Italia 2017 Stage 4 Preview

Contenders:

Vincenzo Nibali has long been gifted the moniker of The Shark of Messina, his hometown being placed just over an hour away from today’s summit finish and a rare chance for Nibali to take the maglia rosa on his native island of Sicily. Though it may not prove a wise tactical move in regards to the entire three week contest, riders share a great love for winning races or stages close to home and it is that which marks Nibali out as a threat today. With weather forecasts predicting relatively strong winds once again, it could prove tough for the Italian rider to break free of his GC rivals, let alone the fact he has shown little to inspire beyond his Tour of Croatia win so far this year. Regardless, this is a huge opportunity for Nibali to take glory on his doorstep and a strong headwind compacting the peloton may just allow his prowess with decisive last gasp attacks to secure Stage 4.

Thibaut Pinot enjoyed a successful time at the recent Giro del Trentino and has convincing form when it comes to winning major climbing stages such as this. His greatest weapon on Stage 4, where the wind may negate attacks for the most part of the day, is his surprisingly strong sprinting ability compared to those expected to finish alongside him. Though he has improved a great deal in time trials, there is no doubt he shall be fearing the loss of time in the two mid to long distance TTs which feature in this year’s race, making the chance to gain an early advantage here clearly appealing if possible.

Ilnur Zakarin had to endure his dose of bad luck during the opening three days of the race and will now hope nothing but good fortune remains between himself and the last day in Milano. Having already conceded 20 seconds, the Russian rider will be allowed a greater degree of freedom than had been originally anticipated on Stage 4, offering him the chance to regain lost time and take the maglia rosa. His explosive approach to racing stages like this looks ideal, able to open up gaps rapidly with his strong acceleration and also one of the fastest sprinters likely to be present in a lead group on Etna.

Geraint Thomas is fully aware that he needs to capture time over his rival Nairo Quintana at every opportunity possible in order to head into the two crucial time trials able to put time into the Colombian, rather than having to recoup it himself. The Welshman’s showing at the Giro del Trentino looks to be a firm foundation to be entering this grand tour upon and he is not afraid of attacking late in a stage to secure crucial seconds if able to. He should not be dropped by his rivals on the day’s climbs, but whether he is able to distance them is much harder to forecast, especially given the complex team tactics within Sky’s incredibly strong rosta of climbers at the race.

Nairo Quintana seeks to tackle the Giro – Tour double in 2017, so will be wanting to keep his powder dry for as long as possible during these early stages of the race, hoping to deal his damage in the final week to Milano. The Colombian will be entering the contest with the intention of riding himself into his best condition, making attacks as early as Stage 4 seem unlikely, though it will certainly be a tough ask to dislodge him in order to gain time from the pre-race favourite.

Other riders who all show potential for taking the win from either the day’s breakaway or a late solo move are Adam YatesOmar FraileMikel LandaPierre RollandHugh Carthy and Kenny Elissonde.

Outcome:

1st Ilnur Zakarin 2nd Geraint Thomas 3rd Thibaut Pinot

Outsider: Omar Fraile

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La Vuelta a España 2016 – Stage 17 Preview

Course:

As the last rest day of 2016’s La Vuelta a España begins to fade rapidly in the memory, Stage 17 signals the beginning of an attritional final week which shall truly test those with an eye upon the general classification. Covering 177.5km from Castellon to the frighteningly steep summit finish of Camins del Penyagolosa, the peloton shall tick off three categorised climbs en route to the day’s gruelling finale. First to be conquered is the Category 2 Alto del Desierto de las Palmas, a 7.3km long climb which averages a gradient of 5.1% and shall immediately give an indication as to how riders feel after their rest day. The longer Category 2 Alto de la Sarratella follows next (14.5km avg 3.6%) and soon leads into the Category 3 Alto de Benasal; lasting 11.2km with a tame average gradient of 3%. Anticipation will begin to boil over as the peloton makes its way downhill and onwards to the foot of the day’s final climb; the Category 1 Alto Mas de la Costa. Lasting for only 3.8km, the ascent possesses an agonising average gradient of 12.5% and secures the title of steepest average climb at this year’s Vuelta a España. The bunch will battle against gradients between 15% – 20% for the most part, but the hardest ramps appear within the final kilometre and shoot skywards to 21%.

La Vuelta a España - Stage 17 Preview

La Vuelta a España - Stage 17 Preview

Contenders:

Chris Froome will have to find his feet rapidly on the final climb, as several rivals appear to be better suited to this explosive and steep summit finish than he does right now. Froome needs to hit today with everything if he is to have any hope of eating into the current lead of Nairo Quintana, especially as pinning everything on overturning the deficit during the individual time trial now looks unlikely. Historically speaking, Froome does have encouraging form on short battles such as these, but his condition in recent days has not been totally reassuring.

Nairo Quintana seems to finally have begun living up to expectation and finds himself in a favourable position as the race enters its final stages. The Colombian has established a great enough advantage now to ride defensively, meaning he has a great chance to live in the wheels and Froome today, looking to strike out for victory only after his main rival has towed him up to the summit.

Esteban Chaves meets much of the criteria to perform well in the final moments of Stage 17, though has not produced the level of performances required to mark him out as favourite today. The steep slopes in the final kilometres typically prove happy hunting for Chaves and he could definitely push onto victory if given the freedom by the likes of Froome and Quintana.

Alberto Contador is interested in forcing himself onto the podium by the end of the week and is currently only 5 seconds from achieving this ambition while situated behind Chaves on the general classification. Though it is likely he shall attempt a move of some sort, it is less clear whether he truly has the legs to finish it off successfully.

Kenny Elissonde shall be the first on the list of many looking to those outside of the general classification to contest the win on Stage 17. The Frenchman seems to relish horrendously steep finales like the Alto Mas de la Costa and has looked in brilliant form throughout La Vuelta thus far. He knows that his condition deserves a stage win, so there is no doubt that Elissonde will be active throughout the final week’s worth of stages.

Riders who could all strike out from part of a breakaway are; Michele ScarponiOmar FraileRobert GesinkHugh Carthy and Jean Christophe Péraud.

Outcome:

1st Nairo Quintana 2nd Chris Froome 3rd Esteban Chaves

Breakaway: Kenny Elissonde

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La Vuelta a España 2016 – Stage 9 Preview

Course:

Stage 9 is a 164.5km journey from the day’s start in Cistierna to another uphill finale in the shape of Alto del Naranco, looking like the ideal terrain for another breakaway to find success at this year’s La Vuelta a España. Rising immediately from the start, the road then eases somewhat as the peloton approach the day’s relatively gently opening ascent of the Category 2 Puerto de San Isidro (11km avg 3%); after which comes a snaking descent lasting approximately 50km and placing the pack onto the foot of the Category 3 Alto de Santo Emiliano (6.2km avg 4.7%). The first in a sequence of three climbs which also features the Category 3 Alto de San Tirso (5.1km avg 3.9%) and the Category 3 Alto de la Manzaneda (3.5km avg 6.9%). By this point the peloton will have had a fair amount of climbing in their legs and will still be required to tackle the final Category 2 Alto del Naranco which forms Stage 9’s finish; the winding road to the summit lasts 5.7km and averages a 6.1% gradient throughout.

La Vuelta a España - Stage 9 Preview

Contenders:

Hugh Carthy has so far maintained a low profile at his first career grand tour and should be interested in contributing to the day’s breakaway action. His team Caja Rural seek to animate the race on a daily basis, though it is stage profiles like these which motivate them the greatest and are bound to have at least one representative in the day’s move.

José Gonçalves provides another option for Caja Rural on Stage 9, unlucky thus far in making the key moves, though is clearly in threatening form at this year’s Vuelta a España. Gonçalves is a canny rider, dangerous as part of the day’s breakaway or a late attack from the leading pack on the final ascent of the day.

Omar Fraile shall do his utmost to form part of Stage 9’s breakaway, as the Dimension Data rider is hoping to challenge for the King of The Mountains jersey at this year’s race and needs to start acquiring some points soon. His efforts during the day may nullify him somewhat by the time he reaches the Alto del Naranco, but he should be in the mix for the win regardless.

Samuel Sanchez lives in the area and could well view this as an excellent opportunity to steal some glory as he nears the end of his career. Sanchez has demonstrated a level of fitness not far behind that of the general classification favourites, but will only be able to secure victory today if the breakaway is reeled in ahead of the final climb.

Tejay van Garderen has swapped his normal general classification ambitions for stage victories instead, marking him out as a danger-man for all stages like these at La Vuelta. He is a superior climber to many expected to make the breakaway and would warrant the mantle of favourite within any group which reaches Alto del Naranco before the peloton.

Adam Yates has already won a stage of this year’s race and there is a good chance that he may repeat this feat once again already. It will require a great deal of good fortune to set the race up in a way which could act as a springboard to victory for the British rider for a second time in this opening week though.

Alberto Losada has demonstrated his strength in the breakaways at La Vuelta already and could be a good outsider on Stage 9 to take stage honours.

Outcome:

1st Omar Fraile 2nd Alberto Losada 3rd Hugh Carthy

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La Vuelta a España 2016 – Stage 6 Preview

Course:

Another day of rolling terrain awaits the peloton on Stage 6 as they tackle the 163.2km route from Monforte de Lemos to Luintra. Opening with an 86.6km circuit which loops back to the day’s starting city, the riders will have plenty of time to get their legs up to speed while rattling over the relatively tame terrain. The greatest pressure shall come from the battle for the breakaway, many teams aware of how unpredictable this year’s race appears to be and are already eager to make this count before opportunities dry up. The peloton will then begin facing their first serious ascending roads, culminating with the Category 2 Alto Alenz which lasts for 10.9km and sustains an average of 5.1% throughout. The following descent leads the pack to the foot of an uncategorised climb, a 13.3km ascent which has an average gradient of 3.4% and eventually flattens out with 20km remaining. From here follows a 1.8km drag (avg 6%) which finishes at the 3km to go banner, after which the final uphill section shall be the last 300m to the line with an average gradient of 3.5%.

La Vuelta a España - Stage 6 Preview

Contenders:

Alejandro Valverde will be one of the favourites to take victory if the peloton bring back the day’s breakaway in the final kilometres. He is an extremely opportunistic rider who does not hesitate to seize upon the chance for bonus time or stage wins, though the day does appear to favour a breakaway more than a sprint finish. The natural momentum of the peloton may unintentionally sweep up the escapees during the final drags into the finish and this scenario would likely make Valverde the man to beat in Luintra.

Fabio Felline came extremely close to picking up the stage win yesterday and would surely have got the better of Gianni Meersman had the Belgian’s teammate Zdeněk Štybar not contributed such a brilliant effort to secure Etixx another victory. Felline has proven that his form is strong enough to challenge in the sprints and has previously joined late moves on courses similar to this, arriving at the line as the group’s fastest finisher.

Simon Clarke offers a great chance for Orica-BikeExchange to make the day’s move and thus reduce the pressure on them to chase down the leaders. The Australian looks to be in good form at La Vuelta a España and is the type of rider who is equally dangerous sprinting for the win from either a long distance breakaway or last minute move.

Samuel Sanchez and Philippe Gilbert are BMC’s best cards to play on Stage 6, both riders eager to take grand tour stage victories late in their careers now. Sanchez has been riding at the level of some of the biggest general classification contenders at this year’s edition and can clearly deliver a strong attack when required, though he may find his ambitions hamstrung by the team’s need to protect the red jersey of Darwin Atapuma instead. The fact that Gilbert suits this course so well should provide him with a greater level of freedom to attack in the final kilometres, and if the race develops favourably for him, then it is difficult to see many beating him in a head to head slog up to the line.

Zdeněk Štybar buried himself for Gianni Meersman yesterday as his teammate took Etixx’s second stage win of this year’s Vuelta a España. Today’s offering may prove an ideal chance to swap the previous day’s roles around and instead support Štybar in a finale which could provide an ideal launchpad in the final kilometres for him to attack upon and solo to victory; a talent which has already secured high profile victories for him on several occasions.

There is a great chance that the day’s early breakaway will in fact make it to the finish first, riders who could all make the cut and subsequently steal stage honours on Stage 6 include; José GonçalvesEnrico BattaglinThomas De GendtDries DevenynsHugh CarthyRobert GesinkAlberto Losada and Rein Taaramäe

Outcome:

Sprint: 1st Fabio Felline 2nd Philippe Gilbert 3rd Simon Clarke

Breakaway: 1st Thomas De Gendt 2nd Alberto Losada 3rd Samuel Sanchez