La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 16 Preview

Course:

After two weeks of racing and a couple of tough summit finishes before the last rest day, this 40.2km individual time trial has the potential to drive a wedge between the slightest of cracks of those riders beginning to weaken. Starting in Circuito de Navarra, there is not a great deal to be said about this rather simple course, finishing sometime later at Logroño. The immediate riding out from the start and into the final kilometre are reasonably technical, though the course itself will suit those who are capable of sustain a high amount of power throughout. There are no recognised climbs and only a few slight drags along the way, with much of the second half actually raced slightly downhill. Such a course has the ability to expose weaknesses amongst those chasing for a good general classification place, as there are no opportunities for the lithe limbed climbers to make up time if having a bad day.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 16 Preview

Contenders:

Nelson Oliveira still lacks a major win against the clock, though has already won a stage of La Vuelta a España despite this fact, and would certainly like to secure another victory with his specialist talent for time trials today. He has looked strong during the race thus far and should be extremely interested in performing well on Stage 16, especially in the absence of the usual clutch of time trial riders who dominate such days. With nothing else to really worry about, he can go into this challenge, knowing that he can end the day having put everything into a shot at glory.

Chris Froome is potentially the strongest time trial rider at the race, as the likes of Tom Dumoulin and Tony Martin are not here to argue otherwise. The Sky captain is in a dominant position as ever, though does not need to hammer home an advantage today, as it looks like the mountains are where he is hoping to deliver the greatest damage to his rivals. However, he wants to ride this race aggressively after such a defensively ridden Tour de France and will be aware that he may not even need to give it everything to win by a considerable margin today.

Bob Jungels certainly has the talent for a contest against the clock, though would no doubt have preferred a course which played to his strengths more so. Despite this, his development during the last year has been considerable and now makes the chances of winning a time trial in the final week of a grand tour more realistic. Though he will certainly perform convincingly enough, it might actually prove to be the fatigue of his rivals which delivers him a great win.

Yves Lampaert might not be an immediately obvious choice, but with a more open field and the accumulative tiring nature of a grand tour, he is well worth mentioning on Stage 16. He has worked hard for his team up to this point, so could prove to be more fatigued than previously thought, but his strong performances suggest that might not be too great a concern. He fits the bill for a rider likely to suit the course, but he shall need a bit of luck to steal the win from one of the bigger names here.

Tobias Ludvigsson has the potential to threaten the podium, but his form is rather unknown at this point of the race and he does possess an erratic record against the clock during longer races. However, he finished within 90″ of Chris Froome on the final time trial at La Vuelta last year, collecting third place on a similar course and distance; thus cannot be disregarded as a result.

Others deserving of a mention are Luis Leon Sanchez, Wilco Kelderman, Stefan Clement, Alberto Contador and Niki Terpstra

Outcome:

1st Nelson Oliveira 2nd Chris Froome 3rd Bob Jungels

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La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 12 Preview

Course:

Another day with starts with relatively little to speak about, the short 160.1km Stage 12 route from Motril to Antequera should be another contest with plenty of aggressive riding late on in order to entertain. After 80km of almost perfectly flat racing, the peloton will begin the first of two ascents on Stage 12, the Category 1 Puerto de Leon. A 17.4km long climb which averages a modest 4.9% gradient overall, though the reality is that of a mountain which reaches double figures in the first third, before dipping downwards and kicking up once again for the final kilometres. The summit will signal the beginning of a gradual descent towards the concluding climb of the day, the Category 2 Puerto del Torcal, a 7% average gradient climb which lasts for 7.6km. A rapid charge from the top will then signal the final 20km rush to the line, which is a simplistic finale with only a slight incline in the final few hundred metres.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 12 Preview

Contenders:

José Joaquín Rojas has been looking particularly strong as of late and should have another chance at getting into the day’s key breakaway move. His strength should allow him to work alongside more powerful riders on the opening flat section, but once they hit the mountains, then Rojas will be able to contribute towards helping to thin the ranks of contenders down. There is no question that he is one of the fastest riders present who could win from a small sprint after a day like this, making him a standout candidate for the win on Stage 12.

Adam Yates was highlighted for yesterday’s stage, though it was his brother who was seen animating the racing instead, thus we will point to Adam once again for today’s contest instead. He lost ten minutes during yesterday’s tough finale, though might be able to summon up the energy to contest this more realistic prospect today. A still developing talent, it is difficult know how fatigued he is already, though he remains a danger if able to smuggle himself aboard the breakaway.

Julian Alaphilippe will be top of the list of favourites for many casting their eyes over today’s contenders, the Frenchman riding in imperious form and certainly deserving of another stage victory as a result. He is a canny tactician who is able to gauge his efforts very effectively, especially when riding alongside those many would expect to be either climbing stronger or finishing faster. If he can find himself in a potential winning position once again, then it might be a forgone conclusion as to where the stage victory shall be heading.

Rui Costa has become more proficient at breakaways in recent years, making him a definite name to consider on a course such as this in the second week of a grand tour. Certainly capable of making any selection which forms during the faster flatter section early on in the stage, Costa can climb with the best on his day and a likely sprint finish just plays to his strengths yet further still.

Luis Léon Sanchez has repeatedly failed to strike out for glory when expected, perhaps suffering from the constraints of greater team duties, yet this is another day which should certainly entice him into action if afforded the opportunity. Another ride who possesses the requisite blend of power on the flat and endurance for the climbs, there is little argument to be made against him if featuring in the key move on Stage 12.

Others to watch out for are Pello BilbaoOmar FraileAldemar ReyesEnric MasDaniel Moreno and Lachlan Morton.

Outcome:

1st José Joaquín Rojas 2nd Rui Costa 3rd Julian Alaphilippe

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 10 Preview

Course:

After the first rest day, the peloton begin another tough week of racing with a stage which looks to finish with a crescendo once again. The 164.8km day begins in Caravaca Ano Jubila 2017 and concludes at Elpozo Alimentacion, with the final climb being firmly in the spotlight. More than half of the day’s racing is predominantly featureless, taking over 120km to reach the first of two climbs on Stage 10, both of which are tackled in quick succession. Starting with the Category 3 Alto del Morron de Totana, a 5.7 km climb which averages 5.7% gradient and rise to the point of merging with day’s final climb. The Category Collado Bermejo has a steeper average gradient of 6.5% and is also longer at 7.7 km in total. This brace of climbs in such a short period can be seen as a single longer ascent, no doubt forming the key part of how today’s race will be won.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 10 Preview

Contenders:

Omar Fraile appears to be on the rise once again and should prove to be a real danger on terrain which plays to his strengths well. Having been anonymous up until now, this shall be a perfect opportunity to catch his rivals napping and aim to surprise them with his return to form. The rest day shall have been a great aid to Fraile, allowing him to start Stage 10 refreshed and poised to follow the key moves when it matters.

Julian Alaphilippe is a diverse rider who is capable of featuring in a broadly contrasting array of stages and shall view today’s challenge with part of that spectrum. He has appeared strong for sometime at the race and deservedly took a stage victory at last, but will not simply wish to stop pushing for another win when already. His prominence might make it hard for him to get away from the other favourites, but given his current form, it could simply prove too difficult for others to stop him.

Luis Leon Sanchez enjoys these days and will be at the forefront of any breakaway which hopes to get a jump on some of the bigger favourites on Stage 10. With gradients which do not get too steep, Sanchez is likely to feature today and has been active enough thus far to demonstrate why he is a serious candidate. He will need to be alert to the moves, as it will be much harder for him to win from a larger group on the day, aiming to solo away from a small break once they begin climbing.

Bob Jungels certainly has the raw power to monster his way up the two climbs on Stage 10, a rider who ticks all the boxes, yet will still be considered a surprise if managing to win. His climbing capabilities have really grown in the last couple of seasons and it is easy for them to become overshadowed by his time trialing prowess and commitment to working for his teammates earlier in mountain stages. Jungels cannot be gifted much of a time advantage on the slopes, as he has often proven to be incredibly hard to reel back in and is certainly skilled enough to descend aggressively to maintain a winning margin.

Giovanni Visconti might be allowed the freedom to join the fray on Stage 10, though he does have greater duties expected of him during this coming week of racing and his team could choose to conserve his energy for protecting Vincenzo Nibali. If given the go ahead to attack today, then Visconti will look upon the tail end of the stage with glee, appearing almost designed by the man himself. There are question marks hanging over his form, especially given the added uncertainty when exiting a rest day, but he will be a threat if yesterday’s recovery has helped him.

Others to watch for are Darwin AtapumaLachlan MortonSerge PauwelsThomas De Gendt and Alessandro De Marchi.

Outcome:

1st Omar Fraile 2nd Luis Leon Sanchez 3rd Giovanni Visconti

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 6 Preview

Course:

Another day which does not take long to rise upwards again, Stage 6’s 204.4km journey from Vila-Real to Sagunt encompasses five categorised climbs, though all except one are Category 3 ascents. Having left the day’ start town, the peloton will soon tackle the Category 3 pairing of Alto de Alcudia de Veo (11 km, avg. 3.4%) and Puerto de Eslida (5.3 km, avg. 5.1%). With this opening brace concluded, the road immediately drops away again and starts building to the summit of the Category 3 Alto de Chirivilla, taking 7.9 km to climb and averaging a gradient of 4.1% from bottom to top. Yet again, having reached the summit of a climb, the bunch is sent back down into the valley in order to climb the final Category 3 ascent of the day and the penultimate climb of Stage 6. The Puerto del Oronet is another similar climb which averages 4% during its 6.4km entirety, leading over the top and into another descent which finishes at the foot of the Puerto del Garbi, the day’s only Category 2 challenge, a tougher prospect at 9.3 km and averaging a gradient of 5.1%. From the top it is a descent almost right the way to the finish line, though the frontrunners will have another series of roundabouts to contend with and will only be afforded a clean finishing run of 100m.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 6 Preview

Contenders:

Omar Fraile is expected to challenge for the mountains jersey once again this year and should therefore be interested in performing well on a day which features five categorised climbs. Having been totally anonymous this far, without any reason such as illness, it seems Dimension Data have been keeping him safe ahead of Stage 6. With a downhill run into the line and relatively flat conclusion, Fraile has the power to either distance rivals ahead of the finish or out sprint many likely escapees.

Luis Leon Sanchez fits the bill of a rider destined to perform well today, and if given the freedom to do so, will be a man which few can match on his favoured terrain. With the strength to join the breakaway early on, endure the ascents and then sprint for the stage win, Sanchez has all the skills required to make this back to back stage wins for Astana.

Julian Alaphilippe has risen in expectations has a result of yesterday’s performance and no longer appears to be as out of form as many had previously reported. He was not able to go with the main contenders when it mattered most on Stage 5, yet he was clearly motivated when marshalling the breakaway throughout the day and looks to have acquired confidence as a result of his form improving. There is no reason to suggest he cannot perform well on back to back days in the break, especially as a rider who seems able to turn his ability to anything, though fatigue could prove an issue here.

Alexis Gougeard will look upon a day which shares many of the attributes of the stage he won at the race a couple of years ago, no doubt raising questions as to why he invested such a great deal in yesterday’s less suiting affair. Regardless, he must be enjoying a level of encouraging form currently and the expectation is he will feature once again on Stage 6. He will need to ride clever though, as many of his anticipated breakaway companions are likely to prove faster in a sprint and the final kilometres could prove hard to solo away from rivals.

There is a small chance that a larger sprint finish may occur, in which case the likes of Sacha ModoloMatteo TrentinMagnus Cort and José Joaquín Rojas should feature.

Outcome:

1st Omar Fraile 2nd Alexis Gougeard 3rd Luis Leon Sanchez 

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 3 Preview

Course:

This year’s race does not hesitate to send the peloton into the high mountains early on in the grand tour, challenging them with a 158.5km stage from Prades Conflent Canigó to Andorra La Vella, featuring a total of three categorised climbs. Ascending immediately from the start, the bunch will begin climbing the Category 1 Col de la Perche, a 19.5km long rise which averages a gradient of 4.8%. Having reached the summit of this early climb, the route begins to gradually drop downwards, eventually placing itself at the foot of the day’s second Category 1 climb; the Coll de la Rabassa. Likely to impact strongly upon the day’s eventual outcome, the 13.3km climb averages 6.8%, though the ramps of double digits which hit 15% could put some in trouble. From the top a fast descent is expected, the frontrunners hammering it to be first to the start of the final climb on Stage 3, the Category 2 Alto de la Cornella. Lasting for only 4.3km, the 8.6% gradient could be ridden at such an intensity that we see some serious fractures occur in the bunch, where only a proficient descent into the finish could close any dangerous gaps.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 3 Preview

Contenders:

Omar Fraile could choose to launch his bid for the mountains classification today, riding aggressively on a fitting course to collect points and push onwards to eventually taking the stage itself. He has previously taken victories from similar stages by attacking from a breakaway which has set the pace all day, as well as riding aggressively late on to break up the main bunch. Regardless of his overall ambitions at La Vuelta this year, Stage 3 is an ideal opportunity to gauge how realistic those hopes are.

Julian Alaphilippe is another rider who has all the attributes to perform well during a stage like this, possessing the skills to win from almost any situation, assuming he is at the front of the race. Yesterday suggested that the Frenchman has arrived in convincing form for this contest, no doubt making him an even greater marked man than would normally be a given on such a stage. Dangerous from either a small group or solo move late in the day, anyone who hopes to win Stage 3 will need to keep Alaphilippe on a tight leash, as he could prove unstoppable if given the room to attack.

Adam Yates has been reunited with his twin brother for this grand tour, which shall surely mean we see plenty of moves from the two British riders to animate the race throughout the three weeks. Today’s offering might be enticing enough to lure Adam into action, perhaps placing himself within the day’s main move and seeking to push on solo or with an elite group of riders in the closing kilometres. The final climb of the day looks to be an obvious springboard for him to make an attack, whether from the peloton or an earlier break, aiming to descend rapidly and finish off any remaining rivals in a sprint to the line.

Rui Costa enjoyed a strong start to the season and perhaps deserves to have picked up a greater number of wins, given such sparkling form for most of the year. The former World Champion could chance his luck in a breakaway, hoping to be part of a small group which decides the stage honours for the day, as he shall be confident of being one of the fastest present in a sprint. A larger group is bound to diminish his hopes of winning, thus the Portuguese rider will need to be proactive in order to give himself a shot at the win.

Giovanni Visconti will be a dangerous prospect if handed the chance to attack on Stage 3, especially on terrain which is well within his capabilities of performing strongly upon. Team orders could limit his freedom to pursue stage winning opportunities, though by tactically choosing to place him up the road early in the day, Visconti could benefit from a dynamic which limits his need to invest energy; allowing him to give it everything over the final two climbs to attack solo.

Other riders worth watching out for on Stage 3 are Luis León Sánchez, Darwin Atapuma, Jarlinson Pantano, Rohan Dennis and Michael Woods.

Outcome:

1st Omar Fraile 2nd Rui Costa 3rd Adam Yates

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Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 21 Preview

Course:

In recent years, individual time trials have done little to excite fans at grand tours, but the 100th edition of the Giro d’Italia is poised to finish with a race against the clock which could potentially hand the maglia rosa over to one of four riders on the last day. Starting on the famous motor racing circuit of Monza, the stage comprises 29.3km of predominantly downhill racing, concluding at the capital’s extraordinary Duomo di Milano. There is no great amount of technical demands to be negotiated, nor does the topography offer anything in the way of climbs to separate the general classification big names on the last day. Of course, that is not to say it is simply a case of climbing upon the bike and finishing some 29.3.km later with immense ease. A handful of tight turns are present later in the course, which given how hard the frontrunners are expected to be pushing, are always capable of punishing the slightest lapse in concentration when cornering. A total of 75 seconds separates current maglia rosa owner Nairo Quintana, from the chasing pack of Vincenzo Nibali, Thibaut Pinot, Tom Dumoulin and Ilnur Zakarin; these five riders capable of finishing in almost any order after the time trial. Regardless of who does succeed in securing 2017’s centenary edition of the Giro d’Italia, the script for Stage 21 is far from certain.

Giro d'Italia 2017 Stage 21 Preview

Contenders:

Tom Dumoulin has had to dig extremely deep in order to limit his losses in this final week of racing, yet has successfully placed himself within touching distance of his first overall grand tour stage victory. Just how much energy he has had to invest is the greatest question mark hanging above him, potentially hampering his efforts here and leaving him just short of the maglia rosa. The Dutchman’s prowess against the clock has been almost unmatchable in recent years, though this course does not provide the rolling terrain and technical nature which has often seen Dumoulin bury his opposition. Regardless, his talent for this discipline is indomitable, and the motivation of winning the pink jersey can only serve has added fuel en route to victory.

Thibaut Pinot produced another aggressive display during yesterday’s stage, culminating in his first Giro d’Italia stage win, as predicted by Spokenforks beforehand. Of those currently challenging for the overall win, Pinot appears to be in the strongest condition in this decisive week of racing and seems the one most likely to overachieve on Stage 21. Despite having previously been seen as a weak time trialist, the French rider has worked hard on this skill, now finding himself as reigning national time trial champion and winner of Stage 3’s individual time trial at 2016’s Tour de Romandie. Though he would favour a route with at least a few hills, being a larger rider could prove beneficial on this flat power based course, a second place finish overall is certainly achievable; perhaps even more.

Vincenzo Nibali did not produce the sort of ruthlessly cunning display which has often seen him snatch victory from the jaws of defeat at major races like these. Now sitting a total of 39 seconds back on race leader Nairo Quintana, he will be looking over his shoulder at Thibaut Pinot and Tom Dumoulin, both of whom could perform strongly enough to push the defending champion off the podium. He has ridden his concluding stages with a cagey mentality, making it difficult to gauge what Nibali might be able to muster with the pink jersey at stake. This course is not well suited to his attributes, yet there should be enough to just about keep his toes upon the Milanese podium.

Nairo Quintana seems the rider most likely to lose out on Stage 21, the Movistar captain far from being enamoured with the rigours of flat individual time trials. The Colombian has not succeeded in using the final mountain stages to build enough of a buffer to his rivals heading into this time trial, now finding himself with Tom Dumoulin and Thibaut Pinot placed within the margin of loss which Quintana is expected to suffer during the final stage. It will be extremely difficult to defend a modest 43″ and 53″ lead to the Frenchman and Dutchman respectively, especially on this mid-distance route, lacking anything resembling favourable terrain for Quintana; slipping off the podium lurks ominously in Milano.

Ilnur Zakarin was a major protagonist yesterday, igniting the fuse upon the final climb of the Giro d’Italia, author of the attack which culminated in Thibaut Pinot winning the stage and Tom Dumoulin losing time to all major rivals. The Russian was a competent rider in time trials earlier in his career, but has now chosen to hone his talents in the mountains instead. Despite this factor, he now looks to be one of the sharpest riders in this final week and will be confident of turning in a performance which harks back to his previous prowess against the clock. It will be difficult to progress further up the general classification on Stage 21, his greatest chance of doing so being a plummeting Nairo Quintana falling down to fifth.

Vasil Kiryienka could prove to be the man to beat on the last stage of the 100th Giro d’ItaliaTeam Sky having undoubtedly looked after their Belarusian powerhouse with the intention of adding another stage win to their collection. The stoney faced rider will not have to worry about any climbs or particularly technical segments here, focusing instead on generating huge amounts of watts and sustaining them throughout the 29.3km course. He crashed in the final corner of the first individual time trial, yet still held the fastest time for a while and will now likely view that error as motivation to take the win in Milano.

Bob Jungels will be expected to recover the maglia bianca from Adam Yates on the final stage off the Giro d’Italia, the young rider being renowned for his ability against the clock since his early days. Many anticipated that he would begin to diminish in the concluding stages, yet the Luxembourg time trial champion has managed to match the majority of big names when required and may even push for the win here. Though not truly playing to his strengths, he appears comparatively fresh to others, which may prove enough to deliver the victory.

Those who may challenge for the last stage honours on offer at 2017’s Giro d’Italia are Luis Leon Sanchez, Manuel QuinziatoJos van Emden and Tobias Ludvigsson.

Outcome:

1st Vasil Kiryienka 2nd Tom Dumoulin 3rd Thibaut Pinot

Final General Classification:

1st Tom Dumoulin 2nd Thibaut Pinot 3rd Vincenzo Nibali

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Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 17 Preview

Course:

After the general classification soap opera of yesterday’s stage, today’s 219km route from Tirano to Canazei should offer a quieter day for the major names, favouring the breakaway riders and their stage winning exploits. Beginning with an almost immediate uphill section, Stage 17 opens proceedings upon the slopes of the Category 2 climb of Aprica, lasting 12.3km and offering a relatively steady 6.3% gradient to be tackled; the steepest sections of which are 11%. The peloton will then drop downhill once again, before beginning the second of the day’s two Category 2 climbs, the Passo Del Tonale. Officially recognised as being 11km in duration, the average gradient here is 5.7% and reaches 10% around the midway point of the climb. A sustained descent then follows, leading onwards through the town of Cles and finishing at the bottom of the Category 3 Giovo climb. This short challenge could inspire some decisive moves by the leading riders, 5.9km of undulating climbing, averaging 6.8% and tilting upwards to 12% at times. Once tackled, it is a constant rise to the day’s finish at Canazei, a simple finale which is unlikely to cause any great stress.

Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 17 Preview

Contenders:

Pierre Rolland chanced his hand alongside a couple of Cannondale – Drapac teammates in the day’s early breakaway yesterday, but ultimately finished well behind the leading group which contained another teammate in the shape of Davide Formolo. Stage 17 is another opportunity for the Frenchman to try and convert his encouraging form into a stage victory at this year’s Giro d’Italia though. Thus far, those days which many have earmarked Rolland to contest have either ended with rises too steep or simply benefitted those who can sprint faster. Today’s finale looks ideal in comparison, though he will need to be on his toes to make sure he is at the front of the race as the break potentially forms on the Aprica climb.

Omar Fraile may have seen his chances of securing the mountains classification take a heavy hit recently, but the Dimension Data rider definitely has an opportunity to double his victories at the Giro d’Italia with a strong performance today. With the day’s mountains unlikely to prove too gruelling for him to stay in contention, the greater issue will instead be ensuring he is present in any move which takes off during the ascent of Aprica after less than 3km of racing. If Fraile does make the cut, then there is a good chance he will either be able to go solo late on in the day or potentially arrive in Canazei as the fastest man within the lead group.

Rui Costa is another rider who has often proven to be animated on days like these, the Portuguese rider eager to collect a win at the race, having now seen his general classification hopes crumble. Given his strong sprinting capabilities, Costa is likely to want any such breakaway to work cohesively and deliver him into the finish relatively fresh. Of course, this is very unlikely, as few riders will fancy their chances against the former world champion and willingly tow him a free ride. If present in the final moments of the race, it will be a tough task to distance him before the finish line beckons.

Luis Leon Sanchez was present in the group of general classification contenders for longer than expected yesterday, once again reminding us of the form which he possesses at this year’s race. With the steep opening and constant rise to the finish after the riders pass Giovo, Sanchez certainly fits the bill of a rider strong enough to make the early selection and then dominate the final kilometres into Canazei. If yesterday’s efforts have not drained him too greatly, then it will be no surprise to see the Spaniard fighting for the day’s win.

Laurens De Plus has been riding well at the race on these mid-mountain stages, marking him out as another rider who could prove strong enough to accelerate away from his rivals en route to the finale. However, this is his first grand tour and it is unclear as to how well he is currently coping with the attritional nature of a three week race.

Giovanni Visconti would have been the pick for many pundits on Stage 17, but with the unexpected ascension of Vincenzo Nibali to maglia rosa contender yesterday, he may now find his movements hampered by responsibilities to his team leader. However, with his blend of climbing prowess and strong sprinting after tough days, his team may utilise him by placing Visconti within the breakaway in order to reduce their commitments to chasing.

Other riders who may feature strongly are Maxime MonfortDario CataldoRubén Plaza and Enrico Battaglin.

Outcome:

1st Omar Fraile 2nd Pierre Rolland 3rd Luis Leon Sanchez