Another win for Rouleur's Jacopo Guarnieri yesterday (and his sprinter, Arnaud Démare.) Sadly, all of the Rouleur panel - as well as our expert, the Cycling Mole - thought the finish would be too tough for him, and went elsewhere. What do they know, eh? It was no less than an awesome performance from the French champion. Going into the final turns in 25th place, or thereabouts, he looked out of the running. Until he wasn't.
Démare clawed his way back to the front and fired himself to a resounding victory. Marc Madiot certainly seemed to enjoy it.
No debate over whether or not Stage 7 will be a sprint day, although with the wind threatening to play havoc, it may be more about who survives than who is the strongest. Because there's no doubt about who that is.
Elia Viviani - Cofidis
Going with my tried and tested tactic of doubling down on riders I've gone for once before. Viviani was nowhere (160th) in Matara so I can only assume he's saving his legs for a finish that truly suits him. My belief in this Italian is unquenchable and - besides - it'd be boring to copy Olivia every time, right?
Arnaud Démare - Groupama-FDJ
Hard to see this ending up being anything but a sprint stage. Though the sprinter’s field is a bit thin for this Giro, we still have guys like Démare, Viviani, and Gaviria to test on a drag race. Then there’s also the ever-present Peter Sagan getting in the mix, plus younger guns trying to break through like Álvaro José Hodeg. Under the right circumstances, any one of these riders could take stage 7, but I am thinking it’ll be another day for Démare. Nothing succeeds like success. He was already my pick before his impressive win yesterday, and with a strong team behind him, he’ll certainly be in a position to make it three.
Davide Cimolai Israel Start-up Nation
Here's a thing, a 31-year-old sprinter without a single Giro stage win to his name. The home race always brings out the best from the Italian riders and Diego Ulissi showed the way with his win on stage 2. If you can't beat Sagan and Demare for pure speed, box clever and take a flyer early doors. But then he's won plenty of Giro stages over the years. Cimolai has to break a duck here. Keep the faith, Davide, keep the faith.
Davide Ballerini - Deceuninck-Quick Step
I reckon the Italian with the most chance of winning a bunch sprint at this race is not the more heralded Elia Viviani, but this whippersnapper. Wasn’t far off a few days ago, and lead-out men like Keisse know their onions. It would be a welcome surprise - another Démare win would be a bit boring for the casual observer, let’s face it.
Another day, another blank. Me and the Giro are not getting along. Stage 7 sees the bunch head cross country, on exposed roads, for the majority of the stage. With the peloton going east, and the wind coming from the north, it’s perfect conditions for echelons. The wind is relatively strong, but it would be described as a breeze up here in Scotland. Saying that, I still think it will be enough to cause some echelons.
Casting my expert eye over the panel’s picks I notice one thing, Andy’s back. Rumour has it he was self-isolating after being forced to do his weekly shop in Asda. The poor lad had never even heard of Fray Bentos.
Tradition dictates that I start with the dodgy picks, and we have three of them. Nick is on Viviani, a rider I lost confidence in as soon as he left Quick Step. Ian’s also going Italian, but he’s hoping for a Cimolai victory. The problem is, he’s not even the team’s designated sprinter, that’s Barbier. Poor old Ian’s made another schoolboy error. Andy “Asda” McGrath has also made a mistake in picking Ballerini, if everything goes according to plan, Hodeg will be sprinting for the Belgians.
As usual, only Olivia is on the money, picking the man in form. Even if the wind blows, Démare will be there, he doesn’t mind an echelon. While other fast men will have to help their GC rider, Démare has the luxury of a full team at his disposal.
I’m with Olivia, this looks like another day for Arnaud Démare. Three wins in seven stages would be an excellent return for the fast man, just think how happy Marc Madiot will be.