2.3 km of cobbles and turns
- a preview of the prologue
The 2015 Sibiu Tour kicks off today with the now traditional opening prologue over the streets of the historical city centre. The first rider to leave the starting ramp will be Giovanni Carboni at 18:00 local time, with race favourite Davide Rebellin to start last at 19:28.
The prologue uses the same streets as in previous years, but the starting and finishing positions have moved for the 2015 edition of the race, and this year it takes an anti-clockwise 2.3-kilometre route around the city, starting and finishing on Piața Mare in the centre of the old town.
After kicking off on the town square and starting with a series of technical left- and right-hand bends through Piața Mică and Piața Huet, the race will head onto Strada Odobescu, a cobbled section, but with wide central gutters that a smart rider will use to his advantage. The surface is relatively smooth and the comfortable 150-metre dash along Strada Odobescu is followed by a dog-leg left onto Strada Centumvirilor.
This section is slightly uphill with an irregular surface; the first true technical section and the place where valuable seconds could be gained or lost. The cobbles in this section are much older, and in previous years we have seen a lot of punctures on this stretch of the road. After turning left again, the riders will hit another cobbled stretch on the narrow Strada Poștei, just over 100 metres long. The cobbles to one side of the road are older and more uneven and a smart rider will hug the newer side for a smoother ride.
A nice gentle 200m on the tarmac of Strada Mitropoliei provide a short respite before a 90 degree right hander onto Strada Brukenthal and along the side of Piața Mare again. Another right hander leads onto 420 metres on the Strada Nicolae Bălcescu. Cobbled, but with central gutters, this will be one of the faster sections of the circuit.
A left-hand turn onto the tarmacked Strada Cetății spells the end of the cobbled part of the prologue. This street and the following Strada Gheorge Lazăr gives power riders the opportunity to gain back time. The final turn is a left-hander leading to the finish line on Piața Mare.
It is difficult to point out clear favourites for this very short race as time differences will be very small. A rider targeting the stage win will have to take every corner perfectly, accellerate on the cobbles time after time, then hold his speed on the longer straights on the second kilometre.
The first half of the challenging prologue is technical, the second fast; therefore, it is not a prologue for pure timetrialists, but favours sprinters and strong, explosive guys who can go flat-out over a short distance. With a variety of surfaces ranging from tarmac through old worn cobbles to more modern cobbles and paving, it will suit technical riders who are able to handle the tight turns and constantly changing surfaces. It will also give a first indication of riders' form going into the race. If it should start to rain, those riding on dry roads will obviously have a big advantage - riders will rather staying upright and lose a few seconds than risk a crash.
Under normal conditions, these are our six picks for a good result:
The Slovakian won the prologue in 2013. Second in the recent Slovakian time trial championships, he will be strong on the short 2.3-km circuit. He could become the first rider ever to win two stages of the Sibiu Tour.
The Southeast rider was 4th overall in Slovenia, but notably finished a strong 10th in the race's prologue against largely WorldTour competition. He is a comfortable rider on the cobbles, and a good prologue would give him an advantage on some of the other GC favourites.
The new Romanian time trial champion has said that he will go for a good result in the prologue, and will be spurred on by the home crowd.
Although not in his best form, the Vini Fantini-Nippo sprinter also targets the prologue. He may not win, but a top result would set him up to take the overall lead with a good sprint finish on stage 1.
With an 8th place he was the best Romanian in last year's prologue, and a similar result will be a good base in his bid for a high overall finish.
The Team Stuttgart rider finished 9th in the 2012 prologue and is one of several fast Germans who could place well today.
The starting order for the prologue can be downloaded here.