Twisty turns and wobbly weather
– a look at the prologue
The 6th edition of the Sibiu Cycling Tour kicks off today with the opening prologue over the streets of the historical centre of the Transylvanian city in the heart of Romania. The first rider to leave the starting ramp will be Chris Butler at 18:00 local time, the final one last year's winner Mauro Finetto from Italy, starting 1½ hours after the American will have finished his short time trial effort. With a 55% chance of rain, those mere 90 minutes could be enough for the conditions to change dramatically though.
In the five-year long history of the Sibiu Tour it has become a tradition that the short opening prologue of the race takes place on a circuit starting and finishing on the Piața Mare in the centre of the city – and so it does in 2016, but on a brand new course, even more challenging and technical than in the past.
The rider will leave the traditional start on Piața Mare and go straight into a technical section that leads them right onto Piața Mică, through a gate underneath the Turnul Sfatului back onto Piața Mare, back down onto Piața Mică, before heading onto the Strada Alexandru Odobescu. A very technical start to the course with 5 turns over less than 400 metres on modern cobbles.
Directly following the technical start, the riders have to face the toughest part of the course, a short uphill drag onto older cobbles on the Strada Centumvirilor, before taking a sharp left hand turn about halfway up the road, onto the Strada Poștei. That road is cobbled again, but the smart riders will use the opportunity to hug to the right hand wall where the cobbles are newer and easier to deal with. At the end of that section, the riders turn left onto the Strada Mitropoliei, which offers them a welcome relief with 200m of smooth tarmac leading them once more to the place where the race has started.
Back on the Piața Mare they cross the western side of the square, heading to the Strada Bălcescu. Once more the road consist of modern cobbles, but town planners thought ahead and put a gutter along the centre of the road – a gutter we have seen most riders use to their advantage over the past years.
Then, after a left hander onto the Strada Cetății, it follows another short segment on modern cobbles which sweeps round to the left over about 300m, before another technical section on varying road surfaces leads them to a small tunnel and back onto the Piața Mare for the finish of the prologue.
The start order for the prologue can be downloaded here.
It is difficult to point out clear favourites for this very short race as time differences will be very small, and the current weather forecast with a 55% chance of rain looming on the horizon adds another factor to the unpredictability of the opening prologue.
Regardless of the weather, a rider targeting the stage win will have to take every corner perfectly, accelerate on the cobbles time after time, then hold his speed on the straights in the second part oft he race. It is not a prologue for pure timetrialists, instead it 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.
If it should start to rain, those riding on dry roads will obviously have a big advantage when riders with an eye on the general classification may rather focus on staying upright and lose a few seconds than to risk a crash and lose all their chances on day one.
Our six picks for a good result are:
Bakker, Kurek, Týbor