The 2011 Tour Méditerranéen wraps-up this weekend with two stages along the sea that gives the race its name. Saturday’s 155-kilometer trip from La Londe Les Maures to Biot presents two climbs early in the day, but they’re not enough to prevent Romain Feillu from taking his third stage and perhaps adding a few bonus seconds to his lead. Other challengers for the victory include FDJ’s Yauheni Hutarovich, Sky’s Davide Appollonio, and
Cofidis’ FDJ’s Remi Pauriol.
The real action comes Sunday with the race’s traditional queen stage ending atop Mont Faron. The Med Tour has experimented with the placement of this stage in the past before settling on keeping the 5-kilometer, 10-12%-grade climb as the last five kilometers of the race. Last year, Francesco Mascarelli won the stage while Alejandro Valverde took the overall (before being retroactively DQ’ed).
Rinaldo Nocentini took last year’s honors following Valverde’s DQ; he returns this year perfectly positioned to win the race outright. The Italian sits a mere 20-seconds behind Feillu, an easy gap to overcome on Faron’s steep, narrow slopes. Europcar’s Thomas Voeckler is another interesting overall candidate with a 13-second cushion over Nocentini thanks to his Stage 1 victory.
But while Nocentini and Voeckler are attractive options, my money’s on Garmin-Cervelo’s Daniel Martin. The Irishman finished 2010 in the form of his life—he sits 20-seconds behind Feillu as well and is possibly the strongest climber in the race. Look for him to claim his first race of 2011 on Sunday, continuing Garmin’s impressive start to the season.
Other men to watch include Cofidis’ Leonardo Duque, Garmin’s Michel Kreder, Vacansoleil’s Wouter Poels, Europcar’s Pierre Rolland, and FDJ’s Thibaut Pinot.
So who’s your pick for Sunday atop Mont Faron? Share your comments below.