A hectic sprint stage today. Tomorrow will see another very flat stage with 692 climbing meters in total.
Below you see the timetable for tomorrow. Most of the stage is raced in Abu Dhabi.
The last five km.
The exact same finish was used last season on stage 7 at UAE Tour, won by Ewan. A corner with 1.25 to go and the road bends ever so slightly in the end.
We will see stronger winds tomorrow than we saw today! 8 m/s from the NW. That is quite enough to create echelons. It also means we have a headwind sprint.
As mentioned, most of the racing takes part in the city. However, there are a few open areas. It might happen quite early in the stage around the southern part of the route and once again closer to the finish. You will have to cope with my paint skills for this matter. From 97 km – 84.5 km, there is a high chance a team will want to try something.
The second time is from 23 km left until the finish. More precise, until with 10 km left – from this point they are back in the city.
How will the race unfold?
As I see it, there are two places to create echelons. We will see attempts that is for sure. We have some teams in the peloton renowned for this, INEOS and Quick-Step the two best in my book.
INEOS do have a very strong team for this sort of racing. Ganna, Amador, Kwiatkowski, Viviani and Plapp. Yates did not miss the splits last year and he won’t miss it tomorrow either. I think they will want to exploit the crosswinds tomorrow. They know Yates will need time against his rivals before the TT.
Quick-Step however does not bring the big classics riders which means they could be in trouble tomorrow.
On paper, BikeExchange, FDJ, Bora-Hansgrohe and Alpecin all have strong teams too.
Someone will give it a go. Pogacar is very lucky he has Bjerg here.
Most sprinters are normally quite good in echelons, but it can be more interesting for the GC battle.
Phillipsen took a strong win today. Good timing and a great job by his team. There is talk about deviation, but I do not think he should get DSQ. Groenewegen and all the other sprinters should know not to go up close against the barriers. To be honest, if you watch the helicopter view, the win is even more impressive from Phillipsen.
Cavendish got boxed in today and did not give it ago. He got “pushed off” Mørkøv’s wheel by the UAE train. The DvP came from the other side boxing him in completely. Tomorrow is another chance for the Manx-missile. A headwind sprint is even better for him.
Groenewegen was very angry at the finish. As mentioned, I do not think it was enough for a DSQ for Phillipsen. On the flip side, I do understand why Groenewegen was angry. He looked very, very fast before things started to get dangerous.
Sam Bennett with a strong result today. Perfect lead-out by Van Poppel. He started his sprint 2-3 seconds after Phillipsen which made the difference. I think the speed was good but the timing was bad. The finish is a bit more tricky
Viviani with some strong wheel-surfing out there today. He won an echelon-sprint stage in Provence. If we see splits tomorrow, I think it is likely we will see him on the podium again.
Who will win?
Chances of echelons and a headwind sprint. I will point my fingers at Cavendish once more.