We are back for the yearly Mur de Huy. A change on the final circuit might be the thing that can spoil the race dynamics a little bit.
The change to the finale.
Chemin de Gueuses have been removed, instead, Côte de Cherave has been added. Below, you can see the difference. Shorter, but far steeper at the bottom.
Circuit around Huy.
First off is Côte d’Errefe, then Côte de Cherave and Mur de Huy at last. The new edition with Côte de Cherave will make it so we have two climbs near the finish, which is quite difficult.
Positioning is key in this race, now you have to be ready twice.
Wind blowing from the NE for most of the day, lovely news for those wanting to join the morning breakaway. This is on not enough for echelons necessarily, but I will not rule it out. Temperatures will be good and no rain.
Am I just trying to stir up the race? I might be wrong, but I will take it into consideration. Modave-section (96 km – 90 km left). This is before the circuit. If it is just a bit more breezy tomorrow or some wind-gusts, we might want to see a team or two put the more pure climbers in trouble.
How will the stage unfold?
Most likely like it always does. The big teams want to battle up the Mûr de Huy. To me the unofficial “I’m the best puncheur in the world” award. We have a rider here, who might want it a bit different.
UAE brings Pogacar. They have a very strong team, I am not sure if they will control it all day – they might have to. Will they let Pogacar decide the outcome or will they play their numbers? I would have gone with Pogacar.
Next up is Quick-Step. I think they want to have Evenepoel as a free card. Anything else would seem a bit foolish. Now, we are around the time of year, when Alaphilippe just becomes almost unbeatable. It often comes a bit out of nowhere, but rarely does he cock-up his form at this time of year.
Those two teams will determine the outcome and I think both of them want to mano-e-mano et up the wall. We have some teams who want to trouble them. Bahrain has a good team here and the same has INEOS. In the end, it will be the best who battles it out.
With Côte de Cherave implemented, the group should be smaller than usual.
Pogacar – a short break in Slovenia puts a “?” above his head for me. Two weeks without racing is normally not a problem but he has been fast since late February. I think he will do his very best here, but I have a feeling he might let Hirschi give it a shot and wait for Sunday. On another note, he always races to win and UAE should have the numbers to keep him at the front all day.
Alaphilippe – the specialist. Strong in Basque Country the first few days, some much-needed training. Abandoned Brabantse Pijl – it was a rainy day and he was already out of contention, a smart move. His form is still a little unknown, but I think he is ready. He is always ready in the Ardennes.
Valverde at the start line, most likely for the last time. Five wins here, but the last was in 2017. He knows the finish better than anyone – he might not win, but he for sure will fight for a podium spot.
Cosnefroy on the podium in 2020. A good result, but it was not an edition with the best line-up. Do not get me wrong, he can do very well here, but I don’t see him winning.
Barguil has been just outside the podium in 2020 and 2021. He is in fantastic shape at the moment, but I fear he will have trouble in the battle for positioning. Another top-10.
Woods is gradually getting better, but still not back to his highest level in Basque Country. The positioning issues he had at EF looked fixed when he came to Israel – Premier Tech. I hope we will see Impey lead him or Fuglsang out, but if he is not at his highest level, he will not win tomorrow. I miss Bevin from this line up.
Martinez is my best shot for INEOS. He has been very good this spring and it looks like he is punchier than anticipated. INEOS has a strong team which means he should have a good position at the bottom, but I’m not sure he can follow the best when they attack.
Vingegaard – A top-10. He is in good shape, but I see him more as a diesel than a puncheur.
Teuns is in good shape at the moment. DNF at Paris-Roubaix, I think he wanted to help where he could and save himself. His best result here is a 3rd place in 2017, hard to beat tomorrow, but he should be fighting for a top-10.
Who will win
I will go for Alaphilippe. Remco to position him perfectly and the experience to finish it off.