The first stage should end in a sprint, but the riders will face a cat-3 climb not too far from the finish. What do the sprinters want? We could see quite a big breakaway go up the road too, with plenty of climbing in the first 41 km. It could be an interesting day.
The start tomorrow is very optimal for a breakaway to get up the road.
A circuit that is mostly flat. It has two climbs, the first section 4.7 km at 5.2%, the second section is 3.1 km at 5%. It can put a damper on the chasing peloton.
A headwind on the long hard starting section with wind from the west at 4 m/s. It will be warm, but it will rain and there will be thunder as well.
How will the stage unfold?
I think some teams will hope to join the morning break and some teams want to control the stage for their sprinter.
BikeExchange is here with Groenewegen, they will pull for him. He is in good form, and they signed him to win races. But they are about the only team solely riding for their sprinter to win.
I do not think Jumbo-Visma will pull all day for a stage win for WvA, but it is not unlikely.
I do not expect Bahrain to ride all day for Bauhaus either. They have two GC leaders, so they will not fully commit.
So he will help them? INEOS for Hayter is a possibility as they do not have a strong GC contender at the start. That leaves two teams to chase.
I think the main problem is that BikeExchange will chase all day and then on the climb, either INEOS or Jumbo-Visma will simply ride to drop him. At that point, they are out of energy and they will have wasted their time.
So what does that leave us? It could be a sprint, but it could be a breakaway too.
Benjamin Thomas – big form right now. I think the main issue is, I think he will be alone if he is in the breakaway and that is a big problem. He got the power to make the break and a very fast finish too. Do not bring a track rider to a sprint. Quick-Step will look to avoid it.
Quick-Step – I expect full throttle from the Wolfpack tomorrow. Steimle, Cerny, Honoré and Cavagna. Four very solid candidates to win from the breakaway. They know how to do it, they just need to get as many men as possible up there tomorrow.
Armirail – a man who should have a win around the corner. He has had a break since LBL, which means his form is a bit unknown. He got an engine to do a long solo and he is a good climber.
Groenewegen – fastest man here. Will the other teams give him an easy time? No, they will not. It will make it hard for him to win.
Wout van Aert – has Laporte to lead him out. I think he will go for the sprint if it comes down to it. If Groenewegen is dropped, he will be the fastest man.
Hayter – I think INEOS may decide to ride for him tomorrow, but he is not fast enough to beat WvA in a sprint.
Who will win
I think the chance of a sprint is bigger than the breakaway, but I do think the break stands a good chance. A win for Wout van Aert. BikeExchange to do the dirty work and a team to make their stage a hell on the last climb.