Tomorrow will be a day for the sprinters.
A few corners inside the last 5 km, the last with 1.5 km left. It is all about timing when you get to the front. Having a high top speed and timing when you move to the front looks most essential tomorrow.
Winds around 5 m/s tomorrow which should not be enough for crosswinds. The terrain is flat in the Netherlands and that will likely result in a nervous peloton. We could see a team or two trying to split the peloton but I doubt they will succeed as everyone will be ready for it.
Merlier – he is not here with a designated lead-out man, but he is good at sprinting on his own. I remember back in 2021, he won the first sprint at the Giro d’Italia. This is the perfect sprint for him. A tailwind sprint – he will open up early and start his sprint before everyone else, surprising them, and he will not be easy to pass when he does that in a long boulevard sprint.
Ackermann – Molano to guide him. The rest is designated for the GC. He did well in Tour de Pologne after a difficult year at UAE. He will be one of the quickest tomorrow but he has not been the same since he moved to UAE. I will also be honest with you, Molano is not the same lead-out man he was a few years back.
Pedersen – it will be Kirsch helping him out. Not a lead-out rider by nature, but normally the fourth rider in his sprint train – if Trek had their A-team. Kirsch is good at bring people into position, and I could imagine Dan Hoole being quite good at bringing Mads into position. Nonetheless, it is an easy day and a flat sprint – it will be difficult for him to win.
Groves – he got a lot of big engines in his team so one of them should be able to bring him to the front. He is very quick and has beaten some very big names this year already – this could very well be his first Grand Tour stage win. I think the lack of support will make it difficult for him to win.
Bennett – he has the best lead-out rider tomorrow – Van Poppel. Tomorrow is not technical, but it is still important to have a rider with the experience to get at the front at the right moment. Bennett has not had a great season – he doesn’t have a win yet. I am not sure it will change tomorrow.
Thijssen – took a big win in Poland. He seems to be a well-rounded sprinter, who can manage the battle for position on his own. I hope to see him having a great Vuelta.
⭐⭐ Ackermann, Groves
⭐ Bennett, Pedersen, Thijssen
Who will win?
I will take a win for Merlier. He will start his sprint early in the tailwind, and none will catch him.