The sprinters finally get another chance at taking a stage win.
It will be a long day down the coastline.
The last corner comes nearly four km out. It is a boulevard sprint with the mountains on their left and the water on their right.
Tomorrow, it looks like the wind will come out and play. Up to 8 m/s near the coast for 100 km.
Starting near Garrucha (100 km from the line): 5-6 m/s from the south = A major headwind.
They move south to Carboneras (65 km from the line): 7-8 m/s from the south = A major headwind.
They start changing direction away from the sea. At Pressilas Bajas (25 km from the line), the wind comes from the SSW: 6-7 m/s = A cross-headwind.
There is a change of echelons in the finale with a few sections with a crosswind, but they turn into a headwind time after time again, making it hard to split.
The run into the finish will have 7 m/s crosswinds. You will have to be strong as an ox to win the stage tomorrow.
It will be very warm too, almost 30 degrees C.
How will the sprint unfold?
Let’s try something new. The last corner is with 4 km left, but you turn into a massive crosswind. That means being at the front will be important, even 4 km out. That means everyone wants to seek cover on the left side of the road to get as little wind on the nose as possible. Now, that is dangerous, because sitting at the very front means you will. Therefore, the best place to be is somewhere in the 10th position. Why? To stay off the front, in cover, and let the other teams waste their energy.
The hard part is moving out and into the open without getting blocked in the last km. Having a lead-out man will be vital, as you can easily misjudge it. On the other hand, I’m quite uncertain how many barriers and spectators will be at the roadside, they could make the crosswind less impactful.
Near the end, you want to sprint close to the barriers. That means everyone else will have to get into the wind to overtake you and if they do try, well, they will shelter you from the wind. If you have a brilliant lead-out man, he could gently shut the door when you’ve passed on the inside.
Merlier – Alpecin-Deceuninck are down two riders, but Merlier still has his most important helpers for the sprint intact. Taminiaix and Vermeersch will be important helpers tomorrow. He was, despite results, the quickest in the first two sprints. The first McLay gave him a little push (nothing unreasonable) and the second time he lost his chain/clipped out of his pedals. Both times, he was alone – surfing wheels. He should rely on the support he has, especially tomorrow.
Pedersen – he will love a tough, windy finish. The main concern is that it is flat and he tends to open his sprint 300 meters out. With a crosswind, it will not matter too much, especially if he makes his move on the inside, but I could easily see him opening up 50 meters too early. Kirsch showed great form today and he did a great job in the first two sprints.
Groves – he is a bit inconsistent, but he does have a lot of strong rouleurs that could potentially help him, or be on Yates-duty. Sometimes, he has a bit of trouble when the wind is blowing from the side. It likely means he will be relatively alone if things go south. However, he is very, very quick but he is not very consistent when it comes to positioning.
Ackermann – the German tanked some motivation in Poland before coming here, but he did not have the speed in the first two sprints. I have the same feeling regarding Groves, Molano and Oliviera may be on GC duty and that will be a major setback.
Van Poppel – is one of the best lead-out men in the game. He will not have to work for Bennett tomorrow, who went home just before the TT. On paper, he isn’t quick enough to win a bunch sprint against the names mentioned above, but it can get hectic and his timing could work wonders for him tomorrow.
Degenkolb – If it gets windier than currently and we see splits, one must never underestimate the German. His prime may be behind him, but the Vuelta was always the Grand Tour he did his best sprints He does have a lot of experience and should be able to benefit from the wind tomorrow, despite having a lower top speed than his competitors tomorrow.
McLay – looked good in the first sprints, tomorrow opening up your sprint early is what will get him. That is what he did in the first two sprints. If he plays it cool, another good result may be on its way.
Coquard – the small Frenchmen should be one of the few where the wind may be a concern (in the sprint). He doesn’t have the speed to win, but he always finds one of the best wheels to start his sprint from. That is a very good attribute tomorrow.
⭐⭐ Pedersen, Groves
⭐ McLay, Van Poppel, Ackermann
Who will win?
I will go for the quickest man here, Tim Merlier. The third time is the charm.