The last sprint of this edition. We have had this finale twice in the last two editions with Mark Cavendish winning in 2021 and Ewan winning in 2022.
To summarize, they starting heading north, before heading back south and moving towards the finish near Abu Dhabi Breakwater in the west.
It is a simple finale but the sprint is hard to get right. An easy right turn 1.8 km out. Moving under the flamme rouge, the last 500 meters are quite difficult as the road is swaying, meaning we see the riders going from barrier to barrier in order to take the shortest possible path to the finish. So despite it being a boulevard sprint, it is easy to be boxed-in by others.
Not very windy as for now. The are forecasts saying we could see crosswinds (4 m/s) in the section 47 – 29 km left. The section itself is also in the outskirts of the suburbs and that makes it difficult. I will be a hot day, 30 degrees C. The wind should blow from the south but change to wind from the north throughout the stage. The fact it is impossible to get a Google StreetView makes it difficult to say if we will see echelons, but I doubt it.
Groenewegen – impressive in the battle for positioning, perhaps deviating a bit from his line when he started sprinting. I don’t blame him – they are going 60 km/h, I can barely ride straight going to uni. Mezgec has been excellent this season with his deliveries. Groenewegen still has the speed to win but it would require another perfect lead-out.
Merlier – the lead-out isn’t good enough. Tomorrow could be a better chance as the wind is a little unpredictable. It is not unwise to start your sprint early tomorrow if it is a tailwind. Remember the swaying, it could get you the right lane.
Bennett – Van Poppel with another stellar lead-out. Bennett just couldn’t get past or above Groenewegen’s speed. The fact Groenewegen deviated a bit towards the barriers meant Bennett didn’t have any cover and had to sprint straight into the headwind – same as Groenewegen. He is still one of the favorites for me tomorrow.
Gaviria – talk about being boxed in. It is difficult sprinting in this field without much support. I think he will finish in the top-5.
Welsford – DSM almost made a perfect move on the right side of the road with 600 meters left. Unfortunately, half the peloton decided to get on that side of the road, meaning he got in a half bad position to sprint from. He is one of the quickest here but he needs a far better starting position to beat the elite sprinters.
Ewan – positioned too far back as usual without any room to show how quick he is. Tomorrow it is likely going to be the same if he can’t find the wheel of Groenewegen or Bennett who currently seems to have the better lead-out.
Kooij – same position as Gaviria and Ewan, quite alone in the sprints. He had a wheel on the wrong side of the road today and he didn’t have the speed to overtake either Molano or Merlier despite drafting the longest.
Who will win?
My thought is lead-out means a lot again tomorrow. It often always does. I will be stubborn and go for Sam Bennett once again. He and Van Poppel did awfully in this sprint last year – they will have learned from that.