Time for the first stage. If you watched the first stage last year, you will know the finale quite well.
The breakaway actually has a decent chance at getting up the road as we have some climbing in the opening 30 km. The teams with a sprinter will know this, I doubt the breakaway will be too big.
Then, it really all comes down to the finale. We have a little kicker starting 30 km from the line. After it, a long run in to the finale which is not the easiest either.
The climb is 5.3 km at 5.1%. The road is wide and the asphalt is good. It is difficult enough to drop a heavy sprinter but we don’t have a lot of them at the start line. We had crashes on the decent last year but it was a very rainy day which likely was the reason.
This is the finale. The width of the roads in the finale is not very wide. It is, as usual, important to have a strong team to keep you near the front. The peloton gets heavily stretched out in the finale.
The last 750m average 4.6%. It is harder than it looks, we almost had gaps last year.
Not a lot of wind tomorrow, temperatures around 15 C and no rain. Brilliant weather.
How will the stage unfold?
We will see a sprint but will any team use the climb 30km from the line to drop the sprinters?
The only pure sprinter here must be Kaden Groves and I highly doubt they can put him into trouble. I really do think we will see a bunch sprint. Simple as that.
Groves – the fastest man here. Looking at the squad, I do think he has good support in the finale. Oldani and Sbaragli are two riders who are both quick and can climb. On paper, he looks to have the best support, but as I’ve said, it is not an easy finale to get right. Plus, Groves was not durable enough to be the sprinter for BikeExchange in 2022. It might be just too tough for him, despite him climbing well Down Under.
Coquard – this is a speciality for him. He is without much support but that is often the case for the Frenchman. Despite the lack of support, he knows his way in a sprint. He is rarely out of position at all when it comes to a sprint. He is one of the riders to beat tomorrow, he won a sprint that reminds me of the stage tomorrow in Down Under.
Hayter – the team is strong which will keep him near the front. He is a rider who I find difficult to get right. He is the type of rider who should be in the mix for the stage win tomorrow, we will have to see which kind of shape he is in tomorrow, it has been some time since he last raced.
Strong – another rider who should go well tomorrow. The team does have Impey for the closing kilometers, he is experienced in these finales. We will have to see if Strong is good enough to finish it off. He should certainly be in the mix for a top-5.
Menten – he is on a really good run just now. He has finished in the top-10 in his last five races, including a win in Le Samyn. That race had an uphill drag to the line too. He is in luck because he will have Selig guiding him in the finale, a luxury few of the others have.
Hofstetter – he has not had luck on his side the last few weeks. I expect him to be challenging for a top-10 result.
Roglic – is it difficult enough? You never know. Rewatching the finale from last year, it could be difficult enough for him to pull out a surprise.
Who will win?
I think it will be messy, there isn’t any team that stands out. I will take a win for Bryan Coquard, he is a master at surfing wheels and the uphill drag suits him.