A tough stage but it should be one for the sprinters.
It is hilly all day, which means we could see a break having a bit of a chance. All depends on who controls the stage. This is the circuit below. First climb is 4.5 km at 5.4%, then then 900m at 6.8% over the top. Does this smell like a place JV could be willing to attack over the top and hope a few GC men are asleep at the back?
The run is is quick, the route goes downhill more or less until 1.8 km from the line. That means the pace on the climb will be fierce. You want to get over the top of the climb first, that is where it is easiest to move up simply.
An important point is the left with 1.1 km left. It will stretch it out.
Another roundabout shortly after, just the right side will be taking – but it is another narrow spot, meaning we likely will see single or double lines. The sprint bends to the right, meaning you leave the spot open near the barrier as a lead-out and let your man slip through, having the rest of the sprinters take the longer route. Simple – the drawing shows in to perfection.
Barely any wind, 15 degrees C and plenty of rain at the first hours of racing. Will it clear up?
How will the stage unfold?
Looking at the teams with a sprinter, we do have Jayco-Alula and Bora-Hansgrohe bringing their two fastest men. Quick-Step are likely to ride for Vernon, while we may see INEOS try and use the last climb to give Hayter a better chance too. It should be a sprint.
Groenewegen – brings back fond memories from last season. Twitter was all over him. Why is he racing here just to get dropped? I guess to win stage 3 of the Tour de France. He is very quick but I’m uncertain a few teams will be happy to bring him to the line. I think it is on the limit for him, but he has proved he can do it. No Mezgec means he does not have his loyal lead-out man here, a big blow. The big issue too is that he will likely drift backwards on the climb, meaning getting to the front again will be very tough.
Sam Bennett – the team brings Van Poppel, Politt and Mullen. That is a good mix of power and speed. I think he stands a better chance than Groenewegen of surviving but it is not guaranteed. The big issue too is that he will likely drift backwards on the climb, meaning getting to the front again will be very tough. It also opens the chance for Van Poppel being their sprinter.
Vernon – he climbs well. 6th overall in 4 Jours de Dunkerque is a good indication that he is going well. I imagine the team will use Senechal and Cavagna to set him up. I have fairly confident he will be one of the riders making the climb.
Hayter – who will they use to drop the sprinters? It is the GC riders best interest too. Bernal and Castoviejo to pace, use Turner as the lead-out man. Will they succeed? I think they must try, because he do not beat the others on speed.
Menten – one of the breakthrough riders this season. I think he has a chance of challenging for the podium if the climbs are being ridden with a fast pace, but a top-10 is most likely.
Wright – it could be a good stage for him. Still without the first professional win – seems very strange but that is how it goes. The climbs will not be a problem, it will be a strength. He goes well finding the correct wheels in the sprint but just like Hayter, he will need the faster men to be dropped in order to win.
Page – the young French sprinter showed us Down Under he still can sprint after a tough day. I think a top-10 is very realistic for him.
Taminiaux – the hardest name to spell. I think he is one of the fast men who could have problems uphill, if he manages to hold on, it is a tough descent back to the front. A top-10.
Laporte – will JV attack? Come on, why not. It is good for Jonas too. If we see a reduced sprint because of a team-attack over the top, he stands a good chance of taking a win. He does still have an amazing sprint.
Trentin – not often he sprints anymore but tomorrow is one of those days he can be in the mix.
⭐⭐⭐ Sam Bennett, Vernon
⭐⭐ Menten, Wright, Hayter
⭐ Taminiaux, Groenewegen, Page, Trentin
Who will win?
I will go for Christophe Laporte. I think the pace on the last climb will be tough to drop Groenewegen and Bennett. Some of the others will have needed to drift back, meaning getting back to the front is near impossible. A lot of riders will fight for the wheel of Vernon and Hayter, Laporte knows this too – and he has the speed to beat them.