Around 1600 climbing meters should be easy enough for the sprinters. The first 64 km has two categorized climbs, I think on one of those hills, we see the breakaway form. Then, Oberarig is the last climb, with the top approximately 23.5 km from the line.
The opening 64 km. Quite difficult terrain this.
Here you have the Oberarig. Has a small flat section at the middle. The gradients never exceeds 10%, and it is the early part that is tough. That is ideal for the sprinters, they will arrive at the foot at a high speed.
When it comes to sprints, it does not get much easier than it does tomorrow. Wide roads, barely a corner.
It should be sunny and the wind blows from the NE. That means headwind up the first categorized climb, which makes it more likely the breakaway forms on the second categorized climb – if not before on the flat. It means a headwind on Oberarig, good news for the sprinters. It makes it a crosswind sprint too.
How will the stage unfold?
Küng has the jersey and he would like to keep it for another day and they would have pulled anyway for Demare. Kaden Groves is racing here, coming back from crashing and illness in Giro d’Italia, Meeus lines up for Bora-Hansgrohe and Merlier is the designated sprinter from Quick-Step.
You get where I’m going. A lot of good sprinters are here – they want to race for the win. Now, the thing you need to have in mind for a boulevard is speed. With a lot of teams having a sprinter, having a good lead-out is not a bad thing either.
Wout van Aert – He will be more or less alone but that never really seems to be a problem. He can manage to get a good wheel consistently on his own. Mick van Dijke can offer support but it will not count as much. He will start as one of the favorites.
Merlier – I think he is the man to beat. The team is good, with the likes of Asgreen, Schmid and Van Lerberghe. He has one a stage win so far in every WT race he has competed in, I think tomorow is the the stage that suits him the most.
Demare – he has been harvesting good results of late, with a stage win in Boucles de la Mayenne and win in Brussels Cycling Classic. In an easy bunch sprint, I doubt he can win. Yet, he proved me wrong a few times in the Giro d’Italia 2022.
Meeus – very quick and very often not in the best position. I assume Marco Haller will be the lead-out, that is a very good man to have at your side.
Groves – we will see how he bounces back from covid and injury. SKA and Sbaragli provides him with good support.
Marius Mayrhofer – some young man. After finishing his first GT, he is participating here. We will see how the legs respond, a top-10 is the most likely result.
Coquard – consistent enough to get a top-10.
Sagan – consistent enough to get a top-10.
Theuns – consistent enough to get a top-10. He is cunning and often finds the right wheel.
Girmay – consistent enough to get a top-10. I wonder if it can be a top-5, he has a strong team.
⭐⭐⭐ Demare, Wout van Aert
⭐⭐ Groves, Girmay, Meeus
⭐ Mayrhofer, Theuins, Sagan, Coquard
Who will win?
Tim Merlier. A stage win for the wolfpack. They have the fastest man and arguably the best sprint train.