We start with a sprint in Belgium.
A flat stage. One for the sprinters.
Starting up north before a few laps near Ardooie.
Here is the lap. We have some open spots here, in case the wind blows.
Here is the finale 5 km. It looks easy doesn’t it? It is not. The roads are narrow the last 7.7 km.
It is very important to be in a good spot with 1250m left. Here, we have a right turn that will stretch the group out.
With 800m to go, the road narrows. Single lane more or less. It is nearly impossible to move up. As they move into the city the road surface changes from time to time and we have manhole covers too.
A difficult bend to the right with 550m left, very important to be in the first five or six positions. After this, it is 500m straight to the line.
Now very windy and quite warm for autumn in Belgium.
Phillipsen – (SKA, G. Vermeersch, Rickaert) will be the three main domestiques. The rest of the team just has to ensure they are at the front near the important corner 1250m from the line. Here SKA has to take over, before G. Veemersch ensures a good position before the road narrows with 800m left. Rickaert to take over near the last 550m, where you must be near the front. It is a good sprint train but I do have my concerns regarding their 4th and 3rd rider.
Kooij – (Affini, TvdS, M. Van Dijke). Affini is a strong 4th option but I really do think M. Van Dijke will fall through in this field. It does not seem they are strong enough to support him, atleast I was not impressed in Tour de Pologne.
Merlier – (Asgreen, Sénéchal, Lerberghe) is my best guess. Lampaert was 5th often in the Tour de France, and he is by no means a bad man to get them in position. Asgreen’s form is unknown, he did not have the Tour legs he hoped for in Scotland. Van Lerberghe did a fantastic job twice in Tour de Pologne, he is strong as an ox. Merlier has to start as one of the favorites.
Milan – (Mohoric, Wright, Pasqualon) – that is the dream. That is by no means excactly how they will do it. On paper, it looks great but I doubt it will be very effective. I think Price-Pejternsen will try and keep Pasqualon and Milan near the front, but Milans recent performance in Bemer Cyclassics was not impressive.
Meeus – (Mullen, Archbold) – I am not sure who the last is going to be. Wandahl is quite fast, he could work well as 3rd. Meeus main issue is his battle for positioning, luckily for him, the boulevard of Champs-Elysses was wide! That will be a big boost to the morale and a big “shut up” to the doubters. Back to it, I fear he starts his sprint too far back tomorrow.
Viviani – (your guess is as good as mine). He did well in Bemer Cyclassic and he is used to not having a lot of help in finales at INEOS. In his prime, he was one of the best wheel-surfers out there. Today, he will have to be so again, if he wants to win.
Démare – (Biermans, McLay) – is what I think we will see. It is not the tried and tested FDJ sprint train. And then the stage is likely too easy for him to challenge for the win.
Welsford – (Eekhoff, Degenkolb, Uden) – I am not really sure where Edmondson comes in. The main issue is they seem to lose Welsford in the sprints. Keep it short, perhaps just Edmondson, Eekhoff and drop him off near the front.
Groenewegen – (Durbridge, Reinders, Blake) – my best shot. No Mezgec will make it very difficult for him, Reinders and Bake will also lack speed.
De Lie – (Van Moer, Vermeersch, De Buyst) – a very good team when you look at it. He did have great legs in Bemer Cyclassics but there was no room in the sprint to get a better place than 7th. I think De Lie starts as one of the favorites, they also have Frison and Beullens to make sure they are near the front.
⭐⭐⭐ Phillipsen, De Lie
⭐⭐ Kooij, Groenewegen, Meeus
⭐ Welsford, Démare, Milan, Viviani
Who will win?
I like Quick-Steps sprint train the most, a win for Tim Merlier.