Cobblestones on a Friday afternoon in August? You bet.
Three times the Muur, twice the Bosberg and three the Denderoordstraat.
Here is a look at the finale. In 2021, we had the same order of climbs, Denderoordstraat, Muur, Bosberg, Denderoordstraat and Muur. This year, they’ve added a longer section between the first three climbs and the last two. 22 km to be precise, but they’ve fitted in Onkerzele Berg in between. To me, with bonus seconds at hand that means one thing. The finale opens with 40 km to go.
Denderoordstraat is not very difficult as the cobbles here are good and the road is wide. They do it with 39 km to go (start of the finale), and with 6 km to go.
Bosberg. When you get into the forest, you know it’s going to be tough. On the last ascend here (28.5 km left), we have the golden KM. Some riders want to put Tarling under pressure. That means if you push through, 9 seconds can be taken here.
The last climb of the day is the Muur. It is important to note the finish is not at the top, as you see below. It is just before the right turn before the steep section.
Wind from the west. How does that play a role in the finale? It means crosswind/tailwind on the climbs mentioned, but it does mean a 12 km headwind afterwards towards the last ascend of Denderoordstraat and the Muur.
How will the stage unfold?
As mentioned, I think it will happen with 39 km left. Here, or 5-10 km out, the pace will intensify. Usually, the Muur is difficult enough to create gaps and if it is not, it will happen on Bosberg, the placement of the bonus seconds there is a stroke of genius.
A group will get away. Behind, we may see teams with sprinters try to bring it back. The last 28 km are not that difficult and that is a fair amount of time, a group has to work together up front. Usually, the classic guys take their turns and 12 km is not a long way despite the headwind. Remember, behind the sprinters need to wait, reorganize and then start a chase. Another thing I’ve noticed is that one or two teams will not commit, they will save their men for the sprint instead of ensuring the sprint first.
I think a group goes clear and makes it to the finish. This is not just about distancing Tarling, it is about distancing the sprinters to and not let them get back in the race.
Wellens – he did a very good time trial today. As mentioned a few times this week, this is a race he performs at. The team is strong and I do wonder if they are all in for Wellens. Potentially, they could sit with Hirschi and Trentin too, Covi is not half-bad on his good days either. He will want to get away and stay away.
Trentin – is an excellent option for a sprint. I think his main job will be to either disrupt chases or follow moves, it really all depends on the size of the group going clear on Bosberg.
Stuyven – fantastic TT. It looks like the prophecy holds, every second autumn he is flying. He can be very happy sitting just five seconds behind Wellens. This stage isn’t that long, meaning his sprint is likely still good, if it comes down to it.
Mohoric – the team does have more than one option in Fred Wright. Still, I think Mohoric is by far the best option. 10th today shows he still got the legs from Poland. Today, we saw Tour-legs run out for Mads Pedersen in Germany, that means the legs Mohoric has is on borrowed time too. I still think he can contest for the stage win here, his schedule has not been as insane as Pedersen’s
Lampaert – I think it will require the best legs of his year to be in the front group over Bosberg. The legs are clearly good, we saw that against the clock and in Bemer Cyclassic. A top-10.
Asgreen – a fine time trial. He is a joker tomorrow. The inconsistentcy makes it difficult to predict.
Madouas – it should suit him the stage. 15th at Worlds was not the best result in the world but not the worst either. There are a few race days every year where he match the best in the world. I think tomorrow may be one of them, he tends to do well late in the season.
De Lie – he will be the sprinter they have in the front group. He may hold the key to the win. He would rather have a sprint against the classic riders instead of Phillipsen. But who will work with him in the front group? If he is there, which I think he will be, I doubt the cohesion will be very good.
F. Vermeersch – that is where this guy comes in. Good in Denmark, and a good TT today. He is the rider that can try and sneak away.
Phillipsen – He will be strong enough to sit with the peloton over the climbs, then he will hope someone is willing to work with him to bring it back for a sprint. I doubt they will succeed.
⭐⭐⭐⭐ F. Vermeersch
⭐⭐⭐ Wellens, De Lie
⭐⭐ Trentin, Stuyven, Mohoric
⭐ Madouas, Lampaert, Asgreen, Phillipsen
Who will win?
It has been some time since I went for an outsider. A group goes clear, works poorly together due to De Lie being present. F. Vermeersch attacks from the group, while the rivals look at his sprinter. He stays clear